What to Wear to the Party: Holiday Dress Codes De-Coded

Catholic schoolgirls and maître d's no longer own the exclusive rights to dress codes. This season, getting an invitation to a holiday party means you'll probably have to follow a few fashion guidelines as well. Here, we break down the most popular codes:

COCKTAIL
Yes, you could throw on a little black dress and call it a day (or a night), but you'll feel more comfortable if you go the extra mile, since many partygoers do. Rebekah McCabe, senior VP of public relations for Chanel, plans to wear "my Chanel blazer over my new Alexander Wang cropped satin pants, like a modern tuxedo." Any detail that's slightly special or unexpected, like over-the-knee boots paired with a sleek minidress, works too.

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FESTIVE
This basically means cocktail attire, dialed up a notch. "The point is to mix up the fabrics, prints, or silhouette in some way," says stylist Tina Chai. "Basically anything but a little black dress or jeans."

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BLACK-TIE
If the term "black-tie" sends visions of floor-sweeping gowns (which few of us actually own) dancing through your head, relax. "It's perfectly acceptable to wear a short dress to formal occasions," says creative consultant Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. A great pair of shoes and dazzling necklace or earrings can pump up a short dress. If you're after a less-fussy look, opt for something long. "You can get away with a simpler dress if it's long," says Wolkoff.

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