Find Your Perfect Party Outfit
A printed sheath (Elie Tahari) is professional enough to wear during the day, paired with a cardigan and ballet flats, yet vibrant enough for an after-hours toast with colleagues; just add a necklace (GB Couture by Emily & Ashley) and clutch (Diane von Furstenberg), and change into heels (Salvatore Ferragamo). Hoda Kotb, cohost of the fourth hour of the Today show and author of the new book Hoda: How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer, and Kathie Lee, is "a fan of color, which puts me in a great mood, and anything that cinches the waist." Her secret weapon for an evening out: "I double up on Spanx."
Jessica Szohr, star of the CW series Gossip Girl, attends holiday parties on both coasts and has learned to get decked out without looking fussy. This chunky sweater with oversize buttons (Marc Jacobs) is an unexpected match for a long sequined skirt (Marc Jacobs). "The fabrics are so opposite that it works," says Szohr. And the outfit is as easy to wear as her everyday uniform of jeans. "I'm big on comfort—not just in your clothes, but in who you are."
The Makeup: Warm, neutral colors were Lancôme makeup artist Sandy Linter's choice. After Linter applied foundation to Whitaker's face, she swirled pink blush over her cheeks. Then she lined Whitaker's upper lids with dark brown pencil and added a dark brown shadow from lash to crease. She lined the lower rim of Whitaker's lids before applying two coats of black mascara. Whitaker's nude gloss, from her own line (in First Lady, a shade inspired by Michelle Obama), let her lipcolor show through.
Dress, Iodice. Earrings, Monet. Cuff, La Petite Princesse. Bangles, Sandy Leong and Jennifer Rose at Supplements NY.
Stella Ellis, plus-size model, muse to designers Jean Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler, and author of Size Sexy: How to Look Good, Feel Good, and Be Happy—at Any Size, always chooses a caftan (Stella Ellis Size Sexy) for special occasions because the effect is so dazzling. This leopard print, with its gold sheen, makes Ellis's skin look radiant; the Empire waist and V-neck accentuate her favorite features—her waist and chest. "I go through gaining and losing weight like everyone," she says. "That doesn't mean I can't dress up."
Earrings, H.Stern. Ring, Sonia Bitton. Shoes, Jimmy Choo.
"Dressing up is my favorite thing to do," says Janie Bryant, costume designer for the AMC series Mad Men and designer of the clothing line Janie Bryant MOD for QVC. "I like my legs, so I usually wear something shorter, with very high heels. And I love to experiment with distinctive fabrics," she says. This dip-dyed silk charmeuse dress (Callula Lillibelle) fits the bill—and evokes the feminine shape of midcentury style that Bryant knows so well. Shoes, René Caovilla.
Donna D'Cruz, a jet-setting DJ who has played some of the world's most lavish parties, often stops by three events in one night. A sequined minidress like this one (IsaacMizrahiLive! for QVC) is surprisingly adaptable, affordable, and easy to wear; though it's body hugging, its lining makes it as comfortable as a tee. And who says a holiday color palette is limited to red or green? "In India, where I'm from, we wear lots of pinks and oranges. When you put on a dress like this, you can't do anything except have fun," says D'Cruz.
Earrings, bracelets, and ring, all H.Stern.
The Makeup: "The combination of a red lipcolor and a shimmery pink eyeshadow adds a hit of glamour," says Linter. After applying foundation all over Engel's face, Linter used a soft peach shadow base on her lids. Then she blended a touch of blush just under her browbone, followed by pink shadow all over the lid. Using a dark brown pencil liner just below Engel's bottom lashline, she smudged it with her finger to create a smoky effect. She curled Engel's lashes and applied two coats of black mascara. A pop of soft pink blush and a deep red lipstick finish the look.
Dress, Ports 1961. Earrings, M. Flynn.
A dress or skirt isn't necessary for at-home get-togethers, but khakis don't quite cut it either. Elizabeth Rogers, an environmental consultant and author of Shift Your Habit: Easy Ways to Save Money, Simplify Your Life, and Save the Planet, stands out in a plaid blazer (Libertine), leather pants (Current Elliott), and platforms (Brian Atwood). "Each winter I update with a great jacket," says Rogers, whose book advises readers on how to have more for less. "The crystal elbow patches make this one modern."
Tee, Loft. Earrings, Lisa Freede Jewelry. Rings, Pomp by Sharon Case and Juko at Supplements NY. Bracelet, Ann Taylor.
Brunchers and eggnog sippers: Step away from the reindeer sweater! A cardigan (Marc by Marc Jacobs) in a flattering longer length serves the same purpose but with more refinement, and gets more use throughout fall and winter. "Coziness is key for the holidays," says Katie Lee, author of The Comfort Table: Recipes for Everyday Occasions. "Sequins add a little fun to a traditional Fair Isle pattern." Lee, who will publish her first novel next year, keeps the look simple with dark boot-cut jeans (J Brand).
Shirt, Gryphon New York. Necklaces, Camilla James and K. Amato. Cuff, Express.
Black tie still means a long dress, but it needn't mean stuffy if you look for richly colored, less structured gowns. "I like to stay conservative and traditional—with an edge," says Tonya Lewis Lee, an author and spokesperson for the national infant mortality campaign A Healthy Baby Begins with You. This demure satin dress (ABS by Allen Schwartz) drapes beautifully: "You can see my figure," says Lee, who often attends galas and charity functions with her husband, director Spike Lee. And because red makes such a strong impression, one wide gold cuff (H.Stern) is enough to complete the picture.
The Makeup: Even with a dramatic dress, the eyes can have a starring role. After Linter applied foundation to Sims's face, she dotted a highlighter on the apples of her cheeks and just above her cheekbones, and added coral cream blush. With a small brush, Linter applied concealer under Sims's eyes, then dusted a pale gold eyeshadow over her lids. She brushed a charcoal shadow on the crease and lined her upper lids with a black pencil, smudging a bit past the outer corners. A light pink lipstick is a flattering counterpoint to Sims's formal eye makeup.
Dress, Ports 1961. Earrings, Grayce by Molly Sims.
Next: 5 simple steps to a gorgeous party look