November 21, 2013 by
Photography by Jim Scholz

‘Tis the season to celebrate the holidays! A time to decorate your home, your office, even your car with personal style. Then comes you, wondering what’s best to wear for your own family feasts and to holiday parties of all kinds.

When I was a child, dressing up for the holidays was very important in my family. We wore dressy clothes for family dinners and parties, and we dressed the table and the house according to the theme of the season. I loved the holidays and was impressed by what a difference dressing up for them made.

The holidays are no time to be lazy about what you wear. Three common events during the holidays are family gatherings, office parties, and glitzy celebrations. You want to be well dressed for all of them, and that requires special attention to detail.

For Family Gatherings

Dress to show respect for the event and each other. Remember, if your host says the event is casual, it doesn’t mean warm-ups and pilled, fleece sportswear. It can mean jeans, but only clean and fashionable ones worn with shirts and sweaters that are several notches above what you wear to relax on weekends. Even in your own home, a family celebration that shows effort and style will have a nicer feel for all if everyone is well dressed and well groomed.

For Office Parties

Office and company parties can present a quandary. Pay attention to the invitation and to the location of the party. Sometimes the invitation specifies the attire. Respect that and remember that you’re with co-workers and executives. It’s not your time to dress hot and sexy. Low cut and very short dresses do not belong. Too much cleavage and leg is taboo even for a beautiful 30-year-old. Tasteful is the way you want to present yourself.

When an invitation suggests business attire, it means, for men, a suit or a sport jacket with dress pants, a dress shirt, necktie, and dress shoes. A woman should wear a suit or a coordinating skirt and jacket, or pants and jacket with a pressed blouse or sweater. A sweater set with pants or a skirt also qualifies. A dress that looks professional does too. Accessories, shoes or boots (not sandals), and bags should coordinate with the clothing.

Casual is a word that confuses almost everyone. It means that whether you’re a man or a woman, the sportswear you choose should be neat, clean, pressed, well fitting, and coordinated. If the invite says dressy casual, that means guys wear a sport jacket too.

For Fancy Celebrations

New Year’s Eve is the party night that for many is the dressiest of the year. It’s the one night I actually think pajama parties are fun, but for most it’s black-tie-party time. That means the guys are to wear winter tuxedos, with the proper tux shoes and accessories. Women have options. They can wear a long gown, a tuxedo, elegant silk or tuxedo pants, classy tops, or cocktail dresses. Accessorize with your best jewelry for evening.

Cocktail means that guys wear a dark suit, with a dress shirt, a necktie, and a pocket scarf. Polished leather dress shoes are a must. For women, it’s easy. Wear a cocktail dress or suit, a stylish pantsuit, or pants with a chic top. Add jewelry, too. Your purse and shoes are very important. Only elegant ones are appropriate. The height of the heel doesn’t matter; it’s the style and finish of the shoe that does.

If you’re still in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask your host what to wear and dress accordingly.

Mary Anne Vaccaro is a clothing and product designer and an image consultant to businesses and individuals. www.maryannevaccaro.com She is also a sales consultant for Carlisle and Per Se, New York. www.carlislecollection.com