How to be the best-dressed at this year’s holiday office party

From adding the right accessories to ensuring you stay comfortable all night long, here’s how three NoVA-based stylists recommend you dress for this year’s affair.

three women with Santa hats and sparklers
© Valerii /

It’s that time of year again, where friends, families and co-workers alike gather together to celebrate the year that’s passed, as well as look ahead at what’s to come. 

As is the custom with these types of events, there tends to be a proper dress code to adhere to, especially for the classic holiday office party.

To make things a little easier for you this holiday season, we chatted with three local personal stylists—Arlington-based Lindsey Evans of Lindsey Evans Studio, Rosana Vollmerhausen of DC Style Factory and Lani Inlander of DMV-centered Real Life Style—for in-depth tips on how to nail the look this year. 

Whether you’re brand-new to the company or a seasoned employee, here’s how local experts recommend you dress to impress at this year’s holiday office party. 

When planning an outfit for a holiday office party, what are key elements to consider?
LE: The most important element to consider is what kind of office holiday party it is and where it will be held. For example, I have a client who hosts her company’s holiday party at Dave & Buster’s. Another client of mine hosts her holiday party at a restaurant on The Wharf. Obviously, both call for very different looks. Thus, the event venue and planned activities are where we always begin. Then I consider shoes that can last for the entirety of the event and build look options from there.

Also, I always say don’t neglect your glam. If your event is more dressy, get a fresh blowout, a nice mani-pedi and consider getting your makeup done! I always recommend Tracey Garcia and Kim Steele—both are amazing artists! If you’re in Maryland or the DMV, Amie Decker Beauty is wonderful as well. Finally, don’t wait until the last minute to get help. Try to get your appointments in order by Halloween!

RV: First, make sure you can withstand standing for the evening in the shoes you plan to wear. Holiday parties are usually standing events and you don’t want to be hobbled by the end of the night! Second, keep it simple and don’t overthink it. Folks often get completely flummoxed over holiday style, which ends up adding to the overall stress of the season. Chances are, you have something right in your closet that can work for an office holiday event. If you want to make it new, consider incorporating whimsical holiday accessories instead of spending on a wear-it-one-time look. I love the idea of this Tucker scarf tied like an ascot with a winter-white blazer or adding some cheer to your classic little black dress.

LI: Two important elements to consider are when the party will take place and where. A holiday party taking place immediately after work or in the office usually has a more casual dress code than one taking place in the evening or at an off-site restaurant or event space.

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In your experience, what is the most common go-to look here in the Northern Virginia region that women steer toward?
LE: I notice a lot of people in DC go straight from the office to their respective holiday parties, which I think is such a missed opportunity to do something fun and festive! If you are crunched for time, you can do something slightly different from your day at the office and change it up at night. For example, you can wear a leather pencil skirt to work and then change the top from a standard oxford blouse to a shimmery turtleneck prior to the event. It doesn’t have to be high impact to be achievable.

RV: My Northern Virginia clients often have a classic style with a pop of preppy or a little slouchy boho. The plaid blazer trend is having a moment everywhere and my NoVA clients love incorporating this pattern into their wardrobes. It’s an easy pattern to make festive too by simply adding some sparkle or shine with accessories or your base layer.

LI: Women in Northern Virginia tend to wear black as the base of their look, then add color in the form of accessories or a top. 

Do you have to always wear festive colors?
LE: There are no rules in my world with personal style. Necessity of wearing festive colors is completely dependent on my client’s personality. I dress the person from the inside out—who are you and what are you trying to say about yourself? We build from there. With that said, festive colors are great for office-party occasions but you can also get away with metallic, black, neutrals, etc.! Stay true to you and don’t feel like you have to wear red.

RV: Go for festive shine or sparkle over festive color. These types of pieces will be more versatile throughout the year and will work easily for other, dressier occasions. We create go-to jewelry pairings for our clients to make accessorizing easy (i.e. these statement earrings with this bracelets, this pendant necklace with these small studded earrings, etc.). You can do this for yourself! Create a sparkly go-to accessory combination with these crystal Mignonne Gavigan earrings from The Shoe Hive in Old Town and this sparkly bracelet from Hobbs!

LI: You do not have to wear traditionally festive colors such as red, green or blue. However, you should wear either a color that makes a statement or metallic. Winter white or cream, slate blue, a deep berry pink, a pink veering toward rose gold and silver are all less traditional but still festive ideas.

Also, have fun with texture, color and shine when planning your holiday office party outfit. Satin and velvet are great elements to incorporate into your outfit, just keep the silhouette tailored. A red satin top would be a great addition to a high-waisted black velvet skirt and a black-wool blazer for a party in the office. 

Are there any big no-nos for the outfit?
LE: Nothing too overtly sexy when it comes to office holiday parties. So no mini skirts, plunging necklines, backless dresses. I would avoid lace to be safe—it can send the wrong idea. I tend to steer my clients away from anything overtly sexy in general. Looking elegant and chic is sexy in and of itself. It leaves more to the imagination … My goal is to send women into their event feeling like the best-dressed in the room.

RV: People are going to think I am crazy for saying this, but skip the velvet. I know it’s tempting to want to do velvet around the holidays, but I can’t tell you how many closets I have worked on where the velvet gathers dust after one wear. It’s often a bulkier fabric and always looks better on the hanger than it wears on the body. It’s also so season-specific that it’s not the wisest investment from a cost-per-wear perspective.

LI: The no-nos for the holiday office party are always the same. Don’t wear anything too revealing, too dressy or too casual. You want to stand out because your outfit is chic, not because it is inappropriate. If you are new to the office, see if you can find pictures from last year’s party or ask the most appropriately dressed woman in the office what she would consider appropriate.   

Are there any specific trends you’ve noticed this year with your clients?
LE: I work with many women who are loving fitted jumpsuits right now and I love that. A luxe jumpsuit is a great option because it’s covered and fitted. Plus it’s simplistic. Add a great clutch, pair of earrings, heels and a bracelet—done!

RV: The jumpsuit for a dressy event still is going strong. If you invest in a good one in black in a crepe material you can sparkle it up for holiday, but also wear it with a blazer and pumps for the office or dressy sneakers and a denim jacket for casual. I also love a luxe lady tux. Personally, I don’t do dresses to events anymore, I put on my lady tux, killer heels and a silk blouse. I feel chic and powerful. 

LI: Clients seem to be very into red, sequins and satin this year. Also, good-quality statement earrings.

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