Fashion: Try some animal magic

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This is a great season to try out a new style, from kittenish to vixen-like. Stephanie Smith asks, which party animal are you?

So many parties, so many outfits required in order to attend them with any degree of style and fashion-consciousness. Drinks parties, family parties, house parties, office parties – how on earth is a normal woman (and her normal wardrobe) supposed to cope during the festive party season?

Most of us have a few old favourites that we bring out each year. The Little Black Dress, for example – it’s actually very hard to find the perfect black dress that suits both your shape and your personal style, so when you find one, you tend to make the most of it. Mine is from All Saints, in black jersey, with a wrap-style asymmetric skirt, cowl neck and long, long sleeves that ruffle up at the wrist. It’s my go-to dress, needs no pre-event dieting (or ironing) and, when it finally gives up the ghost, I shall be inconsolable.

But this year, I might ring the changes a little (or maybe a lot), and become a different kind of party animal, at least for some events.

Fashion has taken such a turn this season towards both the wonderful and the wearable, so it’s the perfect opportunity to experiment and try out something that you wouldn’t automatically choose to wear.

To this end, I thoroughly recommend going to seek the advice of a personal shopping adviser. House of Fraser, Debenhams, Topshop, John Lewis and Harvey Nichols are the stores that spring to mind, offering the service, depending on your taste and budget.

Topshop in Leeds at the Trinity Centre on Briggate has a very swish personal shopping suite, for example, and you can make an appointment online.

Whichever you choose (and you could also employ an independent personal shopper and wardrobe adviser to come to your home, look through your clothes and then go shopping with you), it’s a good idea to have a few ideas first about what sort of look you might want to go for, and maybe cut out a couple of magazine pictures. However, it’s also vital that you be prepared for the stylist/shopper to take a long, hard look at you and then make suggestions, returning to your dressing room with an armful of clothes in colours, shapes, patterns and styles that you would probably never have picked out for yourself.

This can be a real opportunity to re-appraise your style and maybe install a few updates – and the pre-Christmas season is a great time to do it.

If you usually wear black, this season, try colour because there is an amazing range to play with, and you might stumble upon something that really works for you.

You could start with a bold, jewel-bright, block colour – a ruby red, for example, for a foxy look, especially if you keep the shape sleek and fitted, and accessories black and edgy. Peacock blue and teal are both striking but wearable and classy, plus they suit most skin tones.

Animal print is abundant for this winter, and not just in the more usual brown, black and gold colourways, although if you do choose this, go cute and kittenish rather than vampy, adding bright accessories with a retro touch.

Multi-colour animal print and floral prints come in sequin this party season, perfect for those who want to become a bird of paradise, while over-layer lace tunic and prom dresses are for those who want to keep it playfully pretty.

Hunter Refined collection Garden jacket, �325, at

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