Office Star: How to Dress for Your Next Corporate/Holiday Party

Guest post by Clari Farkash

With the winter holidays fast approaching, your corporate party calendar will soon be filled with soirée dates and details, and you will be faced with some important decisions on what to don. Unfortunately, the dress code on a celebration invitation can be a bit cryptic. (For example, “festive attire” is not a summons to decorate yourself with more tinsel than the Christmas tree, nor to resurrect that beaded Rudolph sweater that’s been languishing in the attic.) But understanding just what an event’s dress code calls for — and then translating that into something that looks spectacular but not overly sexy on your curvy frame — doesn’t have to take a miracle from Santa. With just a few basic suggestions, you can ensure that your party ensemble fits both the bill and your body. Use this guide to guarantee your holiday style looks merry, bright, and oh-so right.

Dress Casual

Many such events are hosted immediately after work, so you’ll need to be able to easily transform your look from day to evening. (Be sure that you err on the side of dress rather than casual for this type of affair!) While it isn’t appropriate to wear your evening attire to the office, it also isn’t difficult to make a few quick changes to pump up your party wear. In the morning, slip into a dark pair of straight-legged trousers or a knee-length pencil skirt paired with a silky blouse that offers a bit of interest in the way of color, texture, or pattern.

On bustier figures, blouses that are cut into a deep V serve to draw the eye away from a large chest (just be sure to include a cami underneath if too much cleavage shows). Topped off with a simple structured jacket, this outfit will take you through the workday. Come five o’clock, shed the jacket for a dressy wrap, swap out your basic pumps for a higher high heel, and turn up the volume on your makeup by applying a smoky eye shadow or dark shade of lipstick. Finish your ensemble with one or two pieces of bold jewelry — a chunky cuff bracelet, big-beaded necklace, or sparkly chandelier earrings — and you’ve got an evening outfit that’ll have coworkers still complimenting you come Monday.


Also sometimes included on an invitation as semi-formal or the aforementioned festive attire, the cocktail calls for a short yet elegant dress. For the plus-size partygoer, one that hits at or just above the knee is the most flattering option, as it has a slimming effect on the legs and, when coupled with a pair of fantastic high heels, can make your lower half look longer and leaner.

You should also pay attention to the structure of such a dress; options that cinch in at the slenderest part of your frame with ruching, gathering, belts, or empire seaming and then move away from the body with an A-line skirt can help you look as though you’ve lost 10 pounds. After an item meets those guidelines, the design details are all about personality — for some winter wonder, think ruffled necklines, sparkly fabrics, sheer sleeves, or bands of lace.

Black Tie/Black Tie Optional

Though these two definitions of dress vary greatly for the men, in general, these formal events call for the same couture from the ladies: an exceptionally elegant cocktail dress (often made so by luxurious fabrics or shiny embellishments) or a long dress. But don’t think you can strike a happy medium by choosing something in between. Tea-length ensembles better serve those with more svelte frames, as they tend to cause women with thicker legs to appear squatty.

If opting for a long dress, stick to the same rules that applied to the cocktail category: choose something with an A-line skirt, an empire or gathered waist, and a deep V neckline. The popular maxi dress is an excellent selection for hiding heavy legs and wide hips at a black-tie affair, provided it fits these criteria. Try to avoid those garments with spaghetti straps, as they overly accentuate broad shoulder and arms, and those that feature boxier cuts.

White Tie

Occasionally, you will encounter an elegant gala that requires nothing short of a gorgeous gown. While you might be drawn to a voluminous Cinderella gown, be cautious of how much poof you put out there. Often, full skirts can cause you to look rounder than you’d like. A well-fitted A-line dress that skims over your hips and flows away to the floor will help you feel like the belle of the ball.


Clari Farkash is the designer of the Clarisse line of prom dresses, short dresses and
homecoming dresses for Clarisse dresses have been worn by such celebrities as Miss Galaxy International and Miss Teen Galaxy UK. has been selling prom dresses and formal gowns from America’s top designers for over 25 years.