Choosing the best outfit for an office party is never as straightforward as grabbing your favorite dress from the closet. Office party attire must strike a balance between professionalism and personality no matter the holiday. Though this is not just another workday, you’re still presenting an air of decorum in front of your boss and colleagues.
Wondering what types of dresses to wear to an office party? Your decision should consider a range of office party details. What is your office dress code on a normal day? Are you in a managerial position? What type of event are you attending? We’ll dive into some do’s and don’t for choosing the best office party outfit as well as five of the best dresses for kicking back with your coworkers.
Tips for Choosing a Dress for An Office Party
There is no hard-and-fast rule for choosing the best outfit for an office party. It all comes down to considering your unique company culture and how you’ll spend your afternoon or evening celebrating. Consider a few helpful tips for choosing office event and holiday party outfit before heading to the store. Consider these questions:
What is your office dress code?
Do you work in a financial firm with pencil skirts and blazers or a funky startup that encourages jeans in the office? Perhaps you’re somewhere in between and wear business casual attire. More and more businesses are encouraging a “come as you are” policy these days, while plenty still stick to the traditional corporate standards.
The right dress for your holiday party should align with the energy of your office which taking the festive occasion into account. It’s fine to break free from office wear but be sure to base your decision on the tone of your company and the holiday itself.
Where is the party being held?
Check out the venue before you pick out your office party dress just as you would with a wedding or other formal event. Summer barbecues on the roof of your office building imply more casual wear while a rented event space encourages black tie or cocktail dresses. Also, consider if the event has an indoor and outdoor space and if you need to prepare for the different temperatures.
What’s the reason for the gathering?
You most likely will not dress the same way for a Christmas party as you would for a professionally focused event like a merger or product launch. If the reason for the holiday event is to let loose, go a bit more festive. If you’re there to partially schmooze and work the crowd, err on the side of professional.
Who will be there?
Most importantly, consider the crowd. Are clients attending? Is the president of your company flying in? Though office parties are a time to break free from your weekly office cycle of outfits, pick something that will send the right message to the group.
Will you be comfortable?
Comfort is key when heading to an office party. There is bound to be a good deal of working the crowd on your feet. Even if you feel best in three-inch stilettos, keep in mind that you may want to be up and about throughout the night. As mentioned above, always consider climate when choosing an office party dress. Bring a cardigan or pashmina for chillier rooms or outdoor venues.
5 Types of Dresses to Wear to an Office Party
Since this is a chance to steer away from your usual office wear, use this as an excuse to treat yourself to a new event out or pull your favorite dress from the closet. These examples run the gamut from summer cocktails at the company picnic to an office Christmas party at the end of the year.
1. A-Line or Fit and Flare
The A-line dress has survived the test of time due to its versatility and ability to flatter all body types. If you’re headed to a holiday office party, show off a classic look by choosing a plain, patterned or embellished dress. A-line dresses vary in length, neckline, sleeve length and the fullness of the skirt. Fit-and-flare dresses create a similar shape but often include a skirt that hangs closer to the legs. This is a good choice for showing off confidence without making too loud a statement.
Save longer A-line dresses for more formal events like galas and reach for knee or tea-length dresses as semi-formal attire for retirement parties. If you choose a shorter skirt, be sure you feel confident and comfortable wearing the same length to a normal workday.
Ways to dress it down: Fit-and-flare dresses come in many different materials. An elastic, cotton dress is perfect for outdoor gatherings in the warmer months. Add a pair of nice sandals or a cardigan for a relaxed look.
Ways to dress it up: Stick to structured and embellished fabrics to meld with more festive and formal occasions. Formal A-lines with a pair of heels are a go-to look for cocktail parties and less formal galas and awards nights. Add a statement necklace or eye-catching earrings to tip it over into black-tie wear.
2. Midi Pencil Dresses
Channeling the chic style of the 1960s, pencil dresses mirror the office look with a more formal and festive slant. Pencil dresses come in a variety of cap, quarter or long sleeves. The fabric tends to sit quite snug, though it’s important to choose a style and size that keeps you comfortable.
The best thing about this look is that it easily straddles the line between professional wear and party dress. If your workday blends from workday to cocktail party without a break, remove a blazer or throw on a playful shrug to dress it up. These dresses also come in a range of lengths, though the mid-calf option best mirrors the professional energy of a corporate office.
