Using your closet to dress for holiday parties

Using your closet to dress for holiday parties

Q. I get invited to a lot of evening holiday parties. I usually don’t have time to or want to shop for these. What can I use from my closet?

A. Assuming you’re not talking about a black-tie party, a few different factors might affect your choices for what to wear to a festive event. One is the season you are dressing for. Another is the level of dressiness of the crowd you will be with (everyone interprets dressiness somewhat differently). Yet another is the region where you live. And, perhaps most important of all, is your own individual style of dressing.

  • The season you are dressing for. At this holiday time of year there are any number of touches that would make your combination festive and special without suggesting actual black-tie wear. One might be a traditional navy or a black blazer with wool dress trousers in a solid ivory-color, or maybe even a bright red plaid.    
  • The level of dressiness of the crowd you will be with. Your friends may be a group of conservative, quiet dressers, or they could be preppy types, or fashion-forward guys. Each has its own look.
  • The region where you live. Because I’m not a fan of wearing jeans in a dressy situation, I would normally say “no” to jeans. On the other hand, if you live in, say, the Santa Fe area or other parts of the Southwest and are invited to a fancy party, you could certainly wear jeans, as long as they are clean, untorn, not faded, and combined with a few dressy Western items. You might add a beautiful, really special pair of Western dress boots, a fine quality shirt (definitely not matching denim), and perhaps a great belt with a turquoise buckle or a silver-and-turquoise bolo tie. 
  • Your individual style of dressing. Whether you are dressing for a day of running errands or for attending a party, you will only feel comfortable in clothes that suit your personal taste. 

Once you have addressed these factors, you’re ready to assemble your outfit. Some of the “too-bold-for-business-but-right-for-a-party” items you might already own or might find in a gently-used clothing store could include: colorful patterned socks, a bright necktie, a pastel-colored blazer, patterned vest, two-toned dressy spectator shoes, a fresh flower boutonniere in your lapel, a unique shirt with just a bit of glitz, Granddad’s pocket watch, even a family kilt. 

In normal circumstances, the most noticeable and memorable item in a man’s outfit is his necktie. Even though ties are seen far less often these days, every man has at least a few hanging in his closet. The most colorful or special ones could be your go-to choices for wearing to a holiday party. Some ties that are too bright, too bold, or too formal for business, are just right for a festive party. One of them (possibly holiday-themed) might be exactly right for you. These go well at holiday parties, but not so well at regular dressing occasions.  

No doubt, one of the easiest items to help you stand out from the crowd is a great-looking sweater. A too-bright suit or jacket in a man’s wardrobe can be a mistake. But, like neckties, sweaters can be boldly colorful while still being tasteful. As long as the occasion is not very dressy, they can make a handsome layer over a dress shirt. They range from luxury looks in pure white or light pastels to vivid bright shades, and from solids to interesting stripes and geometric patterns. They can be budget-friendly or a useful splurge. 

A combination I find eye-catching is an elegant dark suit or blazer with a quality white dress shirt, worn with a paisley silk tie that includes white in the design (thus, repeating the white in the shirt).                

Don’t go overboard. Keep in mind that choosing no more than one or two of these suggestions will make your combination festive and special, without being “too much.”  

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