What do I wear for the Holidays?
Holiday Style Dilemmas: From Office Parties to
Meeting the in-laws...
The other day, my friend dragged me out into the biting winter air and forced me to endure hours and hours of endless clothes shopping. The goal of this marathon? To find just the right outfit for her office’s Christmas party. Now, normally, I would love this kind of fashion challenge, but as my fingers turned blue and my heels got sore from walking, the whole ordeal quickly became a drudgery. We ran into the same problem wherever we went. My friend would try on every style of dress, top, or pant, but she just couldn’t figure out what to wear! The options were either too skimpy to be office-appropriate or too garish (who would wear a feathered collar on a Holiday sweater?) That got us thinking...What is appropriate for office get-togethers? For that matter, how do you dress for any event where you might have to look polished and professional, but still fit in with the festive mood? Here, we present 2 Holiday scenarios where you might run into trouble as well as several solutions to help you out...
Scenario #1: The Office Party
You’ve just received the invite to your office’s big annual Christmas party and of course you want to attend. But, you have nothing to wear other than the same old work clothes you wear every day and the occasion seems to demand something special. Besides, you’re tired of being shown up by your more stylish coworkers. For once, you want to impress your boss and your friends with your choice of wardrobe. Maybe even turn some heads...
THE STYLE DILEMMA: How do you look you’re best and still remain office appropriate without looking too sexy or too blah?
WARDROBE ADVICE: Don’t be fooled into thinking that an office party is simply a night of frivolity and fun. While people are there to socialise and chat, these types of parties are still very much corporate events and are often used as a venue for networking with colleagues. They should be viewed as extensions of the regular workplace and so your attire should always remain office-appropriate. But, what exactly does that look like?
Location, Location, Location...
Dress appropriately for the occasion, explains Lauren Rothman, stylist and author of the new book Style Bible: What to Wear to Work. Think about where you’ll be, because the party venue often dictates the dress code. If you are in doubt as to how formal or casual the party will be, ask a co-worker or even the party organiser. It’s better than being either over or under dressed.
Keep it Classy
Holiday parties are not the time to pull out your clubbing attire. The worst thing you can do is to strut into a room in a ridiculously low-cut dress, nine inch high heels, or a skirt that’s way too short! Be aware of how formal the affair is and dress accordingly. That also means do not overdo the casual. Even if it’s a low- key event with just a handful of colleagues, ‘casual’ does not mean dirty clothes, wrinkled shirts or ripped up jeans with food stains.
Take a Calculated Risk
If you want to make a statement, there is a safe way to stand out in a crowd. Take a fashion risk and start with something basic like accessories. “A holiday party is a great time to flex your muscles as a leader rather than as a follower in the office,” says Dawn Stanyon, a certified Image and Professional Development Consultant. “Start with a baby step like...a statement necklace, a festive scarf, a great pair of earrings, a cocktail ring or even just a fun shoe.” What better way to jazz up your regular work clothes or LBD?
Mix day and evening clothes to create a modern look. This is more practical. Do you really want to carry a dress, heels, alternate jewelry and your makeup case to work? You might have on a black dress, so that’s a great start. Change your look from office to party with a simple change your shoes, or leave the jacket behind and sport an elegant pashmina instead. Maybe change your purse from an everyday tote to a bejeweled clutch. Put on some lipstick, touch up your hair and voila! You’re good to go.
Go for Classic: Skirt + Sweater= Good Choice
For most work-related holiday festivities, there’s a balance to be struck between cocktail dress and business attire. A sweater/skirt combo can do just that. A silk taffeta skirt is a party-appropriate upgrade from other everyday fabrics. A leather skirt, particularly when paired with a cashmere sweater, is an edgy-yet-sophisticated wardrobe staple, as long as it is no higher than knee-length.
If you don’t like Dresses...
If wearing a dress just isn’t you, the tuxedo pant is a welcome change from the same ol’ office slacks. When paired with heels, they make a killer combo: feminine meets corporate, a perfect blend of stylish and professional. Focus on rich, well-made fabrics, with a bit of weight to them, for a flattering drape. Top with a silk or satin blouse, or a high-quality synthetic, in a rich color like burgundy, navy, or silver, or keep it simple and classic with cream.
