December 14, 2010

Styling An All-Black Outfit (Including the LBD) For Holiday Parties

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(wearing: Vince Cashmere Ruffle Tunic, currently on sale at Neiman's Last Call, Joe's Jeans Skinny Cargos in black, Nine West TheLineUp bootie, my mom's prom purse, an old glittery necklace, and Stella & Dot's Glint Flower Earrings.)

I don't know if it's the state of my post-partum pooch, general exhaustion (no amount of makeup can hide my tired eyes in these pics), or a heightened sensitivity due to the crazy, crazy year M has endured…but I'm having a bit of trouble mustering my normal level of enthusiasm for holiday parties.  And while I'm usually drawn to all things sparkly and glam, this year I'm sticking with an old (and fairly unimaginative) standby:  all black.

So how to make the LBD (little black dress) or…even worse, an all black outfit look like something party-worthy, as opposed to a tribute to Johnny Cash?

(I do love Johnny, though.)

So here's what I'm thinking:  When attempting to rock an all-black outfit for a party (especially a festive holiday party), the key is to add some…uh….flair to your outfit via fun or unexpected accessories.  (OMG – did I just use the word flair?  Even worse -  I can't think of a replacement word…I'm that tired.  So yes – flair.  We'll go with that. )

Keep in mind that these suggestions aren't mutually exclusive – especially with all black, you'd be hard-pressed to go over the top.  So feel free to employ several of these suggestions to further personalize your look.

Adding Style and Flair to Black Outfits

1. Rock numerous pins, also called "pieces of flair", extra points for attaching the pins on a pair of suspenders.  (NOTE: This is a joke)

2. Vary the Textures – when wearing all black, pairing lace with smooth silk, or wool with sequins will keep your look interesting and festive.

3.  Add a Pop of Color – This can be anywhere – shoes, tights, jewelry or even a bright scarf or gorgeous flower in your hair

4.  Sexy-Cool Legwear – Patterned tights instantly jazz up a LBD or black skirt.  Pointelle knits, lace, iterations of fishnet stockings are all good choices.  Also sexy?  Black thigh-highs.  Opaque thigh-highs are much easier to pull off.  I like Plush's version – nice and toasty.

5.  Glam Jewelry – This is a no-brainer.  Black outfits can be a veritable blank slate, so amp up the style with glittery jewelry.

6.  Cool shoes – Sexy black pumps will always work, but you can take the style in a very different direction by playing with footwear.  Try sexy black booties, glittery heels, or satin heels in a pop of color.

7. Add a Menswear Vibe – Try layering your LBD (or black sweater) over a button-down shirt and adding a tie.  This can be an especially playful look when paired with sexy-cool legwear.

Ready for some examples?

 Glam Jewelry + Cool Shoes (pictured above) This outfit is the same as the pic above, but a bit over-exposed to show  the detail of the sweater and pants.  This sweater is a post-partum (or pregnant gal's) dream come true.  Banded waist, dolman sleeves, v-neck..so not only does it hide a pooch (or a 5 month preggo stomach)…but I can easily pull the neckline down for nursing.  This will be my go-to holiday party outfit.

Pop of Color + Cool Shoes + Glam Jewelry

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In this pic, I'm wearing the same tunic pulled down as a mini-dress (In reality, I couldn't raise my arms, so I'd actually wear this tunic with the shorts pictured here) along with some burgundy tights and booties.  The whole vibe of this outfit is bit rocker since the booties really stand out from the burgundy tights.  The pop of color breaks up the black monotony. 


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Pop of Color + Sexy-Cool Legwear 

Oh, Baby.  I am sucking in some serious gut.  The side view is disaster.  But I included this outfit not because it's anything amazing, but because it so clearly illustrates how sexy legwear can save an outfit. 

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wearing: J.Crew Merino Turtleneck sweater in black, an old Donna Karen black pencil skirt, Wolford fishnet stockings (similar ones here), vintage clutch, and ancient, tired, red heels by Guess?  Wow.  I'm dying for new date night heels.  Mike, are you reading this??  This outfit is also crying for some jewelry.  Sleepless nights have me off my game.  :)

 The black sweater + skirt combo would be SO. MUCH. COOLER. if the skirt were a sequin mini, or a silky little pleated number…but if you, like me, have a closet without said sequin mini or silky pleated number…try glamming up your office appropriate pencil skirt and a black sweater with a pair of sexy tights.  Even these fishnets (which border on tacky, but I love them anyway) turn a fairly boring outfit into something sexy.  If the fishnets are too much, try a lacier pair (shown last year here), a chevron pattern, or a subtle pin dot tight.

 

 Menswear + Pop of Color + Sexy-Cool Legwear

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For some reason, I'm loving girls in ties this season.  Personally, I love the juxtaposition of menswear with lots of leg, but this look works equally well with pants, a wink and a smile.  If you do go the thigh-high route, keep just an inch of two of skin showing between your hemline and the top of the thigh-high – see pic.  And the more opaque the thigh-high, the less tarty the look. (Not that tarty is bad…I'm just saying.).

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Texture + Glam Jewelry + Cool Shoes

     
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Saving the best  for last…is this totally adorable pic of tipsy M, on her way to a holiday party.  Using a few glasses of wine to coax holiday styling tips out of us ANMJ gals is turning into a yearly tradition (my tipsy pic, last year and OMG here at the bottom).  Pinot or no, M still nails it with wool pants, a sequin tank, and tuxedo jacket (with shiny lapels!!).  And her shoes?  NOW WE'RE TALKIN'. 

Items pictured: J.Crew Drapy Sequin Tank and Stretch Wool Minnie Pant, Gap Tuxedo Blazer, and Donald J. Pliner Carly Sandals

 

What do you think, readers?  Feeling inspired to bust out your LBD?  Are there any styling tips you'd like to add?

Also, for additional holiday styling inspiration where comfort and ease are key factors, see last year's holiday styling guides (which include options for dressing up cozy sweaters, simple white tanks, and jeans):

Put On Some Fancy Pants

Dressy Shorts

Yay!  Sequins

A Modern Take on a Lace Top

Want some help visualizing accessories?  Try M's article from last year on Pulling It All Together With Accessories.

Happy Holidays!!

xo,

S

5 Comments
  • nell
    December 15, 2010

    wanting to try shorts and tights this year so badly…can this be pulled off with boots the calf as well?

  • Shana Draugelis
    December 15, 2010

    Nell – shorts and tights? My fav combo! And YES – tall boots totally work!!
    Sent from my iPhone

  • Amy (BiblioMOMia)
    December 15, 2010

    SUCH a great primer on how to keep the LBD festive. One thought–all of these tips would work for other monochromatic outfits, too. I’ve been playing with lots of gray lately, and the same types of guidelines apply (textures, pop of color, menswear, etc). So, if you’re feeling like something a bit softer than all-black, try an all-gray or all-beige foundation.
    And S, I refuse to believe you had a baby only a month ago. You look HOT, mama!

  • Alterations Needed
    December 15, 2010

    Nice rundown! My favorite ways to dress up a LBD is #5 and #6. Sparkling jewelry and fun shoes are the way to go!

  • S
    December 15, 2010

    Amy – thanks, Chicky, for both your kind words AND your excellent point!! I’ve always been a sucker for all beige (it just seems so elegant, no?) and all gray…..??? Yes. Love. I end up doing this most of the time whether I realize it or not. Gray seems to be my default color these days. (Or navy)
    Alt Needed – thanks for the comment! It’s hard to find fault with sparkling jewelry and fun shoes….this really works with just about anything.

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