Far be it for me to come across all bah humbag at this time of year but given the deluge of horrifyingly cheap lace tat and sparkle that is about to descend on a high street near you, I’m having to take pen to paper or finger to keyboard to debate what one should be wearing round about now as those stiffys pile through the door.
The truly stylish — mostly French — camp will bang on about normcore (think grey sweatshirts . . .) and how we shouldn’t be trying too hard. Call me old-fashioned but is it really a party if everyone turns up in jeans?
True, the most stylish dressers will not be channeling their inner Tinkerbell. They aim to look glamorous in a polished – but not too polished – way. They do not try to look sparkly. Ever. Because a true style maven would hate anyone to think that she has spent many, many hours trying to get her outfit right.
A quick glance at the recent Fashion Awards and you’ll know that glimpses of bare skin, sweaters worn over skirts, bare backs and off the shoulder tops and, mostly covered-up evening attire is very much where it’s at this Christmas. And if there’s one thing that will instantly update your outfit (or at least make someone smile), it’s the really silly bag worn ironically; even if their price tags don’t come with much of a sense of humour.
On the practical front, “limo shoes”, by which I mean anything with a heel that is higher than a 3 inch heel now looks quite démodé. This is good news if you want to dance and even better if, there is nowhere to sit down.
For your most stylish, non-sparkly options however, look no further.
Bare backs and shoulders
What a result, I hear you say. No more worrying about boobs that resemble droopy socks post popping out a couple of children. I’m sorry to say that backless is a lot more high-maintenance than you could possibly imagine: you can’t just chuck one on and hope for the best. Believe it or not but back facials are a plausible essential for the professional party-goer. Crucially, however, you need to have a toned back, something achieved through regular encounters with single-arm rows, reverse flyes using a resistance band and lat pulldowns. Remember: a toned back doesn’t just happen. Fortunately bare shoulders are an easier one to pull off, mostly because it’s a bit harder to have fat shoulders.
Five years since Phoebe Philo rocked up to the British Fashion Awards swiping the Most Stylish Woman in the Universe award for wearing a strapless jumpsuit, they are still going strong. I imagine that the point of wearing a jumpsuit is that it makes you feel sassy and dressed up without having to worry that you’re going to spend the whole night tugging at a dress hem. There are no hoiked-in waists to be hoiked at, yet you will still be showing a strong, clean and lean silhouette. Better still, there are no tights or bare-leg issues to concern you, plus you get to wear ridiculously high shoes, should you wish, without feeling as if you are going over the top.
A very long skirt and a t-shirt or baggy sweater
I’m going to ’fess up here and say that when I first saw this look in street style pics eighteen months ago, I groaned inwardly at this very implausible get-up. Fashion folk are not averse to outfits that make them look ridiculous, but very rarely do they want to wear clothes that make them look fat, as a baggy sweater worn over a midi-skirt is wont to do. “This will never take off,” I wrote in my notebook. Except it totally did. The fashion gods don’t often look down kindly upon those who like to pig out at Christmas, but in this instance you can have your cake and eat it.
Not only did Victoria Beckham shock us by wearing a sweater to last year’s Fashion Awards, she was also one of the most stylishly dressed women of the evening. Heck, she was certainly the comfiest. This could be the most ideal party outfit in that the long skirt equals a sense of occasion.
I know, I know, Do you really want to look like Santa Claus? It’s always been the go-to staple for when you want to look Christmassy and works equally well in the shires as it does in the metropolis. By a stroke of luck, velvet has become the style insider’s festive staple, but I don’t just mean any old velvet. The right sort — or fashion sort — of velvet has a thin pile and is reworked into a very tailored, almost stiff (for which read: unforgiving) trouser or skirt suit.
Red is increasingly popular, as is olive or a teal velvet, but black also wins for its timelessness. Emilio De La Morena has done fabulous off the shoulder dresses but there are just as covetable versions available at Joseph or Jigsaw.
There’s sheer in a literal “I can see your knickers” way and then there’s sheer where all you see is the gauzy outline of someone’s toned legs, gained from hours on a Pilates reformer machine, without being subjected to their crêpey skin up close. For women of a certain age, this trend is a godsend. It offers coverage yet still shows off a shadowy silhouette. Self-Portrait does fabulous full-length dresses from around £180
This is something that looks set to be HUGE next summer. Obviously stylish people do not wear the sort of shiny, tacky silver that makes your waist look twice its usual size and your bottom visible from Mars. For while most style glossies advise that metallics should be treated with caution, get it right and it can look fabulous. Truly. The trick is in choosing a matte silver that is very, very pared down and wearing it with minimal accessories, or better still none at all. These dresses have a sheen, rather than a shine, but they guarantee that you will definitely stand out.
Dewy skin. This might not sound obvious but actually great looking skin is possibly your passport to looking the best dressed person in the room. That is, skin that does not look caked in make-up but looks as if you have the hottest power-facialist on speed dial. You may have to cheat to get that look, in which case grab some of NIOD’s Photography Fluid pronto. Because you might be wearing Zara but if you have short, clean-looking nails, dewy looking skin and fresh looking hair you will ALWAYS look sexy and appealing. And what every stylish woman knows is that that actually takes a lot more effort than chucking on a sliver of silver latex.
Possibly the compromise between the endless “heels versus flats” debate. Comfort is very ”in” yet most women still want to feel that they have won in the one-upmanship shoe stakes. Sophia Webster’s block heel style with different swatches of leather is particularly coveted thanks to its ability to work with literally everything in your wardrobe. So too are Tabitha Simmon’s block heels or Jimmy Choo’s jewelled Sixties metallic sandals. For some of the best on the highstreet, head to M&S and see if you can still find their burgundy velvet sandals. At £35, they are 2015’s most stylish steal.