This is a gentler opening of my Christmas posts than I imagined back in the summer months when I first started planning my calendar with the retailers who do so much to support this blog. You see we’re all going to find the landscape quite different at the upper end of the high street this year as we start to think about what to wear over the festive season. A lot of retailers are giving us a different way of dressing for Christmas 2021. There are two reasons for this; the first is, of course, the impact of Covid – not only on the supply chain but also in the creation of an understandable hesitancy about exactly what this Christmas would look like. The second is a strong new focus on sustainability.
You’ll notice that the better quality brands have developed ranges that are less seasonal and have more longevity. Rather than collections bursting with sequins, lurex and Christmas jumpers you’ll notice that there are just one or two highly festive items dotted amongst party pieces that you could just as easily wear to a summer wedding as a festive knees-up. The thing is that most clothing that screams Christmas not only takes up valuable space in our wardrobes for the eleven months of the year when it isn’t being worn, it also performs pretty poorly on the environmental front. PVC sequins, microplastic glitter, acrylic knits… none of these come out well when you start thinking about clothing on its circular journey.
I have a small section at the end of a rail in my dressing room where I hang my specifically Christmas pieces. Usually at this time of year I’d be getting them out and deciding which ones should go to the charity shop so that I could justify buying a few new sparkly numbers because I’ve always really loved sequins in particular. This year I’ve accepted that my behaviour has to change so I’m lovingly digging the sequinned pieces that I already have out, knowing that they’re going to be with me for a long time because they’ll be increasingly difficult to buy from now on – and rightly so.
I’m giving you this context because for the first of my party dressing posts I’m working with Boden and it will help you to understand their collection… as well as others that I’ll be featuring from forward-thinking retailers because they’re all a bit different this year. When I first saw the Christmas previews I couldn’t quite process the lack of sparkle and shine. However as I think back over the eight years of writing about dressing for December on here and the feedback you’ve given me, most of you tell me that although you like the high season pieces, you often can’t justify buying them because you’re not in the lifestage of big Christmas parties and work events. So hopefully this more perennial glamour that’s coming through will have more value and make more sense in the context of everyday lives – and a Christmas that once again is going to be slightly altered by Covid.
A different way of dressing for Christmas 2021 – party pieces to wear all year round
As Boden’s final drop of the year landed last week, quite a few of their party-specific pieces were only available on pre-order so I couldn’t get hold of them in time for this post. I am hoping to do a try-on of my favourites when they arrive though so that I can give you feedback on fit and show how they look on the average midlifer. I’m particularly hoping to show you this dress which looks to be the epitome of elegance. It’s exactly what I mean when I say they’re designing pieces that are not just for Christmas – with its bird print it will look just as good on holiday next summer as it will on Christmas Day. By the way there’s 10% off everything if you click through from this post.
These shoes will be the perfect finishing touch and the good thing about them is that they’re just the right colour to wear with jeans and a cashmere jumper too, giving an ordinary winter outfit a bit of a lift if you’re just popping round to a friend’s for drinks.
I’m also hoping to try this suit. For the last few years I’ve been hunting for a replacement for a Jigsaw one that was an identical cut; I wore it until it became just too shabby. It’s hard to gauge properly from this picture because the model isn’t standing straight and an angled hip always makes pieces with volume look flattering so I’m looking forward to seeing how it hangs. Although I don’t wear a lot of black, I always have a black suit and a black dress in my wardrobe because they can always be dressed up for a party or played down for a meeting and there are lots of occasions throughout the year when they’re exactly right.
I’m resisting this more classically Christmas skirt which with its warm metallic hues is right up my street but I already have more statement skirts than occasions this season. If you don’t have one, it’s a beauty and although it’s heavy on the polyester front, Boden are using recycled fabrics now.
A Winter Edit – a different way of dressing for Christmas 2021
So those are my key choices for parties and I will try to add a quick try-on to one of my Christmas posts over the next week or so. Today though I’m focusing more on a different way of dressing for Christmas 2021 by looking at clothes that will work well in your wardrobe from now right through until April. I chose the first outfit to give you ideas for things you might like to add to your own Christmas list because I’m talking investment pieces, precious capsule items that are key to a curated wardrobe and will last for years.
Investment pieces for your Christmas list
This look is exactly what I brought home from my six months of living in Paris. I wore it then and, like the chic Parisiennes of all ages who used to pull it off then, I’ll wear it now. Am I too old to wear a mini-skirt in my fifties? I refuse to think so; I’m really enjoying adding a few shorter lengths to my wardrobe, they’re often easier to balance than midis when the weather gets colder because they work really well beneath coats of all lengths. I know it’s high trend to pair them with sheer tights but that feels a step too far for me and I’m happier (and warmer) with opaques.
You know I love tan suede and so when I saw this skirt my heart skipped a beat. The suede is butter soft and it’s beautifully made with an invisible zip fastening. I love the fact that it’s tailored but not too fitted and just the right length, breaking at the point where my thigh slims down (always a relief). If you’re struggling to think what to put on your own wishlist this Christmas I can’t recommend this highly enough. A size 12 fits me perfectly, even though the website ‘true fit’ tool suggested a 14.
And the same goes for the jumper which is another of those perfect wardrobe pieces in terms of cut, length and colour. It’s heavy knit cashmere and has a turtle neck that sits at just the right height. The hem is split so that it doesn’t add bulk to the hips, they’ve styled it tucked in with this skirt on the website but I preferred it worn loose for a more casual feel. I wish I’d spotted it in the coral before it sold out because it was a fabulous shade but I know that navy will be a real workhorse – a great item for your Christmas list because you’ll wear it for years and years. This is a size 12 and it’s the perfect fit for wearing with a skirt like this or with straight or wide leg trousers; if you want to wear it with skinnies you’d need to size up.
