Reasons to be cheerful have been scarce in 2020. With that in mind, the arrival of party season might be met with less of a whoop than an awkward silence. Because when it feels like there is little to celebrate, well, why bother?
But perhaps that is exactly why we should be celebrating. In a year when our diaries have been embarrassingly empty (or rather, it would be embarrassing were it not for the fact that everybody else’s looked exactly the same), wouldn’t it be nice to have something – anything! – to look forward to that isn’t another box set? After too-many-weeks-to-count of bad news, canceled plans and endless video calls, the exciting prospect of a party is particularly potent.
Quite what those parties look like remains to be seen, but they will definitely be different; most of us can assume that crowded dancefloors will be out. What does not need to be canceled, though, is the inherent thrill of party clothes. In fact, we should probably be embracing it now more than ever.
The fantasy of dressing up to go out (or at least putting in as much effort as if you were) is a welcome tonic. No, it’s not the full-blown reset of a vacation, but getting into a fancy frock, donning dancing shoes and applying your makeup is a restorative mini-break from the drudgery of daily life – even if it’s just for an evening. Embracing glamour, and having fun with it, is a shot of much-needed optimism.
“My own instinct is to make more of an effort. We need a reason to get dressed up again; to celebrate that we have made it through the year,” says Sandra Choi, creative director of Jimmy Choo. Kikka Cavenati, one half of the duo behind 16Arlington, agrees. “The best part of fashion is the magic it brings; it can be a form of escapism,” she says. “I truly believe that, after the rollercoaster year we’ve all had, it’s going to be about finding a piece that brings you joy.”
“My own INSTINCT is to make more of an effort. We need a reason to get DRESSED up again; to CELEBRATE that we have made it through the year”
Indeed, joy is firmly on the fashion agenda. Because who wouldn’t feel their heart soar with the promise of romance in Gucci’s ruffled lace blouse? Aren’t you a little giddy at the prospect of slipping on Balenciaga’s red floral skirt suit? Couldn’t you do with the delight of feeling like your best self again for an hour – or five? Dressing up says anything might happen – rather than nothing will.
This is the perfect time to flirt with sexy dressing once again. Consider offsetting a sassy sheer lace top – like Love Stories’ stretch-lace camisole, which is far too pretty to keep hidden – with relaxed tailoring. Indulge in the sumptuous folds of a fluid satin dress that whispers come-hither rather than shouts it. A pussy-bow blouse, like Saint Laurent’s fuchsia silk-chiffon one, can be as demure or as daring as you wish (although those with enviably high levels of chutzpah might want to go for it in the brand’s Latex pieces). Who cares if you’re not actually going out? This is for you.
Now is your opportunity to reclaim your power; to make a deliberate effort to feel strong, even if your current default state is one of depletion. It’s unsurprising, then, that this holiday season, tough-luxe pieces are coming to the fore. Fluid leather separates by Gucci and 16Arlington are ready for action. It would be impossible not to feel emboldened by the superhero swoosh of Balenciaga’s chiffon cape dress. And who cannot feel their inner warrior stir at the prospect of crowning their look with Paco Rabanne’s chainmail headscarf? This is modern armor for the woman who will not let a year of tumult derail her; she won’t just go to the ball, she’ll conquer it.
There is something about the festive season that can make even normally sober dressers tipsy on novelty (you are under no obligation to wear red, or sequins, although if you do wish to, go forth and revel in it). But if you’ve been leaning in to comfort, you don’t have to turn your back on it now. What this does not mean: pitching up, or logging on, in the same trackpants you’ve been wearing all fall. What this does mean: seeking out pieces that appear poised and polished, but that still offer you a reassuring sense of effortlessness and – say it quietly – coziness.
This is modern ARMOR for the woman who will not let a year of TUMULT derail her; she won’t just go to the ball, she’ll CONQUER it
Consider Khaite’s excellent knitted pieces your essential party plus-one: from second-skin bodysuits to that cashmere bra and wiggle-worthy ribbed midi dresses, they prove that you do not need to forego ease in the pursuit of impact. Elsewhere, Miu Miu’s playful checked-wool jumpsuit shows that even a onesie – surely the zenith of loungewear – can achieve elevated status. Seek out roomy cuts in precious fabrics. Those who have embarked on a love affair with leggings this year are also in luck: Leset’s black stirrup style is luxe rather than lazy (not all elasticated waistbands are born equal).
Even heels – remember them? – are back on the agenda. Not just an outfit lift, they’re also a mood boost. However, there is no need for your shoes to disrupt a laissez-faire attitude to getting dressed (Choi recommends finding your optimum heel height: “Something you can dance in all night and not be uncomfortable; this is especially key now we are out of practice in our heels!”). Midi heels are equal parts elegant and easy.
Alas, this year, many of us won’t need to worry about shoes at all, as we’ll be navigating the holiday’s social commitments remotely. One win for Zoom parties, aside from the tantalizing prospect of pressing the mute button at any time, is the liberating freedom of waist-up dressing. This is brilliant news if you really cannot be separated from your trackpants. If you’re swapping a bar stool for your sofa, then it’s important to remember that making half an effort does not necessarily mean making half an impact – you just need to make the top half count.
One WIN for Zoom parties, aside from the tantalizing prospect of pressing the MUTE button at any time, is the liberating FREEDOM of waist-up dressing
The shortcut to mastering the Zoom-party wardrobe is simple: accessories. Satisfyingly chunky chain necklaces and statement earrings deliver wow factor in seconds. If you’re prone to gesturing with your hands, then pile on the cocktail rings – a fistful of Amrapali’s sapphire and diamond designs will be utterly distracting in the best possible way.
And, of course, don’t forget your makeup. Makeup artist Florrie White has plenty of practice perfecting Zoom-ready beauty looks, having prepped Emma Corrin for The Crown’s recent (mostly remote) publicity tour. She advises focusing on skincare, recommending Augustinus Bader for pre-party prep. “You will reap the benefits, and then you can stun your friends and family with a glowing complexion and a fabulous eye or lip, which will keep your makeup modern,” she says. “It is no surprise that, during times of adversity, lipstick sales soar. Treating your face to a little makeup zhuzh will lift your spirits and those of people around you.” Take note: White will be keeping kohl liner, highlighter and a compact mirror next to her computer.
“It is no surprise that, during times of ADVERSITY, lipstick sales soar. Treating your FACE to a little makeup zhuzh will lift your SPIRITS and those of people around you”
Whether you go for full-throttle glamour or simply opt for a slick of red lipstick, making an effort is a gesture of connection. It says to the people you’re with that you appreciate them; they make the event, not a lavish location. And if you still can’t forgive 2020 enough to rouse the celebratory spirt, then take solace in another reason to be cheerful: 2021 is coming. Wouldn’t you like to be dressed the part when it gets here?