1. Avoid white or pale colors. Unless you’ve got helpers doing all the serving, pickup and refills, if you wear white, you might as well be wearing a sign that says, ‘Spill something on me.’ Darker colors will stand up to more of the red wine, cocktail sauce and other hazards that tend to accompany holiday soirees.
2. Wear a look you’re comfortable in. There’s something about being the hostess that tends to make you want to pull out all the stops and wear something new, different or totally unexpected. Do so at your own risk. It could be setting you up for comments that may or may not be welcome – i.e, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen you wear anything quite so (flashy, daring, trendy, bright, sexy, etc.).’
‘Think about wearing something soft – like a romantic blouse and satin pants – because whether you’re sitting or standing, you want to feel good’. ‘Fabrics that are too stiff, like leather, can get uncomfortable.’
3. Going to pieces. Separates are a great solution for entertaining, because you can get a lot of mileage out of them. One charmeuse or ruffled blouse or sweater can go with dressy pants for your party, a skirt for another and maybe even jeans on a casual weekend.
4. The case for lace. While the practical hostess will avoid wearing anything too fussy or problematic to clean (see No.1 above), it’s also important to feel feminine, and there’s nothing that more clearly telegrams that message this holiday season than a lace blouse.
5. Don’t wear anything too tight or fitted, too short or revealing. This should be obvious, but you’re likely to get grouchy if any item of your clothing is difficult to move around in. When you have to climb up on a chair to get out a dish, or crawl under the table to retrieve a meatball that fell off a plate, the last thing you want to have to do is worry that your guests are getting an eyeful of more than the buffet.
6. Watch the temperature. It might be 20 degrees F. outside, but when the fire’s blazing and the oven’s been on all day, you’re also going to cook if you dress too warmly for your party. A short-sleeve turtleneck with sparkly Lurex, a beaded sleeveless sweater or a cashmere twinset are among the tops that would look good with a pair of pants or a skirt.
7. Choose your shoes carefully. While it’s tempting to trot out your dressiest shoes, the reality is that you’ve probably already been on your feet all day and you’re going to soon tire if you’re teetering around for the next five hours in your highest heels. Dressy but low-heeled mules and flats will make you a happier hostess.
‘I like to wear high heels, but I’ll end up kicking them off by the end of the night’.
Boots are another option, but there’s something great about being able to wear sexy shoes or sandals when there are several inches of snow on the ground, as only the hostess can do.
8. Keep accessories simple. Unless it’s your signature to wear armfuls of bracelets or super-chunky necklaces, it’s best to keep your accessories to a minimum. One great pair of chandelier-style earrings, a pretty necklace or stand-out cuff bracelet will keep the focus on you and not the jingle-jangle of your jewelry.
9. Give yourself time to get ready. There’s nothing more embarrassing – or rude – than hearing the doorbell ring when your hair’s still wet and you’re far from ready for your party. Sure, the house might be beautifully decorated and the food prepared to perfection, but guests are coming to see you. Get dressed in advance and you can always leave a few tasks to finish as guests are arriving, such as lighting candles and putting out hors d’oeuvres.
10. Touching up. Stash a lipstick in the powder room or kitchen drawer – places you might not usually keep them – for a quick touch- up during the party.