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Ritz, Not Glitz

Go for seasonal elegance in festive attire

By Waynette Goodson

I once attended a swank marketing awards event at the Marriott in Times Square. It was a black-tie affair during the holiday season. While I waited in my conservative black tuxedo dress for the publisher to meet me, I watched in horror as guests descended the stairs.

Women in bright yellow chiffon ruffles. Dresses with fabric cutouts in all the wrong places. Feathers. Plunging necklines. Nonexistent skirt lines. Stripper heels. I thought, “My God, don’t these people have to see each other around the watercooler on Monday morning? Don’t they work together?”

Which brings me to what not to wear to the office holiday party, ladies: Anything that would make J.Lo blush and requires body tape.

What about the guys? Please steer clear of Christmas ties in neon colors or anything that lights up. In fact, no one should wear anything that requires batteries to a holiday party. (Not the hat, the antlers, and no, not the vest either.)

The worst offender and my No. 1 Christmas fashion pet peeve: cardigans with 1,217 candy canes strewn all over them. You know the ones I’m talking about, those themed dandies that look like massive cat toys dangling with lights, Christmas balls, Santas, Christmas trees, jingle bells and other assorted gewgaws. Unless you’re going to a Bad Christmas Sweater party, or want to be, uh, Santa Clawed, then please, leave the sweater to crazy cat ladies of the world.

Gals, another bad combo: black tights with either silver or gold shoes. Can you say “Susan Boyle,” pre-makeover? The only thing worse would be pairing them with corduroy Bermuda shorts (fine for dancing to Madonna’s “Holiday” at a 1980s-themed Christmas party). Just say, “No!”

Or wait! So I stop you before you totally wreck the halls: Resist solid sequined anything, especially dresses of any color and any length. (If you’re being crowned Miss Universe — then OK. . . . and no Alicia Machado jokes, please.)

For both ladies and gents, if you pull something from the depths of your closet that you wore to your high school prom, or to a college mixer, please donate it immediately! Go to Goodwill, Go straight to Goodwill. Do not pass “Go,” do not collect $200 and most certainly, do NOT wear it to a holiday party. Remember these sage words: No, it does not still fit, and no, it is no longer in style. Repeat those words over and over to yourself in the mirror.

If you really want to blend in at the party, just wear red, because all fifty-seven guests will also be wearing it. The color red is a tired Christmas cop out. It’s an “I don’t know what to wear, so I’ll just wear red” excuse. Believe me, so will everyone else! Yawn.

Why not make a statement this year and dress to impress? So I don’t leave you with the impression that I’m the Fashion Scrooge, here are some tasteful and festive ideas of What TO Wear:

Gentlemen: What about trying a bow tie? Maybe one with a crisp peppermint stripe? Or how about some fun, colorful Christmas socks with your suit? I love anything by Paul Smith.

Ladies: Go for jewel tones: blues, fuschias, purples. Or what about metallics? Silver- or gold-tinged dresses, sweaters or even jeans. Then pair them with sparkling baubles for that extra Yuletide kick.

Guys, if you don’t own a velvet blazer, now is the time. Choose black, deep midnight blue, gray, maybe something with a paisley print. These can even dress up a pair of jeans. Don’t believe me? Check out Polo Ralph Lauren’s velvet jacket in a dark green, plaid.

One word: accessories. For the ladies, that could mean glittery nail polish, scarves or maybe vintage pendants. For the gents, colorful felt boutonnieres add a contrasting pop on a dark suit or blazer. And pocket squares are hot! (They don’t have to match your tie exactly, but the colors should complement.) Classic French cuff shirts give men a way to add holiday sparkle with eye-catching cuff links.

Just have fun! The worst choice is to not go to the party, or to not even try to look festive. As Oscar Wilde said, “You can never be too overdressed or overeducated.”  OH

Waynette Goodson is the editor in chief of Casual Living magazine. When she’s not keepin’ it casual, she loves to dress up and has probably violated every fashion “don’t” in this column at least once.

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