Recessionista Party Style, or How to Make Your Dress Work Beyond the Holidays

BlogHer Original Post

Recession got you thinking that a party dress would be a frivolous purchase this holiday season?  Understandable -- UNLESS you invest in a dress that you can wear beyond New Year's Eve.  That takes your new LBD out of the "splurge" category and into the "investment" category. 

But you have to buy the right dress, and you need a plan for wearing it on days when there's no party on your calendar.  You know, on a regular old Tuesday.  

Start with a great dress -- something with a clean, simple shape.  I'm partial to this strapless jersey dress from Gap, for several reasons; it's made of a rayon/nylon/spandex blend which is MACHINE WASHABLE, for starters, and appropriate for day AND evening.  It also comes in both black and midnight blue, which means that you've got choices (navy is a great neutral for day, and can be supersexy for night).  Finally, it's ON SALE, for a truly remarkable $48.99, which means you're not draining your entire holiday budget for this ONE dress.

Gap strapless dressBut the best part about this dress is that you can WEAR IT AGAIN.  Let's talk about how.

For a typical after-5 holiday party, wear the dress with some fantastic shoes (peep toes are perfect) and a dramatic necklace.  Cover up with a pashmina if it's chilly, but dare to bare -- unless your party is going to be outdoors, you can skip hosiery.  It's a party!  Be festive.

Living somewhere cold?  Pair this dress with tights and a fabulous coat, or a fancy cropped sweater.  (And by "fancy" I do not mean "holiday" -- I mean something with sequins or beading; no Santas or reindeer, please).

When the party is over, think about how you can wear the dress for day.  Layer up -- if you're under 25, you can wear a strapless dress over a t-shirt; if you're any older, think about adding a great sweater.  A cardigan is perfect over a strapless dress, for day and evening.  For day, button up to just below the top of the dress and add a belt; for evening leave the cardi open and bring back the dramatic necklace.

Another sweater option is a pullover -- a deep V-neck is great with a strapless dress (again, think about a belt to define your waist), but a crew neck or turtleneck is also an option.  Suddenly your dress is a great skirt!  Perfect.

No matter what your choice of tops, for cold days put on some tights; add flats or pumps or knee-high boots.  Or peep toes!  You all know I love a peep toe with some opaque tights.  

Not a fan of strapless?  Look for a great sheath dress; the principle is the same.  What you want, in the end, is a dress that will work in a variety of ways, for a variety of situation (work, weekend, fancy party).  Don't pigeonhole your LBD as an after-five dress; in this economy, take a page from Tim Gunn's book and make it work.

BeautyHacker Kelly Wickham has some fantastic (and budget-friendly!) dress suggestions for the holidays. BlogHer's own Trisha Okuba gives us the scoop on the vintage trend, and Joanna Goddard at Glamour.com wants to know which dress you would wear on a date.

Susan Wagner writes about style at ParentDish and about everything else at Friday Playdate. She wishes she had the cleavage for that strapless dress.

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