Thursday, December 5, 2013

DIY meets holiday parties

*Correction: Today's column in the Observer Style section listed the incorrect date for the Carolina Place H&M opening. The updated (yet tentative) opening date is for mid-January, 2014.

An invitation to the Montolinno Christmas party arrived before Turkey Day, the first of a number of holiday gatherings to "look forward" to. And I started thinking...

In theory, these seasonal soirees are such a lovely idea: Get dressed up, spend time among friends - undoubtedly in a festively-decorated environment with music and dancing - have a few cocktails and delicious snacks, maybe exchange gifts, then call it a night. (And since this is a total fantasy, there would even be snow.)

To be fair, I've only been on the holiday party circuit about a decade, so maybe I just haven't been patient enough. But the above description has never actually been the way a holiday party has played out.

Oh no. True to my nature of making things more difficult than they need to be: What's the appropriate host/hostess gift? Do I need to bring a dish or drink? Is it fancy dress? Etc.

But hopefully my neurosis can help your holiday season, or at least the parties, be as painless and joyful as possible.

Clothing conundrum. You want something a bit out of the ordinary, but it can be time consuming and daunting to put together something fabulous, with the added guilt of self-spending when you’re supposed to be thinking of others.

PureWow is one of a slew of sites that offers several, trendy options that vary according to occasion (and age.) Their featured frocks are pretty well out of my acceptable party-clothes price range, but the slideshow is a fun source of inspiration. 

Want something new-to-you on the cheap?  Retailers such as Target and H&M routinely have festive finds for prices that are mostly affordable.

Or try one of the 22 area Goodwill locations or other local consignment shops, such as Buffalo Exchange or Boris + Natasha, to name only a few. 

If you were able to think ahead for Holidays 2013 and hit a Goodwill last January (and/or when people started switching over to their spring/summer clothes) the recently worn NYE outfits – and amazingly ugly holiday sweaters – are among the first items people part with.

Accessorize accordingly. Glitzy jewelry and tiny handbags. Yes, please. But again, the buyers' remorse that comes from spending on yourself during the holidays can suck all the fun from the experience. 

So when I saw the DIY tutorial for a pearl-embellished clutch on P.S. I made this... I was more than a little excited. 

The supplies are affordable (Jo-Ann and Michael's regularly have decent coupons) and you can refurb a bag from previous parties. Added bonus: the level of necessary skill is low enough to keep it fun, not frustrating, making it perfect to tackle while watching The Muppet Christmas Carol or Scrooged.

Go big. There are endless variations of hair and makeup options that seem to center around the same themes every year: Smoky or glittery eyes, bold statement lips, sparkly/funky nails and hair that's either an updo, super-sleek or extra voluminous.

Everyone from Real Simple to Cosmopolitan and All Women Stalk offer their own take on how to do it best. Spend 10 minutes on Pinterest's beauty boards and you'll likely find a look to try. It should go without saying, but don't over do it. It may be the season of excess, but stick to just one of these beauty elements, any more will likely be too much.

Cheers to the season.