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What to Wear to a Holiday Christmas Party – Guide for Women

By Laura Williams

woman holiday party dressThe holiday season is in full swing, which means that there are holiday parties to attend and plenty of opportunities to get dressed up. However, when you’re on a budget, purchasing new attire for a holiday bash may seem overwhelming. The costs of clothing, shoes, and accessories quickly add up, and before you know it, you’ve spent a small fortune on clothing to wear to a single event.

This year, don’t go overboard on spending! There are many option available to find beautiful apparel that will last you through the holidays and beyond. You can be stylish without bleeding your bank account dry!

What to Wear to a Party

The type of apparel you wear to an event varies, but two basic outfits work for most holiday parties:

  • A Cocktail Dress in Black, Red, Jewel Tones, Silver, or Gold. Choose a dress with a metallic finish or glitzy sequined details, and dress it up or down using accessories. If you have several parties to attend, a basic black dress can serve you well and save money, as you can easily change the entire look with your accessories without appearing to “recycle” your party clothes.
  • A Nice Pair of Black Slacks Matched With a Close-Fitting Top. If you already have a pair of nice black pants, alternate wearing them with one or two tops with festive, shining details to really help you stand out.

red dress

How to Save on Holiday Party Clothes

Bypass department stores and shop at thrift stores to save on your outfits. If you prefer to shop online, look for daily deals sites, promotional codes, and coupons before finalizing your purchase. As you shop for your holiday apparel, save as much money as you can on your core attire and your accessories.

Save on Core Pieces

Since you’ll only wear the dress or top a few times, it doesn’t make sense to pay a lot for these items. Besides, bargain stores such as Marshall’s, T.J. Maxx, and Target offer beautiful, glittery dresses and tops that look expensive. These pieces may not stand up to extensive wear and tear, but since you’ll wear them infrequently, this shouldn’t be an issue.

When I’m shopping for bargain priced specialty clothing, I look at the dress sales at Victoria’s Secret and tops at New York and Company. I’ve also found some excellent pieces at Goodwill, as they offer fantastic bargains on exclusive designer brands for less than $20!  You may also want to search your city for vintage shops and high-end second-hand stores like Plato’s Closet.

Other great discount options for dresses and tops include:

Save on Accessories

When dressing for a holiday party, you want your bag, earrings, necklace, and rings to really stand out. These accessories can “make” your outfit, and you don’t have to spend a fortune on them.

If you don’t know what to wear with your party outfit, I swear by these tried-and-true combinations:

  • A Sequined Clutch, Statement Cocktail Ring, and a Long, Simple Necklace. This combination works especially well if you plan to wear your hair down and your top or dress has a modest neckline.
  • Statement Chandelier Earrings, a Wrist Cuff, and a Simple Satin Clutch. This combination works best if you plan to wear your hair up or if your top has an open back.
  • A Wide Statement Necklace and a Mini Bag on a Long Chain. This is particularly nice if you wear a top or dress with a deep neckline.
  • Small Rhinestone Earrings, an Antique Brooch, and a Vintage Clutch. If you enjoy wearing vintage jewelry, an oversized brooch takes center stage at a party and works well on a pullover sweater or cardigan. A matching set of vintage jewelry, such as earrings, necklace, and a bracelet, also takes work clothes into evening.

You may not have too many opportunities to wear your party accessories after the holidays, so opt for inexpensive costume jewelry and bags. Thrift stores and consignment shops, as well as big-box discount stores like K-Mart, Target, and Walmart, offer a wide selection of accessories in a variety of colors and styles. Sam Moon and Claire’s also offer inexpensive one-stop accessory shopping.

If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, check out local consignment and antique stores to find great deals on high quality, unique vintage jewelry and clutches. I found the necklace I wore to my wedding for $3 at a tiny downtown antique shop!

