We Try Before You Buy: The Party Pieces Our Editors Will Be Wearing This Season

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Our We Try Before You Buy series aims to take the stress out of shopping and eliminate the number of post office visits you make each month to return failed online orders. We test new-season buys and styling ideas so you don’t have to. Here, we’re letting you know what’s actually worth investing in or styling tricks you can re-create with pieces you already own. 

It’s that time of year when a Friday night on the sofa feels like a distant memory. You’ve been assigned a colleague for this year’s Secret Santa (Steve from IT? Again?) and you’re wondering how you're going to fit all of your plans into your diary. It is, of course, festive season. As fashion and beauty editors, we love this time of year. It gives us an excuse to up the ante with our outfits and embrace all things party when it comes to our wardrobes. This being said, we’re aware it can be tricky for others to know where to begin. For those of you out there reading this with party-frock phobia, don’t worry—we've got you. Satin, sequins, velvet and molten metallics; think of us as magpies picking the best bits so you don’t have to waste time wading through the options. Be it the office party, "Friendsmas", Christmas Day or NYE, we’re here to guide you through exactly what to wear to them all. 

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(Image credit: Phill Taylor)

It goes without saying that this time of year is heavy on our wallets. And this year particularly, with the cost of living being so high, we wanted to take the opportunity to showcase looks from brands at various price points, and mixing high-end and high street is certainly nothing new to Who What Wear UK. As editors, we each pride ourselves on having a capsule wardrobe made up of a series of affordable staples that can be easily elevated with a few luxury hero pieces here and there. In light of this, for this edition of WTBYB, we've opted to style some classic partywear pieces like the Little Black Dress (of course), and we've given you style notes on how to dress them up and down to ensure wearability and longevity for years to come. 

For some of the more trophy pieces we selected—those that make a statement with their voluminous silhouettes, feather details, or rhinestone embellishments—we've partnered with leading rental platform HURR, which has saved our editors on numerous occasions when they want an impactful party dress (for an awards ceremony, a wedding or another special occasion) that won’t heavily impact their bank account.

So, scroll on for eight editor-approved party ensembles along with tips on how to get the most out of them. 

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(Image credit: @philltaylormade)

Style Notes: "Bows are bigger than ever this year, and whilst many are styling them in their hair or on their shoes, I'll be doing it with dresses. Franks London is an independent label designing vintage-inspired pieces that are made to order, and this dress from the latest collection is right up my street. With its glistening metallic gold fabric, padded shoulders and scattering of velvet bows adorned across the front, it's the ultimate New Year's Eve dress. I've paired it with some strappy gold sandals (mine are old Zara ones, but the below pair from M&S are just as good) and a thick black waist belt. Dial up the drama with a red lip and glossy bag and you're good to go."

— Hannah Almassi, editor-in-chief

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(Image credit: @philltaylormade)

Style Notes: "Cecilie Bahnsen's signature 'poof' dresses must be one of the most recognisable silhouettes fashion has seen in the past decade. The almost obnoxiously big voluminous sleeves and full skirts feel so feminine, giving a great excuse to add girly, delicate accessories such as hair bows, pearls and gem embellishments. But the versatility of this dress really comes from its pale blue hue. There's no question of pastel being appropriate in summer, for weddings and other special events, but with these black, rhinestone-encrusted platform heels by Circus NY, it immediately feels less 'pretty' and more party." 

— Rebecca Rhys-Evans, branded content editor

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(Image credit: Phill Taylor)

Style Notes: "Partywear is often an investment purchase, but now I've discovered renting, I'm taking advantage of the access to statement designer dresses that I otherwise wouldn't be able to afford. Case in point, 16Arlington's Adelaide dress with its feather cuffs, which pairs perfectly with a mulled wine manicure, gold jewellery and a cocktail in hand. My fashion-editor colleagues tell me brown is the new black this season, which is a welcome alternative for me, and I adore the cutout shoulder detail on this number, which adds a little drama to the neckline. Charles & Keith's Gabine bag is large enough to house my beauty essentials for touch-ups, and I always head to Zara for great party shoes."

