IT MAY BE THE SEASON FOR sleigh rides and snowball fights, but for most holiday revelers, a quiet evening spent by a cozy fire is far more appealing. this season stores are offering a whole new selection of clothing that's meant to stay home. Just like "comfort food," which conjures up images of home and hearth, "comfort clothes" make us feel warm and safe . . . not too exciting, but definitely inviting.
A PASSION FOR PANTS
No. 1 on this holiday season's fashion wish list is pants. After all, when we're sipping hot toddies next to a roaring fire, we are more than likely going to be sitting on the floor.
For those who frequent their local health clubs, leggings and stirrup pants are the ideal option for both comfort and chic. Made popular first by exercise enthusiasts, these body-hugging pants are now available in every fabric from basic black cotton/Lycra to ultra-plus stretch velvet and cotton knit shot through with metallic Lurex threads.
The idea here, as with most at-home holiday wear, is to take something basic, familiar and above all comfortable, and jazz it up for a more glamorous holiday look.
"I've bought exactly two things for this holiday season," says Emily Spears, a sales associate who lives in Towson. "One is a pair of black velvet leggings and the other is a pair of silver stirrup pants. Both of them will go well with my long black silk jacket and my red cashmere tunic sweater. I may invest in some glittery jewelry, but for this year I just don't have the time or money to go out and buy a fancy new cocktail dress."
While stirrups and leggings remain the ideal choice for the lean and leggy, pajama-style pants are also on the hit list for this season.
Most are made from slinky washed silk and feature an elastic waistband and generously cut leg. Also perfect for curling up in an overstuffed chair, these loose trousers are available in every fabric from jewel-tone silk Charmeuse to pastel cashmere and lambs wool.
Pajama-style pants also work well under long, fitted jackets, tunic-length sweaters or short, boxy jackets.
This season, the specialty sweater continues to grow in popularity, with gold and silver Lurex knits taking the place of last season's jewel-covered sweater.
Silhouettes range from the classic cardigan twin set, now edged with satin piping and rhinestone buttons, to oversize tunics encrusted with seed pearls.
And for those who want the plushest, lushest feeling available this year, velour and chenille have been resurrected from the mothballs. While black remains the most popular color for these cuddly knits, many offer flecks of gold or silver or vibrant color blocks reminiscent of the 1960s.
Although separates have become a favorite for most women who want to build a wardrobe of evening looks, some women won't attend even the most casual affair unless they put on a dress. For those women, comfortable can still be a key word with any of the new, less-than-body-conscious dresses now in the stores.
Leading the style race this season is the swing dress. Cut to fall in an A-shape from narrow shoulders to a wide, full hem, the waistless swing dress is perfect for those who have spent a little too much time next to the chips and dip.
"It certainly is one of the more forgiving silhouettes that we've seen in a while," says Patti Cohen, spokeswoman for Donna Karan. "But that doesn't mean it can't be sexy either. When they are cut short to show off a pair of nice long legs, they can be as sexy as the most figure-fitting dress."
On the opposite side of the dress department, shoppers can find the classic tank dress made even more comfortable when it's done in stretch velvet or velour or more versatile jersey knit.
"I have a tank dress in wool crepe that I've been wearing for years," says Shelita Gray, a real estate agent in Potomac. "I absolutely love it because it looks great by itself or with an antique bolero that I have. I just bought another one in navy
stretch velvet. It's as comfortable as workout clothes, and you can wear it with either heels or dressy flats. It always looks right."
During the '80s, those who chose to stay home often did so in luxurious lingerie meant for behind closed doors. Today, lingerie is still popular, only many of the classic bustiers and pajama styles have been updated for more public viewing.
Body suits in lush stretch velvet, lacy camisoles worn under voluminous chiffon blouses, silk smoking jackets trimmed with velvet collars and even mule-type slippers are turning up everywhere from football parties to candlelit buffets. And for those women who prefer to lounge in an old pair of sweats, cashmere athletic wear is now available.