Leave the Glam for the Club
To wear your party makeup to work is a big No-No. It may be great for a club or a bar, but a face thick with makeup will not play well at this sort of event. “Not only will you look out of place, but by the time the party comes around, you will look smudged, messy and very un-sophisticated," explains Doug Atkinson, Canadian spokesperson for Rimmel London.
Softer makeup shades are best. They won’t make you look like a clown.
Keep it Simple
Spruce up your day makeup by touching up your foundation and add some powder to soak up any excess shine. Then, add a little extra glam by picking a feature you would like to highlight. Want to elevate those eyes and bring attention to your gaze? Use an eye shadow quad. But, instead of the same shades from your everyday look, work with the two deeper shades. "Use the second darkest shade over the moving part of the lid blending it to look soft," explains Atkinson. "Then take the deepest shade and lightly sweep it in the crease and blend to create a deep contrast." Using a flat all-over shadow brush will help with blending.
Call attention to Expressive Eyes
Add even more drama to the eyes with a fresh coat of liner. Take either a pencil liner or liquid liner and go over the day time liner to exaggerate the line. "If you want a very smoky eye, use a kohl liner and smudge it a bit being careful not to let the look get messy," adds Atkinson. For liquid liner, draw a thicker line over the lashes and sweep it up slightly at the outer corner. "It opens the eyes and creates a doe-eyed look," says Atkinson. “Never use a liquid liner on the lower lash line”, he explains, “it's far too harsh.” Finish it all off with some luxurious lash extensions to really accentuate those beautifully decorated eyes.
Seeing Red is a Good Thing this time of Year
The Holiday season is a great time to pull off red lips, but do it right. "I really like to work something in red especially for holiday. It's the one time of the year you can always pull it off," says Atkinson. To ensure that you won't be touching up your lipstick all night long and to keep red stains off the glasses, line your lips completely with a red lip liner, then top with your fave red lipstick. "Gloss is totally optional," adds Atkinson. "You can apply a clear gloss in a tapping motion to the centre of the lower lip and very, very sparingly on the upper lip and blend it out. Don't wipe or you'll smudge your lipstick!" he warns.
Office Etiquette- What To Do:
It’s still Business as Usual
According to business etiquette expert Hilka Klinkenberg, “the cardinal rule is to remember that no matter how festive the occasion, it's still about business. Don't fall off the fast track to success or risk damaging your professional reputation in one night of inadvertent blunders.” Watch what you say and what you drink.
Moderation is Key
As we said: eat, drink and be merry, but in moderation. Remember: Alcohol, plus you and your boss can equal Monday morning regrets. "I can't believe I said that” moments. If you choose to drink, do so minimally. You still have to look these people in the eye the following day.
Mingle and Jingle your way to a Better Career
Your company party may be the only time you see the president, CEO or VPs in person. Introduce yourself. This is a great opportunity to become visible to your organization's higher-ups. At the very least, don't spend the entire evening with your regular office buddies -- get in the holiday spirit and mingle with people from other departments.
Things to Avoid:
Don’t Flake Out
Don't pass up the invitation to an office party. “Not attending could hurt your reputation,” explains Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D. who has studied workplace behaviour. “And when you attend, spend at least 30 minutes at the party, at least for appearances. But don't overstay your welcome by partying until the wee hours. That could also send the wrong message.
Leave the Off-Colour Humour at Home
Remember that regardless of the location and atmosphere of your party, the people in attendance are all related to some aspect of your career. Do not behave in any way or say anything that you would not say or do in a professional setting -- no inappropriate comments or off colour jokes.
Don't spend all evening talking business. Get to know people. Ask them questions about their lives. Keep yammering about quarterly profits while everyone’s trying to laugh and you'll forever be labeled as ‘the office bore’.
