It goes without saying that we don't need to wait until December to dress up for a special occasion, but there's something about the darker days and chillier nights that signifies the start of the real party season. After two years spent in lockdown, we had a lot of making up to do last winter, so 2023 is the first Christmas and New Year’s Eve that we can truly kick off our heels and enjoy spending the evenings with our nearest and dearest, but what exactly do we wear?
Since the cold snap kicked in we've been cosying up in sensible layers of cashmere and wool coats, so it's about time we talked about what's really getting us excited for the months ahead—what to wear to parties. And don't we deserve it? "When I wear an outfit that I love, it instantly puts me in a good mood," says Sarah Ashcroft, founder of occasionwear brand SLA the Label. "At SLA we design clothes to make memories in; clothing that gives you the feeling that you’re getting dressed up for something special. People are enjoying going all out!"
And go "all out" we will, as the right outfit has the power to help us walk a little taller, adds Thora Valdimars and Jeanette Madsen, creative directors of ROTATE. "In the early days, we noticed a gap in the market for sexy dresses and felt the need for women to embrace their sensuality and take centre stage in their lives. It's our personal belief, and what sets our brand apart," they say.
So if you're ready to switch off from work and unleash your inner party animal, rest assured, there are plenty of stylish ways to celebrate the season that don't include Christmas jumpers. "I've noticed that sparkles and lace are huge trends right now," adds Ashcroft. "I think we’ve seen the popularity of glitter and diamanté styles really grow since 2022, and now sparkles are on everything, especially dresses. Lace is always a huge winter trend, but this year I think it's more fun and perhaps a little more risqué. Brown is also having a moment—I love that it offers a new take on classic black styles and it's super flattering for all skin tones as the perfect rich, autumnal shade that looks really expensive."
So, after taking notes from the experts and scouting socials and street style pictures, we've come up with a comprehensive list of the seven partywear trends that you're going to see at every celebration this year. And don't worry—you won't find any tinsel and there are definitely no slogan tees. Instead, these are the timeless occasion looks we're more than happy to strut about in come nighttime this season and next. Whatever your approach to party dressing, we have a feeling you’ll find at least one piece you love below. See you on the dance floor.
1. BROWN IS THE NEW BLACK
Style Notes: The LBD reached icon status for its sheer versatility (and we're firm believers that there isn't an event it won't work for), but for those in the know, there's a chic new alternative. The long brown dress is just as polished as its classic counterpart, and the sheer elegance of the iterations we've seen has convinced us that chocolate brown is the luxe new colour trend we've been waiting for. Plus, it pairs exceptionally well with the other major colour trends of the season: hot red and charcoal grey.
Looking for designer partywear that turns heads? Start with 16Arlington.
Proof that a cocktail dress doesn't need to be a sparkly mini.
This would look as good with jeans and loafers for the day as it would with a skirt and sandals for the evening.
2. THE VELVET TOUCH
Style Notes: Okay, you might not be surprised to see velvet on this list, but it stands the test of time for very good reason. After all, what other thick, winter fabric looks this good and keeps you warm? Black velvet dresses are a classic, but this year we've spotted plenty of sumptuous separates too, so you can mix and match your look in a way that feels entirely new and still meets the dress code.
SHOP BLACK VELVET:
You could wear this halterneck top with tailored trousers, miniskirts, maxi skirts, jeans… the possibilities are endless.
Rixo's best-selling Clarice dress now comes in strokeably soft velvet. What's not to love?
Simplicity never goes out of style, so you'll wear an easy dress like this for years to come.
3. PRETTY IN PINK
Style Notes: We have Valentino's Pierpaolo Piccioli and director Greta Gerwig to thank for the ludicrously huge Barbie-pink colour trend, but we aren't quite ready to say goodbye to this feel-good shade just yet. Sure, we've dabbled in banana-milk yellow and we're happily introducing bright red to our wardrobes, but there's something about the frivolity of pretty pink that is perfect for having fun. Channel your inner Barbie girl in head-to-toe shades of blush, bubblegum and fuchsia, or add a pop of colour to a simple look with a pair of pink shoes or a handbag.
Can you imagine how good this would look with sharp tailoring?
Just tuck in a white tee and add some pointy heels. *Chef's kiss*.
4. TAKE IT TO THE MAX
Style Notes: In the summer of 2022 we were all immediately taken in by the micro-miniskirt, only to fall out of love with it again mere months later. One trend we're happy to welcome back with open arms though, is the maxi. This floor-sweeping silhouette is not only far more practical than the mini, but it looks dressier too, and when we're faced with the prospect of a chilly British winter, there's nothing we'd love more than giving our legs some respite from the cold, even when we're dressing up.
SHOP MAXI DRESSES:
Easily one of our favourite pieces from Mango's collaboration with influencer Jen Callabos.
5. PARTY FLATS
Style Notes: Finally, a shoe trend that prioritises comfort and alleviates the need for blister plasters. Why spend the evening in skyscraper heels when party shoes look this good as flats? We're particularly charmed by embellished ballet flats, velvet pairs and the low-heeled slingbacks we spotted cropping up on the style set during Fashion Month.
SHOP PARTY FLATS:
Shoes so good they almost come with a waiting list.
The velvet trend isn't just for clothes.
The fashion crowd's latest It shoe.
6. RUFFLE SOME FEATHERS
Style Notes: Whether it's Taller Marmo's striking gowns or Sleeper's dressy PJs, statement plumage manages to be both sultry and sweet, fun as well as flirty. Feathers are adorning everything from cardigan cuffs to trouser hems this season, so expect to see them everywhere by Christmas. If full-on feathers aren't your thing, nod to the trend with Mint Velvet's feather-trimmed jumper or by adding a fluffy bag or pair of shoes to an otherwise pared-back look. Whatever the piece, it'll be a guaranteed conversation starter.
Nothing says "party" quite like Kitri's cute and playful dresses.
There's no need to over-accessorise with this dress— just let the sleeves do the talking.
Wear for everything from drinks with friends to carving the turkey.
Seeing in the new year deserves a special moment like this.
7. STACKING SETS
Style Notes: And now to the pièce de résistance, the icing on the cake and the gilding on the lily. No look is fully complete without the addition of a special piece of jewellery, and more is more when it comes to how we're wearing it now. Stackable rings, layering necklaces and assorted bracelets and cuffs are ideal ways to bring a little extra sparkle to the season, so why wear one piece when you can pile on all of your favourites at once?
Our top tips for a perfectly curated collection? Start by stacking together simple pieces with fine details, like plain bands with stone-embellished rings; chunky chains with delicate pendants and sculptural bangles with tennis bracelets for a stack that is entirely and uniquely yours.
SHOP STACKING JEWELLERY:
New at Daisy London are five gold rings intended to be mixed, matched and stacked together—a thoughtful gift (should you be able to part with them).
No need to think about which rings will work together—By Pariah has done the hard work for you and assembled the perfect set.
Missoma's first foray into fine jewellery is every bit as good as you'd expect it to be.