It’s that time of year again when we’re faced with that inevitable invitation to our work Christmas party. For some of us this is a joyous occasion, but for others it brings back memories of drunken stupor and ridiculous dress codes of years past.
Regardless of which group you fall into, the ultimate question is what to wear to your office Christmas party.
If you work in an office where the dress code is casual then this could be a time to step it up a notch and go for a smart outfit. Maybe you’re happy just throwing on a blazer and calling it a day – or perhaps it’s time to go all in and do the tuxedo thing.
Whether there’s a dress code included on the invitation or you’re free to decide on your own, let’s take a look at different approaches for deciding on the right work Christmas party outfit.
1. Office party outfits
This one really depends on the sartorial culture at your work. If the party is being hosted at the office – one where the office manager is ‘resident DJ’ for the night but mostly plays mixes on SoundCloud – then it should be pretty easy to gauge what a good outfit should be. The main thing here is that you don’t look worse than when you’re at work.
A good approach for these parties is to start with the usual office dress code. So if everyone is generally casual at the office, you could step it up without having to go for a three-piece suit. A good rule of thumb is to go for a slightly more formal look than the one you work in, so if you’re in a collar, dress trousers and shoes on a daily basis, then you could go for a slim-cut suit in black or navy for the work party.
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2. Smart casual outfits
If there is no prescribed dress code, one reliable outfit is just to go smart casual. This saves all the fussing about if you’re considering how to pick a well-planned outfit to impress your colleagues. If this isn’t the type of party you’re preparing for, then smart casual is a solid choice.
Well how should you approach it then? You could throw on a quality knitted jumper over a shirt to keep it simple, or just go for the proven combination of shirt, jeans and a blazer. A good thing to keep in mind is how you’ll want to balance between casual and formal, such as by offsetting one against the other and without going over the top in either direction.
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3. Festive outfits
This is where you can have fun, but it’s also where you could make yourself look hilariously bad. So rather than dressing like you’re preparing to descend some chimneys, you could instead work with Christmas elements in a playful, thematic way.
Some easy ones here are wearing shades of red and green, and adding black or white highlights to top it off. While ugly Christmas sweaters can also be fun, you might prefer to go for a quality Fair Isle jumper matched with neutral colours elsewhere in your outfit, or keep it low key with a super casual jeans and sneaker combination to be the canvas of your themed look.
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4. Corporate parties
Chances are you’ll be sent an invitation to this one with some stipulations about dress code and a bonus “surprise guest” you won’t believe the company booked (it’s probably your office manager). You won’t necessarily want to reinvent the wheel with your choice of outfit – but looking casual when your 1500 colleagues are in black tie, or vice versa, isn’t the ideal scenario.
If the invitation is black tie, then it’s a straightforward tuxedo job. If it’s cocktail, then you can still look sharp and feel more at ease while ditching the tie. Even easier is smart casual, which could be your favourite pair of jeans or suit pants and a neatly pressed shirt. Break the rules if it feels right, just also remember that if you stray too far up or down the dress code scale you might stand out for all the wrong reasons.
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5. Lunch parties
If you work for a smaller company like a start up, then you might be invited to a smaller scale event like a lunch party. This could be lunch at a local restaurant, or perhaps an event at the office. A good tactic to dress for these parties is to step it up ever so slightly.
So rather than turning up in what you normally wear to work, or going for all-out suit mode, try adding one smart element to your casual staples. So a blazer or slim-cut jacket over a shirt works here, or a pair of box-fresh white sneakers matched to a cashmere jumper and classic shirt. If you want to keep it simple, then accessories can easily lift your outfit – or simply pimp out your look with a rollneck and cheeky pair of loafers.
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6. Pub parties
This should be one of the easiest parties to approach style-wise. That’s not to say you shouldn’t put any effort in, but obviously no one is going to look confused if you walk in wearing jeans and jumper. So rather than spending a lot of time nailing the ideal pub party look, you might want to accentuate what’s already in your wardrobe.
If the party is being held directly after work finishes, then you could throw on a classy knitted wool jumper or a cosy cashmere scarf. The trick here is to change up your outfit in a way that’s different to your weekday style but without necessarily reinventing it. But if you prefer to keep it even simpler, then you might just go for an interplay of winter colours like blue, grey or red, rather than trying to hinge it all on one piece.
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