Guide: dressing for your holiday party

Guide: dressing for your holiday party

There've been a mini deluge of posts asking for help putting together outfits for company end-of-year parties, so perhaps a brief guide and a few pointers would be of some use.

For a lot of guys, a company event might well be one of those few times a year that they're required to dress up – if the usual work gear is super casual then it can be a challenge to throw together something nice to wear to an event like this. Likewise, if dressing down can be difficult for many who have a stricter dress code at work – turning up in a business suit isn't exactly celebrating the season.

In essence, when attending a holiday party you should immediately think “business casual” and adjust from there. If you're well versed in business casual then things aren't so difficult, but a lot of lads coming here will need a bit of guidance. The key is to dress smartly but relaxed – it's an evening event with your colleagues, not a meeting or getting hammered in the pub. Resist the urge to go over the top trying to impress and, if possibly, calm your instinct to make things overly “festive”. That said, there’s plenty of room to have fun here.

An important point to make: you know your office, your colleagues and your environment much better than we ever could. Dress to a degree of formality as appropriate for your situation. If a suit is expected then just wear a good suit.

Suggestions are merely suggestions to give you an idea of what to look for, not necessarily specifics. I’ve opted for cheap options wherever possible – if you’ve a bigger budget then there are naturally better quality clothes out there.

If this is your first time to MFA, don't forget to check the sidebar – guides such as The Basic Wardrobe and the Winter guide will be very useful.


Even if a simple t-shirt or polo is ok at work it's not going to cut the mustard here. Instead, you'll want to find a nice well-fitting dress shirt . Solid white is the colour of preference for any smart evening do such as this, as it's the classic choice for the night time – sharp, defined and appealing under the soft lights. If white is a bit too much for you, a patterned white, light blue or very faded pink/lavender can work well as well. The more casual the rest of your outfit, the less well a white dress shirt will work. Keep the colours light (dark shirts are a bit more nightlife and than this) and avoid hi-sheen bright colours at all cost.

Don't wear double/French cuffs – save them for wearing with suit and tie. Button down collars are a good choice, especially if you're American at the time of reading. Oxford cloth should ideally be reserved for the daytime, but if you don't have much need for a white dress shirt then perhaps an OCDB would be a more useful purchase and will be fine in such a setting.


Marks and Spencers Ultimate Non-Iron Pure Cotton Plain Shirt £29.50

Charles Tyrwhitt White Poplin Slim Fit Shirt £70 £24.95

COS Classic Fit Shirt €59

Asos Smart Shirt €22.22 €16.67


J Crew Secret Wash Solid Shirt $65

Uniqlo Stretch Slim Fit Long Sleeve Shirt $29.90


Jeans are a no-go. Chinos or, preferably, wool trousers are what's on here. No pleats and make sure to have them hemmed if they're too long – many shops will offer this service in-store, or a tailor can do it quickly and cheaply. If you've a friend/lover/mother/brother or any other sucka who can sew they can probably hem trousers.

For colours good choices are grey, brown or maybe navy although this is a less versatile choice by far (and can have unfortunate shortening effects if done poorly. Khaki is fine, especially for Americans, but is a maybe a bit dull,. casual and office-worker.


COS Melange wool Trousers €79

Zara Grey Trousers €49.95


Uniqlo Wool Blended Flat Front Pants$49.90 $29.90

J Crew Bowery slim in wool $88


It's December and usually this means coldness (apologies to those of you living in winterless climates or down under). As such, a simple jumper or cardigan layered over the dress shirt can be a wise choice both for warmth (especially useful if a rented event hall isn't well heated) and for looking good/seasonally appropriate.

If you don’t need much in the way of extra insulation, a thin merino wool (or synthetic alternative if you’re not fussed) sweater is a great choice. They layer well under a jacket. Steer clear of bright neon colours. Black can work well if you’re wearing light/medium grey trousers.


COS Knitwear

COS Merino Jumper €69


Uniqlo Knitwear

Chunkier options are a bit more fun and festive and less conservative. However, they will effectively replace a blazer/jacket and therefore make your outfit considerably more casual.

Consider a Fair Isle pattern – there’s not many times of year when it’s a great choice but this is certainly one of them. For smarter dress go for darker, plainer colours. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to be a bit more playful with your sweater than normal. Just try not to be That Guy with the “hilarious” Christmas sweater featuring Rudolph the red nosed reindeer (that really lights up) – he’s the same as Novelty Tie Guy.

Asos Cable Knit Jumper €38.89

Asos Cable Cardigan €52.78

Marks and Spencers Blue Harbour Pure Lambswool V-Neck Cardigan £39.50

H&M Sweater $49.95 / €39.95

Lands End Regular Lambswool FairIsle Crew Sweater $84 LL Bean Shetland Wool Sweater $49.50

Blazer/Sports jacket

Optional (a thick cardigan/jumper is a casual choice), but a jacket can really bring an outfit together and this is an ideal venue for one. Hard to cover in detail in such a short space, but colours such as navy, brown or green are excellent choices. If you chose charcoal or khaki trousers then a lighter grey sports jacket works well. See my previous thread for more combination ideas. Avoid black.

A thicker, more ruggedly textured sports jacket is a good choice for this time of year but is a more casual pick. A well chosen jacket can easily dress up or down an outfit in accordance with the dress code of the event. I’d say that if going for a casual sports jacket then to picket a light blue shirt instead of a white. Otherwise, a sharp dark navy worsted wool blazer over a white shirt is a crisp and smart combination and is highly recommended

There’s really too many choices, price ranges and quality to give decent suggestions here. Focus on fit above everything else and remember that a decent blazer/jacket tends to cost a little more than you probably would like to pay. Uniqlo, Zara, COS, WE and H&M all do reasonable cheap options.


For a formal evening event black is the only choice that makes sense. However, given the more casual nature of most holiday parties and of the outfit we’re putting together it’s hard to recommend. In fact, I would generally suggest steering clear of black shoes if you’re not wearing an actual suit. Instead, opt for quite a dark brown or cognac colour.

The shoe guide will be more useful than me here, give it a read for decent suggestions.

Cap toe oxfords are my favourites – very smart and perfect for the evening.

Suede is great choice for a smart casual outfit and monkstraps add a playful touch.

MFA’s favourite wingtips or brogues are perfectly fine for an evening, although I’d suggest not in a walnut colour.


Whether a tie is necessary or not is up to you – don’t add one just to “smarten things up”, but wear one if it makes sense given your company and the setting. If you do choose to add one, a few things to note:

  • Don’t go for hi-sheen glossy ties. Rather tacky.

  • Dark colours are generally better looking and for an evening event almost essential.

  • Be wary of too much patterning.

  • Don’t wear one without a blazer/jacket/jumper/cardigan. This will almost certainly move the outfit from relaxed but smart to office drone/juvenile.

If your shirt has a spread collar or any kind and you’re wearing a jumper/cardigan, a tie makes good sense.

A nice option for the holidays and for a smart-casual outfit is to go for a wool tie – much less formal and stuffy than a silk one. Grenadine is another great option.

The Tie Bar

Berg And Berg

J Crew

The Knottery

Suit Supply

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