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Scenario #2: First Meeting with the In-Laws at a Holiday Gathering
The Holiday Season brings many joys. For example, maybe you’re recently engaged! But, such a happy event can also cause a lot of anxiety. That could mean meeting the in-laws for the very first time! Maybe it’s an evening out with his parents, or maybe you’ll attend a big Holiday gathering with all the family. Either way, you’ll be the ‘new girl’, and every move, every action, will be closely watched and recorded by his family and friends. This isn’t the time for bad impressions. But, how do you dress for this kind of moment? Your closet doesn’t seem to hold any answers....
THE STYLE DILEMMA: How do you look attractive for your guy and still family-friendly? What will really blow the In-laws away without giving the impression that you’re trying too hard?
WARDROBE ADVICE: For this particular situation, we recommend playing it safe. Yes, you may be a daring Fashionista, always on the cutting edge, but this is not the time to experiment with strange catwalk trends or wear that blue wig you love. There's no need to hide who you are but your personality should do the talking, not your outfit. Keep your colours and shapes easy on the eye so as not to scare your new in-laws and stress out your partner!
Keep it Focused on You and not your Clothes
Your outfit should say: "I'm confident, I know how to dress for the occasion and I respect you". It’s important to know what colours and shapes flatter you so that you will feel at ease. Don't try anything new as you will be thinking about your outfit instead of listening and being present.
Be Yourself, Just your Better Self
You should feel like you. "Select an outfit that makes you feel great about yourself," says fashion stylist Joseph Williamson. “If there’s a particular color you look really good in or a pair of pants you’ve gotten a lot of compliments on, start with that.” But, “don’t wear anything too tight or short, and don’t try too many trends at once,” says fashion consultant Lauren A. Rothman. “For a first meeting, pick an outfit that’s colorful and feminine and leaves something to the imagination, like a wrap dress.”
Don't try to be Trendy
His parents may not "get" some of those trendy outfits or understand that 5-inch platforms are what all the girls are wearing on the runway. Instead, they might think you’re a little strange. Don't try to be cutting edge, not in this case. Opt instead for classic pieces like a basic black or white dress. It send a clear message that you (and what you wear) will stand the test of time.
Remember the Locale
Again, let the venue dictate the outfit. It's all about context. The time of day and where you meet his mom and dad will set the tone for how you should dress. For example, if you meet for dinner at a nice restaurant, showing up in baggy jeans and an old tee sends the message that you haven't made an effort and don't really care. Conversely, if you meet for a casual breakfast and you show up in an overdressed ball gown, you might not convey that you’re serious about your life or your relationships.
Refine and Shine
Instead of undergoing a complete fashion personality transplant, work with your existing style and just refine it a little. Find a celebrity that has a similar style to you. See how they dress up or down according to where they are and then adapt it to your own life and personality. However, don’t mimic someone exactly. It comes across as desperate and gives the impression that you’re not really secure with who you are.
Start with Flawless Skin...
Jenny Wu is a fashion and beauty blogger and she advises: “Start with a flawless canvas for a natural-looking complexion. Prep your skin with a rich hydrating moisturizer, then even out and perfect your skin tone by concealing any blemishes or under-eye circles.” A facial peel or microdermabrasion treatment can help remove brown spots, acne scars and can improve both the texture and look of your skin. If your skin is good, you can ditch the foundation because it may look too heavy. Let your skin shine through. Skip blush and use a cheek stain instead for an extra dose of rosy dewiness that’ll stay on throughout the meeting.
Don’t pile on the Product
To meeting the parents for the first time is stressful enough, you don’t need to worry about your makeup too. You want to conceal blemishes and hide under eye circles, but don’t pile on the gunk. Go with a subtle yet glowing look, with a flush of pink and peach tones. A soft pink stain on the lips and a subtle flush in the cheeks will give you that natural glow that will last. You won’t need to worry about touch ups.
Keep the eyes Soft and Inviting
To parents, smokey, heavily-lined eyes scream wild child or party girl, labels that you don’t want to get because they are often hard to shake. Add a hint of a neutral shadow to your lids and only use liner on the top rims. You could compliment and enhance your eyes by using false eyelashes, or better yet, add some soft, pretty lash extensions to draw attention to the eyes, which are supposed to be the windows to your soul.
