What to Wear to a Holiday Office Party

What to Wear to an Office Holiday Party | Corporette2017 Update: We still stand by this advice on what to wear to a holiday office party, but you may also want to check out all of our other posts on holiday business etiquette.

Here’s a fun question: what to wear to an holiday office party? We have six ideas below, all great whether it’s for your holiday company party, your SO’s office party, or some other holiday networking party. (We talked about holiday office party etiquette a few days ago!) As a general rule, pick two from the categories below and mix with regular workwear, unless you are 100% sure cocktail attire (or black tie!) is appropriate. A good clue: if the party is on a workday and all employees are invited (not just management types), take our suggestions here. As always, I suggest young businesswomen avoid showing cleavage, as well as what I’ll call “unexpected” skin (think cutout dresses, etc). Even bare arms may not be appropriate — know your office!) You should also be wary of anything requiring a special bra.

We’re shared some of our top picks for your holiday office party below. (2017 Update: Even if these exact items are sold out, they should still give you a good idea of the level of appropriateness. Don’t forget to check out all of our posts on holiday business etiquette, too!)

Festive Blazer

I’ve always loved a festive blazer. Not only can you maintain a maximum of professionalism, but I often find that a layered look is the best way to dress for the holiday office party: party blazer + statement necklace, or party blazer + bright work dress, for example. You can also use your festive blazer to extend the life of your weekend clothes and wear things that wouldn’t normally be appropriate to wear to work. For example, a jumpsuit, a heavily sequined top, or even something like a leather skirt or a lace top that requires a strapless bra — all of these things look great beneath a festive blazer. You’ll be surprised how often you wear it, and how many years you’ll get wear out of it — your own holiday parties, your SO’s holiday parties, vague networking events, even “desk to dinner” events where you really don’t feel like donning a dress or anything sparkly. Personally I’ve always preferred the structure of a blazer, but a sparkly cardigan can also work here (like the red DKNY one pictured in Row 2 below; Lands’ End has similar ones.) (2017 Update: Check out our latest roundup of the best winter blazers to wear to work!)

Some nice ones on the market right now, priced $74-$525: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4;
ROW TWO: 5678

Party Skirts

A party skirt is one of the easiest things to find and wear, but be wary of spending too much money on it — it will be memorable, and because it kind of is your outfit, it’s going to be hard to wear it again year after year. Keep the hem length appropriate for the office, and note that the fancier (and less office-appropriate) the skirt feels, the more subdued your top and shoes should be. Note that some skirts straddle the line between office and party, like this recently-featured skirt from Brooks Brothers (now on sale for $88!) — they’re less festive, but more versatile (and you can pair them with something else sparkly on top).

Some of my top party skirt picks, from $54-$225: 1 /2 /3 /4

Selected Sequins, Lace, and Leather

Sequins, lace, and leather aren’t usually office-appropriate — we’ve talked specifically about lace at the office and leather skirts at the office before. But when deciding what to wear to your office holiday party, you can break some of these rules, provided that you’re not going all out. Example: a sweater with a few sequins on it, or even a sheer sequined camisole (worn with an opaque black camisole beneath it) are fine, particularly when paired with a festive blazer or fuzzy cardigan. But the all-sequin legging or all-sequin dress can be… well… a bit much for an office holiday party.

Some of my top picks, priced $54-$328 — ROW ONE: 1 /2 /3 /4
ROW TWO: 5 /6 /7 /8

Party Pants

Another great option: party pants. Paired with a regular work staple like a button-front or a cashmere sweater (ooh, or this DvF ballerina sweater), party pants are celebratory and happy, but not too crazy. Look for velvet, jacquard, limited sequins — and tuxedo pants or dramatically wide, flowy trousers can also be great for this kind of event. For my $.02, I’d avoid any pant that makes people wonder if they’re actually seeing skin (such as black lace underlaid with a beige satin), and in general, be wary of leather and of too-tight leggings.

Pictured below, priced $59-$1,658: 1 /2 /3 /4 /5 /6 /7 /8

Office-Appropriate Party Dress

For my money, this is the hardest one to get right. Sometimes a bright dress or blouse feels festive but will feel like a snoozefest at the party itself. Sometimes a lace dress will feel ladylike and elegant, but other times it may feel like you’ve unwittingly gotten dressed for a wedding when you just have a step up from what you would normally wear to work. A few notes in general: Watch your hem length, as well as cleavage. I wouldn’t recommend a dress with bare shoulders (i.e., strapless) — layer it with something else like a cardigan or blazer, but if you end up taking that layer off, don’t worry too much. Sometimes a party dress can be worn to work (like this Kate Spade one we featured a few weeks ago); sometimes that’s going to be harder.