How to dress it down: A simple cardigan or jacket gives a pencil dress and everyday appearance while still maintaining its elegance. If you’re looking to keep your attire it a bit more casual, wear with flats or over-the-knee boots.
How to dress it up: The chic and simple style of pencil dresses allow you to play with shoes and accessories a bit more. Choose a lavish necklace, bracelet or pair of earrings to complement to the color of the dress. Heels work perfectly with this look, as do formal ankle-high boots.
3. Summer Maxi Dress
When the season warms up and office barbecues and picnics kick into gear, it’s important to have a go-to dress that is both professional and weather appropriate. Even if you can’t wear them at the office, summer office parties are a good time to break out the maxi dress. Its light fabric is ideal for hot weather, but its length adds a bit of formality.
Choose a traditional strapless maxi or go with a more professional slant and choose a long-sleeve look. Plain maxi dresses leave the door open for accessorizing, but patterned and embellished dresses are easier to mesh with a more formal summer occasion.
How to dress it down: If your office party is outdoors on a chillier spring day, bring a cotton cardigan or throw to give the outfit a cozy appearance. Add some office-appropriate sandals (i.e. not flip flops) and choose floral, bohemian jewelry to accent.
How to dress it up: Depending on the cut of the dress, most maxis blend well with embellished belts, accent necklaces or more structured blazers. Think of a simple maxi dress as a blank palette to design with accessories for each event. If the fabric lends to a more formal event, wear a pair of heels or heeled boots to balance out the look.
4. The Shift Dress
Channeling the glam of the 1920s flapper or 1970s mod, shift dresses are often waistless, thigh or knee-length dresses that show off a simple shape. Their simplicity makes a confident statement as a dress for office parties. They are easy to accessorize and adaptable for all seasons if you add a pair of tights and a blazer.
The embellished shift dress is best for a formal office gathering such as a cocktail party, gala or award ceremony. Beaded details can transform the simple garment into a fashion-forward piece that is eye-catching and festive. Also, you can add a fun belt to many of these dresses if you prefer a defined waistline.
How to dress it down: Go with a simple fabric like linen, cotton or stretch polyester blend. Pair with a fun pair of tights or if it’s summer, a pair of upscale strappy sandals. Add a pashmina or cardigan if you’re going for a casual look.
How to dress it up: Shift dresses easily blend from office to party attire with the right changes, especially if you’re hurrying from one to the other. Pop on a pair of open-toed heels, add a string of pearls or charm necklace and switch your hair to an up-do. Embellished dresses do not need as much sparkle since the design already speaks for itself. Add a bit of sparkle with a hairpin, bracelet or fun pair of tights instead.
5. Wrap or Ruched Dress
Dresses that gather or wrap fabric around the body are not only versatile for different body types but also quite comfortable. Their unique structure also makes them ideal dresses for an office party. Wrap dresses tie around the waist, allowing you to adjust to your own comfort, while ruched dresses are often flattering due to its gathering of fabric throughout the dress.
Since these dresses also come in all styles and lengths, be sure to choose a dress that meets all the office party dress suggestions above. Consider the appropriate length, comfort, and tightness to ensure you’re maintaining a similar look to your office throughout the week.
How to dress it down: Wrap dresses with flowing skirts make lovely outfits for seasons throughout the year. Their relaxed, graceful line is casual enough for outdoor gatherings but easy to dress up for a happy hour or more formal gathering. Add sandals in the summer, flats in the fall or boots in the winter.
How to dress it up: Choose a ruched or wrapped dress with a bit more structure for a formal look for a Christmas party or retirement gathering. Some styles feature different skirt layers, buttons or embellishments. Go with a sweetheart or high neckline if you’re going right from a corporate office to a party. As always, add heels for a final formal touch.
The Office Party Dress: A Recap
Every company gathering seems to spark the same question: what dress can you wear to an office party? Though the answer is never quite as straightforward as you like, you can stick to a few attire tips to ensure you make the best impression. To recap, remember to always consider:
- Your daily attire
- The type of event
- The event space for your party
- The reason for the gathering
- Who will be there
Now that you know how to land the perfect outfit, you need to find a place to wear it. If you’re planning a corporate event or office party, we have the perfect venue at The Pavilion.
Dress up or dress down these five go-to options whether you’re planning a party in the summer sun or schmoozing over cocktails in this year’s big corporate events.