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Holiday Fashion - Dressing for Office Luncheon, Meeting Parents, New Year's Eve

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By Holly E. Thomas and Michelle Thomas
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, November 30, 2008

F inding The Perfect Outfit is hard enough day-to-day. And as if the holidays don't present enough challenges (How much eggnog is too much? To regift or not?), they also bring a slew of sartorial stumbling blocks. First, event dress codes call for styles from black tie to the ambiguous "festive cocktail." Throw in guest lists that include the CEO of your company or your significant other's mom, dad, 15 cousins and Great-Aunt Mary, and the challenge is enough to make you want to don fuzzy snowflake socks and stay on the couch.

So what do you wear? Sure, some of your colleagues may trot out their finest Santa sweaters, and others may seize the opportunity to go as short and sequined as possible. A word to the wise: Don't let Mariah Carey be your muse in this situation (or, really, any other). Instead, think subdued shimmer, pops of unexpected color and classic tailoring brightened by fanciful flourishes. Need a starting point? Collect inspiration by clipping magazine images of festive outfits and jotting down colors and trends that you're drawn to, such as the current passion for purple and ruffled embellishments.

We singled out three familiar holiday-season scenarios, then prowled high-end boutiques, chain stores, the mall and the Web to pull together stylish, fresh and -- most important -- appropriate looks for each occasion. Inside, find ensembles for an office luncheon, a New Year's soiree and dinner with your new flame's family. Plus, we suggest ways to stretch your holiday wardrobe well into 2009. And that may be the best gift you'll get all year.

Scenario 1 Office Holiday Luncheon

Most of the time, we advise leaving the trifecta of ruffles, silk and sequins to showgirls and drag queens. But during the holidays, especially for a daytime event, these festive flourishes are a definite "do," so long as they're tempered by menswear-inspired fabrics and understated neutrals.

We opted for a feminine silk top in rich navy. The high neckline and intricate details make it right for the holidays, but it's versatile enough to wear long after the last snow has melted. The girly vibe is toned down by tailored trousers and minimal accessories, and the ensemble is finished with a subtly sequined cardigan and a suede peep-toe pump in a contrasting but complementary crimson. Hello, year-end bonus!

How to Stretch the Look

· Swap the trousers for a pencil skirt and lose the cardigan to take you from work to after-hours cocktails.

· Add some sparkle to the rest of your holiday outfits with the embellished sweater. Or, after the holidays, wear it with a white tee and jeans to bring a touch of luxe to a basic look.

Cardigan: Aqua three-quarter-sleeve cashmere sweater, $103.60 at Bloomingdale's stores and http://www.bloomingdales.com.

Top: "Victoria" ruffle cami, $88 at J. Crew stores and http://www.jcrew.com.

Pants: "Charlotte" trousers, $99 at Club Monaco stores.

Shoe: Stuart Weitzman "Extra" suede platform pump, $335 at Neiman Marcus (5300 Wisconsin Ave. NW, 202-966-9700) and http://www.stuartweitzman.com.


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