A few weeks ago a friend and I were discussing what she should wear to a neighbour’s drinks party, as you do. ‘I know,’ I said, ‘what about that red dress with a bit of a print.’ Then my friend said something that made me sit up and pay attention: ‘Not that,’ she said. ‘That’s Christmas Day, with boots.’
Of course! Her midi print dress will be just right for Christmas Day — for reasons I am about to come on to — and how right she is to spot that there’s a particular look that’s perfect for Christmas Day. Not too much, not too little, not too smart, not too casual; let’s face it, this outfit has a lot of boxes to tick.
Your Christmas Day outfit needs to be special(ish) but not a fashion statement: this is the day when even the coolest teenagers get into something a bit festive, to please their grannies.
LEFT: Top, £145, comptoirdescotonniers.co.uk; skirt, £45, riverisland.com; boots, £79, marksandspencer.com RIGHT: Coat, £100, oasis-stores.com; top, £255, tarajarmon.com; culottes, £42, riverisland.com; shoes, £175, russellandbromley.co.uk
It should be family friendly, as in dogs and toddler-resistant (it’s not the moment for floaty and flimsy), and not too racy or liable to make your mother-in-law feel uneasy.
We’re talking about Christmas Day (the clue is in the word) so don’t wear a lacy party frock with gold sandals or a marabou jacket.
That said, you are definitely going for a bit of glamour and fizz. You want to look glossy and scrumptious and glowing, like Nigella at her best, if only she would put away the bodycon black dress.
Finally, it must be practical and comfortable: something you can move fast in, that doesn’t have awkward sleeves which will trail in the gravy, or a waistband that won’t give under pressure.
There will be steam, sweat, emotional tension, and possibly games of Twister or pass the orange, so you need to be prepared. Above all, whatever you are wearing must not make you hot.
That’s quite a list of requirements for one outfit, and when you add them all up, a dress and boots, as my friend said, has the lot.
But not just any dress. This Christmas Day dress has sleeves, comes in a fluid fabric, is subtly fitted (not tight) and finishes below the knee as that’s the look now.
It’s got the Special Day factor — whether because it’s velvet or printed with stars — and the addition of boots grounds it firmly in the daytime, as well as letting you inject some fun and glamour.
LEFT: Top, £255, and skirt, £265, both tarajarmon.com; boots, £50, schuh.co.uk RIGHT: Polo neck, £17.50, marksandspencer.com; skirt, £52, debenhams.com; boots, £169, Kurt Geiger at asos.com
Perky red ankle boots (£275, russellandbromley.com) with a Rixo silk print dress (£265, rixo.co.uk) will stop you looking too ‘evening’. Navy velvet knee highs (£225, boden.co.uk) and a chiffon floral print midi dress (£225, boden.co.uk) tips something demure into glamourpuss territory.
Boots mean you can wear a floaty dark print wrap dress (£39.99, zara.com) and not look like you’re off to a full-blown party.
Of the many dress styles out there the ones that work best for this occasion are either wraps (which are less formal and more forgiving) or long-sleeved midi dresses with (optional) deepish V neck, such as Uterque’s print jacquard dress (£175, uterque.com).
Either way you won’t feel too trussed up. Prints are good because they add pazzaz, but a plain bold colour does the trick too.
Which brings us neatly to the colour that happens to be at the forefront of fashion: red.
LEFT: Blazer, £99.99, and trousers, £69.99, both zara.com; heels, £59, office.co.uk RIGHT: Fringed dress, £119, zara.com; heels, £59, office.co.uk
We are in the middle of a big red fashion moment (see right) and red has the advantage of being a colour that can be warm as well as dramatic and glamorous. It’s the perfect colour for Christmas Day, provided you don’t accessorise it with green or white and tinsel baubles.
If you aren’t feeling the appeal of a dress and boots, something you do feel comfortable wearing — ratcheted up in bold sumptuous red — is the answer. Right now, anything from a trouser suit to a polo neck — all the clothes you would have automatically picked in black — look more striking and fresher in red, with the added bonus that you can’t help feeling like you’ve made an effort.
It takes a few seconds to get your head around the idea, but then the alternatives seem a bit joyless. Red is your Christmas Day ‘get out’. If you don’t want to wear a dress, spend the day in a lipstick-red polo neck (see above) and wide-legged trousers (£42, riverisland.com) — also available in grey check.
CHRISTMAS DAY: THE RULES
- Don’t wear something you would never wear on any other day — that cancels out faux fur, novelty sweaters, sequins and lace.
- Do think about the special demands of the day. Wrapover styles in fluid fabrics are the most forgiving.
- Pretty prints on dark backgrounds give you the best of both worlds: gorgeous colour and a flattering silhouette
- If you have to wear plain black, go for a velvet two-piece, wide-legged trousers and a silk top, or maybe a velvet jumpsuit.
Or pick a sweater and a gently flared midi skirt. The beauty of this is that red is the main event, so all you have to think about is what you feel easiest wearing.
Of course, there’s always the option of a red dress. Zara does a subtly fitted style (£39.99, zara.com) with half bell sleeves, and a starburst-design velvet wrap dress (£95, topshop.com) has Christmas written all over it.
As a final note, if you are wedded to black (and how can you be at this point?) do make it velvet with added wow factor.
A jacket with sash belt (£79.99, zara.com) and matching velvet culottes (£29.99, zara.com) is a step up from a trouser suit, as is an embroidered bolero jacket (£264, intropia.com) with bead trousers (£229, intropia.com) — just don’t forget the boots.