Our We Try Before You Buy series aims to take the stress out of shopping and eliminate the number of post office visits you make each month to return failed online orders. We test new-season buys and styling ideas so you don’t have to. Here, we’re letting you know what’s actually worth investing in or styling tricks you can re-create with pieces you already own.
It’s that time of year where sitting on our sofa on a Friday night feels like a distant memory. You’ve been assigned a colleague for this year’s Secret Santa (Steve from IT? Again?) and you’re wondering if anyone noticed that you had three mini mince pies and not the two you were allowed. It is, of course, the festive season.
As fashion and beauty editors, we love this time of year. It gives us an excuse to up the ante with our outfits and embrace all-things party when it comes to our wardrobe. This being said, we’re aware it can be tricky for others to know where to begin. For those of you out there reading this with party frock phobia, don’t worry—we got you. Satin, sequins, sumptuous velvet and molten metallic fabrics, we’re like magpies picking the best bits, so you don’t waste time wading through the options. Be it the office party, ‘Friendsmas,’ Christmas Day or NYE, we’re here to guide you through these events and relish in discovering the very best pieces to be had.
It goes without saying however, that this time of year is heavy on our wallets. And this year particularly, with the cost of living being so high, we wanted to take the opportunity to showcase looks from brands at various price points. Mixing high end and high street is certainly nothing new to Who What Wear. As editors we pride ourselves on each having a capsule wardrobe made up of a series of affordable staples, that are elevated with a few luxury hero pieces here and there. In light of this, for this edition of WTBYB, we have opted to style some forever partywear favourites, such as the Little Black Dress, and given style notes on how to dress these pieces up and down, to ensure wearability and longevity for years to come.
For some of the more trophy pieces, that make a statement with their voluminous silhouettes, feather details or rhinestone embellishments, we have partnered with leading rental platform HURR, who have saved our editors on numerous occasions when they want an impactful party dress (for Christmas, weddings or other special occasions), that won’t heavily impact their bank account.
So with this, scroll below for our eight party ensembles and tips on how to get the most out of them.
Style Notes: “Bows are bigger than ever this year, whilst many are styling them in their hair or on their shoes, I’ll be doing it with dresses. Franks London is an independent label designing vintage-inspired pieces that are made-to-order, and this dress from their latest collection is right up my street. With its glistening metallic gold fabric, padded shoulders and scattering of velvet bows adorned across the front, it’s the ultimate New Year’s Eve ensemble. I’ve paired it with some strappy gold sandals (mine are old Zara ones but the below ones from M&S are just as good) and a thick black waist belt. Dial up the drama with a red lip and glossy bag, and you’re good to go.”
—Hannah Almassi, editor-in-chief
Style Notes: “Cecilie Bahnsen’s signature ‘poof’ dresses must be one of the most recognisable silhouettes fashion has seen in the last decade. The almost obnoxiously big voluminous sleeves and full skirts feel so feminine, giving a great excuse for girlish, delicate accessories such as hair bows, pearls and gem-embellishments. But the versatility of this dress really comes from its pale blue hue. There’s no question of pastel being appropriate in summer, for weddings and other special events, but with these rhinestone-encrusted black platform heels by Circus NY, it immediately feels less ‘pretty’, and more party.”
—Rebecca Rhys-Evans, branded content editor
Style notes: “Party wear is often an investment purchase, but now I’ve discovered renting, I’m taking advantage of the access to statement designer dresses that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford. Case in point, 16Arlington’s Adelaide dress with its pluming feather cuffs, which pair perfectly with a mulled wine manicure, gold jewellery and a cocktail in hand. My fashion editor colleagues tell me brown is the new black this season—which is a welcome alternative for me, and I adore the cutout shoulder detail on this number, that adds a little drama to the neckline. Charles & Keith’s Gabine bag is large enough to house my beauty essentials for touch ups, and I always head to Zara for great party shoes.”
—Eleanour Vousden, beauty editor
Style Notes: “When it comes to wearing all black for a party, I enjoy playing around with different silhouettes. This ensemble is a great example, I appreciate the appeal of the voluminous skirt detail on the Marques Almeida dress, but I’ve counterbalanced with a sleek long sleeve top below, which hugs my body. Accessorising is something I truly enjoy, especially with statement pieces. I adore the intricate beaded detail on this bag, which I’ve complemented with bangles, a necklace, and striking earrings. More is more, IMHO!”
—Remi Afolabi, video content producer
Style Notes: “This coat is soextra, I simply had to include it in a party outfit. Its ultra soft fluffy exterior will keep me toasty when travelling after dark in the depths of winter, but hangs so nicely off the shoulders when in a crowded room. As much as I love signature lavish textures such as sequins, lurex and embellishments, there’s sometimes nothing like a classic black dress. This satin one from New Look stood out to me as the lace detail on the chest and cowl neckline offered something a little different. If you think about it, a strappy satin dress can be one of the hardest working items in your capsule wardrobe. You can style as I have done so here, with heels and all the accessories that suggest you’re out-out, but it’s easily dressed down for daytime with boots and a cashmere cardigan over the top. Even in summer, I can see myself wearing this for dinners out on holiday with sandals and a basket bag.”
Style notes: “It always pays to have a timeless classic or two in your wardrobe, especially for party season. This Sau Lee dress is exactly that, but then has some unexpected details such as the trailing scarf at the back, that adds a little drama—a literal case in point for ‘business at the front, and party at the back!’. I can’t help but fall for a long, high-neck silhouettes in black, it’s the epitome of chic. I kept accessories paired back to let this dress speak for itself, but no little black dress is complete without black strappy heels, gold earrings and Chanel’s nail polish in Rouge Noir on the fingertips. It’s becoming a signature hue for me.”
Style Notes: “I typically prefer keeping my party looks simple, but every now and then, I like to opt for a more glamorous style. I have a fondness for outfits that incorporate sparkle, making this Self Portrait dress rented from HURR an ideal choice for me. Long-sleeve dresses in the midi to maxi length range suit my style perfectly, and I’m really drawn to this power pastel colour, which really pops—making a difference to my usual choice of a black dress.”
Style Notes: “As much as I love an ultra-glam party dress, there are many occasions in the festive calendar that don’t warrant a sequin-heavy gown. Drinks with the work crowd, or dinners where I’ll be rushing to make it on time via the tube mean I can’t run across town in platforms and bare legs. In steps the satin two piece. Over recent years, many have jumped on the feathered satin pyjama trend which I do love, but this New Look cream pair is so chic and (what I love most about it) requires little-to-no thought. Here I’ve paired it with my favourite Zara kitten heels, which feel Christmassy due to the big velvet bow on the front, and a leather blazer from Free People that gives it a more casual-cool edge. The best thing is that I could wear these trousers to the office with a boot below and a cosy knit on top, and then transform to being evening-ready with the matching top, some statement earrings and a sparkly bag. Two looks in one? Yes please!”