Your Step-By-Step Guide To An Alternative Party Look

Designed by Dionne Pajarillaga
It's official: party season has arrived. While some of us will revel in slipping into a sequinned, dance floor-ready dress, others will panic about the pressure to look suitably festive in anything that shimmers, shines or sparkles. But don't worry, we're here to ease that pressure.
First things first, let's push aside what we think we’re supposed to wear to a festive soirée. From embracing a glitzy, Old Hollywood starlet aesthetic to channelling a Y2K Mrs Claus look (yes, we’re coining it), party season allows us to dress a little differently, so why not lean into it?
As a flurry of invites continue to fill up our diaries over the coming weeks, it's imperative to restyle what's already hanging up in our wardrobes while adding one or two new or secondhand pieces to complete our looks. Jemma Stacey, cofounder and CEO of UK-based video marketplace Finds, is a big proponent of shopping pre-loved for this season’s festivities. "[So many of] us never rewear the items we buy for Christmas events so shopping secondhand is a great way to be a bit more sustainable for the party season," she tells Refinery29.
Whether you’re looking to buy something new, old, or perhaps rent a statement staple or two, we’ve done the heavy lifting and selected a range of product suggestions that will cut your browsing time and get you one step closer to standing under the mistletoe, mulled wine in hand.

1. The big ticket item: make it count

Think: a shimmery dress, a matching set or statement trousers. This item is the one your mind goes to first when contemplating putting together your party ensemble. It can feel like a prerequisite to opt for something sparkly and ideally resembling Christmas tree lights but you don’t have to give into that pressure if it’s not your style. Alternatives might consist of sheer fabrics, lace, feathers, a well-structured suit or even a bold print or colour that’s not necessarily Christmassy.
Expert tip: Naked dressing is a trend you can expect to reign supreme this party season and Eshita Kabra-Davies, founder of clothing rental app By Rotation, is on board. "I love silhouettes, and am drawn to the sheer dress trend at the moment," she tells Refinery29, suggesting tapping into brands like Nensi Dojaka and Jacquemus to achieve the look. For the non-exhibitionists out there, add extra coverage with a bodysuit or tights.

2. Accessories: more is more

Whether you’re opting out of the sequinned 'fit or not, accessories are perfect for adding a touch of drama. Plump for a pair of drop earrings, brightly coloured tights or a bedazzled handbag (rented or otherwise) – there’s no such thing as too much when it comes to accessorising for holiday parties. 
Expert tip: Scour secondhand marketplaces for accessories this season. As Stacey says: "You can find some incredible vintage party pieces, as well as pick up this season’s styles from other partygoers once they’ve worn it."

3. Footwear: it’s okay to be practical

Your holiday party outfit is not defined by the height of your heels. Now say that again. Sure, heels are fun when you truly want to wear them or when the dress code requires them but similar to sequins, you absolutely don’t need them for your perfect 'fit. Consider chunky heels, low mules or even a pair of statement loafers. It’s okay to be practical this holiday season. 
Expert tip: Nadine Merabi, the designer behind the eponymous partywear label, agrees with going for comfort. "If I'm comfortable in my outfit, then I enjoy my night so much more," she tells Refinery29. "The comeback of platforms has helped this and silver and gold are great options for the festive season as they add a touch of sparkle."

4. Outerwear: allow it to elevate your look

Even if you're only wearing your jacket for warmth and tossing it on a rack the moment you arrive at the venue, there’s something so glamorous and fun about throwing on a faux fur shrug or a coated blazer on top of your party look. As coats and jackets are often more expensive items, there will be plenty of new, used and borrowed options for you to choose from. 
Expert tip: We think about renting dresses but have you thought about renting outerwear? Kabra-Davies says: "While I love a good classic coat, I'm not too fussed about changing it up for every outfit. I do however like to rent a statement coat for a busy week of social gatherings so I'll wear it every day."
Now that you're all set with our expert-approved guidelines, our last reminder is to choose what works best for you, always. As Merabi tells us, the perfect holiday party outfit isn’t about what you wear but how you feel in it. "Wear what makes you feel like the best version of yourself. A dress doesn’t control your self-confidence but it can genuinely help for the night," she says. However many parties you're heading to this season, make confidence your built-in plus one.

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