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Modestly Festive: Holiday Party Dressing

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Love, Frank has returned as a weekly style advice column tackling your hard-hitting fashion issues and addressing a different fashion glitch each week. Submit a query here.

How the Hilfigers dress for holiday parties, via Vogue Italia.

Dear Frank,

Holiday party season coincides with the time of year I'd most like to stay covered up. It's cold, I'm pale, you get the picture. What are some attractive alternatives to a sleeveless dress and heels?

Shivery in the City

Dear Shivery,

I realize you and all women have been brainwashed into believing that one can't be dressed cocktail without bare legs, hooker heels, and tiny shimmery dresses—because red carpets and movies featuring writers at ladymags and Hervé Léger. But, I can assure you, there are other ways to do festive.

The office Christmas party is no reason to freeze. And I don't care how close you are to your hosts at the holiday cocktail soirée—they want their other guests admiring carmelized onion tartlets and boxwood wreaths, not glaring at your or anyone's dry, pale, goose-bumped shoulders and ankles.

First: I suggest you invest in a couple of pairs of great festive tights—black lace, printed houndstooth, plaid or dots, maybe something wooly. Dressy ones you can pair with a cocktail dress and a great embellished cardigan or satin-lapeled blazer. You'll still be red carpet- or ladymag-worthy but you won't be freezing to death. Plus, what better way to add interest to a simple LBD than a wacky pair of statement tights?

Know your tartars courtesy of Gilt MANual; image via the Glance of Oswald.

Second: Don't overlook tartan. It's the holidays—what's more holiday than bold, British tartan plaids? Not to mention, the plaid thing is a total macro-trend and tartans are so super easy to find at retail right now. Pick up a pair of slim Black Watch plaid pants with just the slightest sheen and pair with a silky tie-neck blouse or a luxurious winter white sweater. Or, grab a fitted Wallace or McQueen check blouse in silk or ultra-fine cotton to wear with your best jeans or a great wool skirt. Assuming you weren't told to show up in black tie or high cocktail you'll be more than dressy enough, super-festive, and everyone will ask where you found such fun plaids before murmuring that they wished they could pull off such whimsy.

Third: Think Ralph! What would Mr. Lauren do? Or Mr. Hilfiger for that matter? Or Mr./Ms. Crew? Those Masters of Prep swear by classic American mix-and-match separates. That layered, well-loved, quirky WASP mentality that thinks nothing of an olive-colored parka over an angora sweater dress for tinkling pianos and gently-spiked eggnog—as long as the coat is composed of natural fibers and there are pearls involved. In other words: Good, well-loved pieces artfully clashed can't be wrong, especially amongst good friends and things that smell like cinnamon and orange zest.

Have fun at the parties!

Got a style question for Frank? Leave it in the comments or email one in here. Then buckle your two-toned leather Moschino belts, folks, because it's going to be ? Something.
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