Party dresses and sale stresses


I have a very simple burgundy dress to wear to a Christmas party, what can I put with it?

The good news is that you’ve already shopped clever. What you’ve bought is what Frock Advisor calls a “carrier piece”. And that’s what all the clever girls are doing. What you’ve deftly avoided is the case of the ‘special occasion outfit’, doomed for a single wear, cursed to be smothered by dry-cleaning plastic for eternity. Now, we believe the question was, what to wear with that dress?

Parties are a great opportunity for glamour; the accessories are going to be doing all the hard work. Yves Saint Laurent had a fabulous, and very French, approach to colour. Using deeper colours as a base, he’d add vivid jewel colours to dramatic effect. You might be surprised to learn that burgundy is a great base colour, like a cheerier version of black or navy.

nSo try turquoise blue, magenta, and canary yellow jewels against it and see how you feel. If that pushes you out of your comfort zone, you could always go heavy metal (see last week’s column). Your armoury includes shoes, jewellery and potentially tights to add the requisite drama.

Come back! A Frock Advisor word of caution, there should be a nonchalance to your choice of accessories – don’t over-match. If it looks like you’ve tried too hard, your goal of left-bank chic may evaporate like the good cheer of yesterday’s party. (Above) Bluebird braclet, E244, Melissa Curry.

Heading rapidly towards the sales, how do I make clever and enduring

Sales shopping is completely different to non-sales shopping, and falls into three distinct categories. Firstly, The Happy Accident: you go to buy something, not knowing a sale was happening only to discover that your prize has been discounted. The emotions involved are delight, surprise and a surge of well-being. Secondly, The Polaris Missile: you’ve watched and waited for the piece that you simply must have but can’t afford. Maybe you’ve queued in inhospitable conditions for your opportunity to score your quarry. The emotional roll call can obviously go either way here. If you bag that prize at 40 per cent off, the over-riding feelings are victory and invincibility. If not, you will be consumed by regret for time wasted and precious pieces lost. Lastly, The Unexpected Opportunity: this is the most dangerous of all sales shopping, and the one where the most misused term in consumerism is bandied around like cheap accessories – “Bargain”.

Let’s get one clear, a bargain is only a bargain if you would have bought it at full price. The lure of the markdown is strong though.

So here are the rules of engagement. When you pick up that coral blazer, marked down from €450 to €50, ask yourself the following questions: Would I have considered it at full price? Does it now, or will it ever, fit me? Do I have anything in my wardrobe that will work with this confection? And most importantly, will I ever wear it?

White shirtApart from that, our climate means that trans-seasonal dressing carries us through nine months of the year. Classics are always a good bet, but have often been snapped up by sale time. Avoid high-trend, as it will quickly date.

That said, spring catwalks showed many stories more traditionally associated with winter such as sequins, metallic and fringing. Pink is a big theme this season and it merrily follows through for spring – exotic orchid is Pantone’s colour of the year 2014. Crisp cotton shirting is the rank outsider for cult status, and always a winner, sale or no sale. (Left) White shirt, E136.50 Peter O'Brien at Arnotts.

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