Some of my top picks for the office party dress, priced $119-$248: 1 /2 /3 /4


Desk to Party: Cocktail Jewelry

It’s true, statement necklaces aren’t as popular as they once were — but I still say there’s nothing better for an office holiday party, and no better way to instantly jazz up a regular work dress or the like. Add one other thing from this list and you’re golden.

Some top picks on the market now, priced $175-$225: 1234

How to Save on Holiday Party Attire

A general note: Rent the Runway is perfect for these kind of purchases, particularly if you have several parties to go to over a few days. (Or, hey, it’s a perfect excuse to set up a date night or girls’ night out if you don’t have several parties.) Other great deals can be found at Nordstrom, Last Call, 6PM, and more.

Ladies, what are your favorite things to wear to office holiday parties? Have you seen any fashion gaffes with regard to office holiday party attire (or been victim to any gaffes yourself)? 

In case it’s helpful, here’s a little cheat sheet for you, either to print or pin…

What to Wear to Your Holiday Office Party | Corporette




  1. Gold pants! Fist pump. NY & Company has them as well.

    What would you wear to work when your office holiday party is 12-3pm? We’re going to a nearby restaurant. I feel odd dressing up. I could suggest we make it an ugly sweater party (we’re engineers, I’m sure there are plenty of ugly sweaters) but a) I hate sweaters and b) I don’t own any sweaters. What to do?

    • Wear regular work clothes, maybe add something red or green or silver or gold if you have it, or a festive scarf.

    • Anonymous :

      Honestly Ru you should be ashamed! Obvi, your fav outfit and dripping in gold!!!

      • Obvi!!!!!! I’ll try to find a way to have an office-appropriate gold outfit. I don’t even own gold pants!

  2. Senior Attorney :

    And of course there’s always this: http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/office-party-sweatshirt/4218968?cm_mmc=Linkshare-_-datafeed-_-women%3Atops%3Ablouse_top-_-5071380&cm_ven=Linkshare&cm_cat=partner&cm_pla=15&cm_ite=4218968&siteId=fV7QgDWUWe0-u3NcTHrPpXdjwk_QE7AU8w

  3. Anonattorney :

    That beautiful feather necklace is $175 to rent. $1195 to purchase. Bummer.

  4. First Work Party :

    All of these suggestions seem appropriate for an after-work party, but what about a Saturday night? I feel like a blazer or pants might look too much like a work outfit (even if the pieces themselves are more festive than work appropriate). Are dresses or fancy skirts more common for the Saturday night events? I don’t want to be overly buttoned up.

    • Gail the Goldfish :

      Ours is a Saturday night and everyone just wears nice cocktail attire. Nothing too cleavagey or cutouts, but what you would wear to a winter wedding, basically.

    • This is a know your office thing so I’d ask someone what the dress usually is. I’ve been to some parties that are at a hotel/event space and it’s coat and tie for guys and dresses/skirts/dressy slacks for women and some parties in the same kind of space where everyone is in cocktail attire.

    • For my firm’s Saturday night party, I am wearing my favorite LBD and some bling-y jewelry.

      My secretary asked me today what she should wear because she doesn’t want to go shopping for a “fat lady” dress (her words, not mine). I told her to wear the black slacks she is wearing today, one of her fun jackets (she often wears them to work), and to steal some big jewelry from her daughter.

      So I think you can wear just about anything dressy. I am in the Silicon Valley, fwiw.

  5. Huh, I guess I thought office parties requiring festive outfits were not so common anymore. My old biglaw firm always hosts a holiday party, but it’s an after-work c-cktail event, so most people just dress nicely for work that day (e.g., I might wear a favorite black dress and jacket), but don’t change or swap into anything “evening.” Men *might* wear a holiday-themed tie. And my in-house employer is doing a luncheon on a workday.

