Oh no!
It looks like you aren't logged in to the Ethel community. Log in to get the best user experience, save your favorite articles and quotes, and follow our authors.
Don't have an Online Account? Subscribe here

Dressy Dresses and Pantsuits for the Holiday Party Season

Here's how to make your entrance a memorable one.

Comment Icon
photo illustration of 3 women modeling holiday clothes
Franziska Barczyk
Comment Icon

This holiday season, it’s possible to find both comfort and joy in your party attire. What statement do you want to make? The eight fashion personas included here can guide you to making that choice for any holiday soirée. Even if you’ve already made your fashion plans, these suggestions can inspire you to change course for your most fabulous entrance ever!

Dress on colored background

The Twinkler

If bling is your thing, this is your year. Sequins and sparkle abound. So do dramatic details and bold colors. Shimmer all night long in Basix’s Sleeveless Ombre Sequin Gown in Forest and Gold ($395, neimanmarcus.com) or dazzle in Adrianna Papell’s Sequined Cap Sleeve Gown in Nile (blue) ($280, bloomingdales.com). Celebrity favorite Mac Duggal delivers platinum shine in a midi length with the Sequin Long Sleeve Midi Cocktail Dress ($498, nordstrom.com). Take the wattage up — but not the price — in H&M’s trendy pink Sequined Dress With Fringe Hem ($65, hm.com). Top with a faux fur jacket or, for a bit of edginess, a faux leather motorcycle jacket.

The Comfort Queen

Who wants to be nipped in here and squished in there while enjoying a party? Certainly not you. This season’s answer to comfortable dressy wear is pleating — from tiny plissé pleats to sunbursts to crisp-edged knife pleats. The Radiant Maxi Dress ($220, bananarepublic.com) showcases a burst of pleating that starts at the halter neckline and flows to the floor in your choice of Black, Vanilla Cream or Yellow. A tonal sash adds waistline definition to the crepe Sleeveless Pleated Gown in Violet from the Badgley Mischka Collection ($695, neimanmarcus.com). The luxurious Satin Pleated Blouse in Bronze or Cinnamon matches an ankle-skimming skirt for a winning combination that can be split up and paired with a sweater or pants for more casual holiday get-togethers (each piece $80, mango.com). Accessorize with statement-making dangle earrings and a clutch purse.

Dress on colored background

The Traditionalist

When you open an invitation, you immediately think little black dress. This may be your deck, but which card to play is up to you. Will it be the Illusion Mermaid Gown by Adrianna Papell with its beaded mesh yoke ($199, bloomingdales.com)? Or the Scalloped Lace Cocktail confection from Karen Kane that layers over a Black or more daring Nude lining ($138, nordstrom.com)? Could it be time for an in-between length like the mid-calf Satin Wrap Dress ($40, hm.com) or the Tiffany One-Shoulder Midi from Dress the Population ($148, nordstrom.com)? Whichever you choose, consider accessorizing it with pops of bright color.

The Hugger

If cling is your thing, make an entrance in a sweater dress that hugs your curves and shows off your assets. The Tenore Cashmere Sweater Dress in Merlot features a sweetheart neckline that’s a great showcase for jewelry. This midi style scores bonus points for Earth-friendliness: The cashmere is 90 percent recycled ($328, thereformation.com).

Another ideal setting for a dramatic necklace is French Connection’s Black Off the Shoulder Sweater Dress with a side slit and midi length ($128, nordstrom.com). On a cooler note, Zara’s Ribbed Knit Dress in (ice) Blue cuts a sleek line with its long, slit sleeves and midi length ($50, zara.com).

Dress on colored background

The Rebel

While everyone else is thinking satin, you are leaning into leather. When the invitation says black tie, your go-to is a mini. Your statement is counterculture, and your favorite move is the 180. You can top off your favorite leather skirt or pants with the seriously stunning White Off-the-Shoulder Poplin Surplice Top, which balances fit and comfort with the help of smocking ($99, whitehouseblackmarket.com), or the sassy White Stud-Detail Shirt ($35, hm.com). Sheer options are another favorite this season, whether in lace, like Dolan’s Sheer Lace Blouse ($118, anthropologie.com), or mesh, like the wrapped bustier of NBD’s Yara Top ($178, revolve.com).

On the short side, you can choose the metallic glint of the silvery Fitted Sleeveless Dress ($35, hm.com), the bohemian vibe of the Somerset Mini Dress: Velvet Edition ($148–$160, anthropologie.com) or the unlikely olive hue of Steve Madden’s Nyla Mini Dress with its ruched side detailing ($90, revolve.com).

The Label-ista

You prefer to shop by brand and stick with a favorite label once you’ve found it. Luckily, several brands have made dressing up their go-to game. Labels to scout include Aqua (a Bloomingdale’s exclusive), Adrianna Papell, Dress the Population and Anthropologie’s collections of Jenny Yoo and BHLDN formals. Their offerings are priced from $150 to $300, while the cocktail dresses and gowns of celebrity outfitter Mac Duggal range from $350 to $600.

Dress on colored background

The Mixer

You like to keep your options open and prefer outfits that can multitask. So, for you splitting tops from skirts is a better solution than a single dress or gown. Let Me Be nails the concept with their Top and Ballgown Skirt Set strewn with black appliqué flowers on an ankle-skimming skirt and top of beige organza ($330, anthropologie.com).

The coppery-colored Asymmetrical Skirt from Nikita Mhaisalkar ($208, anthropologie.com) dips in back and elegantly teams up with Ann Taylor’s silky Tie Neck Top in Winter White ($90, anntaylor.com) or the sweetheart styling of H&M’s Fitted Jersey Top in Cream ($20, hm.com). For a nontraditional take on tulle, consider the Ruffled Tulle Midi Skirt ($148–$158, anthropologie.com) paired with Pilcro’s Velvet Femme Buttondown Shirt ($130, anthropologie.com).

The Sporty Spice

You’ve never met a pair of pants you didn’t like. The popularity of jumpsuits and velvet suits this holiday season means you can stride into any party in comfort and style. To stretch your fashion budget, both can be repurposed for other settings. The sweetheart neckline, inverted pleats and wide legs of Dress the Population’s Rai Jumpsuit ($238, neimanmarcus.com) make it a standout — as do its colors, Fuchsia and Capri (turquoise).

Color and a cutout define Mango’s Asymmetric Long Jumpsuit in (cobalt) Blue ($100, mango.com), while flowing black satin sets apart Zara’s Satin Effect Halter Jumpsuit ($70, zara.com).

Lush velvet delivers panache and sophistication to partying pantsuits. Sleeping With Jacques’ Wide-Leg Velvet Pants and Bon Vivant Short Velvet Robe ($280 and $400, respectively, neimanmarcus.com) evoke a Hugh Hefner vibe in Tango Red, Hot Pink, Black, Dusk Blue and Mimosa Yellow. For a more tailored silhouette, opt for either Loft’s Velvet Modern Blazer and matching Riviera Slim Pants in Velvet in Deep Teal Bay or Black ($150 and $90, respectively, loft.com), or the Lrady Women 1 Button Velvet Blazer and coordinating pants in Deep Blue ($59 amazon.com).

Cheers! Now, make your grand entrance!

Editor's Picks
Find money-making endeavors that are personally satisfying.
, July 18, 2024
Here are the ones that top the list.
, July 18, 2024
It's incredibly welcoming, especially for older women travelers.
, July 18, 2024