Understated luxury

For office parties, let your outfit be soft, tasteful and classic

Inspirations: Fashion


The RSVPs have been duly returned, the sitters arranged for. Now, what to wear to the spate of holiday parties you've scheduled in the next several weeks?

Fashion experts say dressing for the holidays this year is simpler than finding the perfect gift for that finicky friend on your list.

"This holiday season is all about luxe," says Francine Crocker, spokeswoman for Liz Claiborne Inc. "Look for special touches in every item. From elegant embroidery to delicate sequin embellishments, fashion reflects the mood of the season. Fabrics like sumptuous velvet, corduroy and faux fur are seasonal staples."

This season's must-have item, says Geoffrey Henning, design director of women's career for JC Penney, is a velvet blazer.

"My recommendation is a washed rayon silk so it's very light and soft and a little vintage-looking," Henning says. "She can put it on with a great pair of jeans or a dress pant or it looks great with a really full skirt."

Other toppers that make a statement: shrugs, camisoles or a great leather jacket, Henning says.

At office parties, focus on details instead of all-over outfits, says Sonja Jacob, emerging fashion expert at Style Chronicles.com, an online trend-spotter.

"You want to look tasteful and you want to look festive, but you want to stay away from anything that has snowmen or snowflakes on them," Jacob says.

It's fine to stay with trends that have carried over from fall, such as the Victorian look, but do trends in moderation, Jacob says. "You want to look unique but you also want to keep things reined in a bit," she says. "You don't want to go down in history as the bad dresser of the office holiday party."

For men, holiday dressing is a cinch, says Todd Snyder, vice president of men's design for J. Crew.

Stick to the classics, he says, and then layer on one fashion piece - such as a velvet blazer, or a narrow tie.

"Think of the Steve McQueens, the Cary Grants," Snyder says. "They were never cutting-edge fashion people. They were classic dressers."

Whatever you do guys, try not to look like you're headed to a business meeting at the office. Jazz it up.

"Most guys, they go into automatic mode and they look like they're going to work," Snyder says. "You need to challenge yourself a bit."

The challenge for ladies, many times, is finding something already in their closets that is festive enough for the season. After all, the holidays can be pretty expensive as it is, without having to buy a complete ensemble for every function.

For that, accessories are the answer, experts say.

"Wearing layers of long gold faux pearl necklaces and multiple strands of beads in rich jewel tones is a simple solution for creating a sophisticated look," says Liz Claiborne's Crocker. "Or make any outfit shine by adding a sequined scarf to everything from a relaxed jacket and jeans to your favorite party dress."

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