2016 Holiday Party Style Guide

In true North American fashion, on the day after Halloween we all suddenly hear sleigh bells ringing. Invitations begin pouring in; dinner dates set, and the season’s signature streak of parties rope us into making appearances all over town.

This season is a prime time to show a little of your personal style as you and your colleagues liaise outside the office more than usual, so take advantage of the opportunity to be noticed. And when we say noticed, we don’t mean for being the person who sported an itchy wool pullover with a goofy snowman on the front. Take care and prep your closet in advance with options for the two most likely scenarios: the holiday cocktail party at the home of a colleague or associate, and the company-wide formal soiree.

Cocktail Party at Home – Casual Attire

Take care not to dress too informally for gatherings like a cocktail party in someone’s home. While the atmosphere is likely to be more casual and relaxed, it is still important to dress in a way that communicates to your host that you anticipated their event would be something of taste. You do so by coming dressed in smart-casual gear that’s not too reminiscent of office formality, but not something you’d wear to the local bar with your friends either. Assuming the invitation didn’t state a particular dress code, here are on trend suggestions for men and women that will work in this type of setting.

On Her

The first word that comes to mind when looking at this season’s trends is royal. Gorgeous colors like oxblood and navy abound, as well as ornate patterns and sheer lace.

For your casual party, take the hemline on your dress up a bit if you’re so inclined (maybe slightly above the knee), or opt for something chic but fun like a one-piece jumpsuit. Accessories are also a way to spice things up – opt for gold or pearl pieces to compliment the dark reds and blues. Lastly, some classic, close-toed pumps or booties add a casual edge that still says dressy because of the heel.


The Kooples Multi Lace Dress, Red – $425

Diane Von Furstenberg Gwynne Jumpsuit, Navy – $498

Kenneth Jay Lane Small Glass Pearl Post Earrings – $14

Vita Fede Long Asteria Threader Earrings, Gold – $161

Steven Valo City Heel Pumps, Black – $119


Avoid the little black dress. It’s familiar to the point of uniformity, and there are bound to be others sporting similar versions of whichever dress you choose. Plus, it’s a party. Lighten up!

On Him

There’s no need for anything too complicated here, gentlemen. A dress shirt with a blazer is your canvas for the top half of your outfit. There are myriad ways to mark that canvas with your personality, so be creative. A patterned shirt might be your thing, or perhaps you prefer to stay classic with a solid colored button down. In that case, be open to playing with the color or pattern of your blazer, remembering that the less conventional route (which is the direction you’re aiming for) is burgundy when you’re deciding between this season’s colors of choice, the other of which is navy. GQ and Neiman Marcus agree and teamed up to curate a list of some of some excellent pieces by a range of household name designers. For one-stop shopping, mix and match from their collection and you can’t fail.

Boss Hugo Boss Janson Textured Two-Button Sport Coat, Cranberry – $451

Salvatore Ferragamo Lightweight Wool Pants, Charcoal – $590

Etro Tonal Houndstooth-Print Jacquard Sport Shirt, White – $247.50

John Varvatos Star USA Calf Leather Dress Lace-Up Derby, Brown – $298.00


Avoid denim. At a more private party, it may be tempting to sport a denim pant with a blazer to dress them up. However if you don’t know the hosts very well and aren’t 100% sure it would be well received, don’t risk it.

Holiday Company Party – Formal Attire

Our setting for this scenario is a coveted hotel event space or a swanky private hall where a formal, seated dinner will be served. Drinks are flowing from the open bar, and your invitation likely spelled out that formal attire is required. So, this is helpful in that it narrows options and has implied attire expectations. For those of you who aren’t particularly confident dressers, a formal party in ways has less pressure than the less structured cocktail get together. Seeing everyone in their best dress or favourite suit is half the fun of events like these, because again, it is a rare opportunity to get a sense of your colleagues’ personal styles as well as demonstrate that you have one yourself. Whether you prefer classic or daring, there are lots of interesting options for this type of holiday outing.

On Her

Floor length is a failsafe starting point if you’re searching for the perfect dress. It could be something shiny and embellished with sequins or beadwork to emulate the snow that will soon be on the ground outside, or classically conservative as a nod to previous eras.

Play with the cut and structure of dresses that are a solid color since the dress itself will be more eye-catching than the shade if you’re choosing a familiar one, and for anything particularly loud, opt for a dress with a simpler cut so you don’t send things too far over the top for the tone of the evening. Also, for formal events, forget the no-black-dress rule. Because of the many styles we see with gowns that qualify as formal wear, any color goes.

Maya Longsleeve Maxi Dress with Delicate Embellishment and Fishtail – $234

SELF-PORTRAIT Mia guipure lace and pleated crepe gown – $410

JIMMY CHOO Lucy leather pumps – $695

On Him


It seems that the ladies can get away with looking elegant while still sporting something reasonably affordable. Gents, for you, I’m afraid there’s no faking it. A good suit is going to cost you, and for a good reason. The tailoring and craftsmanship that goes into making a suit with materials that sing and tailoring to fit you perfectly are hard come by and the bill reflects it. That said, it is worth the investment. Think of it as buying a piece of art that appreciates, since putting your most stylish foot forward will do anything but set you back when mingling with colleagues. Hey, at least it isn’t black tie (though you will, of course, be sporting your favorite tie as well). Add a pocket square for some extra personalization, and sport a black oxford shoe.

PAUL SMITH Navy Slim-Fit Pinstriped Wool Suit Jacket – $1,140

PAUL SMITH Navy Slim-Fit Pinstriped Wool Suit Trousers – $520

KINGSMAN + Turnbull & Asser White Cotton Royal Oxford Shirt – $350

PRADA Cap-Toe Cross-Grain Leather Oxford Shoes – $750

LANVIN 5cm Knitted Silk Tie – $115

Nicole Edwards

Nicole Edwards is a fashion and lifestyle writer based in Toronto. She has worked as Associate Publisher of Private Islands magazine and Lifestyle Editor of Style Empire, and has contributed to NOW Magazine.