Prepping for a holiday party doesn’t have to mean dress distress. Instead, it should be cause for celebration, according to Rachel Zoe, a celebrity stylist and author of “Style A to Zoe” (Hatchette Book Group, $15.99).
“Holidays are the perfect time to bring out all those party dresses and gorgeous accessories you bought throughout the year,” Zoe says. “I think holiday time is the perfect excuse to dress up. Haul out the pieces cut from heavier, richer fabrics like velvet, fur, brocades and satin. There’s no better time for metallics, paillettes, beads and crystals.”
The stylist to the stars — who has her own reality TV show, “The Rachel Zoe Project” on Bravo — suggests taking your wardrobe cues from the party’s hosts, even when there is no dress code listed on the invitation.
“You can always make a call to them to find out what they’re wearing,” she says. “Then pass the message along to the rest of the party. It’s good karma.”
Zoe also recommends taking note of the venue when deciding what to wear. “An event held inside a grand ballroom might be formal,” she notes, “thereby demanding a more formal gown with a longer length. You may even be able to get away with a longer gown at a formal restaurant or a dinner at a home if the occasion calls for it, like a special anniversary or birthday.”
The little black dress is the perfect option for any cocktail party, Zoe admits. “If you can only own one, then choose a dress at or just below the knee,” she says, “which is a chicer length than anything too mini and tarty or too long and frumpy. Resist a sexy neckline. A neckline that skims the cleavage is fine, but too plunging a V or scoop limits where you can wear it. So, too, anything that looks like a second skin. In most of life’s situations, whether the occasion calls for dressing up or dressing down, opt for clothes with a bit of movement.”
When you buy a new black dress, remember to choose a fabric that is versatile and wears well in countless scenarios, she adds.
“The best fabrics to look for are chiffon, georgette, silk charmeuse and tropical-weight wool jersey. If something more structured is in order, a silk or satin taffeta is really pretty, as is chiffon with corset-like seams or boning. I love a fabric that has a tiny bit of sheen to it.”
When the party mood calls for pants, then “sexy” is the way to go, according to Zoe, who says “there’s nothing sexier than being the sole woman clad in a tuxedo pantsuit at a gala filled with frothy frocks.” She advises sticking to black, navy, white and camel pants. “Pinstripes are sexy in that Diane Keaton-Lauren Hutton kind of way.”
And don’t forget proportions when it comes to party clothes, she says. “If trousers are loose, pair them with a tailored top. If pants are slim, go with a blouse, even if it’s just blouson sleeves. Think Catherine Deneuve.”
When the invitation is for a holiday dinner at a friend’s home, Zoe says to go casual. “But not all casual is executed equally,” she notes. “When I think casual, I think cozy, not sloppy.” She suggests wearing jeans, a great top and sexy shoes. “And always have a sweater on hand.”
And there are times when “throwing caution to the wind is perfectly right,” admits Zoe. “I’ve always been a huge advocate of the maxim, ‘When in doubt, dress up,’ even if it’s just a notch up — a pair of gold strappy heels with skinny jeans — rarely will anyone question your decision.”
And so what if you show up at a holiday party looking more glamorous than anyone else? “What’s the worst-case scenario?” asks Zoe. “You look the best in the room?