As promised, an extra post from me this week focusing on the 12 days of Christmas dressing – dressed up or dressed down? Today I’m working with John Lewis & Partners and I’ve decided to look specifically at the retail approach that they’ve taken to the tricky proposition of Christmas 2020. As you no doubt know, when lockdown hit us all so suddenly in March retailers were pretty much at the point where they’d usually have Christmas all planned out. While most of us had a little time to take stock of what was going on, brands had to scramble to think ahead to what December might look like – and let’s face it on 18th November we still don’t know so you can imagine what an intense time Spring was for anyone who has to try to forecast the end of year party season.

Looking at it with the context that we have now, I think JL&P have perhaps taken the most intelligent approach that I’ve seen in retail. They started with the success that they had with last year’s 12 dresses of Christmas where they worked with 12 different brands, asking each one to create an exclusive interpretation for them. Those of you who joined me at the reader event in Leeds will remember us lingering over them – Reiss and Hush were particular favourites. And yet again I have to take a moment as I think how incredible it now seems that we were able to meet up in a store like that – chatting, drinking prosecco, trying things on in the changing rooms in a flurry of midlife conviviality, sharing a few hugs and then going on to a bar afterwards. How life’s changed.

Anyway, back to the strategic approach to Christmas dressing. This year, instead of asking 12 brands to create standout dresses for events, JL&P have taken a 2020 approach. Research was already showing that people fall into two camps over Christmas; there are those who like to go all out and dress up but then there are others who prefer to chill down in a more relaxed version of festive chic. So this year they’ve worked with 5 brands, asking each of them to create two outfits (one for each tribe) that are exclusive  to JL&P. The collection is called ‘the 12 Days of Christmas Dressing’. Let me show you what they came up with.

12 days of Christmas Dressing – dressed up or dressed down?

The 12 Days of Christmas Dressing by… Hush

Dressed up

Hush have gone for a simple shift and as with all their clothes, they’ve managed to combine glamour with comfort at the waist. This will be particularly good for column shapes or people with a bigger bust. Effortless, comfortable sparkle that would be just as easy to throw on at home as to wear for an event.

12 days of Christmas Dressing Hush

Sequin shift dress

Dressed down

You’ve already seen me feature these separates but I haven’t shown them worn together and of course because they’ve been designed as a combo, they work so well. The muted silvers, pewters and golds and the combinations of textures result in a really chic interpretation of Christmas glitz.

12 days of Christmas Dressing

Sequin sweatshirt; satin trousers

The 12 Days of Christmas Dressing by… Whistles

Dressed up

Like Hush, Whistles always manages to create cool glamour that’s still wearable and it’s ageless too – anybody could wear their clothes. Soft green is a key trend this season and combined with the sequins, this top and skirt make me think of a mermaid. This colourway is exclusive to John Lewis & Partners but they have it in a warm gold too and there’s  25% off everything at Whistles at the moment if you’re quick.

12 days of Christmas Dressing - Whistles

Sequin top; sequin skirt (currently 25% off)

Dressed down

Velvet jumpsuits are a Whistles speciality and they’re calling this the ‘bath to bucks fizz.’ It’s made from a viscose and cotton blend and the pile adds depth, making it flattering even for skintones that can’t always wear black. You could dress it down with trainers like this or add heels for more of a party look. A wardrobe classic that will work all year round and not just for Christmas.

12 days of Christmas Dressing

Velvet jumpsuit (currently 25% off)

The 12 Days of Christmas Dressing by… Ghost

Dressed up

Ah Ghost – the label we all loved in the 90s that has found itself again thanks partly to Kate Middleton who’s worn it a few times this year. It’s best known for it’s cleverly cut midi-dresses and so that’s what the Christmas iterations focus on. The dressed up version comes with a nod to Christmas red but without anything season specific so that you could wear it at any time. It has leg of mutton sleeves, two front splits and a deep panelled waistband to add extra panache to a simple look.

Christmas John Lewis Ghost dress

Vintage style midi-dress

Dress down

The dress down version comes in a Christmas green with this season’s on trend tiered and ruffled skirt. It’s worn with trainers here but you could still add heels if you wanted to amp things up. It’s arriving soon so you can sign up to be notified when it arrives here (you need to click on your size and an ’email me’ option will pop up).

Ghost at John Lewis

Ghost green midi-dress

The 12 Days of Christmas Dressing by… AllSaints

Dressed up

The epitome of cool, AllSaints is one of the brands that I really enjoy looking through when I’m in JL&P because for some reason I never go into their own stores but when you try their clothes on, you often see yourself in a different light. I really love this silk blend dress in rich teal, it makes me think of Lauren Bacall and all of the other silver screen stars. If you wore this to a party you’d be the mystery woman that everyone wonders about – for this year though, we’ll just have to practice being mysterious chez nous. 30% off at the moment but some sizes have sold out so you’ll need to be quick.

12 days of Christmas Dressing All Saints

Silk blend maxi-dress

Dressed down

This dress would enable you to eat a whole tin of Quality Street and your secret would still be safe. The sheer gauze fabric lets your skin show through so that there’s still plenty of allure.

