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Ditch the ugly Christmas sweater: How to dress for a holiday party

Look your best while being festive, without the ugly Christmas sweater

It’s Christmas time again, which means your calendar is beginning to fill up with a bunch of parties — get-togethers with colleagues, family, neighbors, and friends (some of which you know will be a lot more fun than others). Holiday parties are a side product of the spirit and joy of the season, and with those parties come dress codes.

Of course, one thing that people love to ask for is the ugly Christmas sweater, but instead of subjecting yourself to the laughter and ridicule of the people in your circle, there are better ways to dress well and stay festive for all of the events you have on your calendar for the next few weeks.

Let your colors speak

One of the ways you can set your holiday wardrobe apart from the rest of the year is through color combinations. While red and green are the classic color scheme for Christmas, the combination often is garish and overdone. Instead, add in some more subtle winter colors or darker versions of the Christmas classics.

The three color palettes to focus on instead of the red and green classics are green and brown, red and black, and blue and white. The colors are best when muted, so substitute the bright green with emerald or forest green, and pair it with light brown or mahogany-colored shoes and leathers; let it remind you of a pine forest. Your blues should give the Jack Frost feel. Start with navy and pair it with light blue or white to create an evening snowfall color palette. And finally, swap out the red with a deep burgundy and pair it with black accessories and leather.

Examples of Christmas party outfits

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Burgundy and black in a dressy environment

Burgandy and black is tailor-made for the more elevated dress code. The dark colors are perfect for any after 6 pm event and will make you the talk of any group. Burgundy sport coats, smoking jackets, and suits are a sharp addition to any wardrobe, and the versatility outside of Christmas is unrivaled.

The key to looking sharp over the holidays isn’t to spend money but to use what you already have to get festive. A black turtleneck is a staple of any man’s wardrobe and brings a winter look to the evening holiday ensemble.

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Forest green and tan in smart casual

Green is one of the most underutilized colors in men’s wardrobes, and it lends itself perfectly to smart casual outfits. A forest green gingham jacket is perfect for the Christmas holiday and will also look great in the fall.

When you add light brown to the look, it not only gives you forest vibes, but also takes the elevated look and makes it more casual. It looks perfect for the office party where you need to look great in case the boss is around (but lets you be more casual and keep the fun).

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Navy and light blue in casual

Speaking of using staples in your wardrobe to upgrade your holiday party ensembles, the navy cardigan is something you should have in your closet. If you don’t have one, then buying one for your casual party is more than recommended; it’s a must. There aren’t many garments that will make your outfit the talk of the party more than a cardigan.

To capture that Jack Frost look, make sure to pair the navy cardigan with a white or light blue shirt to put the snow next to the night sky. You can choose a dress shirt, but the better idea for your casual party is to elect a sport shirt or a collarless shirt to go underneath.

You don’t have to look like one of Santa’s elves to look festive for a Christmas party. The spirit of the season is getting together with the people in your life to celebrate the culmination of another year. That doesn’t mean you can’t look fantastic as well as festive.

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Mark McKee
Mark is a full-time freelance writer and men's coach. He spent time as a style consultant and bespoke suit salesman before…
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