I’ve had a few different emails about Christmas party wear this week which made me realise that I haven’t given any thought to my own Christmas party either. I also spoke to one of my friends who works in the head office of one of our favourite store groups. When I asked her how sales were going she said that the usual trend had reversed – gifting and outerwear is down (presumably because of Black Friday and the mild weather) but party wear is already running on low stock. So, earlier than planned, I’m going to tackle it in two posts – one looking at formalwear this week and then next week focusing on more casual Christmas dressing.
With her permission, I’m going to outline a distress call from Jane so that you can take part in the mission.
“Hello Nikki – industry black tie do – what to wear? I have been asked to attend a work-related black tie do in mid December. It’s an awards ceremony in a swanky London hotel (we’re shortlisted for a big industry award and I’ll have to collect it if we win). I am really quite excited about going, but I need to get the right outfit very soon so I can relax and look forward to it. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what I should wear. It’s a tech based industry so won’t be full of creative types, thus I’m looking for something fairly classic but not old ladyish. So: full length or cocktail?( pics from last year show a mix). Can I wear a glam lace-top jumpsuit? How to keep warm on the way there? Please help! Info that might be helpful if you were to make specific suggestions: I’m early forties, 5ft 6in, quite slim (broad shouldered 8 on top, 10 on the bottom) but not toned. Long back, shorter legs. Bit of a mum-tum ‘pooch’ but I have a slim waist, small bust, good shoulders a bottom I like but the less said about my thighs the better. Ahem, saddlebags, ahem. Big fan of fit n flare dresses but don’t want to look like a prom queen. Budget of £150ish, best if it goes with neutral pointy heels as I have a nice pair of snake-textured warm beige heels. I am very pale skinned, not a fan of a fake tan, so want to avoid wearing black. Logistics prevent me from hiring a frock – living 500 miles from London has many implications for fashion!”
Now when it comes to dresses I recently reread one of my favourite Grace Kelly quotes which I think applies particularly well to evening dressing: “your dresses should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to show you’re a lady.” With that in mind, here is my selection of Christmas party dresses for women over 40.
Should you wear them? It’s a tricky one. For an event like Jane’s, absolutely – but then you have the cost per wear issue. Maybe it’s the Northerner in me but I like the idea that I could still wear a black tie dress to the theatre or dinner in a nice hotel without looking overdone. So, I tend to steer away from long – however – if I thought I might be receiving an award that really mattered like Jane, this is what I’d wear. Starting with my favourite – pure Bond girl glamour:
This one is a little less sparkly and more classic – it reminds me of Dynasty and the 80s so you’d have to be careful with your hair to avoid looking throwback but then we are heading into an 80s revival. You’d also need to think about temperature – the long sleeves could mean you’d end up looking very rosy cheeked if the room was warm.
Alyona sequin dress (with 20% off at the moment)
Or this one – you’d probably need a slip or Spanx underneath to ensure a smooth outline.
…or this one which can apparently be tied in 15 different ways. It comes in lots of colours including a stunning cobalt blue. Halternecks are great for women with good shoulders.
And this one is beautiful and almost half the original price at the moment, it’s figure defining but skims enough to be flattering.
However, whilst we’re on the ‘long’ theme, some of the most stylish looking women at the last event I went to were wearing long or midi skirts with tops. Now these are very versatile as you could wear them on Christmas day or for a drinks party with friends. They tend to look chic rather than overdressed. The important thing is to get the proportions right so you’re going for that Grace Kelly look with a high waist, think one third, two thirds which is always a good proportion. I’ll aim to cover these in my next post but this is the one that I have winging its way to me from new brand Hope Fashion which has been developed for women over 40. I’ll talk more about Hope in next week’s post and show you how it looks on me – sadly it probably won’t be as chic as this but isn’t it great to see brands using models like this.
