Monday, November 30, 2009

For me, two things are guaranteed every holiday season:

One, I will buy a ton of pretty wrapping paper and ribbons, even though I already have enough in the basement to wrap Christmas gifts from now until I am 80.

And two, I will gain a sleighful of new clients who call or email me in the midst of a major party-related wardrobe meltdown.

Inexplicably, average women who otherwise have their closets in order, who know how to shop and put outfits together, seem to be the ones most prone to this seasonal phenomenon.

Holiday fashion freakouts can reveal themselves in many forms. Time and again, I see women panicking from a year’s worth of weight gain and the discovery that their standard go-to party clothes no longer fit. Others feel puzzled about unusual (and sometimes downright bizarre) dress code recommendations for holiday parties. And some need an overwhelming number of different outfits to attend a variety of events, from their kids’ Christmas pageants to their own and their spouse’s work parties, plus casual clothing for home parties and a glitzy New Years Eve out.

Indeed, holiday parties can be the gift that keeps on giving, and sometimes not in a good way.

Anytime a client of mine has a wardrobe meltdown – whether related to the holidays or not - it is my goal to make sure it never happens again. As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” (Although I wonder if old Ben could have imagined his advice would one day relate to a battery-powered light-up cowboy Santa lassoing a cactus sweater.)

And you thought I was joking

As we’re getting ready for the year’s biggest party season, here are a few ways that we can all avoid celebration-induced trauma in our own closets.

1. Know what you have

There is no time like the present (ooh, presents! ok, I need to focus here) to take stock of what you already own. Try on each piece of your holiday wardrobe. A few questions to ask yourself:

Does each piece fit?

Is the outfit appropriate for the event?

And most importantly, is it consistent with my current style?

If you answered “no” to any of the above, you may want to re-evaluate that item of clothing or the outfit as a whole.

Additional questions include:

Who is going to see me in it?

Who has already seen me in it?

Some women are highly sensitive to being seen in the same outfit twice or more. Others are not. You will have to answer that question for yourself. While some women focus on having a lot of different clothing options, others prefer to have a few quality pieces. It’s a matter of preference.

2. Resist the temptation to take the easy way out

I have been to many Christmas parties that are filled with women wearing a festive red sweater and black pants. Sometimes the path of least resistance ends in Boringtown, ladies. Even if the sweater is sparkly and embellished, it can still be considered a “uniform.” Change it up a little – even if you pair that same sweater with a black skirt and patterned tights.

3. Be like Santa – Make a List

If you are very social or have a lot of activities happening around the holidays, make a list of all the events you will be attending. Next to each event, make a general note about what you plan to wear. This can mean anything from a sweater and jeans for a party at a friend’s house to an evening gown for New Years. And then put a check next to any event that you are entirely prepared to attend. As you prepare outfits, hang them together in your closet. You may even want to hang your accessories in a freezer bag over the hanger, so all the elements of your outfit are in one spot when you need them.

4. Learn to decipher the dress code

I get an unbelievable number of calls, emails and even tweets from people all year long asking what various dress codes mean. I will give you my secret for knowing what to tell everyone: If the dress code is new to me, I google it. At least it gives me an idea of what is intended. And if that doesn’t work (I am still wondering what “warehouse chic” is), simply call the party’s host or hostess and ask. That way, you will never feel uncomfortable at an event because you are over- or underdressed.

5. Don’t run out and buy something new!

This is the ultimate fashion freakout, and trust me, we’ve all been there. If you know what you have and what you need early enough, you won’t have any reason to panic. Some of the basics I keep on hand are a black cocktail dress, a navy cocktail dress, long black tiered skirt and a new skirt (top left) I bought the other day at Target, of all places!

I was imagining all the different ways I can wear it:

With a red cardigan or a black tuxedo jacket, or a ruffled white shirt or a blazer if I am attending a business function. I know it’s a piece I will be able to wear for years and I can’t wait to have fun with it!

If you have a number of basic pieces, sometimes all you need are chandelier earrings or a fabulous necklace or brooch to look both festive AND fashionable! And isn’t that more sensible and far less expensive than buying a whole new ensemble?


And finally, I know all of you know this, but please leave the tacky Santa, reindeer and snowman sweaters to people attending kitschy ugly sweater parties. We all have far too much self-respect to wear them in the real world!

Unless, of course, your name is Mark Darcy. In that case, you have my permission to wear them all you want.


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