We’ve all been there: You have just been invited to
the party of the year and as you’re about to type “yes” on your keyboard, two little words freeze your fingers: Black Tie.

What am I going to wear? You mentally scan your closet’s inventory and realize you have nothing. When an event is labeled with a specific
dress code, it often leaves guests wondering what exactly the style rules are.

That’s where ELLECanada.com comes in. We’ve spoken to some of the industry’s biggest fashion influencers to find out what you need to wear to that next fête.


This gives you carte blanche to turn on the glam. “I like to break a few rules,” reveals Nicholas Mellamphy, Creative Director of The Room. “If you have a fabulous Balmain beaded short dress, wear it! Be true to yourself, but push your boundaries and play with different fabrics and styles. It is fashion after all.”

Suzanne Timmins, Fashion Director for The Bay, offers great advice on how to modernize the traditional dress code. “Play with contrasts – mix long, elegant silhouettes with undone hair and a neutral face. Halston Heritage makes glamorous floor-sweeping evening wear in pop brights – paired with a sleek VBH clutch and a neutral makeup palette is a perfect way to obtain this look.”

For those who want to wear
pants but still keep it chic, Suzanne has another take. “A classic, cool, downtown evening wear alternative is to play into menswear-inspired dressing. Dressing head to toe in black and white is modern without being flashy, but allows a woman to stand out from the crowd. Wear a beautiful tuxedo, pair with a bold smoky eye, and don’t forget fabulous

Wondering what to wear to a cocktail, business casual, or house party? Find out on page 2…


Less formal means more opportunity to up the fun-factor. Raise the risk, and the hemlines.

Christina McDowell, Personal Shopper and Image Consultant at Holt Renfrew, explains how to crank up the festive spirit. “It’s all about sparkle and celebration. Whether at a casual get-together with friends or a more formal holiday soiree, remember that this is the time of the year to shine. From a simple sequined tank worn with leggings and an oversized sweater to a sequined mini dress à la Phillip Lim, embellished chic is the way to go. Don’t forget to accessorize and make the look your own.”

This is a tricky one as oftentimes people misconstrue “business casual” for weekend wardrobe. The general rule is: Stay polished and professional with classically tailored pieces, but add some holiday sparkle with sexy stilettos and statement accessories. Trade the laptop tote for a clutch or a smaller, structured handbag.

Adrienne Shoom, Head Stylist at Joe Fresh Style, has tips on how to incorporate this season’s trends. “Every woman has a little black dress that works 24/7. Check out the Joe Fresh jersey sequin dress or black velvet shift. Channel your inner rock star with motorcycle boots (Joe Fresh’s studded boot is super cool) or add some holiday glam with sexy stilettos. It’s all about the accessories!

“For a casual office party, skinny dark jeans could be acceptable, but leave your faded denim at home.”

If you’re hosting, you are the boss of the dress code. As a guest, pick up the tone of the party from the invite and don’t be afraid to ask the host. More often than not, the affair will err on the side of casual. Comfort is key, as is a handbag you don’t mind carrying around all night.

Peter Papapetrou, international stylist to the stars, shares his expert tips:

“It’s important to look spectacular. Depending on your theme and style of party, you set the tone of the evening. Keep in mind if you are the one serving and cooking then stay fashionable and functional – no bell sleeves or loose things that can land in the food or get easily caught on things in the kitchen. Aim for something in Jersey with great draping and a hint of metallic shine – Greta Constantine has great options.”

“Be careful about the fabric you choose to wear. Silks and satins wrinkle much faster and if anything accidentally lands on your outfit, you’re stuck with a big stain until you go home. Aim for chic fine knits, and patterns are always great for disguising accidents.”

Check out must-have items for each holiday party dress code

Read more:
1 little black dress, 5 ways to wear it
Top 10 little black dresses from the Fall 2010 runway

Blogger’s holiday essentials
Joe Fresh Style Spring 2011 review