Now the knee length cocktail dress is always going to be classic chic and there are lots around. I’m going to stick my neck out and say that lace is starting to look a bit tired – even though that is probably what I’m going to wear this year (it won’t look tired in Cumbria)! You often have to invest to buy something that fits really well and, as Jane says, fit and flare can look a bit prom queen or muttony. Unless… you go for midi length. Midi length is looking good this season.
I’m going to show these dresses on the models so that you get an idea of proportion.
This one is really versatile and could be worn for summer garden parties as well as winter events, it’s also available in this season’s emerald green
This isn’t a great shot and would look better on a real person than the model
Sandrina dress with lovely back detail – you’d need a multi-way bra
Classic cocktail dresses
I know the next three are black but because they’re metallic they’re less draining on the complexion than the average black dress so I’ve included them. They’re also very reasonably priced.
This is very like the Whistles party dress that has sold out but it is less than half the price, I think I would order it in the long but then I am 5ft 8
A similar style is available in this season’s on trend copper
Similar to the Whistles navy bonded lace dress above here but shorter
Callula dress (20% off at the moment)
This one has an oriental feel with its warm red and gold colours
Here is a fit and flare dress that would skim your shape but still leave you looking like a woman rather than a prom queen. There’s something very Fellini about it
A more cost effective red dress here from a retailer I don’t often feature – very on trend with its gauzy hem and it’s also available in black
This is my favourite of Boden’s party dresses this year, much more low key than the dresses above but of course that makes it very versatile. I can’t decide whether I prefer the blue or the red. The neckline is very flattering and I would add sparkly shoes and a bag for a party.
This one is new in and could look very sophisticated too – it’s an unusual colour for a party dress so it would stand apart. I’d buy it in the longer length though personally.
Shoes can make or break an outfit. Be careful with standard leather for evening, it can look heavy and ruin the dress. If you are looking for shoes that will work with daywear too, go for suede, it’s softer which means it works better with light or textured fabrics. However don’t forget that a good pair of party shoes is invaluable throughout December. It feels extravagant in dreary November but in December you’ll find yourself using them to dress up jeans outfits and I’m even planning to wear mine for work in the last week before we finish, just to add a bit of sparkle. I’ve tried to limit my selection to those I think will be comfortable so that you can stand and chat and dance all night long with a smile on your face. As you know, these are the ones that I have bought:
I love these too – particularly for wearing with jeans…but not in muddy Cumbria alas. There’s no such thing as taxi shoes here!
If you prefer flats these would look great with boyfriend jeans or tailored crops
Summer’s ankle strap sandal continues to be on trend. These have Insolia so although they’re high, you should be able to stand in them for a long time before they start to hurt
Stiletto sandals – also available in black
These have great reviews and are also available in snakeskin or red – you know how I like a red shoe, they would look very chic with black jeans.
Upping the budget a bit, how about these:
Or some simple, sparkly, great value ballet flats
And with jewelled toes…
Ok, I’m going to stop now but I really hope this post has helped. Jane’s in touch with me by email so I’ll let you know what she eventually decides to wear (oh and to answer the question about the lace topped jumpsuit, my gut says ‘no’ – it might be a personal thing but I think jumpsuits should be kept simple. However I do like this one and would wear it for a black tie do.
In the meantime I hope you’ve all had a good week. I’m hoping to increase my posting frequency in the run up to Christmas – I have to go into the office on Monday next week but after that I’m going to put my foot down and stick to my 3 day week as there are too many exciting things to blog about. To get you in the Christmas mood, I’m going to leave you with the John Lewis Christmas ad which was released today. This is mainly for the benefit of our overseas readers who may not know what a national treasure John Lewis has become here in the UK. A few years ago it was simply a very reliable department store with little imagination. Recently it has transformed itself and the Christmas TV ad is now as big here as the CocaCola truck seems to be in the US. I hope you enjoy it – I did. Keep in touch.
Disclosure – this is not a sponsored post, I have not been paid by John Lewis or any of the brands featured in this post. I point many of the links to John Lewis rather than the individual brands simply because they have either better customer service, delivery costs or returns policies. All selections and recommendations are my own – and I just thought you’d like to see the ad!