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Haute for the Holidays

Haute for the Holidays
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BY NINA MALKIN

With all the hustle-bustle of the season, who wouldn’t want to throw on a Santa sweater or some reindeer earrings and call it done? But special occasion dressing needn’t be stressful. These expert tips will get you stylish, comfortable and very much in the spirit.

Wardrobe wipeout: As a general rule, personal style mentor Alexandra Greenawalt (www.alexandrastylist.com) suggests tossing festive attire that’s more than seven years old. “As we age we tend to forget how dated our clothes are,” she says. “It’s especially important to keep fresh and current at the holidays, since you’re in the spotlight.” What’s more, passé party clothes that suited your shape back then may not be as flattering now.

Festive fabrics: The better you feel, the better you’ll look—that’s why jersey and ponté knit are top picks for personal brand expert Nicole Longstreath (check out her 2014 Holiday Style Guide at www.thewardrobecode.com). “Both are very comfortable and forgiving, body conscious without calling attention to bulges,” she says. If you need to go a bit more gala, velvet is a luxurious choice.

Subtle sparkle: This is a time for shine, but dressing like a Christmas tree is kid stuff. “Don’t let glitz overpower elegance,” counsels Greenawalt, whose new book, Vetted by a Stylist, bows this December. “Balance the sparkly top with a skirt or pants in a matte, solid color.” An alternative to glittery lurex is merino wool with metallic threads woven in; silk has shine but doesn’t shriek like taffeta or lamé. Sequins, spangles, and other embellishments should be worn sparingly (on your collar and cuffs, say). And don’t pile on your entire jewelry box just because it’s Christmas. As Coco Chanel said, remove one accessory before you leave the house.

Kick up your heels: Fancy footwear you can walk, dance and party-hop in is essential. Longstreath loves a classic kitten heel in either patent leather or satin (speaking of shine), or the d’orsay shape—a cutaway that sexily exposes the arch. Chunky heels are trendier, but the silhouette can be tricky; trust your eye.

Office party panache: You’ve been to enough of these to understand that this is a business event, so you know not to go too short or too tight. Still, you’d like to throw the office crowd a bit of a curve. “Think ‘work appropriate’ with a bit of shimmer or holiday color,” Greenawalt says. A pencil skirt with a red cowl neck cashmere sweater is feminine and chic. A simple sleeveless sheath is always a class act (keep a cardigan or shrug in case you get chilly).

Family fabulous: The right outfit here is, literally, relative. “What to wear depends on how formal your family is,” Greenawalt says. If they’re into dressing up, go for a skirt and sweater combo with a pair of killer boots; break out a piece of the “good” jewelry. Jeans are fine if your kin are more casual; just opt for dark denim, which reads dressier than faded. If visiting the family your child newly married into, err on the side of conservative. And if you’re the show runner, wear what you can really move in. Consider a vintage ensemble: Hostess attire really meant something back in the day, so try a Sixties’ maxi skirt or pair of Seventies’ palazzo pants.

New Years know-how: A decade or so ago, you loved spending hours planning and primping. Now, it’s all about ease, and experts agree that the little black dress in a cut and fabric that favors your figure is the ultimate big night no-brainer. A few knockout accessories will ensure you won’t blend in with the crowd. If you’re a diehard pants person, team a pair of skinnies with a sparkly top that shows some skin. A small purse that can dangle as you mingle is a must.

Merry men: It doesn’t take much for guys to upgrade their everyday look to a holiday level. “A jacket, even if you’re wearing jeans, does the trick,” says Longstreath. Skip the sneakers in favor of good, newly shined shoes. For a whimsical touch, try a bowtie or suspenders.

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An all-around wordsmith, Nina Malkin is a journalist, novelist, copywriter and memoirist. She’s also an avid collector of lovely things from eras past—read her musings at http://www.vintagevirna.blogspot.com/