The Christmas Day dilemma: A stylist's advice on what to wear

Whethare you're the host or the guest, if you're stuck on what to wear on Christmas Day and over the festive season, Stephanie Smith seeks advice from a John Lewis & Partners expert stylist.

Somerset by Alice Temperley leopard maxi dress, £140, and coat, £280, both at John Lewis.
Somerset by Alice Temperley leopard maxi dress, £140, and coat, £280, both at John Lewis.

It is, quite possibly, the biggest fashion dilemma of the year – what to wear on Christmas Day?

It’s usually an at-home affair, whether that’s your own home or a relative’s, so you probably don’t want to go too over-the-top. No red carpet gowns, for example; they don’t look great when you’re collapsed on a sofa after lunch, and it’s murder trying to play Twister in a floor-length, plunge-neck, satin number.

But then again, an effort has to be made. You might be seeing relatives you haven’t clapped eyes on since last Christmas, and we can’t have them thinking you’ve given up. Plus, it’s Christmas Day, it’s special, so muster at least a bit of bling, please.

French Connection Emilia sequin midi skirt, £90; John Lewis & Partners Cashmere notch neck sweater in charcoal, £120.

Dressing for any kind of special occasion is exactly what a personal stylist does best. A good one will surprise you with their choices, steering you towards colours and styles you might have dismissed long ago, but listening to you and making sure that you don’t make unwise fashion buys or feel uncomfortable in any of your choices. They will also take your lifestyle and your role at any event into account as they create for you an edit – a curation, if you like – of outfits.

“On Christmas Day, you need, number one, comfort, especially if you are going to be the host and you are cooking, so steer clear of silks or fabrics that could be splashed with oil and then ruined,” says Emily Gray, personal stylist at John Lewis & Partners at Victoria Leeds.

“But you also need a bit of sparkle, a bit of colour. Even though black is the comfiest option, it’s nice to add a pop of red, of green, of blue, something to lift it and give it a bit more of a happy feel.”

The personal styling suite at John Lewis & Partners Leeds has a changing area with mirrors all round, so you can check yourself out front, side and back. It’s large enough to accommodate two, three or maybe even four people getting styled and dressed together, if they want to come as a group.

Velvet dress, £89; Red cross-body clutch bag, £45. Both by Kin at John Lewis.

“We’ve had loads of people in for parties,” says Emily. “Obviously, sparkles and sequins – everybody wants a little bit of that it, but some people have gone completely the other way and just want more of a casual vibe.

“We’ve had a lot of people looking for jumpsuits, even trouser suits with a nice top. Pleated skirts are huge at the moment, so that midi-length look with a stiletto court shoe is something that we have been doing a lot of, and people love. And velvet – velvet dress, velvet jeans, velvet jacket, that is really popular at the moment.

“A big mistake that people make when they are shopping for party dresses or Christmas things is that the excitement of the dress overtakes them, so they buy something, then wear it once so it gets put in the back of the wardrobe, maybe never to see the light of day again. You might have spent £200 on something that you never wear.”

So, Emily likes to show her clients pieces that they can wear again and again, styled in different ways and teamed with a variety of other pieces already in your wardrobe.

Stretch velvet blazer, £129; and trousers, £75. Both Hush, at John Lewis.

“If it’s a dress, maybe bob a polo-neck underneath or a slouchy jumper over the top, so you can get more return for the investment in your piece and it doesn’t just get stuck there with a bunch of other party dresses.”

But what does the personal stylist herself choose to wear on Christmas Day? Emily says: “Christmas Day is quite a small family affair for me, so I think I will probably go for a Whistles green leopard print skirt with a black body and a sparkly necklace. New Year, I’m going to go all out for sparkle. I really like gold, so I’m going to go for a gold sequin look.”

The Personal Styling department is at John Lewis & Partners at Victoria Gate in Leeds. See for details.

Whistles Regina green sparkle pleat dress, was £169, now £99, at John Lewis & Partners.
AND/OR Megan Forest Floral midi dress, £95, at John Lewis.
AND/OR kitten heels, £89, at John Lewis.