Holiday parties are a lot more relaxed than they used to be, which brings me to the casual holiday dress. It is comfortable, sleeved and insulating. No form-fitting silhouettes that need shapewear. No need to find the right topper because it’s sleeveless. No worries that your outfit looks best with a jacket, because the dress does all the talking. And you can wear comfortable and practical footwear.
A shout-out to Artful Home where they sell eclectic and arty holiday attire from an XS to XXL (size US2/4 to US18/20). Silhouettes are fluid, a little architectural, and provide ample coverage. I found this site through the wonderful Brenda Kinsel, who wears their items with panache.
Here are some neutral and understated renditions to get you started, but feel free to add more colour and pattern. You might also like the combinations for settings other than casual holiday parties.
1. Arty Tartan
A sleeved A-line dress in a pattern made of substantial fabric WITH pockets and a versatile neckline ticks off all the boxes. It’s warm, comfortable, interesting, festive, forgiving and elegant. Throw it on over leggings or hosiery with a pair of flat or heeled shoes, and Bob’s your uncle. Add bling, a clutch, lippie, and possibly fingernail polish. Brenda Kinsel wears this dress with grace and panache. I love her dressier additions of fishnet hosiery, matching specs, low-heeled ankle strap pumps, and sparkly expressions. You can also keep the look more casual with leggings, skinnies, flats or casual boots.
2. Magical Movement
This type of drapey dress works on most body types. It’s just structured enough through the sleeves and upper torso, and lets the volume and colour-blocking below the bust create movement and interest. Wear it over leggings, skinnies or hosiery, and add anything from ballet flats, booties, and shooties, to oxfords, Docs, pumps and ankle strap looks as footwear. Add festive bling to dress up or dress down this look as much as you like.
3. Cosy Cardi Layers
An A-line shift dress in a jersey or silky fabric looks surprisingly good with a tailored maxi cardigan worn loose like a casual jacket. A fine gauge knit cardigan is dressier than a chunky knit, and can be longer than the dress. Finish off the look with hosiery, boots or pumps, flats or oxfords, and some bling.
4. Sweatered & Booted
A great sweater dress is a beautiful thing because it’s the warmest and most versatile option. The turtleneck midi here has been layered with a cardigan, but you can wear the dress on its own with hosiery and your choice of dressy or casual footwear. You can add a scarf instead of a necklace. Finish off the look with bling and bag that make you smile.
I wore formula #4 to a few casual events last year, but more frequently when I work with clients. It’s a workhorse olive sweater dress from Banana Republic that is my go-to Winter dress. It’s gorgeous quality and hasn’t pilled, stretched out of shape, or shrunk. I wish I had it in other colours. I dress it up with hosiery or boots, shooties, pumps or heeled oxfords, and pick from my large capsule of handbags and outerwear to change up the palette and the mood. I’m happy to pattern mix up to three patterns in an outfit. I’ve also dressed it down with cream hi-top Converse sneakers and a guitar-strap crossbody bag. I often wear it with a scarf for warmth, which I either drape around my neck indoors or take off. Here are the exact items from my wardrobe that I mix and match to create an assortment of outfits.