Dressing for the office Christmas party

Fabrics are luxury: satin, silk and velvet. And it needs a little bit of extra va va voom that distinguishes it from a work frock

November 24, 2013 | By:

In a dilemma over what to wear for the annual office party? Maggie Alderson shows how to do seasonal glamour without looking like you’ve fallen in the Christmas decorations box

Dressing for the office Christmas party

Here come the (grown-up) girls… All dresses from my-wardrobe

The now legendary Boots ad said it all. The brilliant cut to the ghastly dead corporate room with a few male suits, jackets daringly off and a bit of tragic tinsel, about as much atmosphere as a multi-storey car park. Then along they come, the massed rank of party-ready office ladies, all ages and sizes, prinked, preened, curled and coiffed up to the max. Here come the girls…

It brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it because it’s clever and empowering, and because it’s spot-on. That is the benchmark for the office Christmas party. That is how much effort you need to make.

Not because, as in the days of reading 19 and Honey magazines, you are hoping to cop off with the gorgeous fella you’ve seen on your way to the post room (although good luck and go for it, if that still is your agenda…), but because the office Christmas party is your chance to show them all who you really are. And you are a FOX.

The office party is the exact equivalent of a school mufti day for grown-ups, when you throw off the shackles of quotidian conformity and shine like a Christmas bauble. Just don’t be the one who wears the actual baubles as earrings, nor tinsel as a witty stole. Every office has one, but – as Ant and Dec say – it’s not you.


Regardless of the office party venue – a private room in a cool Shoreditch members’ club, the function suite of a four-star hotel, or the actual office – the dress code is the same: up. Dress up.

Wear whatever makes you feel fabulous within that genre, but really this is the time for an actual party dress – and keep it short, around the knee. You won’t be able to dance embarrassingly enough in a long frock.

What makes a party dress? Like the Christmas tree in the window on a dark winter night it’s all about glitter and shine, so anything with sequins is perfect. Fabrics are luxury: satin, silk and velvet.

Any colour as long as it’s black, or rich (burgundy, red, bishop purple). And it needs a little bit of extra va va voom that distinguishes it from a work frock. A big bow, a feature neckline, something cheeky going on around the hem.

If you can’t be bothered to enter into the perfect party dress lunchtime pursuit (which can be a large part of the fun if you embark on it with the right colleague) you can always stick on your old faithful LBD and crank it up with accessories.

A sequinned – or more on-season, feather – shrug and pair of chandelier earrings can be enough to swing you into party mode. It’s the perfect time to unearth all that marvellous paste jewellery we all bought for nothing in charity shops in the 1970s, ha ha. Bring on the bling.

And there is one final rule of the office party dress code: you have to wear your silliest dancing shoes. By which I mean shoes you can hardly walk in when sober but, when lightened by a few plastic cups of cheap prosecco, you can strut in like Rihanna.

Here comes the girl…