18 November 2007

Fierce and festive

This year, I seem to have developed a habit of collecting dresses. Dresses are tricky pieces of clothing, because unlike a top or a skirt or trousers, they have to fit you everywhere, just right.

Yep, I went there. I said trousers. You caught me, I'm not of the American persuasion. Anyway. I love dresses. I love how just one item of clothing makes it instantly look like you've made an effort, and how the right dress can make you feel a million dollars. Or pounds. And for some reason, this year, the wonderful world of dresses have decided to open their doors to my ordinarily difficult-to-dress hourglass frame, and I am reaping the benefits.

So, the best thing about my hot collection of dresses, most of them barely or completely unworn? We are mere weeks away from Dress Season.

Probably my favourite thing about December is the fact that suddenly my diary transforms itself into that of a much more popular person. Dinners, parties, drinks... and often these are work-sponsored outings, which means free dinners, and free drinks. And the final D of December - dresses! As you enter December, it suddenly becomes completely acceptable to wear dresses everywhere. You'd normally wear jeans down the pub? Pah! It's December! Pull out a cute little flowery number!

So, as part of my mission to firstly become Mindy Kaling on a much smaller budget, and part of my possibly misguided notion that I'm ACTUALLY a fashion guru, and Trinny & Susannah best watch themselves, you know, you know, I am going to talk you through my dress choices this season. And how you can work your own festive style, just like I plan to.

First, find yourself a pair of truly opaque black tights. Preferably some that pull you in everywhere and make you look way skinnier than you actually are. Unless you already ARE skinny, in which case pull on a pair of sequinned hotpants and a pair of stilettos and work it, you lucky lady. If not - black tights are your best friend. Instantly slimming, they hide a multitude of pale, dimply sins. Hey, I'm English - my legs are so white they're almost blue. I'm a big advocate of black tights, which you will realise if you get to the end of this mammoth essays on the virtues of great dresses, as they will be mentioned again.

Killer shoes are also a necessity. Don't worry if you can't work heels - you just have to wear them until the drink kicks in, and then you can kick them off. Just try and remember under which table you've stashed them.

My shoe of choice for the festive season is a simple pair of round toe, black stiletto platforms. Cute, slimming, not massively comfortable, but that's not exactly the point, is it?

These were bought last year from the not particularly ethically sound but cheap-as-chips Primark, about this time last year in fact, for a Christmas party. I am planning to work them over the next two weeks at work, to attempt to get my feet used to their sultry embrace. Classic black heels are a must for the party season - they'll go with everything, they'll lengthen your legs, and no one will notice if you wear them to every single party. Whereas if your party shoe of choice is a fierce pair of glittery stilettos, if you wear them more than once in a week, fierce quickly turns into 'Oh, THOSE shoes again.' Beware!

My first party of the season is my work Christmas party, held for unfathomable reasons in the first week of December on a THURSDAY. What is that? Are they expecting that people won't drink and embarrass the company, because they have to work on Friday? Ha. They don't know people. Especially me, who is leaving in January and does not have particularly kind feelings towards the company.

I decided to go classy and wear a black dress that I've been hoarding in my wardrobe since the H&M sale in the summer. It's a great, flattering length - which seems to be totally popular this season, and I'm loving it - about two inches above the knees. Respectable, but just a teeny bit racy. Lest you cannot see from the picture, the skirt fairly high up, but is made of tiny, cute pleats that somehow create a flattering silhouette, rather than the empire line pregnancy shape that seems to be all the range at the moment. Plus, cute bow.

What you definitely cannot make out from the picture is that for whatever reason, the bodice of this dress fits my ample charms like an extra small condom on indie lothario Paul Smith. If you are unfortunate enough to not know what that means, the clue is in the word 'ample'. Yep, it's tight, and means that even if I showed up with no makeup and entirely product free hair, in a pair of grubby trainers and roaring drunk to boot, no one is going to be paying attention to anything other than my chest. And because it is one of the rules of Christmas that you can dress like a total slut, I don't care. With glossy hair, kick-ass smoky makeup, minimal accessories and my trusty black tights and classic shoes combo, it means that if there are any eligible men around, I'm so there. Almost classy, apart from the 'Oh, these things? Meet the girls.'

