Ah the joy of a Christmas outfit trying-on session at John Lewis & Partners – I loved every minute of it and I’m hoping I have a little something for everyone today because there are so many different ideas. But before we go on, let’s recap. In my first post about dressing for Christmas this year, we talked about how the approach is changing; lots of retailers and consumers are trying to be more thoughtful about creating capsules that will last. So I was surprised by a stat I read this weekend saying that on average, when a woman has been photographed in an outfit three times she doesn’t want to wear it again. And that’s most likely to apply if you have a carefully curated Instagram feed but it’s certainly something to consider with highly seasonal stand-out pieces – is that the kind of thing that will bother you and if so, do you need to buy accordingly and look for more mix and match separates?
I had a couple of messages after my post about sequins asking if I felt they’d be discontinued from an environmental standpoint and I just don’t know. The thing about sequinned outfits is that they really last – which is exactly why they’re bad for the planet but good if you’re someone who holds on to clothes. My oldest sequinned top is about fifteen years old, I wear it every Christmas and it’s great because it doesn’t need a lot of care. So I’m glad that I have the collection that I do, after this year I won’t buy any more. In the meantime I’m going to start this last of my party dressing posts with a few sparkly pieces that you could add to your collection with an investment mindset. I’ve then pulled out a few items that say ‘Winter’ rather than Christmas, that can be worn until Spring but still add a nod to the festivities during December. And last of all I’ll show you my trying-on session with Josta, one of the John Lewis & Partners personal stylists who encouraged me to play around with a few looks that I wouldn’t have automatically gone for. So let’s begin.
Party specific looks
You won’t be surprised to hear that in a year when there aren’t very many sparkly numbers in the shops, the ones that are around are being snapped up fast so don’t wait if you feel there’s a gap in your wardrobe. This is the sort of simple top that you’d have for years, easy to wear under a jacket or soft cardigan for a texture contrast. And in fact I don’t keep sequins just for Christmas, I wore my gold sequin polo neck with jeans at a festival this Summer where it added just the element of retro sparkle I wanted as the evening grew chilly. I often do the same for nights out in Newcastle where muted just isn’t considered a look.
The nice thing about the top is that there’s a matching skirt so you can wear them together for a co-ord look but also separately. This skirt would look fabulous with a jumper or worn French style with a classic white shirt. The sequins have a subtle, leopard print effect if you look at them closely.
This sequinned t-shirt doesn’t match the skirt above, it has a warmer tone so it would look dirty if you paired the two together. However it’s a great option to wear with jeans or a skirt for anyone who prefers to cover the tops of their arms.
Sequin t-shirt (doesn’t match the skirt)
Here’s a really lovely knit with a touch of lustre. There’s no reason why you wouldn’t wear this in January to lift a dull grey day. The blue is a particularly flattering shade, lighter than navy but not too bright and very flattering to most skin tones. It’s a generous cut so size down if you don’t want an oversized effect.
And this pleated skirt works with it tonally however like the sequinned one above, it could easily be worn alone with a knit or a blouse. It’s a neater version of a pleated skirt, there isn’t too much volume in it so it will skim the body beautifully and yet you still have the comfort of an elasticated waist.
Perennial party pieces
If you’re looking for something to wear all year round, here are some easy pieces. A leopard blouse is a no brainer with jeans, party shoes and some gold jewellery. Blouses for nights out are always most flattering if they have a touch of sheerness to them to steer them away from the everyday look. There aren’t many sizes left now though so move fast if you want one.
If you’re not a fan of classic leopard, a coloured version can be easier to wear and this is a good red for Christmas… and beyond. There’s no transparency with this one but it has lovely shirred detail at the cuffs.
This skirt has sheerness at the hem which gives it lovely fluid flow as you walk. There’s subtle, on trend tiering and it will look as good in Summer with a t-shirt as it does now with a cosy knit.
You can’t beat Winter florals for this time of year and this Ecovero dress is beautifully cut to skim the waist. Glitz it up for Christmas with sparkly jewellery and/or shoes.
Or you could try a much classier version of the Christmas jumper with a soft gold metallic star. This is also available in charcoal with a silver star if you prefer but the blush knit will feel like just the right colour to keep on wearing in January… or for a Summer barbecue against sun-kissed skin. It comes up loose so size down if you prefer a neater fit.
