Party time: Shimmer and shine with festive cocktail dresses

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Let's get this party started … with a cocktail dress — the perfect choice for a holiday gathering.

“The must-have for the holiday season is the little black dress updated with lace, gold accents, a statement necklace or amazing back details,” says Josh Saterman, Macy's fashion director. “A woman can complete this look with a fabulous clutch and a pair of heels for girls' night out, either in gold or another fun, bright color.”

The movie “The Great Gatsby” inspired a new style of cocktail party dresses, says Gwendolyn Covington, a style editor for

“Dresses are reminiscent of the 1920s era — sparkly, glamorous and over the top,” she says. “These flapper-style cocktail dresses have a variety of adornments like beading, jewels and even have fringe with luxe draping techniques. Lengths range from super-short to floor-length, and other special touches are lace, embroidery and even feathers.”

The best way to rock a sparkly dress is to let it make the only statement in your look, Covington says. Adorn your outfit with more simple accessories like solid pumps, a clutch and clean, quiet jewels. Even your outerwear should be simple to help complement the ultra-shiny garment beneath.

The little black dress will always be the go-to for party dresses and holiday occasions, but this season, rich, deep colors like navy, emerald-green and wine also are trending. They are easy hues to pair with similar accessories that you would wear with your black dress, gold and silver jewelry and a chic printed clutch or heel that you probably already have in your closet, Covington says.

Saterman agrees with Covington that color can add some pop to your holiday style.

“A woman is free to choose from all palettes of red from cherry to brick, from burgundy to bright,” Saterman says. “It sounds cliche, but, in truth, red really is the ‘it' color for this holiday season.”

Whatever hue you choose, pair it with a metallic clutch in gold which is both fresh and new, Saterman says. Every size is available, so the purse can be fashionable and functional. Gold jewelry is the perfect accent, but don't be afraid to stack your bracelets and share that wrist with some bright pops of color, Saterman says.

“The statement necklace is a must to update any look,” Saterman says. “It goes amazingly well over a high-neck dress and gives a little color or a little bling to any holiday outfit.”

For those more daring females, a dress with cutouts can be fun for the holidays, says Lindsay Huggins, senior fashion market editor for Self magazine. “The safest cutout is by the neckline,” she says. “I would stay away from having cutouts on the sides. That might be too intimidating for women to wear. And choose a darker, deeper color if you want a dress with cutouts.”

A fun silhouette for the party dress is the fit-and-flair style, Huggins says. One that might have sheer paneling that gives the illusion of skin.

“Done well it is a playful look and is one women of all ages might be more comfortable with than having the dress actually cutout and skin exposed,” she says.

A safe bet is to always go for a simple basic silhouette that has a high neckline in front, says Gregg Andrews, Nordstrom fashion director. This style could have embellishments or something like a low back.

“The interesting back detail gives your look something a little unexpected,” Andrews says. “It's a nice surprise as you walk away. With most dresses, keep the length at least at or near the knee and that style will look good wherever your holiday plans take you. And with any dress, make sure you have the proper undergarments on, so you are comfortable and we don't see any bra straps showing.”

The dress should be the focal point of your holiday outfit, Andrews says. Do this by keeping the other pieces understated. Make sure to choose the right silhouette for your body type, because you have to wear a cocktail dress with confidence.

A one-shoulder style, one with sleeves that are cut out, or one with sheer panels — which is sexy but not over the top — is for special occasions, says Marissa Rubin, senior market editor for People Style Watch.

“If your dress is not age-appropriate, it won't look attractive,” Rubin says. “Let the dress make the statement. A simple cuff bracelet and nice strappy heel will look great. And you will be party-ready.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7889.

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