If you love fashion like I do, the holidays are a dangerous time. The process of trying on new clothes, mixing and matching shapes and textures is always such a fun game to me—and never more so than at the holidays, when my options include fur, velvet, and sparkles.
At the same time I, like most of us, am on a budget (thank you, #gradschoollyfe!). So my love of fashion is continually negotiating with what I need and, perhaps even more importantly, what I will actually wear.
I’m continually surprised to see the difference between what I think I will wear and what I actually do wear. That black blazer that was supposed to “go with everything” gets little wear, but the pricey sweater I bought on a whim three years ago gets worn almost daily. This discrepancy only increases at the holidays, when the stores are full of temptations towards things that work in the moment but don’t go the distance. The glitz and glam whisk me away on a magic carpet ride into the land of things-I-will-never-wear-again—not even next Christmas, because trends come and go. Fashion, like time and tide, waits for no man.
This year I’ve been doing a closet assessment to take stock of what holiday pieces I actually do wear—especially the pieces that I wear both before and after the holiday season. And here’s my assessment! We’re all different, of course, but I always love knowing what my friends’ go-to pieces are, especially when I’m looking to add something new to my wardrobe. All the following pieces are ideal for the holiday season but don’t have to stay there—in fact, I wear all of them from about October through March without a qualm!
01. Fur vest
One of this year’s big looks is the teddy bear jacket, and it’s a cute look but a bit too bulky to wear indoors. A fur vest is a great way to nod to the trend but to keep versatility as the top priority. I got a faux fur vest from J. Crew last fall, and it has become an almost daily staple in my winter wardrobe. It layers equally well over casual sweaters and holiday dresses; it vibes with sneakers and with pumps; it elevates every look without being too “too.”
02. Lace pants
These don’t seem at all practical, but hear me out: these pants are everything! I wear mine with sweaters, button downs, and loafers for work, and with slim turtlenecks, great sparkly earrings, and pumps for parties. They are easily dressed down with a long sweater blazer or dressed up with a fur, silk, or velvet top. Lace can be delicate, so it’s worth investing in a good pair. I got mine, again, from J. Crew, a couple of years ago, and they have similar styles this season. But they’re everywhere—keep an eye out! Go for black for minimalist-chic or bright red for seasonal flair that will help you fight the winter blues into the long dark of February.
03. Leather skirt
Leather can be a dangerous fabric in a wardrobe: too tight, too short, too cheap, and it can read very badly. But done well, leather—even faux leather!—is a classic winter fabric that elevates the everyday. Once again, I got mine at J. Crew (I swear that this is not an ad!) a couple of years ago, and I wear it at least once a week from November through March. I wear it for work with tights and flats, out with friends with a flirty top and booties, and for Christmas festivities with a slim black turtleneck and sparkly earrings. If you go short, look for a pleated or A-line shape: tight and short are a difficult combination in leather. If you want a midi-length, an A-line shape reads more modern while a pencil skirt is a timeless classic. Both transition easily from work to party by changing out the top.
04. Leopard print loafers
Loafers are a winter staple. So is leopard print, which has seized the world as the new anywhere, anytime neutral (see Jenny Walton’s Instagram for some serious pattern-mixing inspiration!). So combining these two wardrobe necessities is an obvious win. Dress them down with denim; dress them up with velvet, lace, silk, you name it. The key is the shape of the shoe: you want a toe-box that elongates the foot without being too pointy (at least if you’re aiming for a true loafer vibe; pointy flats are on trend, but different.) Both J. Crew and Madewell have some lovely shapes, and DSW usually kills it with the last-season looks they’re famous for.
05. Cool statement jacket
I know this is terribly vague, but I mean it to be. Let me explain: a few years ago, I bought this fabulous quilted jacket on major sale at Anthropologie. Various pinks and reds, gold studs along the hem and wrist lines, leather lining the pockets—this jacket just screamed “I am chic,” the way some items do. I doubted my ability to pull it off, but I couldn’t pass up the deal. Most of the time when I buy a piece this way, it ends up unworn and in the give-away pile within 12 months. But this time, something was different—the jacket transforms the most basic of outfits into a deliberate statement, and this, as we all know, is the heart of fashion. What’s key is its versatility: it is not a “holiday” jacket—I wear it year round. So while I love the velvet and sequined numbers that are beginning to fill stores, I’d recommend staying away from those if you’re looking for pieces that outlive the holidays. But if you can find that mystery piece—which you won’t know until you see it—all I can say is snap it up!
These items are neither wardrobe staples nor true luxury pieces: they’re a happy middle ground, the kind of pieces we all dream of having in our closet, ripe for plucking for just about any occasion. If you own them already, lucky you! If not, happy shopping to you!