Party looks that have us all bewitched

Sabrina star Kiernan Shipka models chillingly perfect party season style in a sequined velvet dress by Elie Saab.

A new wave of female empowerment has seen witches become the inspiration for party looks this Christmas. 

You can have it too without much toil and trouble, writes Carolyn Moore.

Something wicked this way comes. 

No, I’m not confusing my seasons; I realise party season is upon us, but look around you on any night out this month – be it festive work drinks or New Year’s Eve – and tell me that December isn’t the true season of the witch.

As an archetype, witches have been with us for millennia. They’ve always intrigued, and as a result they’ve never resided far from our pop culture consciousness, but this year more than ever witches have captured the collective imagination. 

What started with American Horror Story: Coven in 2013 (absolute style goals) reached a cultural crescendo over the last year or two. 

Thanks to Netflix, a new generation have fallen in love with the witches (and the clothes) of 90s classic The Craft; there are whispers of a long-awaited sequel to the Kidman/Bullock classic Practical Magic; Charmed has been rebooted; the remake of Dario Argento’s visually stunning Susperia is in cinemas; and if you didn’t spend Halloween binging The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, what are you even doing with your life?

As well as taking over our screens, witches are also casting a sartorial spell this season, although that’s nothing new either. 

Designers, stylists and celebrities have never hesitated to channel some witchy magic into a spellbinding look, and from the floaty layers of Stevie Nicks to Beyonce’s ultra wide-brimmed Formation hat, a certain kind of woman has never shied away from tapping into the mystique of witches and the power implicit in their visual signifiers.

As far back as the Salem Witch Trials and as recently as the Trump campaign, it’s always been understood that — magic aside — ‘witch’ is a byword for a powerful, independent woman who defies societal expectations — something the comedy duo behind Broad City played into when they dedicated an episode to implying that women like Hilary Clinton, Rihanna and Ruth Bader Ginsberg were bad-ass witches.

What all these pop culture interpretations have in common (along with providing us with seminal fashion moments) is that they embrace themes of sisterhood and feminism, and you don’t have to be a sociology professor to link our current appetite for witch-related content to the surge of female empowerment that’s electrifying the current social climate. 

If witches are a symbol of the power that women can harness and wield, it’s entirely appropriate that they’re working their magic on us at this precise moment in time.

Nowhere is this narrative more clearly spelled out (if you’ll pardon the pun) than in the newly rebooted adventures of one Sabrina Spellman. 

A dark reimagining of the 90s cornball comedy Sabrina the Teenage Witch, the 21st century Sabrina is a girl of her times — precociously demanding agency in her destiny, and becoming empowered along the way to take down the patriarchal organisation that wants her very soul. 

When she finally comes into her powers, the moment is marked by a physical transformation – her dirty blonde bob turns striking platinum, and her newfound sexual energy is too much for the hapless Harvey.

This echoes the other thing pop culture tells us about witches: when we equate witches with power, what we’re really saying is, here is a woman in control of her sexuality - a powerful force indeed. 

When the Witches of Eastwick became a coven, they transformed from dowdy housewives into glamorous vixens, and when Sabrina’s frumpy, bookish teacher, Miss Wardwell is possessed by Madam Satan, she prowls back into school exuding a new-found sexual energy; all big hair and jewel-toned pencil skirts.

And so it is with party season, a magical time when every woman invests in something sparkly, tries her hand at a smoky eye, and releases her inner vamp. 

We come out of hibernation with a bang, flirting with a darker version of party wear, and — in a way — with a darker version of ourselves, too. 

Like life imitating art, Kiernan Shipka (who plays Sabrina) embraced some gothic glamour for the Sabrina press tour, and the results were spectacular.

At the end of the day, party wear is all about creating that ‘wow’ moment, so cast a spell in the season’s most magical styles. 

As the best depictions of witches have taught us, that doesn’t have to mean revealing all or embracing an overtly sexual look, but hey… you do you. 

Think tactile draped velvet à la Stevie Nicks, or keep it coquettish like Kiernan Shipka, but tap into your dark side this party season. 

There’s a little bit of witch in all of us; let her out for the night, and see if something magic happens.

10 bewitching looks we love

Tactile velvet takes a little red dress to another dimension. Vonda dress by InWear, €149, Itso Me boutique, Douglas

Party season isn’t just about black. Rainbow hanky hem dress by V by Very, €165, littlewoodsireland.ie

The lady is a vamp. Vamp it up in a fringed, flapper-style party dress, €75, River Island.

2018 was when sequined trousers became a thing, so mark the end of the year in style, in these sequined flares, now €48.30, Wallis.

Minimal embellishment with maximum impact. Shimmering lurex embroidered wrap dress by Needle & Thread, €313, Brown Thomas.

The party season classic – the timeless appeal of the LBD with some timely iridescent sparkle. Sequined bodycon dress, €75, Marks & Spencer.

You can dare to bare in December, or you can leave everything to the imagination in the Laz dress by LK Bennett, now €430 at lkbennett.com

Who says you need a great party dress to get dressed up? Cast a spell in a plunging sequined jumpsuit, €29.99, New Look.

Show-topper! Top off a perfect party look in this sequined velvet kimono by PAROSH, €575 at Samui, Drawbridge Street.

When gothic glam meets Studio 54. Spellbinding backless draped dress, €79.95, Zara.

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