A different way of dressing for Christmas 2021 – a day to night look
Most of the Christmas events in my diary are pretty low key this year, either getting together informally with friends or going to drinks gatherings straight after work. This is the sort of dress that works perfectly for those kinds of situations, it makes a statement but isn’t too try-hard and I’d be as happy wearing it next summer as I am now. The choice of green for the background is a clever one because as well as being one of the season’s key colours, it works right through the year being as relevant in Summer as it is at Christmas. I was delighted to find that it’s a bit brighter than it appears on the website and I’m glad that the only other colour in the print is blue – it means it isn’t too busy which is a consideration for a dress that takes up as much ‘real estate’ as this.
I did have a bit of a problem with fit on this one and had to size up. The waistband hits at my ribs which isn’t usually a problem because I don’t have much flesh there but it was too tight and the first tier bunched round my hips. I had a bit of a panic at first, wondering if I’ve been doing too much good living over the last few weeks but I see from the reviews that a few other people have had the same problem. If you’re straight up and down you can probably go for your normal size but if your hips are wider than your midriff, you may need to size up. Like all of Boden’s cotton midis it’s really lovely to wear, flouncy but not over the top and I’d be as happy wearing this for a meeting as I would for drinks with a friend. I especially like the deep shirring on the cuff of the sleeve which means that you can adjust it to sit at the right point for you and really make the most of the leg of mutton cut.
I paired it with ankle boots to balance out the fullness of the skirt, I’ve worn these so much since I first got them in September, they’ve filled a hole in my wardrobe on days where I want something that’s comfortable but a bit more elegant than a trainer, no wonder they’ve nearly sold out.
A different way of dressing for Christmas 2021 – cosy knitted dresses for chilly days
For my final outfit I wanted to try another knitted dress because I’m finding I’m wearing the two that I already have a lot – they’re such an easy choice in the mornings pulled on over a pair of warm tights. I was torn between two, I really like this midi length one with the button detailing up the side and I suspect that I still might buy it, I’m just waiting for reviews to come in.
In the end I gave Mr MC the casting vote between that one and this, he struggled too but suggested I’d wear this one more. He’s probably right, I’ll wear it for working from home and at the weekend too as well as for Winter walks – I’ve discovered it works nicely with wellies. I’m wearing the 12R, a year ago I would have gone for the long length but I’m sensing that the mini is going to get even stronger over the next few seasons so I’m embracing it.
You’ve seen me wear these boots quite often since I got them at the beginning of the season. As you probably spotted when you saw what I wore in Newcastle, the capsule I’ve been building for Winter over the last few years is based around navy with shades of tan, rust and camel. I’m finding that tan boots lift every outfit I pair them with, the only problem comes when it pours with rain, even though I’ve protected them with suede spray I still keep them for nicer days.
They’re quite a loose fit and I toyed with sizing down but I prefer to add an insole to heeled boots these days. Apparently the fat pads under our feet thin in midlife which is why it can be harder to stand for a long time in heels and I find a gel or trainer insole is the way round it so the looser fit suited me well.
So I hope that’s given you something to think about and some ideas for a different way of dressing for Christmas 2021. I will be including more party clothes over the next few weeks but probably not as many as in other years because there simply aren’t a lot of very Christmassy options around.
I’ve found some brands that are using recycled sequins for example which is a step in the right direction but at some point those sequins will still have to be disposed of and when you think of the quantity that appear on a single item (up to 100,000 for a long sequinned number), sadly it isn’t a sustainable way to dress. It’s estimated that on average, 1.7 million sequinned items are sent to landfill every January which is pretty alarming, especially given that they take hundreds of years to break down. And obviously that’s just sequins, it doesn’t take account of the other (two out of five) Christmas-specific garments that environmental charity Hubbub has found are only worn once before being thrown away. Some good news is that the University of Leeds (hurray) has secured funding to develop biodegradable sequins so hopefully at some point we’ll be able to shimmer with a clear conscience in the future. In the meantime it’s great to see brands like Boden focusing on developing party collections like this that will get plenty of wear, all year round.
Thank you for all of your kind wishes about Rosie, I was getting on a bit better until this morning when we received a card in the post from the vet which included a packet of forget-me-not seeds. It was lovely of them though and I’m going to plant them in her favourite spot in the garden.
I hope you had a good bonfire weekend. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it this year – obviously I was feeling a bit low anyway and on Friday evening I took Ted for a walk and thought about how we hadn’t done pumpkins this year… and that there was no-one to make bonfire toffee for because we shouldn’t eat it. Mr MC had left for karate when I got back so I was sitting reading quietly when I heard the front door slam. I assumed it was going to be a grumpy husband who’d been held up in traffic and couldn’t get to the dojo when I heard a “Hi Mum” and looked up to see a beaming youngest who’d come home to surprise us. Having not seen him for seven weeks it was just what I needed.
Now I’m fully immersed in everything Christmas so I’ll be posting more often over the next few weeks. I’m doing my best to find unusual, thoughtful and relevant gift ideas for you so that we can all make this year feel special. I’ll also try to point out how I see things changing along the way; quite a few retailers have reconfigured their approach to a season that since the turn of the millennium has perhaps become over-full and wasteful – and that can only be a good thing all round.
Disclosure: ‘A different way of dressing for Christmas 2021’ was commissioned by Boden but as always I had full editorial control of the content. Thank you for supporting the brands that enable me to keep on writing this blog.
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