John Lewis Christmas buffet dress

Relaxed midi-dress

The 12 Days of Christmas Dressing by… Mint Velvet

Dressed up

Doesn’t this dress make you sigh? It makes me think of the Snow Queen or Bing Crosby… all you need is a sleigh tied up outside with lots of furs (faux – of course). This is a great option if you like to cover the top of your arms without looking as though you’re deliberately wearing a dress that covers your arms (if that makes sense).

12 days of Christmas Dressing - Mint Velvet

Satin embroidered maxi dress

Dressed down

And this is probably what the Snow Queen changes into when she gets home and relaxes in front of the fire… I don’t suppose she has Netflix though. The pieces are separates so they’re versatile; the top is a cable knit hoodie that would be lovely to wear with jeans and the joggers could be contrasted with something like a red cashmere jumper for a completely different look. They’ve sold out in quite a few sizes so don’t dally if you like them.

Mint Velvet white athleisure John Lewis

Cable knit hoodie; soft joggers

I have to say that I find thisa satisfying approach to the conundrum that is Christmas 2020. As you know I’ve been working with retailers throughout the year so I know just how hard it was back in Spring to know what would make sense as we reached the end of a year that nobody could foresee. There are just a few other pieces beyond the collection that I want to show you. Some must have been late deliveries because they missed my initial relaxed Christmas round-up.

Waxed trousers

These waxed cotton trousers are in my basket – they’re expensive which is why I’m dithering but they’re such a good cut. I don’t particularly like leather (on me – it looks great on other people). I do like waxed or coated fabric though because it says ‘rock chick’ but in a slightly softer way. I had the perfect pair of waxed skinnies but I let them go in one of my clearouts and I’ve regretted it ever since. These are an updated version because they have the current straight leg which will be less sausage-skin on my not so skinny legs and they have a soft jersey waistband. Plus of course you can wash them which you can’t with leather. I suspect that I’ll order them to try before I press ‘publish’ because there aren’t many left.

coated waxed trousers

Waxed cotton trousers

Tie-neck sequin top

I love tie-neck tops like this because you can adjust them to suit your own neckline and they’re no fuss because you don’t have to think about a necklace. This is a great slimline cut and the perfect length if you prefer to wear a top loose over jeans rather than tucked in.

Sequin top with tie-neck

Sparkly ponte jacket

I had a collection of these ponte jackets in every colour and they’re another thing I regret including in my blogger sales. However I like to think that some of you have had lots of pleasure from them since. This is the first year that I’ve seen them issued with sparkle – they’re a soft cut so they’re as easy to throw on as a cardigan but the end result is much more finished. 25% off at the moment.

lurex blazer

Sparkle ponte jacket

12 days of Christmas Dressing – Finishing touches

And whether you’re dressing up or not, I do think that Christmas is the time to up the ante on your nails and eyes. Even if you’re spending the entire time in festive pyjamas you can still look glam. These are the products I use to add a bit of a festive gleam.


A subtle metallic nail polish works with whatever you’re wearing and makes you feel more glamorous all day long. You can choose either gold…

gold nail varnish Christmas

Subtle gold nail varnish

… or a glittery silver depending on your preference.

silver glitter nail polish Christmas

Glitter silver nail polish

If you really don’t like doing manicures, this is a brilliant solution. Just swipe it over your nails once and like magic, the pink will be pinker and the white whiter. It’s a simple nod to a French manicure, it takes seconds and I’ve used it throughout most of lockdown.

easy French manicure

Nail Glow


As far as eyes are concerned, I don’t bother with shading and blending for Christmas at home, I just use a sweep of metallic over my eyelids. These are two of my favourites:

Super easy, just swipe the sponge applicator over your lid and leave for a minute to dry.

Christmas eye shadow

Gold eyeshadow (15% off at the moment)

If you prefer a pencil, this one has good staying power. You can blend it over your lid and then use at the lower outer corner of your eye for added accentuation, it really makes your eyes pop.

12 days of Christmas Dressing

Gold eye crayon

Finish it all off with a couple of coats of this mascara which I was introduced to by a make-up artist who was doing my face for a shoot last year. It boosts your lashes really well without making them look too doll-like.

Dramatic mascara (currently 15% off)

So I’ll be back on Friday with more gift ideas, in the meantime I hope this extra post has helped to keep you in the mood for Christmas. Just out of interest, if you’re commenting do let me know which one of the The 12 Days of Christmas Dressing you like best, I’m intrigued. I think for me if I had to pick just one, it’s the All Saints Hollywood glam dress that I’d be rushing to try on if we were all having a Midlifechic get together in store.

I’m sure you’ve seen the rumours in today’s newspapers that we might have permission to see up to four other households between 24th and 28th December. Wouldn’t that be lovely? Of course it sends my head into a tizzy of priorities  but I’m definitely not making any plans for 26th/27th/28th yet… just in case we can factor in some spontaneous (small) partying. The disco ball will come into its own… fingers crossed.

Disclosure: ’12 days of Christmas dressing – dressed up or dressed down?’ was commissioned by John Lewis & Partners but as always, I had full control over the content.

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