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Our style columnist Esther Walker talks festive party pieces and reveals her easy outfit formulas


I used to buy some pretty bonkers stuff when I was younger. Like a magpie, I was attracted to anything shiny or covered in sequins or an elaborate brocade. I never gave a fig that it was impractical or I’d have nowhere to wear it. If it caught my eye, I snapped it up.

My favourites were a hot-pink sequin camisole top that I used to wear with the biggest earrings I owned. I also had a pair of baby-pink bootcut trousers I absolutely loved, which I’m

pretty confident were made of some kind of plastic.

Then I got older and found that I had nothing to wear because my wardrobe was filled with silver leather mini-skirts and mint-green asymmetric disco dresses. And so I went too far the other way and only bought things that were grey, white, navy or black. All that I seem to own these days are black dresses, jeans and grey sweaters.

OK, it means I never have any

trouble getting dressed for the day-to-day grind of being a grown-up. But isn’t it a bit boring?

Who have I become? I used to take pride in being the girl at the New Year’s Eve party wearing head-to-toe sequins and a deely-bopper, now I am the one in the same black velvet dress she wore last year. I think I have taken that cost-per-wear equation far too much to heart and now refuse to buy anything unless I can wear it absolutely everywhere and in all weathers and seasons.

The past few Christmasses I have certainly felt very thrifty wearing my black velvet at every single party (it’s dark at parties! No one notices if you always wear the same thing!) but also a little sad, as other women arrive looking like glorious birds of paradise in shimmering matte sequins, satin trousers, jewel-coloured silks and diamanté absolutely everywhere.

[Continued below]


Dress this plush knit
up or down
Dial up the drama
with sequins
Wear cross-body or
use as a clutch
A pair of heels to go
with anything


“A slouchy knit and shimmering sequin skirt are clever buys that can be worn beyond party season”


Sure, I’ve worn that black velvet dress so many times that the cost-per-wear is now officially in minus figures, but perhaps I am not doing my bit to bring a bit of colour and pizzazz to the festive party circuit.

But in any shop, as I reach out for a shimmering gown a pair of satin trousers or a mini dress shot through with rainbow lamé thread, I hesitate. “You will only wear it once,” says a voice. Ah, but maybe now I will in fact wear the wacky party dress or those satin trousers again. Because, as luck would have it, an entire style formula has sprung up that has been specifically designed to get those once-a-year items out from the back of your wardrobe and into daylight.

The idea is that if you put any item of clothing, no matter how loud or wacky or printed or crazy, with something completely plain and unobtrusive, they will cancel each other out and you will achieve a kind of nirvana zen state of balanced style equation.

Just think about it – a pair of gold satin trousers with white trainers and a black sweater. Sounds right, no? Or how about a pair of silver Strictly Come Dancing mid-heel sandals with plain straight blue jeans, a white T-shirt and some big earrings? Or a pair of slinky pleather leggings with a large, cosy grey sweater?

It’s all making sense, isn’t it?

In particular a very jazzy skirt with a more sensible knit on top has become a kind of classic outfit – the blue jeans and white shirt of 2018. It has up until now been mostly worn with a full midi-skirt but now I see more straight and pencil skirts, which is a huge relief to me as full midi-skirts don’t really suit me.

Anyway, here I am ready to party in a pencil skirt covered in sequins, topped with a knit so large and cosy that my family and I could live inside it for several days, should we have to. Another benefit of this as a party outfit, of course, is that this time of year it’s chilly. No more shivering in a dress made of chainmail while trying to hail a cab – you could bunk down on a park bench in this get-up and be absolutely fine.

When Christmas and New Year is all done and dusted you can swap the black sandals for a pair of trainers and even maybe swap the cable knit for a hoodie and saunter smugly about, feeling both thrifty and shiny. You just need to keep an eye out for real magpies.



Go festive with a velvet LBD
Add some sparkle with this black top
Add instant polish with earrings
These beauties are comfy too

Editor: Dulcie Emerson / Photographer: Jonty Davies / Stylist: Alex Steadman / Make-up: Lindsey Poole
Hair stylist: Heath Massi / Manicurist: Emma Welsh

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