There are no two ways about it: party dressing can be a challenge. There’s the fun bit – the sequins and glitter, the killer frocks and jazzy jumpsuits, the glass of wine while doing your lippy – but there’s also the stressful bit. The “I feel like crap in this dress bit”. The “everyone is going to look better than me” bit. The “I’ve emptied the entire contents of my wardrobe on to the floor and I STILL have nothing to wear” bit. While, in theory, the festive season is all about feeling your best sparkly self, the reality can be a pain in the neck. In fact, a recent survey found that 23% of women claimed picking their party outfit is the biggest stress of the festive season.
Despite all my years of doling out style advice, I can wholeheartedly say that I’ve been there. I’ve despaired at my wardrobe (there have been tears), I’ve panic-bought outfits I know I’ll never wear again and once I even refused to take my coat off because I didn’t like what I was wearing.
I like to call this process Festive Fashion Freakout and it was this that Chidera Eggerue – aka The Slumflower – and I spent a recent afternoon talking about. The author, body-positive advocate, founder of the #saggyboobsmatter campaign and all-round excellent dresser has curated an edit of party outfits from Amazon Fashion’s festive offerings. From printed jumpsuits to slinky slip dresses, Eggerue has specifically picked the pieces that give her a confidence-boost over party season. No more wearing a coat all evening (unless it’s the leopard-print number from her collection).
So, what is the secret to successful partywear dressing? How do we leave our wardrobe anxieties at the door? And how do we avoid the dreaded Festive Fashion Freakout? Here’s what we discussed.
Know what makes you feel great and stick to the things you love
There’s something to be said for dressing outside of the box every now and again, but there is also something to be said for failsafes. Tried-and-tested works every time. And when the festive furore kicks off, I would suggest that sticking to the outfits or styles you know and love can be much less of a headache. For Eggerue, that’s “massive hair, big hoops and anything cinched at the waist”, such as this printed jumpsuit. I know that a going-out top with jeans is always going to make me feel good. A fashion-editor friend of mine has a really simple, silky black dress that she wears to almost every party, switching up the look of it with a great pair of earrings or a colour-pop bag. It hasn’t let her down once.
Celebrate what you like; forget about what you don’t
I’ve spent years giving myself a hard time about my bum (too low) and legs (too short), and scrutinising my bottom half from every angle in every outfit I try on. Constructive? No. Tedious? Yes. “You gain nothing from slagging yourself off,” says Eggerue, who started the #saggyboobsmatter campaign after deciding to celebrate, rather than criticise, her boobs. “I was bored of disliking myself,” she says. “I used to be terrified of wearing anything deep-plunge because it would reveal how saggy my boobs are, but now that I’ve grown to love my boobs, I always opt for a deep-plunge outfit.”
Not a dress person? Try a disco suit
At the time of the year, it can feel like you can’t move for frocks – mini, midi, maxi and in all shades of glitter. While the festive sartorial benefits of the perfect party dress have long been extolled, it’s not for everyone. This season’s fashion love-in for all things 70s means that trouser suits in velvet and cord are a bonafide partywear alternative. Have a look at this navy style, which can be worn as a set or broken into separates. I like the idea of wearing the jacket with a glitzy camisole and jeans, and the trousers with a Lurex roll neck and heels.
Hight heels don’t have to be horrendous
After years of backing cocktail trainers and fancy flats, this season the fashion world is starting to return to heels. While I can’t stomach the thought of sore feet on a night out, there is something to be said for the confidence a pair of high heels imbues. “A pair of heels make me feel powerful because I’m making noise – you can hear me before you see me,” agrees Eggerue. Unless you plan on racking up a humungous taxi bill this December, I would suggest trying a pair of heeled boots which, thanks to the support of the boot, tend to be less toe-pinching than courts or sandals. Animal-print boots are all over the place at the moment and add a dash of Debbie Harry rock ’n’ roll to an outfit. Alternatively, go 90s grunge and try a pair of chunky soles heeled hiker boots with your silky slip.
Get a party coat
The entire concept of festive partywear is, of course, deeply illogical – just as it starts to feel freezing outside, only then must we trott out in spaghetti straps and open toes. Er, what?! In my experience, if there’s one thing that’s going to kill an evening, it’s shivering incessantly next to the cocktail sausages. “The last thing you want is to be in an outfit you’re uncomfortable in,” says Eggerue, who recommends adding a fuzzy faux-fur jacket into the outfit mix. “If you’re going to be too cold, just remind yourself that the most important thing is your presence.”
Ditch the dress-code anxiety
High up on the list of any dressing-up anxieties is navigating the myriad unwritten dress codes. Will I be underdressed? Will I be overdressed? Are jeans OK? How about a full-sequin jumpsuit? What exactly is smart/casual? As someone who has missed the mark on several occasions, I now employ a “save it with accessories” method. Stick a great pair of earrings, a statement belt or even a bright lippy in your bag, which can be piled on – or taken off – depending on the evening’s tone.
Don’t overthink it
But ultimately, if all else fails, remember this: it’s not actually about what you wear. “You want to look back on the photos you took and think, ‘I was happy in that photo,’ rather than thinking, ‘I looked good but I was really unhappy,’” says Eggerue. If you’re going to the trouble of having a night out, then the most important thing is to enjoy it. And if the Festive Fashion Freakout starts to climb, a final world of advice from Eggerue: “I always remind myself that nobody thinks of you as much as you. Don’t go into that situation thinking every person at that party is going to be thinking, ‘What is she wearing?’ Literally no one cares.”