How to crack the festive dress code

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 December, 2011, 12:00am


While the holidays are a great time to experiment with different looks, there are some pieces that should be left in the closet. Novelty jumpers, flapper dresses (that's next season!) and tops with so much decoration they rival your Christmas tree. A perennial favourite, however, is the sequinned dress.

'It's all about anything sparkly. In the past, I stayed away from sequins, beading, gold, or anything too bling. But it's hot this season,' says Eizelle Taino, owner of fashion boutique, Indigo. 'I love a beaded cocktail dress in an understated nude or mauve colour. Or, if you must go the LBD [little black dress] route, dress it up with a sequinned jacket with strong shoulders.'

Take a cue from Yves Saint Laurent and top your cocktail dress with a cropped feather jacket or shrug for a chic look. Also look for separates, decorated with feather trims or hems. Don't choose peacock feathers. Opt for marabou, as it is delicate and won't overwhelm the silhouette.

Those looking for a more edgy look should try dresses and separates that focus on cut and shape. Off-the-shoulder and backless dresses are dramatic, while maxi or bell-shaped skirts, as championed by Azzedine Alaia, show off your figure and fashion pedigree.

The androgynous trend is ideal for women looking for a more understated, fashion-forward look. While a smart tuxedo is a tried and tested favourite, experiment with coloured blazers and silk evening shirts with contrast trims. Also try different bottoms, ranging from leather trousers to coloured or velvet skinny jeans.

'I've seen some fabulous textured bottoms, including waxed skinny jeans for a leather look with a much better fit,' says Kathleen Sweeney, owner of Tiare boutique. 'Pair them with a silk shirt or layered blouse to add a girly element to a menswear-inspired look.'

'These attention-grabbing bottoms will look classic and not over-the-top with a crisp white button-down, high heels, and a good pair of dangly earrings,' adds Taino.

Lace is making a comeback, thanks to autumn's fetish trend. Ariane Zagury from French boutique Rue Madame recommends wearing a lace top with a maxi skirt and black blazer for an elegant, edgy look. A sheer lace dress is super sexy when it reveals the skin underneath.

Metallic fabrics also make a statement - Donna Karan's tops and dresses look like liquid gold, while jewel tones come to life on shimmery fabrics. Taino recommends American brand Parker's gold leather blazer for a contemporary look.

If you aren't wearing any sparkle on your outfit, then go bold with your jewellery. 'Sometimes it's all about a statement piece, either earrings or a necklace. Never both,' says Sweeney.

Zagury recommends chunky chokers by Aurelie Bidermann, while CFDA Accessories Designer of the Year Eddie Borgo is known for his architectural, geometric pieces.

Head to Tom Binns for costume jewellery with a punk edge. Paris-based accessories designer Shourouk also creates statement pieces with sequins and coloured stones.

Antique-inspired jewellery was spotted on Prada's spring runway, so try diamantes or crystals that look vintage for a glamorous look.

Embellished footwear will transform a simple LBD - try Jimmy Choo's feather styles or platforms studded with crystals. Look for polka dot pumps as spotted at Sergio Rossi. A pair of fierce ankle boots will make a girly cocktail dress look cool and contemporary.

Unexpected accessories can also up the glam quotient. Top of the list are embellished scarves from Dries Van Noten or Tabla, chunky chain belts or fun headwear from brands such as Maison Michel. Men have many alternatives to black suits.

'The double breasted jacket is making a comeback, with fitted suits and jackets being emphasised again. With that in mind, step out with the suave double breasted shawl lapel,' says Alan See, the owner of gentleman's boutique The Armoury.

A daring dinner jacket can go a long way. Experiment with different fabrics such as holiday-appropriate tartan or velvet in dark colours, a favourite of Tom Ford's. Brocade can be tricky to pull off, and you may end up looking like Liberace.

For cocktail parties, pair your jacket with jeans and a button-down white shirt for a cool yet casual look.

If the occasion calls for black tie, See says it's a good idea to add personality with the right accessories.

'This is one of the few occasions for men to show off their jewellery through the use of studs and cufflinks,' See says. There are beautiful pieces and vintage sets in a combination of onyx, gold and even some with subtle precious stones.

'Also, don't forget to fill that lapel hole with a boutonniere. Try a florist for a rose bud or something similar,' says See.