Reader Question: Red Cocktail Dress, Styled 5 Different Ways


Reader Question:

I have been thinking about the company Christmas Party my husband's work throws each year.  The dress code is semi formal AND family friendly (read-bring the toddler and baby along for some Santa time).  How in the world does a mom pull off semi-formal mom-style?

The other obstacles- a tight budget and a mindful husband. When I told him I had started looking at dresses  Imageand outfit ideas he asked me, "What's wrong with the one you wore last year?" Um, I wore it last year.  And it is red.  It is my only semi-formal occasion-worthy article of clothing.

I'm sure I can convince him that a new dress is a good idea, especially if I get something like a LBD that I can change the look of with accessories.  But if I can't afford a new dress, what can I do to change up the one I already have?  I wore a black cropped cardigan with it last year since it was December and I had a brand new baby bump growing.

This is me in the dress.  It hits just above the knees and is not so tight it reveals pooch, but is fitted for a flattering shape.  Hopefully it gives you something to work with.  Did I mention I love the color?

Any ideas?

Thanks a bunch!



Ashley – What a cute family pic!  I love that the little one has such a scowl on his face – so cute!!  

Your question was the one that inspired our Holiday Cocktail Dresses for Moms roundup.  There are some ah-mazing dresses to choose from this season.  BUT…in the event that you decide to get a little creative with your existing wardrobe, here's a bit of inspiration.

One note:  In the upcoming collages, I purposely picked a dress that I found a bit….boring.  I'm trying to show that even a plain dress can look gorgeous with the right accessories.  

Old Hollywood Inspired

Red and leopard are made for each other.  Totally glamorous, yet classic.  I'm showing this dress with a leopard cardigan, but you could up the glamour even more by throwing on a faux-animal-print coat.  Try H&M or Forever21 for cheap iterations.  This outfit is so glamorous that the sexy tights look like a requirement. 

If you are worried about chasing the kiddos all night, keep the cardigan and lower the heel.  Make your hubs carry the diaper bag.

RedDress - Glam



Leopard cardigan
$35 -


Dorothy Perkins black tight
$8 -


Franco Sarto platform shoes
$89 -


Under One Sky clutch handbag
$20 -


House of Harlow 1960 gold jewelry
$75 -




Flirty Mama In a Red Dress

This is probably my favorite look.  Adding bright pops of color to a bright red dress is a nod to the color-blocking trend…and is just so festive and fun.  There are veeery few times I'll recommend wearing nude pantyhose, but if you are worried about cold, this outfit is it. 

A shawl draped around your shoulders is so elegant, but hard when chasing the kiddos.  If this is you, try knotting the two ends of the shawl (to make your own infinity scarf) and just loop twice around your neck.  It'll look great and keep away the chill without having to be fussed with all night. 

Flirty Red Dress




For the Urban Mama

For a slightly urban spin on the holiday red dress, pair it with some serious ankle booties and a detailed clutch.  Warm the whole outfit up by belting a soft boyfriend cardi at the waist.

Because the accent pieces are strong, this look can easily be pulled off with a pair of opaque (and oh-so-warm) black tights. 

This look is a bit more casual, but still falls into semi-formal wear.  However, I'd keep the accessories glam – i.e. the patent leather belt and the studded/mirrored clutch – these details keep the it from looking like a day-time outfit.


Red Dress - Urban




A Mod, Mod Holiday Look

I deliberately switched up the dress for this look – it needed something shorter.  If you can hem (or duct tape) your dress to a shorter length, this look is a fun one…and your legs will happily be covered in thick, opaque tights. 

Just add heels and a graphic bangle.  Done.  Because it is so simple, the dress shape is key.  A too-long dress won't achieve the mod look we're going for.

Mod Holiday Dress



A Casual and Trendy Holiday Outfit

Wow.  What a lame name for this outfit.  Anyone have better ideas??

Anyway.  This outfit is a bit more casual, but if your party has that many kids involved, I suspect this outfit will work.  This is a good choice for something festive and memorable, but warm.

The turtleneck is optional – the dress and vest can be worn together with or without the turtleneck.  And cheap faux-fur vests are everywhere

A Casual, Trendy Take on the Little Red Dress




Ashley, have a blast at your party!! Please let us know what you end up wearing!  Personally, I had forgotten how much fun the ubiquitous holiday red dress can be!

Readers, how do you style a red dress?  Which one should Ashley wear?  Oooo…should we do a poll — to pick Ashley's outfit?  Hunh.  I need to look into adding a polling widget to this blog – how fun would it be to vote on this stuff?  Yes?




  1. First of all…the fact that she’s wearing the same (fitted) dress that she wore last year AFTER HAVING THE BABY deserves some serious applause!
    Second, I love the first look, and it’s so super-appropriate for a work holiday party with the spouse. I love the urban version for that, too! BUT, my favorite is probably the last one. However, I probably would wear it to a friend’s party and not a work event, for fear of having my husband be known as the “guy with the wife in the fur vest…”
    GREAT options here, S, and so many of them!

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  3. Wow! I know it has been a long time since December, but I should say a big, whopping THANK YOU! 😉 . Not just one way to change it up, but five! 🙂
    My husband bought me a nice sweater dress for my birthday (which is conveniently before December), so I wore that. And a colorful scarf. Because I liked that option a lot.

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