Time for the big party dress switch-on

M&S Limited Edition silver sequin dress, �89, in Nov 16; belt, �15. from M&S.

It’s the big festive party drop time, when Christmas dresses land on the High Street. Stephanie Smith picks out key looks to light up in.

In our city and town centres across the land, the Christmas lights are going up in preparation for the big switch on in the next week or so.

Butterfly by Matthew Williamson glitter and embroidery dress, �120, at Debenhams.

Meanwhile, inside the High Street shops, feverish pre-Christmas activity is also taking place as the rails and shelves begin to fill with party clothes and accessories.

The Christmas party dress is an annual investment we expect to make, no matter how much or little we spend on it.

If we spend a lot, we probably prefer a classic piece that we will be able to wear from many seasons to come – a little black dress, perhaps, or a long black or navy maxi dress.

Velvet is always a festive fabric, but this year, the plush stuff is also undeniably on-trend, which means that we can simultaeneously wear something both seasonal and season-less. When that sort of fashion eclipse happens, it would be madness not to indulge in the best options on offer.

Glitter long sleeve twist dress, �39; Dayla boot, �42, from Miss Selfridge.

Red is another case of fashion covering all the style bases – fabulously festive and also THE bright colour of autumn/winter 2017. So, right now, the choice of red shades for this season are numerous and varied, from the deepest burgundy through to bright poppy, and in every style from simple tunics to opulent ruffled maxis.

There are sequins, too, of course, but for this festive season, there is a more sophisticated than usual offering of colours. Look for deep purple, luxurious teal, rich forest green and goldy mustard yellow, as well as this winter’s ubiquitous burgundy.

Texture plays a massive role in all fashion for the season, but especially for party wear. Layer velvet, brocade, silks and satins, lace and chiffons, suede and faux fur in tonal shades of red and rich brown, and you can’t go far wrong.

Talking of brocade, there is a great deal of it about, and it’s bringing us a colourful, textural, luxurious and yet also folkish take on party wear – a lovely choice for those who prefer to steer clear of more obvious choices. An embroidered tunic dress in a simple shape – perhaps featuring this season’s long fluted sleeves – paired with suede ankle boots, or slouchy knee-high boots, or even slim-fitting over-the-knee boots, would make an excellent all-day party and festive celebration look. It’s got cool Christmas Day style stitched all over it.

Principles by Ben de Lisi dress, �49, Faith shoes, �59, both at Debenhams.

And there is plenty of embroidery detail going on, too – even embroidery on sequins, which is not something you see every Christmas, let alone every day. Look out for all over embroidered glittery tunics and team with retro, block-heeled, 1970s’ style go-go boots in a bright shade.

Floral print, meanwhile, brings a new mood to Christmas party dressing – a sort of chic, busy yet genteel take on colour and pattern. All rather Bloomsbury – check out the floral dress and equally floral kimono look seen here from East. These are the sort of pieces that could work for the summer months too. This is where fashion is heading, as the modern woman expects everything she buys, even festive wear, to be versatile enough to wear all year round, and from work to weekends to special events, with a simple change of co-ordinating pieces and accessories.

Look out for tiny handbags with chunky gold and silver hardware and perhaps a cross-body chain. Mink or black are the best shades if you are already wearing an outfit with quite a few colours in it.

Embroidered bags and shoes are in good supply and easily lend a touch of boho luxe to any outfit. And remember, if you want to wear your LBD but give it a twist, simply add a pair of statement boots, perhaps red ankle boots or tapestry knee-high ones. You’re good to go.

Glitter bag, �25, by Faith at Debenhams.


Silk Shanghai print dress, �169; kimono, �189.50. At East.

M&S Collection dress, �89, boots �79.

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