Fashion: Party crush

Caden tuck dress, �69, Pied a Terre, in now at House of Fraser.
Caden tuck dress, �69, Pied a Terre, in now at House of Fraser.
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Some of us prefer to play it subtle with the bling. Stephanie Smith has suggestions for sophisticated special looks for the festive season.

The fashion magazines have been on and on about dazzle and shine for Christmas, showcasing any number of sparkly, ritzy, glitzy, all-over sequin numbers that frankly wouldn’t look out of place at Madame Jojo’s (the fabulous Soho burlesque cabaret nightclub which very sadly closed last year – much missed). Now, this dazzle and glisten stuff is all very well (and we will definitely be showcasing our own favourite examples on these pages very soon), but what festive cheer is there for those of us who prefer to take a more sophisticated approach to party dressing?

The good news is that it is possible to do the glisten without the glare, because there are some beautiful dresses on the High Street and online that manage to do that special party thing in a subtle way, without making you look as if you’re about to step onto the Strictly dance floor. Actually, talking of Strictly, Helen George’s outfit last weekend of a grey crystal-embellished jumpsuit worn with a floaty grey chiffon over-shirt was a perfect example of how to do sparkle with class and distinction. You can have as much sequin and sparkle as you like if you stick to a grey palette, which does not include silver, so choose your grey with care – you’re looking for a soft mid-charcoal meets dove shade with just the faintest hint of purple heather. Fortunately, there’s a fair bit of this colour on the High Street, so you shouldn’t have to search too far.

One of the most promising collections I have witnessed this season, in terms of dresses with subtle bling, comes from Monsoon. As well as this necklace embellished dress, above, far left, take a look at its Tandy (burgundy) and Mandy (teal) tunic dresses – stunningly simple, short(ish), A-line shape with half sleeves and a keyhole neckline with metallic bar. They cost £79 and are pieces that you can dress up so easily to look quite different each time you wear them – an excellent investment.

There are also some rich pickings at Marks & Spencer, in particular its Per Una Speziale range, including the dress featured here, second from right, with its vertical sequinned bands of seasonal tones (if you look on the website, you’ll note that the dress is actually more fitted and bodycon looking than it seems in the image here – perhaps the same slightly boho effect could be achieved by going up a size?).

M&S also has some all-over three-quarter sleeve sequin tunics, by the way, in silver or navy, costing £75. I only mention them now in case that’s exactly what you’re after.

If you’re looking for a dress without sequin, bead or crystal embellishment, head for Pied a Terre at House of Fraser, which has lovely, flattering dresses in black lace and rose print, lots of blue, plus the lovely plum colour featured here (and it also has a gorgeous sequin T-shirt dress in grey, reduced from £145 to £43 – though only sizes up to 10 remaining).

Miss Selfridge has lots of party dresses reduced at the moment, and the variety is excellent, from maxi to tight bodycon – something for everyone, not just the under 30s.

Phase Eight, meanwhile, also has a great 20 per cent off beautiful party and occasion dresses at the moment. The Ilkley store has just had a relaunch, by the way, so worth a look. We’ll be featuring more Phase Eight in the run-up to Christmas, as it does seem to be cornering the market in wearable special occasion pieces.

Happy hunting.