Many of us find ourselves scratching our heads this time of year about what to wear to holiday parties. We get these evites for evenings with friends, house parties, nights on the town, company soirees, galas or fundraisers, many of which don't designate requested attire. And if we're lucky enough that the invitation lists something, it's often "cocktail chic" or "come as you are" which doesn't necessarily illuminate the solution any further.
So what does that mean for the Bay Area, where everything from Birkenstocks to Blahniks goes? Here are some easy tips for dressing for these events for the holiday season:
1) Color. This season, color satisfies. Jewel tones and metallics have been popular the past few years in general, but they epitomize holiday style. If you're scared of wearing red or gold, this is the time of year to take a chance. The best place to add color is in a blouse, handbag and/or jacket.
2) Sparkles. Jewelry, sequins, sparkly make-up all add to a holiday look and they will make you feel in the festive mood.
3) Black. Maybe you think it's boring, but the truth is that black is both elegant and slimming. So if you're at the buffet table pounding egg nog and truffles, no one will notice. And it's always a safe choice for the lower body - black pants, black skirt, black shoes... get them in a smooth fabric like a polyester blend, crepe wool or satin.
4) Separates. While the LBD might be the staple for the company cocktail party or a fundraiser in the city, for most parties, they're rarely seen. Instead, partygoers opt for a flattering blouse and flared pants, or a ruffled top and a pencil skirt. This allows you to dress the outfit up or down.
5) Fun Accessories. Depending on the occasion, you can add accessories to nearly any separates to dress them up or down. Take jeans and an red boat-neck top for example - you can add a brown, embellished jacket, sleek pumps and a colorful handbag and that ensemble will fit into nearly any holiday party. (If it's a tea, swap the jeans for a skirt and you're good to sip.)
Now for the fun part... where to shop:
Chains and online...
BCBG has some great, colorful dresses.
For separate basics at a reasonable price, check out Ann Taylor's collection (see image above).
Anthropologie has unique, festive blouses that are great for holiday parties.
Target has a huge collection of reasonably priced LBDs.
Pickled in Redwood City provides a one stop shop for a variety of parties.
Morning Glory in Burlingame showcases an eclectic mix of jewelry and accessories.
Try Alexis on Union St. in San Francisco for a hot ensemble. Union Street is a great place to shop for interesting fashion you won't find everywhere else.
Two more last minute holiday party shopping tips:
* If you want cheap, sparkly jewelry, check out toy stores. They have some great stuff for kids that's like $3 for a bracelet - sparkly beads that are durable and add both color and fun to outfits. Pick up an extra pair of bracelets for yourself while shopping for your daughter or niece.
* Look for styles that aren't too trendy - with holiday parties, you're lucky to wear some of these outfits twice in one season, so only buy items that you can wear for several years to festive events that won't go out of date. Look for classic but unique styles that you love, or just shop in your own closet for ideas.