Ah, the office Christmas party.
That combination of colleagues, cocktails, end-of-year stress, your boss… and camera phones. Is there a work event more fraught with peril?
Relax, we’re about to make things a little easier for you. Here’s our handy guide on what to wear to a work party – the `’dos’, the `don’ts’ and the `absolutely-avoid-at-all-costs’.
Do… remember you’re still at work
This isn’t like other Christmas parties. You’re not letting loose with friends or family and regardless of how much you enjoy yourself, it’s important to think beyond the event. The image you present to your work colleagues will stick with them, and you don’t want to be the subject of whispered water-cooler conversations for the next 6 months. So how do you tread that fine line between `I’m attractive and sexy’ and `Take me seriously, I’m a professional’?
Don’t… reveal too much flesh.
You know that old adage about showing off either cleavage or legs, not both? It’s a good one to bear in mind when choosing a party outfit for your work do. It may sound unfair, but the amount of skin you reveal is in inverse proportion to the amount of authority you’ll project.
Lace can come to your rescue here. It’s a great way to look elegantly gorgeous while maintaining a professional image. And even better, lace is bang on trend at the moment.
Do… be consistent.
It’s really easy to sabotage your professional credibility by wearing something that’s wildly inconsistent with your everyday work look. OK, we know you’re unlikely to show up in a panto costume or something outrageously slinky...but understated elegance will always beat the wacky or the risqué when it comes to work parties.
Remember, someone is bound to take a photograph. If in doubt, go for an outfit that you’re happy to have shared on social media for your boss to see, and your future boss, and the boss after that…
Consistency is key. As a general rule, think about what you’d normally wear to work but with added sparkle and glamour. The easiest way to glam up a daytime work outfit is to accessorise - especially handy if your Christmas party is immediately after work because the new look can fit neatly into your handbag or briefcase.
For example, with a slightly higher heel or elegant stilettos you can quickly transform a work suit into a stunning evening look. And let’s face it, an amazing pair of statement earrings will have far more impact than a pair of flashing Christmas trees.
Don’t… go overboard with the make-up
A recent Harvard study (with the slightly clunky title Cosmetics as a Feature of the Extended Human Phenotype: Modulation of the Perception of Biologically Important Facial Signals) has revealed that make-up sends a strong signal about your perceived authority. In short, you’ll appear competent and in control when you wear a moderate amount of make-up. However, if you go overboard with the glam look, your perceived trustworthiness diminishes.
Again, this is a bit depressing. Evidently, books are still judged by their covers, but it’s worth knowing – and it means choosing your work party make-up strategically.
Go for subtly alluring eyes teamed up with your best red lipstick. You’ll exude confidence without looking overly made up. For a glamorous shimmer on the lips, try 682 Cool Shimmer or 100 Warm Shimmer.
A hint of bronzer on the collar bones or shoulders is a great way to add subtle illumination – a bit of glitz and subtle sparkle without exposing too much flesh.
You’ll probably need to refresh your make-up during the party, so pop a mineral foundation into your compact and load up a retractable lip brush with your favourite lipstick. That way, they’re ready to whip out when you’re feeling a bit sweaty (sorry, glowing a bit too much).
Do… be careful with perfume
Perfume is always tricky to get right in a professional setting. You have to be mindful of the fact that the sense of smell taps straight into our animal brain. Perfume can send highly sexual signals or alternatively, it can be huge turn-off. Inadvertently wear the same perfume as your colleague’s ex-wife and you could end up in all manner of sticky situations.
It’s fine to wear perfume for the work party, but try and avoid strong or musky scents as they can be socially invasive. The trick is to keep it light.
In the end, there’s nothing wrong with being yourself at your Christmas work do. But be yourself within reason. Have fun, let loose, enjoy the party – and look your fabulously confident, professional best.
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