Party dressing: How to stay on the tasteful side of bling


In a week where ornate gold armchairs have grandly housed the backsides of existing and future world leaders, it seems only appropriate to take stock of au courant modes for fancy dressing; especially given that Christmas is twinkling at us from but five weeks along the calendar.

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You may or may not have a plethora of parties to attend this festive season. But I’d wager you have at least one. Even that sole engagement offers an opportunity to throw off the tedious, cosy knitwear of weekend norms and shimmy into something a little more spectacular. Go on – give the neighbours something to really talk about at No.11’s annual drinks dirge.

Jewelled shoes, £115, Uterque; Jewelled Blair, £585, Rupert Sandserson

When it comes to festive attire I feel that generally attendees fall into one of two camps: Scrooge or Peak Decoration. Often I am the former, having little truck with sequins or shiny things in general. And yet, there must be something in the air, as my latest obsession is a glittery green skirt from Warehouse. I don’t know what’s come over me. I’m obviously planning to wear it with a grey jumper, but still, for me that’s quite the snazzy statement.

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Sequin skirt, £39.99, H&M; Metallic skirt, £45, Oasis

It seems I’m not alone. This week, some helpful allies in the public eye have also been displaying a sheer commitment to glitz. Patron Saint of that scar-faced wizard, J K Rowling stepped out at the premiere of the Potter prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, looking gobstoppingly good. Whatever she’s doing, I want some.

Her outfit – a shimmering Jenny Packham gown was a sharp lesson in trad Joan Collins-esque glamour. Let’s take notes: gold, yes, but not too gold – the gentle pattern of the sequins help to lighten it up. The girls were out and proud, but that was her only flesh being flashed, the bracelet length sleeves and fall-to-the-floor length dress off-setting the look. Her make-up was soft and natural, her hair simply back, letting the gown do all the work – a reminder that it’s always about balance. Final lesson: the red nails. A little unexpected sure, but so good. That glint of personality through colour lets us know that this is still the woman who gave us feisty Hermione.

Theresa May and her husband attend the Lord Mayor’s Banquet at Guildhall earlier this week.  Credit: Rex

Whilst I wasn’t particularly a fan of the short black number Theresa May sported the other week, the Prime Minister also upped the glamour at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet, perfectly complimenting her gilt and red velvet chair with a rather sensational slash neck maxi gown. The fit was perfect – and the simple cut let the colour do all the talking, which is so often key. She pulled it all together with shoes and lips in the same hue. It worked, although not enough to stop some guests nodding off in her speech. As ever, clothes are simply the frosting, they can’t do everything.

Decorative minaudiere, £29.99, Zara; Jimmy Choo acrylic clutch, £675, Net-a-Porter

Together, these women form useful pointers for our own assault on the bright lights of the nights to come. According to a new survey from House of Fraser, 28% of women plan their festive fashion a month in advance, with 30% using it as an excuse to ‘get glam.’ Of course, for anyone who has the gumption and predilection to take on those spangly, sequin drenched, shimmering numbers for all they’re worth; there are some useful rules of caution to take on board. One key question must be – will I get mistaken for the tree? The answer, should always be, no.

Here are some other, more thorough, points to note when looking to nail grown up glamour:

1. Strategic flesh flashing

Mrs May went for arms, Ms Rowling chose boobs. Focus on your best asset, be it legs, back, arms, shoulders… but leave it at that. One; you’ll be cold with too much on display. Two; the impact of unveiling a little is far greater than the whole lot.

2. Polish your edges

A blowdry never hurt anyone. Nor does a manicure. These are small things that can offer up buckets of confidence, which if you’re simply pulling out an old favourite outfit, can make all the difference. Don’t feel that you need to fall into cliché classics for the sake of it. If you don’t like your hands, stick to pale, flesh coloured polishes. If you can’t be bothered to re-apply red lipstick throughout the evening then take a good lip balm with you instead.

Kenneth Jay Lane  faux pearl clip earrings, £180, Net-a-Porter; Miu Miu teardrop embellished earrings, £325, Matches Fashion 

3. Caution on the jewel box

Just because you have it, doesn’t mean you have to wear it all. Statement earrings are very now, but if you decide to wear a pair, then leave your necklace off. Similarly, big clashing bracelets and lots of rings can make your hands look like strange weapons. Pick one or the other.

4. Don’t fall over

Fabulous footwear you can’t walk in is for morons. Try out shoes for an evening at home. If you can’t be bothered to get up to go to the kitchen from the sofa in them, you’re going to end up being a party bore. Kitten heels are back – embrace it. And why not try some crystal embellishment on the toe – much more fun than a safe, boring plain court shoe.

Elizabeth Debicki attending The London Evening Standard Theatre Awards in London last week.  Credit: PA

5. The key is in the cut

Blingy sequin dresses are best in straight-forward uncomplicated cuts – you don’t need ruffles and bows and glitz all at once. As Elizabeth Debicki proved last week, velvet is a super chic option again: this Hobbs dress is a showstopper, but also incredibly forgiving and very comfy to wear. Leave it to the turkey to be trussed up.

Velvet dress, £349, Hobbs; Tie-back silk satin gown, £295, Whistles 

6. There is a middle ground

Not sure how far to go? We love a spangly skirt with a simple sweater or silk blouse, which during these festive weeks could pass as well for office attire as for a party. Sequins in the daytime is the prerogative of any self-respecting December mega-fan.

7. Don’t ruin it all with the wrong bag

Overly ornate bags can be quite naff and look cheap – especially high street incarnations. Try a stylish perspex box clutch. Even better, find one on a dainty gold chain so you have hands free for canapés.

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