Picking an outfit for your workplace’s winter soiree can be challenging. You wanna wear something more memorable than your typical office duds, but not so memorable that people will be gossiping about it for years to come. You want to look festive and fun, but still make it clear to the higher-ups that you’re a Serious Person with Ambition and Potential. And, of course, office parties run the gamut from black tie evening affairs to hour-long gatherings in the break room with a Costco cake.
All this to say that what follows here are some suggestions, meant to be taken with a grain of salt. You know yourself, you know your workplace, and you know your workplace politics. Use your judgment, trust your gut.
But if you need some inspiration, here are a few ideas to get you started!
OPTION 1: Fancy pants
Every office I’ve ever worked in—including my expletive-deleted HOME office—is freezing year-round. Arctic AC in summer, ridiculously drafty in winter. If you’re in a similar situation, the prospect of wearing a floaty blouse and knee-length skirt may hold little appeal. So instead, go for fancy pants. My slouchy sequined pair hits the trifecta of warm, comfortable, and festive, but any embellished, textured, prettily printed, or boldly non-neutral pair could do the trick. And you can even keep your top half relatively business-y with a simple shell and blazer. Add a bold statement necklace and chic heels to polish off your party-pants look.
OPTION 2: Blazer and dress
Some of us firmly believe that no pants will ever be celebratory enough, and that all parties require dresses. But some office parties may be a little too casual for a full-on, lamé-and-beading cocktail frock. If this is your conundrum, try pairing a simple dress with a sleek blazer and adding funky accessories. Here I’ve done a mostly monochrome look, but mixed things up with a sparkly collar necklace and leopard-print pumps. This outfit would be ideal for a business casual holiday fete. If your environment is more corporate, try a structured sheath dress and modern blazer instead.
OPTION 3: Creative maxi skirt outfit
Prefer separates to dresses and concerned about coverage? Maxi skirts are a fabulous option, especially if the party in question is more funky than formal. A floor-length skirt in a solid color or subdued print adds instant swish to your look, but also keeps you toasty. (You can even wear tights or leggings underneath for extra warmth!) Maxis in fibers like tulle or silk are quite formal by nature, but if your maxi is jersey knit and feels a bit beachy on its own, make sure to team it with a structured jacket or eye-catching cardigan. Tees and simple sweaters may skew too casual. Boots are ideal with long skirts, so pick a pair that peeks out fetchingly from beneath your hem.
OPTION 4: The balanced dress
Minor rant: There are an awful lot of dress code requirements that involve policing how much skin women can and cannot expose, and this is more than a little sexist. BUT if your particular office has exposure-related guidelines, openly flouting them for the holiday party is typically considered bad form. (Not always! But if the party takes place at your actual office, consider bending instead of breaking dress code rules.) So if you’re opting for a dynamite dress, try to pick one that isn’t a micro-mini and strapless with cutouts. My plaid frock here is slightly off-the-shoulder and low cut, but also knee-length with long sleeves. Exposure is balanced by coverage. (Note the massive statement necklace: A great way to fill a deep neckline and keeping it from feeling overtly sexy.) Think form-fitting but long and with a high neckline, or sleeveless but knee-length and loose-fitting. Whatever your dress style, if it’s the main event in your outfit be sure to add dynamite shoes and some sparkly jewelry for polish.
To reiterate: These are just ideas and guidelines. You may hate them all or feel like they fail to fit your specific needs. But even if none of them felt like a home run, hopefully they got your creative juices flowing so you can cook up the ideal outfit for your own office celebration!
Don’t forget to have fun, and never be afraid to ask for a second slice of cake. (Sound advice for life in general, in my opinion.)