Sale Extra 20% off all sale prices | Enter code x20july14 at checkout | Ends 8.59 BST Saturday July 26

What Makes The Perfect Party Dress?

Lanvin A/W 12

The festive season, and all those parties that go with it, are the perfect excuse to invest in a new dress. Whether it’s for posing, seducing, dancing, socialising or generally having a wonderful time we’ve narrowed down the qualities that make for perfect party dressing, and some fabulous examples of each!

Timelessness – The Little Black Dress

Lanvin A/W 12

Everyone knows what the Breakfast At Tiffany’s poster looks like. It’s internationally renowned for Audrey Hepburn’s display of total chicness, what with her elegant up-do, cigarette holder, costume jewels, and crucially, her little black dress. Hepburn’s gown was a Givenchy, but Coco Chanel too was famous for the piece – the little black dress is as close to a fashion classic as you’re ever going to get. It’s been a style staple since the Twenties and will no doubt still be relevant twenty years from now. And though the little black dress may be the safe option, it’s one that’s anything but dull, one that can re-invent itself a hundred times over with some clever accessorising. One of this season’s quirky collars can instantly add retro prettiness, whilst ornate jewellery, Holly Golightly style can instantly add pizazz.

Dolce & Gabbana A/W 12 and Tom Ford A/W 12

Designers to try: Valentino, Givenchy, Chanel, Lanvin, Tom Ford

A Sense Of Occasion – The Red Carpet Ready Dress

Jil Sander A/W 12

Christmas is a season so over-run with parties that the splendour of many events is bumped up to maximum to ensure a healthy attendance. And so you may find yourself needing to dress the part. Dresses with long skirts are always great for adding sartorial drama, and an easy way to make instant impact. But anything too ballgown-esque will look fussy and dated so instead choose modern details like key-hole cuts or leather panels that add some edge to the dress. Or for true modern Hollywood cover up from neck to angle and let the colour and fit do all the talking.

Valentino A/W 12 and Helmut Lang A/W 12

Designers to try: Valentino, Anna Sui, Jil Sander, Dolce & Gabbana, Lanvin, Lanvin

Movement – The You Make Me Feel Like Dancing Dress

Oscar de la Renta A/W 12

The best festive parties end with a mass dance-floor invasion, whether it’s throwing your best shapes to the sounds of a favourite DJ or a mulled-wine fuelled singalong to All I Want For Christmas Is You. And there’s usually so much Christmas cheer floating around that you want to move like you mean it, which rules out any kind of restrictive dress unless you prefer to stand swaying awkwardly in the corner whilst everyone dances the night away. Something fitted, but not too tight is a good bet, with a skirt long enough to ensure you won’t end up flashing everyone your underwear. And a dress with a wonderfully flippy skirt that fans out when you spin around is a major bonus.

Matthew Williamson A/W 12 and Sachin and Bibi A/W 12

Designers to try: Matthew Williamson, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Alexander McQueen

Allure – The Mistletoe Special Dress

Emilio Pucci A/W 12

The festive season is a good time to attract that special someone, what with the socialising, excuses to dress up, general sense of warmth and happiness and all that Mistletoe lying around as an excuse to kiss pretty much anyone. And the right dress can really help things along – make you look your best and feel more confident. Sky-high hemlines and plunging necklines can be too obvious, but the likes of Vivienne Westwood’s carefully sculptured dresses make the most of feminine curves whilst keeping a sense of modesty. For the more daring dressers, carefully placed cut-outs, flesh-baring slashes and sheer panels can be seriously seductive, and the easiest way of adding instant sexiness is to go bare-shouldered, with a strapless dress.

Lanvin A/W 12 and Vivienne Westwood A/W 12

Designers to try: Emilio Pucci, Vivienne Westwood Red Label, Versace, Roland Mouret

Elegance – The Sophisticate’s Dress

Marni A/W 12

It’s certainly the season for party dresses but they needn’t all be a black tie affair, after all many of us will be doing our fair share of office to event dashes with little more than some make-up touch-up time to spare. And sometimes the more under-stated dresses are amongst the most fashion forward, using interesting motifs, a playful sense of colour, unusual materials or striking contrast details on simple, clean silhouettes to create a piece that is elegant and anything but try hard.

3.1 Phillip Lim A/W 12 and Carven A/W 12

Designers to try: Maison Martin Margiela, Marni, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Jil Sander

Wow Factor – The Look At Me Dress

Prabal Gurung A/W 12

It may be obvious to suggest that if you want to stand out in the festive season, the most colourful and glittering of all holidays, you simply need to find something brighter and shinier than the Christmas decorations. But it’s true. Gold, silver and other metallics will make sure you catch the light, and sequins, fringing, clashing colours and intricate patterns draw the eye like nothing else. Besides, when else do you have the perfect excuse to embrace so many sparkles?

Mary Katrantzou A/W 12 and Cedric Charlier A/W 12

Designers to try: Meadham Kirchoff, Mary Katrantzou, Ashish

by Hollie Moat

Other Stories

Arthur Rimbaud Ann Demeulemeester

Eye Spy

Closer Look: Cédric Charlier

Kings From The East: Anthony Burrill

The Dark Side Of The Christmas Tree