How you dress for holiday parties depends on your personality, and your pocketbook.
Herewith, a series of suggestions ranging from economy to deluxe:
* Man-tailored restraint. The menswear look is expected to be good for spring. (Has it ever been bad?) Why not get a jump on it with black-tie for the holidays?
There are a couple of ways you can put this together.
You might try to find an actual man's dinner jacket or black (or midnight) suit jacket in a consignment shop. Look for a small size, but remember: Loose and easy is in style. Just shorten the sleeves if needed, so you don't look like Dopey in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Pair the jacket with black or midnight crepe pants and perhaps a white crepe T-shirt or man-tailored shirt. Add big glittery rhinestone earrings, black hose and pumps, and look terrific.
Failing to find the right man's jacket, look for a simple black or dark blue woman's jacket that can fall in with the style remember how great Marlene Dietrich looked in it and carry on with the accessories.
You could try this look with a skirt, in which case, make it long and lean perhaps cropped just above the ankle. You can also try it, if you dare, with a bodysuit.
If you don't find or have the jacket, put the crepe trousers with a white shirt (also to be big for spring), a black turtleneck or a black crewneck sweater splashed with sequins or paillettes.
* Sequined flash-and---. In simple slip shapes and chemises, this look has become almost universal party fare. It should be available at every price level. You need a good figure with this. And if you've got it you shouldn't have to spend a lot on the dress to look good in it. This should be one of those cases where you're enhancing the dress rather than the other way around.
The look, which is best short, is so prevalent that you could stitch it up yourself without too much trouble or expense. The patterns are there and so are the sparkly fabrics. Many of these, for the least handy, have the sparkle woven in rather than applied.
If sparkle is not your style, consider the slip dress in lace. Actually, this would have more longevity. In fact, the lace slip dress is another item on the spring agenda. The lace could be anything from basic black, navy or cognac to silver, gold or bronze. Pastels not recommended. Slip dresses should not be confused in the public mind with actual underwear.
* Velvet subtlety. For the classicists in the crowd. Velvet is in, and it has great staying power. Especially for the holidays. If you like to dress in Christmas colors, velvet looks better in ruby red or forest green than almost any other fabric.
A velvet or velveteen party dress might be anything from a short and simple strapless to a covered style a short chemise with loose, monkish sleeves or a long gown with fitted sleeves and waist and a flaring (not too much) skirt.
Velvet the finest, most supple kind is a good fabric for the slashed-to-there long, slim skirts that are also on the spring horizon. These can, alternatively, be unbuttoned-to-there.
Velvet is pretty with pearls and matte or antiqued metals. It's lovely with heirloom jewelry. But it also takes well to the sharp, glittering contrast of colored or diamondlike stones.
* Silken rustle. "Fit and flare" is another silhouette that may step back into fashion's limelight come spring. Think of the '50s. Think of marked waistlines, full skirts, maybe even big French-cuffed sleeves. Think of swishy, sophisticated shirtwaists and belted trench styles.