— Eleanor Vousden, beauty editor

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(Image credit: Phill TaylorPhill Taylor)

Style Notes: "When it comes to wearing all-black for a party, I enjoy playing around with different silhouettes. This ensemble is a great example; I appreciate the appeal of the voluminous skirt detail on the Marques'Almeida dress, but I've counterbalanced it with a sleek long-sleeved top underneath, which hugs my body flatteringly. Accessorising is something I truly enjoy, especially with statement pieces. I adore the intricate beaded detail on this bag, which I've complemented with bangles, a necklace and striking earrings. More is more, in my opinion!"

— Remi Afolabi, video content producer

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(Image credit: Phill Taylor)

Style Notes: "This coat is so extra that I simply had to include it in a party outfit. Its ultra-soft, fluffy exterior will keep me toasty when travelling after dark in the depths of winter but it also hangs so nicely off the shoulders in a crowded room. As much as I love signature lavish textures such as sequins, lurex and embellishments, there's sometimes nothing like a classic black dress. This satin one from New Look stood out to me as the lace detail on the chest and cowl neckline offered something a little different. If you think about it, a strappy satin dress can be one of the hardest-working items in your capsule wardrobe. You can style it as I've done here—with heels and all the accessories that suggest you're out-out—but it's easily dressed down for daytime with boots and a cashmere cardigan over the top. Even in the summer, I can see myself wearing this for dinner with sandals and a basket bag."

— Hannah

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(Image credit: Phill Taylor)

Style Notes: "It always pays to have a timeless classic or two in your wardrobe, especially for party season. This Sau Lee dress is exactly that, but it also has some unexpected details like the trailing scarf at the back which adds a little drama—a literal case in point for 'business at the front, party at the back'! I can't help but fall for a long, high-neck silhouette in black; it's the epitome of chic. I kept accessories pared-back to let the dress speak for itself, but no LBD is complete without black strappy heels, gold earrings and Chanel's nail polish in Rouge Noir. It's becoming a signature hue for me."

 — Eleanor 

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(Image credit: Phill Taylor)

Style Notes: "I typically prefer keeping my party looks simple, but every now and again I like to opt for a more glamorous style. I have a fondness for outfits that incorporate sparkle, making this rented Self Portrait dress from HURR an ideal choice for me. Long-sleeved dresses in a midi or maxi length suit my style perfectly, and I'm drawn to this pastel turquoise shade, which really pops—a marked difference to my usual choice of a black dress."

 — Remi

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(Image credit: Phill Taylor)

Style Notes: "As much as I love an ultra-glam party dress, there are many occasions in the festive calendar that don't warrant a sequin-heavy gown. Drinks with the work crowd or dinners where I'll be rushing to make it on time via the tube mean I can't run across town in platforms and bare legs. In steps the satin two-piece. Over recent years, many brands have jumped on the feathered-satin-pyjama trend, which I do love, but this cream pair from New Look is so chic and (what I love most about it) requires little to no thought. Here, I've paired it with my favourite Zara kitten heels, which feel suitably Christmassy thanks to the big velvet bow, and a leather blazer from Free People that gives the look a more casual-cool edge. The best thing is that I could wear these trousers to the office with boots and a cosy knit, and easily transform the outfit into an evening-ready ensemble with the matching top, some statement earrings and a sparkly bag. Two looks in one? Yes please!"

 — Rebecca

Next Up: The WWW Gift Guide: 58 Chic Buys We'd Love to Open Ourselves

Rebecca Rhys-Evans is the branded content editor at Who What Wear UK, where she leads the editorial side to commercial projects. Previously a freelance writer and content consultant, she has written for a variety of publications and brands such as Polyester, Screenshot, Marie Claire and Culture Trip, reporting on everything from fashion NFTs and internet culture to sustainability and sex work, and held editor positions at Buro, Koibird and Shop Magazine.

Having got her taste for luxury fashion (as a very green graduate) in her first position as content editor at Flannels.com, she was quickly promoted to managing the company's e-commerce and content teams. Since then, Rebecca has moved to East London with her partner and cocker spaniel Joni Mitchell and has also delved into styling, copywriting, art directing and social media consultancy, where she loves helping brands carve out their tone of voice, strategy and aesthetic. Fully immersed in the contemporary fashion landscape—the one with TikTok, Y2K and the Metaverse—she is enthusiastic about personal style, pop culture and digital trends.