Belle, the anonymous Capitol Hill staffer who runs the popular fashion blog Capitol Hill Style, has a bold creed for dressing for holiday parties this season: Ditch the little black dress.
“I know that the LBD is a classic,” she says. “But frankly, black is boring and overdone.”
And with that, Belle the blogger just threw a fashion wrench into the planned holiday outfits of Washingtonians across the city.
Dressing for most holiday parties can be tricky. For one, most parties are work-related events, so that skin-bearing, sequin-covered outfit won’t be appropriate. Plus, the bulk of soirees are held on weeknights, which means a two-hour party prep time isn’t an option.
But with a little planning, partygoers can create a variety of looks that are functional, flattering and fashionable, even while keeping that LBD on the hanger.
For women, the dress is the key to the outfit. Belle advises that for most holiday cocktail parties, women should stick with a wool, knit or matte silk dress rather than satin, as the fabric is strictly for swanky evening events. Finding a gown with sleeves can also add a unique touch, as most cocktail dresses are sleeveless. As for color, Belle has her eye on gray or ivory dresses.
“This way the color is neutral enough that I can pair it with several other pieces but I won’t fade into the sea of black,” she says. “I’ll spice up the dress with jewelry and sky-high heels, or tone it down with a blazer and tights for holiday dinner parties.”
Not that partygoers should throw on any old jacket over their dress — making it sparkle can be key to a flashy holiday look. Belle advises that women try a sequin blazer or tuxedo jacket. Or, if partygoers prefer a cozy sweater, wear one with sequins or a metallic design.
Bolder fashionistas can ditch the dress altogether — sequin shorts over tights are a different option for a fun party with friends, Belle says (although they might not fly at a more formal affair).
For those heading to events directly after work, putting on a new outfit isn’t always an option. But smart accessorizing can turn an average work outfit into a snazzy after-work one.
High-heeled shoes add glamour to any outfit, but don’t automatically depend on those basic black pumps — a gorgeous cocktail dress just won’t look right with beat-up work shoes, Belle says. There are plenty of shoe options — heels featuring details such as lace or jewels are popular this season, as are a variety of dressed-up booties.
But make sure to break in any new pair of shoes well before the party. “There are never enough chairs at these things and you don’t want to have to call it an early night because your feet are screaming for mercy,” Belle says.
Women also should leave their bulky handbags at home. A sequin clutch is always a good pick, Belle says. “For a work event, try a ‘Mad Men’-inspired brooch or a jeweled belt to spice up your basic dresses,” Belle says.
As for makeup, eyeliner always adds an edge. If you find it’s difficult to pull off a smoky eye look, Belle recommends partygoers try the cat’s eye eyeliner trend. But remember, less is more. “It’s either a red lip or a smoky eye, never both,” Belle warns.
Women aren’t the only fashionistas in Washington. While most basic suits will work for a holiday party, men also should put in a little effort to add some pizazz to their holiday look.
Just like with the ladies, accessories can be key.
“If you want to spruce up a basic suit, try coordinating your tie with a pocket square,” she says. “It’s amazing how a small piece of silk fabric can add style to an otherwise boring suit. But please, boys, no holiday-themed ties, you’re not in junior high anymore.”
Men also need to remember to keep their clothing on, Belle says.
“One dance into the night and the jacket and tie come off, and before long, the shirt’s untucked as well,” she jokes. “It’s fine to remove your jacket if you’re hot, but the tie needs to stay on and the shirt definitely needs to stay tucked in.”