The festive season should be enjoyed, not survived. Let Rachel Marie Walsh take wardrobe and make-up worries off your mind with some fashion and beauty advice so you can sparkle in style
1 Start with something short and sparkly
Topshop Pleated Halterneck Dress (online exclusive), €95
The Spring 2015 collections have more than a touch of Seventies nostalgia about them, so many pre-season party dresses look straight out of Studio 54. Cara Delevingne’s Topshop dress, is a budget-friendly case in point. The thick straps, deep v-neck and empire waist flatter most figures and it is festive but not glittery enough to look gaudy. Black pumps are the perfect complement. In terms of accessories, a stack of bangles or a couple of tennis bracelets with small but numerous crystals would make a great accompaniment.
2 Invest in an amazing coat
Max Mara Pelago Coat in Camel, €912 at Brown Thomas
Back in 2006, pint-sized fashion powerhouse Mary-Kate Olsen told W Magazine of how she could (and did) go out in pyjamas as long as she was swaddled in a statement overcoat. You may remember that she was still a proponent of the grungy derelicte trend so mercilessly parodied by Will Ferrell in Zoolander, so the Dries van Noten and vintage-couture coats were really the making of her enduring style-stardom. A fabulous coat is a smart buy in both fashion and practical terms. Bare legs and winter weather make for a corned-beef look that can show through the best fake tan. The tackiest slip-dress gets a major upgrade from this Max Mara camel coat, currently reduced from €1140 at Brown Thomas.
3 Borrow Elizabeth Banks bright lips and beautiful brows
Elizabeth Banks’ makeup for the 2014 American Music Awards combined a bright lip with strong brows and expertly-contoured cheekbones. It’s a perfect Christmas party look and make-up artist Fiona Stiles made it easy to achieve. She began with a luminous, moisturising foundation. Flaws were touched up with Tom Ford Concealing Pen, €52, set with Laura Mercier Invisible Pressed Setting Powder.
To contour and highlight, she used Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow Face Sculpt Palette, €65. For a subtle, softening blush NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Sex Machine, €25, a medium pink and Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Powder, €52, were blended and dabbed on the cheeks
She filled in the brows with Anastasia Brow Whiz in Medium Ash, €18.14, which is easily the most popular brow pen for the red carpet this season. For the eyes, Stiles used a combination of highlighting powder and matte bronzer instead of shadows. Giorgio Armani Sheer Bronzer, €42, and MAC Shaping Powder Pro Palette in Lightsweep, €28, are the products to try. Classic black liquid liner made them really pop. Chantecaille Le Stylo, €29, is foolproof and fabulous.
Loads of volumising mascara was swept through the top and bottom lashes. I find Too Faced Better than Sex mascara, €14.70, excellent. Orange and fuchsia lip butters were blended for an electric pink that fell somewhere between the red and orange panels of Banks’ dress. Try Sisley Paris Phyto-Lip Twist Coral or Pinky, both €34.
4 Go for a J.Law crop (or grow it out in style)
Jenny Cho, stylist to the lovely Miss Lawrence, advises against getting a “full” cut. “Ask your stylist to just taper the hairline’s base and take the weight out throughout the top, back and sides without cutting the length. The style tends to get round and heavy otherwise.” After getting this cut, hair should look chic and effortless with just a little styling wax.
“Be open to playing with accessories and shapes as hair grows,” says Cho, who switched up J. Law’s hair with a quiff for the Oscars and side-sweeps, bed-head and Alice-bands on the Mockingjay: Part 1 press tour. Try Phytovolume Actif Spray, €22.75, for big blowdries and Bumble and Bumble Cityswept Finish, €30, for texture on in-between days.
“You might start to see a graduated-bob shape building where the front and sides are much longer and the back top-half is hugging your crown,” warns Cho. “Ask your stylist to tidy the length around the nape and texturize the rest, removing the bulk so the style has movement.” She suggests getting some long layers cut as hair nears bob-length.
5 Swap your LBD for a TBS
McQ by Alexander McQueen Women’s Tuxedo Jacket, €317.50 at Coggles.com
The little black dress may be classic but sometimes “classic” is sales-speak for “tired and overdone”. I understand the need to retreat into black when designers are embracing pink, ruffles and all things Barbie but there is a chic-er route than the black shift everyone’s seen a thousand times. Opt instead for a tailored black suit, favoured evening wear of Rita Ora and Alexa Chung. You could do an Ora and wear the jacket with big hair and nothing underneath or keep it ladylike with a camisole, court shoes and a box clutch. Make sure the jacket has a neat, feminine waist and choose the best cut you can afford. You know you’ll wear it forever.
6 Maximise your pins
River Island Gold Cuff Barely There Sandals, €95
Chrissy Teigen’s legs may be all you want for Christmas but good shoes, highlighting cream and a flawless faux-tan are going to get you a lot closer than Santa. NARS Body Glow, €56, creates a lengthening effect on bronzed legs. Remember to focus on highlighting the shins and centre thighs. Finish the look with these River Island sandals, which do a decent impression of Tom Ford’s gorgeous sandals and offset the discomfort of a high stiletto heel with an added platform. Anna Wintour reportedly counts flesh-tone tights among her biggest betes noirs. I’m with her but if you really can’t kick your nylon habit, seamed black stockings look hot (keep the rest of your outfit black or metallic to avoid stripper comparisons).
7 Girls in white dresses
Ted Baker Flawra Strapless Ruffle Dress, €520
This time of year is tough on fashion minimalists but all-white ensembles were prevalent on the Resort (pre-Spring) 2015 catwalks and make a comforting alternative to basic black. A white dress is not only wintry but indicates a life in which the wearer laughs in the face of dry-cleaning bills. This Ted Baker prom dress has lots of interesting texture throughout and the crushed-rose effect on the skirt is very Valentino-esque. Full skirts are still on trend and hide a multitude of hors d’oeuvres-related sins. Just remember to stick to white wine and “Skinny Bitch” cocktails.
8 Clutch control
Michael Michael Kors Gold Berkeley Clutch, €195, at Brown Thomas
Style icon Jane Birkin famously can no longer wear her namesake Hermes bag due to arthritis, which certainly isn’t prevented by years of hiking totes about on one’s shoulder. Perhaps it is better for our shoulders as well as our arm-in-the-air dancing that clutches are a bag trend that’s here to stay. It goes without saying that little metallic pieces are perfect for the party season but foils are also very much on trend for next season. Choose a large one to take your look from day to night.
9 Hang some chandel-earrings
Kenneth Jay Lane Rhodium Tone Swarovski Crystal Earrings, €186 at Net-a-Porter.com
And I don’t mean the plastic kind shaped like reindeer. Drop-earrings are essential party pieces: eye-catching, festive and flattering when chosen well. These sparklers work with all face-shapes and most outfits. Anything longer than chin-length flatters a round face, and slim designs are best. Square faces can handle big teardrop-diamond chandeliers but not geometric shapes. Heart-shaped faces also look great with teardrops, or any rounded stones that soften the chin. Oval-faced ladies can pull off almost any long earring-style. A rule of thumb: costume jewellery looks better with small-ish crystals set in silver or white-gold plated metal.
10 The right foundation
Mimi Holliday by Damaris Rocket Fully Padded Super-Plunge, €85
The perfect dress is nothing without a proper foundation. A silk balcony or plunge-style offers tactile benefits, comfort, a great décolleté and a flatter tummy. Underwear as outerwear is also on-trend and this confection is worth showing off.
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