    I did just buy a sparkly top at JCrew for non-work-related events, but can also picture it as a good layering piece for those of you that DO need sequins at work parties, as it’s high-necked and loose-fitting: https://www.jcrew.com/womens_category/shirtsandtops/topsblouses/PRDOVR~E5010/E5010.jsp

    • Diana Barry :

      All the women at my work change into fancy things before going to the party (it is on a Friday). I usually wear less bling than the other women attorneys. I am obsessed with this top right now but it is expensive for something so memorable: https://www.reiss.com/rw/p/fluid-metallic-vest-womens-ona-in-gold/?q=metallic

      • This isn’t nearly as gorgeous as the one you linked to, but there are some nice things at Amazon if you search on metallic top:

        And you really can’t beat Amazon Prime

        • Or you could search on sequin top. This one’s super cheap and has 115 reviews:

          Sorry. Neither is as beautiful. Though you’ll see some that are and are even more expensive…

  6. What would you all wear to my funny office party? Lunch at a fancy restaurant for ~200 hospital finance managers, directors, and VPs, which turns into bar-hopping for the rest of the day. Last year it happened my first week into the job, so I wore a nice sheath dress and blazer. Men wore regular suits, but the other women were all over the place, from a few in suits all the way to sparkly party dresses. I’m trying to figure out how to look appropriate for work, nice lunch, and dive bar.

    • Anonymous :

      Layers! Slightly festive but work appropriate skirt, more festive top (shiny or some sequin?) and blazer. that way you can control for temperature at multiple venues as well as looking festive as you choose.

  7. My husband’s Christmas party invite states cocktail attire. For a man, what does that mean? I’m kind of fashion stupid….but definitely much more so when it comes to mens clothing. My husband is an engineer so he doesn’t give a crap about cocktail attire. How about coordinating separates, like sports coat and dress pants. Is a tie required if he wears a sports coat? I don’t know why I’m asking this anyway because he’s probably going to throw a fit that I’m “trying to dress him” and then blame me when he doesn’t feel like he fits in (like the time he wore a baby blue shirt to a funeral…..).

    • Wildkitten :

      It means suit. Does he have a suit?

    • Nope.

    • Anonymous :

      It means suit, but if he’s a whiny brat don’t offer any advice and if he blames you “oh hell no you aren’t! You want my help dressing you ask nicely and take my advice or I’m not hearing anything from you about it”

      • I’m realizing how crabby I am getting about this. I don’t understand why he can’t just put on a suit or at least some dress pants (he thinks khakis are dress pants) for events like this. He’ll say “all the other engineers won’t be in suits”. Well why do you have to dress sloppy like all the other engineer??? Sigh….he’s a great guy and I married him. But he acts like a 5 year old when it comes to getting even a little it dressed up.

        • Please take this with a grain of salt, because all I know about your husband and your situation is just this tiny, tiny snippet. In my experience, this kind of behavior often stems from embarrassment, or self-consciousness. He might be afraid that focusing on his appearance will make him appear foolish, or that wearing something outside his comfort zone will feel costume-y. I know you mentioned that you’re not particularly fashion-oriented, but perhaps you have a good friend (even better if it’s a guy!) who can recommend a good store. I would do a little research first … find a store (in your price range!) and a good salesperson … introduce yourself, make sure it’s someone who will be very kind and patient and give your husband good advice. Then just tell you husband that wearing suits is something grown ups do and he is going to have to suck it up and come with you to the appointed place at the appointed time. Then take him to store and have your amazing salesperson fit him for a suit. Encourage him with lots of positive feedback about how great he looks! I am a big believer in how the right clothing can really make a person feel incredibly confident … with luck, your husband may have the same experience. A great fitting suit can be comfortable, and feel like a suit of armor to take on the world! Or a work cocktail party ;) Good luck!!!

    • lucy stone :

      My husband is a lawyer and hates wearing suits to non-work stuff. We are in the small-town Midwest, so to most holiday parties last year he wore dark jeans, dress shoes, an oxford, a holiday tie, and a sportcoat – maybe a sweater too if it was cold. This is pretty standard male holiday party dress in our town…but again, we are in small-town Midwest.

  8. Summerstorm :

    My firm throws a fancy (read: wildly extravagant) party on a Saturday night and attorneys/spouses from the offices all over the country fly in. All the women wear c-cktail attire. Any woman who showed up in a blazer, regardless of how “festive”, would look out of place.

