Dressing Up for December
Author, Vogue columnist and noted man about town, Raven Smith discusses the finer details of dressing up and going out during December Party Season.
Illustration by John Molesworth
Like any successful capitalist, I love the mistletoe adjacent mass-consumption that Christmas offers. Just before a new year flowers, we get an influx of new stuff: parties, people, presents. Not to be a downer, but we’ve all had a tough couple of years, and December partying is our collective consolation prize after a lot of chin upping and stiff upper lipping. With advent comes the inevitable circus of Christmas parties, and their month-long torrential downpour of chit chat and egg nog (I had my first ever egg nog in New York so it will forever taste a little Chrysler to me). As the parties crescendo, old cliches become real as office workers couple off and call in sick. Parties have modernised. We’ve moved beyond the realm of mistletoe (it’s a touch #MeToo). People want Keto canapes, and now we drink Prosecco, darling. Life is a cabernet old chum. So let’s eat, drink and be merry.
The thing with Christmas partying is that it’s a bit of a Debbie Downer to rock up looking like Fagin in a natty coat and borrowed-looking trousers. You want pockets that feel expertly lined, rather than picked. As a man, too little effort and you’re Tiny Tim, too much and you’re Toad of Toad Hall. Regardless of shimmer, getting the right balance is key.
I’m going to stick my neck out and say a firm no to jeans. They are fine at the weekend. They are fine at the farm, but at a Christmas party? I don't know. Christmas jeans? No. Jeans are humbug. Scrooge wore jeans. So did the reindeer that bullied Rudolph. Please don’t wear jeans and a shirt to the Christmas party, cowboy. What else? Oh, you want to avoid the ill-fitting suit you got married in half a century ago, and in turn avoid the waiting staff comparisons. You don’t want to be asked to refill a glass if you’re not getting paid.
A good Christmas party is always a little loud and brash and over top, much like myself. To follow that thought through, and start to fully identify as a Christmas party, I see no reason not to wrap myself up as a present. At this time of year, I dress like I’m about to bump into all my exes, in garments that tell them I’ve completely moved on. I love a good suit. Cleanly cut. Tailored to my body to avoid that androgynous scarecrow silhouette. I like a wee flash of ankle. I like a lapel. I like flat dancing shoes in a patent, the kind you can get shined up in public. I’m a sucker for magpied jewellery. Just the right mix of rings (finger and ear) without tipping into Pirate of the Caribbean territory. People get very excited about accessories and bags, but I only really care for the greaseproof seafood pasta one at Ciao Bella. The right suit is a stable home to venture - sartorially at least - away from. And I love, love, love shirts. Dress shirts. Aloha shirts. Artisanal shirts stitched by hand. Shirts in Neapolitan colours. Shirts in primary tones. Loud ones, quiet ones. All of them.
At around two egg nogs, once everyone’s a little more louche, you can live without the jacket. Shed the layer like the foil on a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, leaving a rich shirt and trouser combo beneath (sometimes a cummerbund is the right touch but you have to be careful with cummerbunds). Dance the night away, avoid any Instagram stories after midnight. My only other advice is hydrate. Keep drinking water, please. You’ll thank me in the morning. Tis the season of goodwill and slightly too late nights.
A final word of warning: New Year’s eve is novice night, where people who barely touch alcohol all year turn vicious with drink, stumbling round the city, retching into the abyss. Save yourself the drama. Find a private party, the closest friends you have. Nurse an amber drink and a good shirt. A little pointy cardboard hat is a must.