Monday, 4 January 2010

How to get a festive reality check

Lisa Armstrong writes another brilliant (and hilarious) article on our obsession with 'party-dressing':

For weeks the nation has been doing what it generally does at this time of year – ie, pretending it’s Kate Moss about to embark on a whirl of parties and the odd bout of “exhaustion”. Helpful advice about how to cook, drink, dress and decorate during the endless fiesta that supposedly turns December into MasterChef meets The Hangover flows forth from magazines and TV, culminating in the What to Wear on Christmas Day article that assumes you’re spending Christmas at Balmoral. No wonder people start to feel inadequate.

Obviously I would never cast aspersions on the usefulness of what is written on a glossy page, but has it occurred to anyone else that all this anticipation might be mass delusion?

A real check list of what you need to do in the clothes department right now would start with ensuring that your favourite items have been dry-cleaned and aren’t missing any buttons.

Another plan of action is to revamp your wardrobe. Ever since I saw Christopher Kane’s velvet biker jacket in October I’ve been mulling over why it would be endlessly useful – with strappy dresses, jeans, T-shirts… And why it would make everything look just right, whatever the occasion. I think it comes down to it being a simple classic piece, but reworked to look fresh. I’ve also been wondering how to work the idea of it in without having to own it, since owning it would mean parting with £1,000. And they say fashion’s easy.

Switching around favourite combinations in your wardrobe could result in a similar, fresh eureka moment. If you’ve always worn black with black, try adding some navy – it looks chic, understated and very dramatic, especially if you mix textures like velvet and silk.

Go for sheen rather than out-and-out shine – it’s more flattering and, on the whole, classier. If you can’t resist sequins – by New Year’s Eve the pressure to have a Diana Ross moment may be overwhelming – a sequined top under a jacket or a sequined skirt with a jersey or cashmere tank (as seen at Costume National, above, right) looks cooler than head-to-toe glitter, and it’s more versatile. While we’re on the subject of tops, something one-shouldered is a simple, striking graphic statement that’s also current. Skip necklaces with this one though, in favour of bangles or earrings.

Lace is another standby that slides from wedding to understated. There’s a lot around, from horrifying tat to beautiful classic pieces – as at Moschino, above, left. (The best high-street lace tops seem to be in Oasis.) A lace dress can look tacky but a top or trim is often all it takes to nudge daywear into something special. A tweed, Chanel-esque jacket thrown into the mix also looks hip and elegant and works well with velvet jeans on Christmas Day.

If you need head-to-toe glamour, think about buying something plain that you can rev up with jewellery for big nights out and wear more casually for cosier gatherings. Strapless dresses are another versatile fix – slip a cardigan over them for lower-key evenings.

Image: Karl Lagerfeld for Romanian Harper's Bazaar

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