Dressing for the Holiday Season on a Budget

The December holiday season is probably one of the busiest and most expensive times of the year. On top of your everyday priorities, all of a sudden you have to find time to shop for presents and wrap/ship/deliver them, go to a million casual get-togethers/parties/dinners, figure out plans for New Year's Eve because you know the tickets to events are pricey and sell out quickly...and you have to look good to boot!

I myself have already been to one formal Christmas party already and clubbing on several occasions this month with friends; I also have a dinner coming up tonight. Dressing for all these social occasions can be a bit stressful if you feel as though you've worn everything in your wardrobe and are bored with all your options but you're reluctant to splurge on a new outfit. With that in mind, here are a couple of tips for putting together a plethora of looks to get you through this holiday season while feeling fresh and stylish at every occasion.

Note: In case any of my readers decide to lambast me for the pricey examples I've chosen below when this is supposed to be a budget-conscious post, keep in mind that the pictures are supposed to be illustrative examples of what I'm talking about. I'm not saying, "Get this piece or die!" They're guideline pictures.

Really look at your wardrobe and assess its potential. You're bored with what you already have, but could that possibly be because you've forgotten exactly what you have? I experience this all the time: I'll think I've exhausted all my wardrobe choices, dig through my dresser or my closet, and lo and behold, discover the perfect blue silk blouse or coral pink jersey top for dinner and drinks. If you're looking for party-appropriate attire amongst the clothes you own, keep an eye out for these items:

  • tops in silky, satiny, lacy, patterned, or microfibre fabrics
  • classic-cut skirts and trousers in neutral colours (to wear with the aforementioned tops)

  • little black dresses

  • knee-length cocktail dresses

French Connection top from Nordstrom, $128

Marc Jacobs navy crepe silk skirt from Bluefly, $122.40

Nicole Miller lace-trimmed jersey dress from Bluefly, $148.50

ABS crimson dress from Bluefly, $183.60

Consider accessories. Accessories can be an inexpensive way of freshening up what you feel is a stale look. Maybe the LBD strikes you as a bit boring. But what if you pair it with a lilac pashmina and bright yellow patent leather pumps? Or chunky-heeled platforms or wedges? If shoes are what you need to update your look, you can always try browsing Payless. Many clothing stores (RW&Co, Old Navy, Sirens...just to name a few) also sell shoes on the rack (literally), so you can look for a cheap pair of glitzy flats to dress up your outfit.

Pura Lopez yellow patent leather heels from Nordstrom, $300

Gucci lilac shawl from Bluefly, $298.80

Shop if you must, but splurge on one item that will mix with the rest of your wardrobe and consider it an investment. If all else fails and you still feel frustrated by what you have, consider spending money on one item that will carry you through the season and beyond, whether it's a spectacular cocktail dress in a standout colour or a pretty top. Just make sure that it fits you perfectly and you feel like a million bucks in it, because if you don't, then chances are you'll never want to wear it after the big event and it'll be money down the drain. Then have it cleaned and stash it away in your closet for the next special occasion or holiday season. This top from Anthropologie (for $98) is a great example of an ideal splurge item: after Christmas you can wear it with jeans for clubbing or cocktails year-round.

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