If you shop for accessories online, some additional places to look include:

holiday party

Splurging Smart

Splurge on a few items that you plan to continue wearing throughout the year. Look for well-made and comfortable items that stand up to continuous wear and tear, and consider splurging on the following:

Quality Slacks

If you plan to wear a pants and top combination to an event and you need a new pair of slacks, spend a little more on this purchase. You can wear slacks to a number of events throughout the year, so find a high-quality pair that fit well and don’t show unnecessary details (like panty lines).

Think carefully about the tops and shoes you already own before splurging on a pair of pants. Black pants work well with most color combinations, but glen plaid or windowpane plaid pants can also add style to your winter wardrobe.

The Perfect Shoes

Choose shoes based on whether you want to dress up or dress down your outfit. A pair of “strappy,” high-heeled sandals instantly dresses up an outfit, while simple, kitten-heeled pumps keep you well-dressed but more casual.

If you don’t already have a pair of shoes in your closet to wear to an event, shop smart by picking a pair that you can wear on multiple occasions. For instance, if you plan to wear a simple black dress, choose a pair of satin-finish black pumps with a stacked heel or a pair of black faux leather, high-heeled boots.

Spend a little more on shoes if you plan to get a lot of wear out of them. Ill-fitting shoes can lead to painful blisters, so wear them around the house to break them in before you wear them to an event.

If you really want to buy a stand-out pair of high heels, don’t shop at department stores. You can almost always find similar shoes for less by shopping at discount stores like Marshall’s, T.J. Maxx, Target, or Goodwill. For women with hard-to-fit feet (like me), check out DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse, Payless Shoe Source, or Nordstrom Rack. These stores carry extended-size shoes in cute styles and colors for a fraction of most department store prices.

Fun Stockings

When wearing dresses in the winter, you need to wear stockings. Don’t end up with a nasty run because you chose to wear cheap hose. Even expensive tights cost less than $30, so go ahead and indulge a little – choose tights in fun colors and patterns to add interest to your outfit.

Wearing stand-out stockings adds style to any outfit, without sending your budget into a tailspin. Discount stores like DSW, T.J. Maxx, and Target offer inexpensive, trendy hosiery in a variety of colors and patterns. For the holidays, look for black fishnet stockings, burnished gold hose, black lace nylons, or rhinestone-embellished hosiery to add something extra to your event attire.

A Classic Jacket

Purchasing a jacket specifically to wear to holiday parties might be the one exception to the rule about only splurging on items you plan to wear throughout the year. You can wear a classic, tailored, well-made jacket or coat year after year to holiday parties and events.

Examples of classic holiday jackets include a waist-length, long-sleeved, black sequined jacket with a jewel or round neckline, a long velvet coat in scarlet, green, or black, and a faux fur cape, capelet, or jacket. These types of jackets look fantastic at holiday parties year after year. You can often find these types of jackets at antique stores, vintage shops, and thrift stores for deeply discounted prices, so this doesn’t really have to be a splurge.

holiday party

Final Word

You want to look your best when hitting the holiday party scene, but you don’t need to go into debt to look nice at events. By picking simple pieces that match a variety of shoes and accessories, you can have numerous go-to holiday outfits at the ready. And remember, if you have the opportunity to wear an item throughout the year, you can spend a little more money on quality clothing.

On the other hand, resist the temptation to splurge on a glitzy top or dress you won’t wear again after the holiday season. Use your usual attire as your guide when choosing holiday clothing and accessories to buy to get the most for your money.

Where do you shop when you need discount holiday party attire?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Laura Williams
Laura Williams holds a master's degree in exercise and sport science and enjoys breaking up her day by running her dogs, hitting the gym, and watching TV. Having been in charge of her own finances since the early age of 12, she knows how to save and when to spend, and she loves sharing these tips with others. Laura ditched her career as a fitness center manager for the relative freedom of home-based writing and editing work. She stays busy by working on her own website, GirlsGoneSporty, a website designed to help the sporty woman live the sporty life.

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