Q: I'm sick of my Little Black Dress. Can you suggest different evening standbys?
A: There's nothing more modern for night than mixing everyday and dressy pieces, like a regular sweater (dual-function items save money) over a long, festive skirt. Or work the masculine-feminine duality of the tuxedo, which is very popular this fall (the late, great Yves Saint Laurent pioneered the women's version). Always smart: casual basics in fancy fabrics (charmeuse, lace, metallics) that give you the comfort of a tee, tank, or drawstring pant while still looking party-ready.
The new reliables:
From top: Turtleneck: Ralph Lauren Black Label, $525; Ball skirt: CH Carolina Herrera, $780; Sparkly belt: Ann Taylor, $36
Tuxedo jacket: BCBG Max Azria, $318; and shirt: Kate Hill; $68; dressed down with jeans: Fidelity Denim, $188
Sequined tee: Cardigan: $695; and silk skirt: CH Carolina Herrera, $430
Q: You've said that heels make legs look better, but I just can't tolerate them all evening. Are flats okay?
A: They're fantastic, especially the styles embellished with beads, sequins, and other glamorous stuff. You do have to watch your proportions: Full skirts of any length are fine with flats; so are dressy cigarette pants (very Mad Men). But wide-leg trousers or pencil skirts look dumpy with them unless you're exceptionally tall. You can always start the party in heels—and take along flats for dancing.
Parties are more fun if your feet are happy. Chic options:
From top: Sequined flats; Ann Taylor, $89; Silk satin with feathers; Tibi, $374; Teeny heels; Oscar de la Renta, $680; Glittery sandals; Jimmy Choo, $1,250 5 Ways to Shine (Not Shock) at an Event
The annual holiday bash isn't an invitation to go wild (unless you want office gossip to feed on your Dancing with the Stars moment). Therefore...
Stay in character. Pump up your usual style rather than making a radical switch. Sometimes it's enough to change shoes and add dressy accessories.
Think subtle. This is a chance to show co-workers your more glamorous side—discreetly. Forget anything overtly sexy.
Make an effort. Buttoned-up, business-as-usual suits or Casual Friday khakis suggest that you're clueless or lazy. Not a good message.
Avoid extremes. Your boss won't be impressed by the fabulousness of those crazy-high stiletto platforms; she'll merely think you're walking funny.
Keep it natural. Fragrance should be low-key and makeup only slightly heightened.