With the recent passing of Oscar De La Renta, it’s hard not to think about his impact on American fashion, and the effortless elegance his style evoked. As the holidays draw near, many people will be attending all sorts of gatherings, some of which will beprofessionally oriented – from networking events to office parties, it is essential to perfect the day-to-evening look. With the recent trend in retro styles coming back, it’s easier than ever to take some style tips from Oscar and incorporate some holiday-chic into your wardrobe.
What am I going to wear? You are invited to your own work luncheon, party or gathering and possibly as a guest to your spouse’s, girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s holiday after-hours office parties. Here are some tips to keep your good reputation intact and the budget reasonable.
Do make an effort
In recent years, many of us are wearing more casual clothing to the office than we used to. Men like to see women dress up a bit once a year and are usually nicely surprised at how attractive they can look in a pretty outfit with a little makeup and their hair done. Women love to see their male colleagues out of their mold in a sharp suit or jacket and slacks. It’s worth taking a little trouble in your appearance for the party, just to show you have another dimension to your personality. Attend to details, such as impeccable fit, well-designed hairstyle or a lovely braided up-do or chignon and a professional manicure. Gentlemen, please attend to your shoes, polished and repaired, a well-laundered shirt, a groomed beard or facial hair and no nose or ear hair thank you! Keep perfume and after-shave really light.
Don’t overdo the effect
Make sure the outfit is appropriate and falls under the label “festive business” not
“Halloween”! Don’t try a Santa’s helper get-up, native attire or any other exotic costume just to be different. Gentlemen, for the ladies’ sake, avoid the cartoon, conversation and Christmas ties, which are the sartorial equivalent of groan jokes.
Keep the outfit business appropriate
Don’t be tempted by backless, low-cut, off the shoulder, bare midriff, see-through or thigh-high miniskirt styles. Anything that shows too much skin will be remembered and discussed as juicy office gossip after the event.
Keep the cost down
If this isn’t a command performance or the Oscar’s you don’t need a ball gown. A trouser suit with a festive or patterned top, a short cocktail dress, a classic pencil skirt with a beautiful blouse, or a lovely plain or patterned jacket in silk, satin (or quality polyester) are all great choices. Throw a gorgeous pashmina over the little black dress or trouser suit for warmth and color. Since these may be once-a-year purchases, it’s perfectly acceptable to wear the same outfit at different events, especially if the same people do not attend them. Change the jewelry, scarf, and blouse, put the hair up or down to get a different look.
Avoid over-dressy fabrics
Sequined, highly embroidered, metallic, transparent or lamé dresses aren’t easy to dress down, but solid colors in silk or fine wool such as gabardine, crepe, silk or cotton jersey, dressy suede and leather and high-tech polyester blends and triacetates are ripe for accessorizing and dressing up. Wear your sparkles in earrings, broaches, necklaces and belts or a few seed pearls scattered over an evening sweater. Are you sick of black? There are many more jewel-toned cocktail dresses on the market this season that make a delightful change.
Office Party Etiquette: 5 tips
- Circulate! Meet and greet new people and find out about other departments if the whole company is attending. Everyone feels slightly awkward in this situation wearing a different persona, so make it your job to put people at ease and ask questions. Be interested in everyone and as an ice-breaker, you can start with their function in the company. Never underestimate the power of internal networking. Other great topics of conversation are their children, their hobbies and their vacations. Be professionally curious and discover what you have in common, even if it’s the town you live in.
- Don’t embark at length on a personal story, especially if nobody else knows the details. The average attention span is barely 1-2 minutes even if people are interested. The clues to wind it up quickly: yes/no answers, gazing around the room or over your shoulder and a glazed expression.
- Don’t gossip, tell off-color jokes or use scatological language. This isn’t strictly speaking a social event; realistically it’s an extension of the working environment. The same rules of professionalism apply.
- Never, ever drink to excess or arrive even slightly stoned, high or drunk. If your boss is there, you may have just jeopardized your job or your dreams of promotion. Limit your drinks and assign a designated driver or line up a taxi.
- This isn’t an opportunity to air grievances, bring up office issues or hog your friends’ company. Keep office business and politics out of the office party. Get to know people in a different light and you will be delighted how different and interesting they become. Always be ready to speak about yourself in an interesting, engaging manner. Answers like “What do you want to know about me?” or “”I’m not very interesting.” do not encourage rapport but any answer that people can grab onto as a topic of conversation is useful.
Be curious and interesting, not embarrassingly memorable and you can sail through the holiday season as a classy professional on your way up.