I'm also planning to work an awesome bag, bought a couple of years ago from Accessorize in an 'OMG I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS IN THE SALE!!!' moment. It's soooo pretty, but is rather like the aforementioned fictional glittery shoes in that it's memorable and eyecatching, and so can only be pulled out every now and then, in a glorious 'You think my boobs look great in this dress? Check out my BAG!' moment, perfect for Christmas parties. Plus, it's beaded, and there aren't enough beaded items in this world. Well. Enough NICE beaded items in this world.

I'm going to skip straight ahead to the party I'm going to the weekend before Christmas, even though in the process I'm missing out several awesome events, but don't worry, I'll go back to them. It's a reflection on how OCD I am about clothes that I know exactly what I'm wearing to an event that is over a month away, but that's just me. Slightly crazy, slightly obsessive.

I bought this hot pink piece of wonder in the summer, and yes, that is the tag you can spot there, as it has never been worn. Despite the fact that it was originally bought as a summer dress, the bright colour actually looks a little twee with bare legs. With black-clad legs it suddenly ups the ante to uber-trendy, and as it's silk, you get this fantastic feeling that you're wearing something way more expensive than it was.

Originally worn (in blue) by Lily 'Hey hey you you I don't like your girlfriend' Allen, it was the hard-to-find dress of the summer. It surfaced briefly in New Look stores in a gorgeous charcoal grey (almost black) colour, and I was tempted, but resisted. Now I kind of regret that decision, as is my way.

I am wearing this item to a Fabulous themed party on the Saturday before Christmas that one of my girlfriends is throwing. As all of our male friends have decided to go out on a boys-only dinner that night, we are throwing a Fabulous party, with Fabulous food (mostly cakes), Fabulous drinks (mostly cocktails) and, of course, Fabulous outfits. My concern is that I will get drunk and/or clumsy (I'm always clumsy, but not always clumsy and drunk. But when I am drunk, I'm always extra clumsy) and will spill fresh mango daiquiris down my beautiful silk dress of wonder. Bad points of wearing colour - stains show up. Also, if anyone else is wearing the same item, it will be instantly notable, as you'll stand out. Good points - work it, and you'll look fierce on a Tyra scale. This dress will be teamed with the black tights and shoes, of course, along with dark, smoky eyemakeup and blunt black nails. The fashion magazines say that this adds a tough edge to an otherwise girly look, which works for me.

The next three dresses will probably become my go-to-outfits of choice for all generic drinks and dinner, dinner and drinks events in December. I link them together as they are, for all intents and purposes, the same dress, albeit a great, flattering dress, that although it's from uber popular-and-cheap New Look, I really haven't seen on that many people. This dress is a dinner-with-friends dress, not a party dress. It's cute - it's not showstopping. And all Christmas party dresses should be showstopping. It's a rule.

The first dress is black and white - I bought it in the summer, and wore it a lot. It has a fairly high (but not too high) waist, and a nice, full-ish skirt, which hides a multitude of sins. And bellies.

The second and third dresses have never been worn. The red-patterned one is my favourite, but I think all three will get at least one outing this December. The awesome thing with these dresses is that they look equally great with bare legs and flip-flops in the summer as with black tights and killer heels in the winter.

Good for = fat days, I-hate-my-entire-wardrobe days, wanting to look cute but not too overdressed
Bad for = showing off your perfectly flat stomach, winning a best-dressed award, looking fierce

Yes, they look mildly frumpy on the hangers, but trust me, they are very cute. Proof that you never can trust how a dress looks without trying it on.

For extra skinniness, team with a killer belt - this will hike up the length slightly, but also define your waist. Killer belt of choice - £12.99, Dorothy Perkins. Cinchy.

Man, my waist looks teeny.

I'm nearly done! My final dress is an example of a dress looking kind of cute but in a 'If your measurements are not 20-20-20, then forget about it' kind of way. When it's on the hanger, at least. Behold. Cute, right? It has little apples printed all over it. But it kind of reminds me of those little romper style dresses that you wore when you were six, at the beach. Like, if it had shorts built in, it would totally resemble something I used to wear. But, put it on, and it is transformed! The top is tight and fitted, nipping you in, and the skirt flares out, creating this deliciously retro look. Adorable in the summer, but in the winter - suddenly it's awesome. I actually only tried it on as an afterthought in the midst of trying on all my Christmas dresses last night, but it looks awesome. I'm now trying to think if I have another Christmas party I've forgotten about, because if so, I'm totally bringing this little number out.