Quick and easy updates
If you’re feeling that you just don’t need another outfit in your wardrobe, there are simple ways to update the things you already have. I really love these waterfall style earrings which follow the trend for a statement earring without being OTT. They’re a great price and again they’ll be easy to wear all year round.
Alternatively here’s a lovely layered necklace which gets over the problem of tangled fasteners.
If you have a classic party dress you’d like to update, go for this season’s trend for patterned hosiery. As with skinny jeans, we’re constantly being told that opaques are over but I don’t think anyone’s going to take any notice for daytime. For evenings though these would completely reinvent a little black dress.
Or for added wow factor go for leopard.
The joy of a Christmas outfit trying-on session
As you saw last week, when we were in John Lewis & Partners in Newcastle a couple of weeks ago I popped in to see what they had in store for Christmas. While I was there I was chatting to Jane, the marketing manager and she asked if there was anything they could do to help. As I was short on time I mentioned that if any of their styling team were free it would be great to see their ideas for party dressing. And they gamely took me up on it so while I looked around for gift ideas they busily put a rail together.
I had to throw this picture in because it made me laugh – Mr MC had just pointedly reminded me that he was there to take photos of slinky looks for nights out, not cosy flannel pyjamas.
Jumper (gifted AW21); jeans (back in stock – gifted (AW21); ankle boots (gifted AW21)
Anyway back to it, as always there was lots of inspiration to be found in the visual merchandising. By the way it’s important to bear in mind that not everything you find online is available in store and vice versa, it’s easy to assume that it will be but JL&P tailor their store stock to their local customer.
L- R: leopard jacket, French Connection dress (available in store) | French Connection bronze top and trousers (available in store) | Forever New gold mini dress (available in store) | Ted Baker top (available in store), velvet leopard skirt | Bronze dress, fur stole
I had a quick whizz around the floor first so that I could assess the pieces I would be instinctively drawn to…
… and then I met Josta who is one of the in-store personal stylists. We were so busy putting things together that I didn’t get a good photo of her so I’ve taken this one from her Instagram @jl_josta. We hadn’t met before so while I’d been looking round I think she’d had to look quickly through my Instagram feed to get an idea of what might work.
She talked me through the rail she’d put together, explaining her thinking behind each outfit.
I’d already seen this first one on display so I tried it while I was waiting for her because I loved the colour. It’s made from very light, ribbed polyester so it has an Issey Miyake feel to it. I picked a large for the trousers because I was worried they might cling but they didn’t, a medium would have been best. The top is a medium and here I was trying to work out how much movement I could get away with in something that is quite cropped without too much midriff popping out.
French Connection top and trousers available in store
It would be fine unless you did this… which is unlikely. As always I’ll remind you to move around in something when you’re trying it rather than just standing straight in front of the mirror. Sitting down is especially important because you need to make sure that there’s enough space for the spread that goes on when you’re not standing up.
Interestingly Josta had pulled out the dress in the same collection. I would never have tried it – looking at it on the hanger I thought it would show all of the lumps but actually it doesn’t, it just skims over them. I really liked it and yet again it showed me the value of going to see a personal stylist who assesses you objectively and can’t hear the voices in your head that often make the wrong assumptions.
Bronze dress; T-Bar mock croc shoes
She finished it off with this faux fur jacket which isn’t something I’d instinctively go for and yet I can see I could wear it – I can just imagine walking into a party like this and having a fabulous Shirley Bassey moment.
Fur chevron jacket; Bronze dress; T-Bar mock croc shoes
Moving on, here’s another dress I wouldn’t even have looked at. Phase Eight just isn’t a brand that sits on my radar and this dress looked nothing on the hanger but when I put it on it was beautifully cut. It made me wish I had a job with a soft professional dress code – maybe as a teacher or a doctor because it’s really lovely. You could dress it up for evening with some jewellery and party shoes. Again I was moving in it for this photo to try to show you what happens at the softly fluted hem as you walk. I’m wearing a size 12 and it’s a perfect fit.
The colour works for me too and yet I wouldn’t have picked it. When I told Josta that I always veer towards blue she gave a shake of her head, telling me to look at warmer hues and again that’s something you’ll get from the JL stylist team. They take one look at your skintone and know what to do.