    • wow, this is my idea of hell – take up a whole weekend for a work party???

  9. I really hate trying to figure out what to wear to parties. I’ve been invited to a holiday party at a local country club sponsored by a bank for their commercial customers, at 5:30 to 8:30 on a weekday. I’ve never been, and don’t know anyone else going or who has been in past years. I’m thinking bank, professional, festive work appropriate, but then it’s at the fanciest country club in our city, so does that change things? Ugh. I can’t decide between a plain black sweater dress, gold and crystal statement necklace, tights and leopard flats, or black lace pencil skirt, red cashmere sweater, multi-strand pearl/crystal necklace and heels.

  10. My holiday office “party is going to be held in the break room with punch and baked goods that people bring in. If I did have a fancy party to go to, I would pick a dress. I always have a hard time finding matching tops for skirts.

    • Our holiday party is comeing up and at least this year we do NOT have to dress like Elves, with the manageing partner dressing up as Santa and Frank as his littel helper. We found out that our firm picutre was rejected for the NY Best lawyer’s magazine b/c one of the senior partner’s had his shirt tail comeing through his front zipper. He is NOT even workeing any more but his agreement require’s that we put him in all firm picture’s. FOOEY. When I get more vote’s as the manageing partner, I will INSIST on eliminating the designation of Partner ENTEMERIOUS. DOUBEL FOOEY on that b/c he realy does NOTHING for the firm any more.

    • Our holiday party is comeing up and at least this year we do NOT have to dress like Elves, with the manageing partner dressing up as Santa and Frank as his littel helper. We found out that our firm picutre was rejected for the NY Best lawyer’s magazine b/c one of the senior partner’s had his shirt tail comeing through his front zipper. He is NOT even workeing any more but his agreement require’s that we put him in all firm picture’s. FOOEY. When I get more vote’s as the manageing partner, I will INSIST on eliminating the designation of Partner ENTEMERIOUS. DOUBEL FOOEY on that b/c he realy does NOTHING for the firm any more except to eat our food from the pantry!

  11. Note to the hive: Last Call by Neiman Marcus has a deal for an extra 55% off cold weather accessories, including women’s wraps. They’re perfect for something warm to wear in a chilly office!
    Check here: http://www.lastcall.com/Fashion-Dash/Cold-Weather-Accessories/Womens-Scarves-Wraps/cat13730023_cat13850001_cat000004/c.cat

    In particular, I’m loving this one: http://www.lastcall.com/Neiman-Marcus-Border-Stripe-Wool-Wrap-Medium-Gray-Charcoal-Women-s-Scarves-Wraps/prod34900003_cat13730023__/p.prod?icid=&searchType=EndecaDrivenCat&rte=%252Fcategory.jsp%253FitemId%253Dcat13730023%2526pageSize%253D30%2526No%253D0%2526refinements%253D&eItemId=prod34900003&cmCat=product

  12. Also, does anyone have an idea for what to wear for an after-work holiday party that involves both cocktails/hors d’oeurves at a nice restaurant AND ice skating? I’m completely lost.

    • former figure skater :

      Synthetic ponte pants and a festive sweater? You will need quick-drying pants (as in no natural fibers) in case you fall.

      This is crazy. I would never, ever want to skate in front of my colleagues.

    • I just lol’d.

  13. This post doesn’t mention SHOES?? We have a holiday mixer for clients tonight and I’m planning to wear an LBD with a forest green (“festive”) blazer, gold necklace, black tights, and sparkly gold heels!

  14. Anonymous BigLaw Associate :

    I usually wear a sleeveless cocktail dress and heels, as do some other women. But some women just wear jeans and a nice, festive top. A lot of men wear jeans and a button down, but some dress up more. California.

  15. Thanks for sharing this tips. Usually, I like to wear pants in party and you suggest a great collection for a party.

  16. Hi! My husband’s work christmas party is coming up. will be in a fancy french bistro (dinner) followed by a play (phantom of the opera) in a nearby theatre. I have narrowed my outfit choices to 1: a sleeveless, knee length black sequined dress and 2: fit and flare, 3/4 sleeve, knee length red dress. I need help finalizing my choice, as you can imagine my husband not being much of a help! Thanks!

    • My MO: When in doubt, wear black. So I’d go with the black dress, along with a cashmere scarf/wrap if you get cold.

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