A Heavy Pout is Out
Keep away from heavy lipsticks. Chances are there will be cheek-kissing and hugs. You want to avoid leaving lipstick stains all over the place - especially if you want to sneak away with your man. Those secret kisses might not be so secret when there are red stains all over his collar. Choose a neutral, barely-there colour. Also, avoid ultra-glossy lips and dazzle them with your personality, instead.
In-Law Etiquette – What To Do:
Prep for Less Stress
There are a few things you can do ahead of time to prep for your first meeting. Do some research and bone up on the facts about your in-laws, especially if their culture or background is different from yours. Your guy should be able to tell you where their family falls on the sacred-to-secular and formal-to-casual continuums of holiday observance. Find out, also, if there are any behaviors or conversational topics that must be avoided at all costs, or idiosyncratic traditions you should be prepared for.
Get the Basics down
Of course there will be many questions asked. The in-laws want to make sure that you’re a good fit for their son and their family, so expect certain basic questions to crop up. "How did you meet?" or "Do all your children have the same father?" will probably be on the enquiry list. Talk with your sweetie in advance about how to handle any sensitive questions--including questions that might not even sound "sensitive" to you but have a lot of family baggage attached to them. And hopefully you have the answers ready, if you're planning to get married.
Make some time just for you two
Find some clever ways to have short bursts of time alone with your man. After all, you have to remember, you’re here with him and you need to remind him that under all that good-girl behaviour is still a sizzling siren hot for her man. Make a run down to the grocery store together to get the half-and-half that Mom forgot, or take an after-dinner stroll around the block. If you're with the family for more than a couple of hours, you'll definitely want to check in with your guy to make sure that you're doing okay and he’s doing okay, and to reaffirm that he's still your primary focus.
Lastly, when it comes to your future mother in-law, get in the three Cs as early as possible. Compliment her outfit. Compliment her cooking. Compliment her son. With that winning trio, you’re sure to do well.
What to Avoid:
Clicking can take Time
Remember, acting civil is sometimes the best a couple can hope for. Some families will welcome you with open arms, while others might barely give you a smile. Understand that sometimes these things take time. Some people take longer to warm up than others and so it goes with potential in-laws. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t jive right away- real friendships can sometimes take years to establish. But, don’t give up if at first you don’t succeed. Keep showing up with a smile on your face and a kind word for everyone and soon you’ll be a family favorite!
Don't get involved in family Drama
Aside from loyalty to your guy, you are Switzerland. You have no opinions about politicians, religion or what Kim Kardashian’s wearing, if these are contentious subjects that will cause upset in the family. Smile and stay above the fray. When urged to pick a side, make it clear that you have well-informed opinions but also the ability not to get sucked into others' longstanding family dramas.
Be Careful about your Conversation
However bohemian and free-spirited she may appear, your mother-in-law should not hear you swear, nor does she need to hear your stories about your ‘wild child’ days. Avoid references to past bad behaviour, especially drugs or alcohol. Unless you're dating an heir to a drug cartel - then that might be ok.
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Next Week: Look for our Second Installment in our Holiday Hottie Countdown... Ho! Ho! Ho! What do I do with just 2 weeks to go...
Sources: Images: From Top to Bottom, courtesy of: (Office Party via Flickr, Schröder+Schömbs PR via Flickr, Courtney Rhodes via Flickr, Didriks via Flickr, Mount Pleasant Granary via Google free images, Kyle Nishioka via Flickr, Courtney Rhodes via Flickr, Lindsay via Flickr, Vic via Flickr)
- Career Advice for the Office Holiday Party By Dr. Patty Ann Tublin; Huffington Post; url: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-patty-ann-tublin/career-advice-for-the-off_b_6147134.html
- The dos and don’ts of dressing for your office holiday party By ZOSIA BIELSKI; The Globe and Mail; url: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/holiday-guide/holiday-survival-guide/the-dos-and-donts-of-dressing-for-your-office-holiday-party/article15803419/
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- Office Holiday Party Etiquette By Susan Bryant, Monster.com; url: http://career-advice.monster.com/in-the-office/workplace-issues/office-holiday-party-etiquette/article.aspx
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