Phase Eight dress available in store; T-Bar mock croc shoes
We moved on to a jumper and skirt combo. The jumper is a warm ivory with gold sequin trim at the neck. I’m wearing a 12 and it was true to size. The skirt is an unusual cut, it’s the pleated style that you see Kate Middleton favouring, cut close at the hips to avoid volume at the midriff and then flaring out. The fabric was a beautiful blue metallic with a small split for extra sass as you can see. I found that a size 12 came up small at the waistband though and would need to size up.
Sequin detail jumper; Foiled midi-skirt with low pleats; T-Bar mock croc shoes
This was the only outfit that I wasn’t so keen on, Josta felt it had a Gucci vibe but it didn’t work for my proportions. I’d need to tuck the top in but again the waistband was slightly small which tells me it’s a brand issue rather than me eating too many pies (thank goodness). I’d also need the culottes to be slightly longer to hit the right break point on my calf but they could be a great option for petites.
Sequin detail jumper; faux leather culottes; snaffle loafers
Now it looks from my face as if I didn’t like this outfit but I did – in fact Mr MC was telling me to buy the top so I was evaluating how much wear I’d get from it. I’d forgotten about this colour but some of you may remember me trying it for the first time two years ago with Jess, the personal stylist in JL&P Leeds – and I still wish I’d bought that dress.
The skirt is really lovely, the sequins are quite heavy so although there is a slit, it isn’t too revealing. I love the combination of gunmetal with the teal blue.
Cowl neck top; gunmetal sequin skirt; T-Bar mock croc shoes
And later on I spotted a dress in the same fabric, I didn’t have time to try it sadly… or maybe that’s a good thing.
Back into my navy comfort zone and I was thinking that maybe Josta has a point about branching out into other colours. This Phase Eight outfit is a pair of wide velvet trousers with a matching wrap around jacket, both a size 12 and I could perhaps have sized down. It’s only available in store though.
Blue velvet in store only, crepe options here; crystal shoes
And then I came over all Diana Rigg with an Avengers moment (showing my age now). Let’s start with the ski pants – how long is it since you’ve worn ski pants? I reckon I retired my last pair when I was pregnant for the first time in 1996. I’d forgotten how leg lengthening they are with all of the extra architecture around the ankle that doesn’t cut your leg off horizontally like leggings do. And they’re made from a much firmer fabric than leggings too so they’re far kinder to the look of your legs – it was a type of thick ponte with a stitched seam down the front. I really liked them, the stirrup was a bit long so I asked Josta if it was designed to be worn over the shoe rather than inside but she said not.
The jacket again was a colour that I wouldn’t have thought would suit me but it worked. The diaphanous sleeves are perfect if you prefer to keep your arms covered, it was freshly delivered by the way so it needed a bit of a steam. And the simple camisole is a wardrobe essential that’s tipped to become ever stronger with the 90s revival that’s going on. Everything in this outfit was a size 12, it was all true to size and I loved it.
French Connection jacket (available in store); ski pants; Camisole with lace trim; T-Bar mock croc shoes
And the last of Josta’s outfits was yet another that I wouldn’t have chosen but instantly loved. On the hanger the fabric made me think of the roasting bags that you use to keep the juices in chicken and fish. However, when I put it on it felt great. I thought it wouldn’t do me any favours but I actually loved the cut of the shoulders, it felt space age and futuristic (I can see this top working well with jeans too). I liked the fact that the skirt had a black waistband to break the outfit up and because there’s volume above and below it gives the middle definition.
It looks like it’s sequinned but it’s actually a printed fabric which is a genius way of getting around the plastic problem – and it’s fully machine washable.
And Josta topped it off with this jacket which is great because it’s cropped so it’s the perfect cut to wear with a midi-length. I couldn’t believe it was faux leather, you’d never know by touching it so the price was a nice surprise.
French Connection : Pale Gold top (available in store); Midi skirt; Faux leather jacket available in store; crystal shoes
So with the last of my party dressing posts I hope I’ve found a little inspiration for all of you because it’s certainly a diverse set of looks. However you decide to approach it I think it’s a Christmas for dressing up this year, even if it’s mostly spent at home. After all if we dress the way we want to feel we’ll be halfway there already. I’ll be back on Friday with gifts for men – always a challenge but I’m quietly pleased with the way it’s panning out!
Disclosure: ‘The joy of a Christmas outfit trying-on session’ was commissioned by John Lewis & Partners but as always all ideas and outfit photographs are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands who support our community here.
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