Be party perfect this Christmas with these tips for the perfect dress

AFTER a year of property tax penury, austerity anxiety and constrained consumer spending, we are all badly in need of some life-affirming glamour and, dare we even say it (now that the Troika is departing), some unapologetic fun.

Be party perfect this Christmas with these tips for the perfect dress

The office party has been a tame affair for the past few years, as the all-out hedonism of the boom was replaced by low-key drinks and peanuts down the pub. This year, we feel the need for a proper party and we want some new clothes to dress up in, too. Our purchasing power may be diminished, but women still crave colour, luxury and style. Here are five of the best party looks of the season:

Louise Kennedy black-and-ivory embellished Zelda dress, €995, Brown Thomas, Dublin, and Louise Kennedy, 56 Merrion Square, Dublin.

Louise Kennedy Full-length Zelda dress:

If your office party is a five-star affair, then this is the dress in which to make a grand entrance. By the doyenne of Irish designers, now celebrating her label’s 30th anniversary, this heavily beaded, art-deco dress oozes old-school glamour, and is an investment buy, for a lifetime. Finish with a pair of long gloves, and Ben Amun’s crystal-drop earrings (below), from Loulerie, Dublin.

Penneys, red lace dress, €23; Penneys, statement necklace, €10, available nationwide.

Penneys’ red lace dress

This pretty mini-dress is perfect for younger partygoers, as it has a sweet, girlish silhouette and a length that is short, without being slutty. It also features a half-sleeve — great for avoiding goose-bump arms, an attractive, scalloped hemline and a modest neckline, so that you can dance to your heart’s content without inviting lascivious stares from the office creep. Pair with a statement neckpiece, as above, and some striking red or nude heels.

Fran and Jane nude dress, with full skirt and black trim, €269; Fran and Jane taupe-faux fur stole, €149. From Fran and Jane stores nationwide.

Fran and Jane’s nude dress with full skirt and black trim

This dress offers a subtle alternative to seasonal shades, but is also striking. The nude-and-black combination is always fresh (it’s a Chanel favourite), and the fitted torso contrasts dramatically with the full, feminine skirt (a strong fashion story this season). Paired with their snug, sensual faux-fur shrug and a nude, Claudie Pierlot pump, the look is pure ladylike luxe.

Marks & Spencer, red, lace sheath dress, by Per Una Speziale, €160, nationwide.

Marks & Spencer Red, lace sheath dress

Belinda Earl has been revamping and restoring M&S’s fashion credentials at this high-street favourite. This dress illustrates how: it’s a fantastic shape and shows (when contrasted with the previous choice) how lace can be both womanly and girlish. If the Penneys dress is for the office ingenue, then this one is for the mature femme fatale. Its flattering neckline, bracelet-length sleeve, amazing cut and under-the-knee length all combine to make this the perfect dress for any Mrs Robinson. As the dress is a reasonable price, maybe you could blow the budget on your shoes — an elegant pair of Manolo Blahnik Delon shoe boots, from Brown Thomas.

Schumacher Perfection tunic blouse, €449, and Perfection slim pants, €299, Alias Tom Women, Duke Lane, Dublin.

Schumacher’s two-piece

For those who favour a dash of androgyny, this chic, pared-back tunic and trousers is sleek, sexy and understated and sets the wearer apart from the crowd. It shows you’re confident enough to subvert convention in favour of something edgier than a cocktail dress. Accessorised with their rose brooch, a simple clutch and low-heeled pumps, this look references the timeless elegance of Audrey Hepburn, in a contemporary style. It possesses minimum detail, but maximum impact.


WHICHEVER look you opt for, ensure your dress fits correctly and you feel comfortable in it — the office party is a long night.

Invest in some good underpinnings — evening fabrics, such as lace, velvet, satin and silk are unforgiving and require smooth underwear (VPL is a crime against fashion).

Ensure that heels have gel inserts, as needed, and keep a pair of pumps on standby, for when you reach your pain threshold. Always have a shrug, wrap, faux-fur jacket or evening coat for the journey home — hypothermia is never attractive.

If you can’t afford a new dress, then look to accessories to update and refresh an existing one. There is an alluring array of pieces available from multiples, Accessorize, Penneys, Top Shop, Zara and Reiss, or vintage stores, including Jenny Vanders and Rhinestones. Use a favourite LBD as your foundation, and then up the ante with statement jewellery, dramatic shoes, or a distinctive evening bag. If you use accessories cleverly, then all eyes will be on them and nobody will notice that the dress is an old friend. But, remember, one statement piece is enough — don’t overload with too many conflicting colours, textures, or themes.

Enjoy your party — God knows we have endured enough gloom recently, but please remember the ancient art of discretion. A bit of mystery is far more alluring than too much cleavage or leg and never do both together, ever. An injection of glamour is just what the women (and men) of Ireland need to escape from the stresses of modern life. Don’t tell the Troika, but a little bit of fabulous is just what the doctor ordered.

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Say it here, in the Irish Examiner.