I was trying to avoid including a picture of me in this post, but to demonstrate the complete and utter cuteness of this dress, it has to be done. See? Cute! It's the kind of dress you'd wear to a party when you knew there'd be a handful of hot, eligible men, and then you could spend the rest of the evening drinking Cosmopolitans and being incredibly witty and adorable. It's cute and memorable, without being too try-hard.

Good for - hiding a tummy, showing off a teeny waist, skimming sizeable hips
Bad for - mutton-dressed-as-lamb girls, people who hate their arms, people who can't fill out the non-adjustable bodice.

What all of these dresses have in common is the length, as previously mentioned, which seemed to be very fashionable this year. This is a length that will suit everyone, as it comes to just above your knee, therefore making your legs look longer, yet isn't short enough that you'll be flashing the rest of the party every five minutes. If you're short-legged, it's very beneficial (under-knee becomes mid-calf and gives you the stumpy disease - I'm under 5ft 2, I know), if you're long-legged, it'll make them look even longer, without making you look like a giraffe, and if you have overly skinny or overly chubby legs, just encase them in a pair of black tights and knobbly knees and chubby calves will be instantly normalised into the ideal. Awesome, right.

Please note, the black tights rule only applies in the winter. In the summer, it's a no-no. Summer is about showing off what you have - you don't want to look like you're covering up. Also, it's hot and uncomfortable, and no one likes a sweaty gusset.

What the dresses also have in common is an immensely flattering waistline. As I mentioned, I loathe the empire line trend - I've seen beautifully slim girls wearing empire line dresses, and every single one looks pregnant. Empire line dresses are only good if you really are trying to hide some flab - but if not, steer clear.

If you're merely a little well-covered, and like the fact that Christmas means more meals out and bigger portions and an excuse to eat cake for breakfast - and who doesn't? - then just drop the waist a little. All these dresses have a fairly high waist, but it still falls at the waist. At the slimmest part, no less - and the skirt starts to fall before a tighter number would begin to curve in underneath your belly. Therefore - no belly. Because nothing ruins a party dress like worrying about every lump and bump - you won't feel comfortable, and it will show.

So here is a recap, with my golden rules for injecting some fierce into your party season:

1 - Comfort. Don't air the bits you hate - find skilful ways of covering them up. You're not going to learn to love them overnight. Black tights work for any leg hangups, they can pull in a tummy and teamed with black heels, will make your legs go on forever. And they look classy. Arms - flowy sleeves, kicky cardigans, retro wraps. The bits in between - you just have to find the right dress for your shape. Now is the season!

2 - Killer heels. They elongate legs, and if the office pervert won't leave you alone, they'll do some nice damage to his calves if you aim a kick just right. Or the good old stamp-and-impale.

3 - Accessorise. The golden rules of accessorising are if you are wearing a statement colour or item, that will accessorise for you. Keep everything else simple. If you are wearing a simple black number then pile on the bright eyeshadow and awesome jewellery. When in doubt, accessorise with black. It's not boring - it's classy.

4 - Don't overkill. Legs OR boobs. Eyes OR lips. Long earrings OR a chunky necklace (if one is big, the other should be simple or not at all.)

5 - Drink enough to be witty, but not so much that you can't be understood. Unless you're at a lame party with no attractive men and a couple of good friends, in which case tequila is always an answer.

That was longer than I intended.

- Sarah


Erin said...

Why didn't you buy me that pink dress while you were shopping? I adore it.

Erin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah said...

Because they only had one, and it was in my size. So it was mine. But if they release it in another colour, I'll be there. Just let me know your size and if you're willing to pay £35 for it... silk ain't THAT cheap.

Tineke said...

The only clothes I've bought here so far have been from New Look. It's the only shop that doesn't make me feel poor because the prices aren't too much higher than NZ clothes prices.

I love that last dress where did you get it?

Sarah said...

New Look - I love their dresses! I got it in July though - but you might spot it in a sale somewhere?