Real Life Holiday Dressing

If you read any aspirational magazine or blog on the subject of holiday dressing, you’d think everyone’s schedule was full of year-end balls, galas and general sequined bedazzled fabulousness at this time of year.

Maybe life is like this for the one-percent, or maybe even the top-twenty percent. But my personal year-end holiday festive season is a bit earthier and homespun. (I do live in the Midwest, after all.) Outdoor winter markets, family cookie bake-offs, glasses of wine at home or maybe some stout at the local Irish bar if I’m living it up. Think sweater, puffer vest and leggings, and less sparkly cocktail dress and metallic heels.

So most holiday fashion recommendations to buy, say, a spendy velvet jumpsuit that I’ll maybe wear once a year, don’t really work for me. Most people I know need to stretch their dollars at this time of year, especially since gift-giving can make a wallet cry and a budget freak out.

Still, there’s something to be said about wearing something just a bit more special and sparkly and cozy and luxe during these winter months. It can be a tough time of year — there is so much to do, combined with a pressure to live up to Pinterest-y ideals of togetherness, family and more. Add a good dose of rapidly encroaching cold and darkness, and no wonder people get a little blue. A nice bit of sparklepony eye candy can lift the spirits just a bit, and expand that spirit of festivity we so crave during this time.

But “the holidays” (at least in terms of fashion) can be done in a low-key, chill sort of a way — which won’t break your bank account and still put a little sparkle in your heart.

A special statement

Accessories are the easiest ways to incorporate festive elements into anyone’s style without an enormous outlay of cash and effort. I’m generally a low-key jewelry and accessories person — I like small, delicate items in general — but this is when a “statement” anything comes in handy. A sparkling necklace, beautiful chandelier earrings, a metallic-tinged or beaded scarf, even a beautiful brooch — the more bold and dramatic, the better. It’s a time of year when you don’t necessarily need to follow your typical outfit formula or style — you can be a little more outre but in a manageable way.

Upgraded utilitarian items

If your holiday season is a bit more outdoors-oriented or just casual in general — and you’d feel a little weird wearing, say, gem-encrusted earrings out and about — think a slightly upgraded everyday item. Of course you know I’d suggest an elevated sweatshirt — there are some great velvet ones now, for example, or even those cut with interesting sleeves. (You know I love a bell sleeve now.) Or think a sweater in a lovely cut or interesting sleeves, in a great seasonal but non-cliche color like burgundy, tomato red or the blush du jour. (I actually love these colors for the holidays, as well as winter whites and icy light blues with navy — so much better than the typical green and red!) Paired with a beautiful scarf, and you’re leaning on the cozier side of holiday but still just a bit glam.

If you’re going to invest in something

There are points, though, when you do want to buy something for an occasion, like a winter wedding or some kind of major event. My suggestion would be for a velvet blazer — and if you want to be extra special, velvet pants to match. While a velvet blazer goes in and out of trend cycles regularly, it is still a classic item, especially in a simple, elegant cut.

The matching suit bottoms are optional — I do love a velvet blazer with dark jeans — but there is something elevated, chic and eternally Parisian-y stylish about a black velvet suit. I know a suit sounds formal, but the pieces can be broken up into other outfits and incorporated in a more casual way — which makes this iteration of velvet a bit more versatile while respecting its innate beauty.

Shop your closet

My personal truth about holiday dressing is that I already have what I need to make a dressyish festive outfit. The chances are, you do, too! Think a cleanly cut black pant or dark jean, a silk camisole in a darker or neutral color, and then a skinny beaded scarf. Paired with a black blazer, some pretty earrings (I’ll probably buy new ones or put some formerly “retired” ones into circulation) and some kind of heel or dressy boot and there you go! Because the truth is, as a mom and busy freelancer, I don’t often get the chance to wear my nicer, prettier clothes out very often. So the holidays are a great excuse to wear my old-school party clothes, and give myself a small gift of feeling a little like my old self again.

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