From desk to dinner

Don’t splash out on a new outfit for the office party, says Paula Burns. Make your daywear transfer easily to night-time

IT may only be mid-November, but in retail, Christmas has begun. So, I’m thinking of the many festive nights out and the dresses and outfits I will need.

Back in the Celtic Tiger, when the bells of Christmas were just the chimes of credit card machines, there was no dread, just fun-filled thoughts of how many dresses we could fill our wardrobes with each payday. Now, credit is the dirty ‘c’ word.

Gone are the days of the glamorous black-tie office party, when companies booked out country manor hotels and filled their employees with free drink. Now, the boss might throw a few quid behind the local bar for after-work drinks, and if budgets are stretched, the lucky few might go to an ‘office party night’ in a hotel. The low-brow approach to the office Christmas party has advantages, especially financial. If it’s not a night of spectacular entertainment, then there is no need to blow our monthly wage on that must-have dress.

Even if it is just drinks straight from work, it is Christmas, after all, so getting a little glammed-up is no harm and doesn’t have to break the bank.

This season, there is an array of dresses to suit most tastes. A dress is an easy option: you can play it down for the office and then glam it up for the evenings frolics. If you go straight from the office out, black, opaque tights and your trusty, Penney’s flat pumps will be your best friend during the day.

The tights can be whipped off once the tan has been applied, and then just add the killer heels and you are good-to-go.

The shift dress is a safe option, but it doesn’t have to be boring. Choose a daring colour, like red. It’s sexy, sophisticated and, of course, the ultimate festive colour.

The baroque print was a favourite on the runways this year, and has been adopted by the high street. This opulent trend can be daunting. There is the fear of looking like you’re wearing a curtain print from the 18th century, but A/Wear have the trend right.

Wearing the baroque print gives an air of grandeur and sophistication. Match this with an easy up-style hair ‘do’ and you will be sure to be noticed.

The peplum is a style that is not going away soon. Again, this is a trend that many approach with caution. It does not make sense that putting an extra layer of material around your waist is going to make you appear thinner. But it’s true.

A peplum dress is like a little sprinkle of Christmas magic that allows you to eat that dinner, and still hides the bulges. It is a fashion miracle that should be embraced. A peplum top is also a great way to spice up a pair of skinny trousers.

As always, sequins can be a girl’s best friend, but only at this time of year. Choose a plain style of dress for the sequin look. At the office, cover with a casual style blazer, or a cardigan with those little sequined devils. If going down the glittery path, keep the opaques on and let the dress speak for itself.

Mad Men has made the sexy-secretary look a season-after-season trend. The pencil skirt and blouse has had cause for the air con to be piped up in many offices, as the blokes suffer from hot flushes.

The tight, slim fit of the pencil skirt is a flawless look for a woman with curves. This is probably the easiest look to carry from the office to the night out.

During the day, it can be matched with this season’s blouse and then, for evening, add to the curvy look with a fitted top. Penney’s limited-edition, sequin pencil skirt is the perfect choice for this look. Bare legs and killer heels will just add to the sexiness.

For the flirty look, the prom dress creates that perfect image. This seems to be a favourite of this year’s judges on the X-Factor. Both Tulisa and Nicole have stepped out in the girlie ensemble. However, only the Scherzinger has pulled it off. The pretty prom dress is not for even the slightly butch.

This season’s take on the prom dress is short, so, if you’re small on top and with skinny legs, this is a stunning look. It may be difficult to manoeuvre through the crowds of the morning commute, but, once covered with a long coat, extra denier tights and a cardie for the office, it will be worth it when the lights go down.

If the thought of wearing anything that resembles a skirt or a dress, to the office, fills you with more dread than a trip to the dentist, then there are other options.

The trouser suit is the new LBD. From Prada to Stella McCartney to Louis Vuitton, designers showcased their version of the classic look. There have been many sighs of relief from women who found the pastel ladylike shades and silhouettes of the past few seasons a little too much to take. The trouser suit is strong and there to make a statement. Of course, it is also the ultimate work wear. However, just like any new trend, there are rules to be followed.

The trouser suit is not for everyone, it can swamp small people. Unless it is a straight trouser with sky-scraper heels and all one colour, then forget about it.

If in doubt, remember Florence Welch, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Angelina Jolie are the ones wearing the trouser suit down the red carpet.

Throughout the high street, ‘the trouser’ has been embraced. River Island has a vast variety — with the skinny sequined version being perfect for Christmas.

This look is so easy to take you from day to night. Unless they are long, flared trousers, during the day go for the Audrey Hepburn-style, with trousers and flat pumps matched with a light jumper.

For the office party, substitute the jumper for a sleeveless top to showcase your bare arms, or, for the ultimate vixen look, choose a fitted suit jacket with nothing underneath. Kick on your highest heels and add layers of eye-liner for that statement look.

Remember, Yves Saint Laurent didn’t name the trouser suit ‘Le Smoking’ for nothing.

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