9 Tips on What to Wear to a Holiday Party — No New Purchases Necessary

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The holidays are fraught with dollar signs, no matter how you spin it. The gifts, the travel, the somewhat requisite hot-cocoa-and-ice-skating day, the food, the libations, and of course, the wardrobe to accompany every festive night out. Fun as it may be, it all adds up. So, cut yourself some slack, starting now.

Spend less, invoke your creative styling powers, and utilize what you already have. Translation? Here’s what to wear to a holiday party — without buying a thing. 

Shop Your Closet 

This one was obvious, right? Consider the “shop the closet” solution an overarching theme for every other piece of advice given on this page. It’s more than just picking out something you already own, you really need to readjust your way of thinking about your pre-existing wardrobe. Make it a fun at-home experience. How can you reinvent the wheel? Dig a little deeper into the archives. Maybe it’s time to break out those sequin-beaded pumps you bought five years ago, the ones you keep telling yourself you’ll wear when the chance presents itself. The point of this exercise isn’t to immediately reach for the items you wear on a weekly basis, but to expand your horizons creatively.

Dress Acronym to the Rescue 

That acronym being the LBD — the little black dress — of course. Chances are, you have one. And if it’s not black, then surely you have an LWD, LRD, or LND (white, red, and nude, respectively) in its place? Right now, it’s hanging in your closet, a beacon of unfailingly chic simplicity, and it can be styled any number of ways. Wear a fuzzy angora sweater over an LBD, then top it off with a necklace, tights, and dark heels. Winterize a neutral-colored sheath with a leather jacket, sparkly statement earrings, and knee-high boots. Or, soften the sex appeal of an LRD with ballet flats, minimalist jewelry, and a cream-colored cardigan. Bottom line: don’t ever do away with your dress acronym.

Locate the Sparkle and Shine

You don’t need to go all-out with glitter everything, but let’s be honest, the holiday-party dress code deserves a little extra sparkle and shine. To avoid splurging on a ridiculous embellished sweater you’ll never wear again, seek out pieces you already own that fit the mold. A metallic skinny belt, a sequined pencil skirt, a pair of silver kitten heels, a gold-foil top (that you bought for a themed party many moons ago), and so on — all these items can be paired with its casual counterpart (i.e. dark denim, with an A-line black dress, etc.) for a festive finish.

… And That Brings Us to Statement Jewelry 

Hand in hand with high-shine clothing, locate your most eye-catching statement jewelry and accessorize accordingly. It's not about turning yourself into a disco ball, so much as it is arguably the easiest way to dress up even the most unassuming of outfits. If you happen to own a glitzy collar necklace, you're in luck. Add this puppy to a crisp button-up and trousers look, and you're golden.

Wear the Classics 

When in doubt, wear no-fail pieces. Sometimes the festive thing is overrated anyway — as long as you look put together, no red flags will be thrown on the party circuit field. Identify your best-fitting silk blouses, dark-colored trousers, slimming pencil skirts, and sweaters, and brainstorm ways in which you can wear them with a little more polish. Here's one top-of-mind idea: Style a silk blouse half-tucked into slightly cuffed boyfriend jeans; add a leather jacket; pull hair back into low bun; pair thick winter socks with open-toe sandals; wear great earrings and go. 

Rework Your Favorite Blazer 

Use the menswear-inspired trend to your advantage. The suited-up look is sleek, understated, and crisp. And if you’re feeling like you need to up the ante on glamour, add a sparkly accent into the mix (see advice above). Or better yet, have a double-breasted blazer you wear for business meetings? Lose the shirt underneath, button it up, and wear it as a sexier nighttime statement piece instead. 

Great Lipstick Goes a Long Way 

Never underestimate the power of a great red or deep purple lipstick. A stunning shade will do wonders for the rest of your look.

The Lace Effect

Even if you're tired of the lace pieces you've worn time and time again, this feminine texture is due for an edgy revival. Pair a lacy sheath with a leather jacket, a lace-infused top with waxed jeans, or a lacy skirt with a oxford shirt and blazer. Lace provides instant flair, but that doesn't mean your outfit needs to be completely centered around the stuff.

Break Out That Bridesmaid Dress 

This may not always work out, but reaching into the back of your closet for that bridesmaid dress you never thought would ever see the light of day again could be just the thing to reinvigorate your party ensemble. If there is some potential, evaluate what it is that you don't like about the dress and mask those imperfections. Hate the sleeves? Throw on a cool jacket or sweater. Hate the hem length? Take some scissors to it. While it may give the dress a more undone effect, gauge what kind of event you're going to in the first place. Perhaps your East Village friends will appreciate the frayed edges.

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