Holiday Party dresses

Holiday Dress Codes Decoded: What to Wear to Every Type of Party

The holiday party season is rife with invitations from the office, old friends, family members and more. With each party invite comes the question: what should I wear? Between cocktail attire, semi-formal, casual chic and other vague dress code phrases, it can be tricky to know what’s expected at each winter gathering.

That’s why we’ve decoded the holiday dress codes to take the guesswork out of getting dressed. Whether you’re headed to an upscale office party, high school reunion or cookie exchange at your neighbor’s, we’ve got you covered on what to wear. Read on for our complete guide to holiday party ensembles, including important styling tips and our recommended dresses for every occasion.


Office/Social Holiday Party

The office holiday bash or a party with work friends requires you to straddle the line between professionalism and celebration. These parties tend to have a cocktail or semi-formal dress code, which opens up possibilities beyond the standard workplace attire. Popular office party themes include:

  • Murder mystery - Opt for cocktail attire with mysterious accents like feather trim
  • Hollywood theme - Glamorous gowns and Old Hollywood inspired styles
  • Casino theme - Look to sleek cocktail dresses or tuxedo-inspired looks
  • Board game night - Nerd-chic like checked prints, sweater dresses and oxfords
  • Pajama party - Matching silk PJ sets or festive onesies
  • Dress for the decade you were born - Have fun channeling your favorite decade!
  • Masquerade ball - Cocktail dresses with an ornate mask
  • Famous duos - Coordinate your outfit with your partner's
  • Scavenger hunt - Comfortable shoes and a dress you can move in

Office/Social Holiday Party

What to Wear:

A classic little black dress is always a safe choice. Look for details like lace, satin trim or elegant embellishments to make it festive. Opt for a modest length and neckline. Stay away from anything too short, low-cut or sheer. Stick to dark, neutral colours for a sophisticated look.

Try a wrap dress in a rich, seasonal colour like emerald or burgundy. Jersey knit styles work for more casual offices. Look for 3⁄4 length or long sleeves and a length that hits just above or below the knee. Wrap styles are great for cinching in your waist.

A metallic midi or maxi dress makes a statement. Keep the neckline modest and accessorize with sparkling jewelry. Metallic fabrics like silver, gold or rose gold complement holiday palettes. Avoid overly flashy fabrics and aim for sleek sophistication.

Combine a satin skirt with a beaded top or blouse. This allows you to mix festive with professional. Look for a skirt that hits mid-calf and pair with a conservative top, like a jewel-neck blouse. Stick to an elegant colour palette of blacks, silvers, golds, deep reds, forest greens, etc.

A lace cocktail dress is perfect for looking dressy yet office-appropriate. Look for a higher neckline, 3⁄4 sleeves or a jacket to pair over more revealing styles. Neutral shades like navy, black and mauve are chic options. Finish with sleek heels and minimal accessories.


  • Anything too short, sheer or low-cut
  • Heavy makeup or dramatic accessories


  • Modest necklines and lengths
  • Dark, neutral or metallic colours
  • Fitted silhouettes that flatter
  • Jewel tones like deep reds and greens
  • Elegant heels and simple jewelry

School Reunion or Holiday Party

Reconnecting with old classmates at a school reunion party means you’ll want an outfit that makes a stylish statement. These parties can range from semi-formal to smart casual. Popular college winter party themes include:

  • Ugly Sweater Party - Go for laughs in the gaudiest, most festive sweater you can find
  • Winter Wonderland Party - Frosty fabrics like velvet paired with faux fur
  • Ski Lodge Party - Think apres-ski chic with cable knits, layers and warm accessories
  • Holiday Party - Sequined cocktail dresses and flashy accessories
  • Cabin party (pajamas) - Cute, printed PJ sets or sweater-pajama hybrids
  • Gatsby Party - Flapper dresses, fringe, suits with a vintage twist
  • Barbie Party - Embrace pink, glam styles, lots of sparkle
  • Taylor Swift Eras Party - Pick a look inspired by your favorite album
  • Masquerade Ball - Ornate ballgowns and sparkling masks
  • Game/Casino Night - Sleek cocktail attire and classic tuxedo looks

You have more freedom to break out fun prints, hemlines and accessories while avoiding anything too risqué or flashy.

School Reunion or Holiday Party

What to Wear:

A cocktail dress with some shimmer, like sequins or beading, says festive and fun. Search for dresses hitting above the knee or at a tea length. Shimmery embellishments add glamour while exposed arms and legs elongate your silhouette.

Try a short, bold printed party dress. This is the time to break out wild prints and textures. Look for wrap styles or fit-and-flare silhouettes in eye-catching prints. Vivid florals, plaids and animal prints all make a statement. Pair with strappy heels to highlight legs.

A sleeveless midi dress in satin or lace makes a chic style statement. Look for deeper necklines since the longer hemline keeps the look sophisticated. Neutrals like champagne, black and navy as well as jewel tones feel dressy. Add a clutch and strappy heels.

Pair a tucked-in blouse with a leather or faux leather pencil skirt. Finish with strappy heels. Look for a boldly printed blouse, like floral or animal print, and tuck it into a knee-length leather skirt. Heels elongate legs while the skirt shows them off.


  • Super slinky or tight dresses
  • Anything too cleavage-baring
  • Stilettos or highly impractical shoes


  • Short cocktail dresses and mini lengths
  • Eye-catching prints and bold colours
  • Strategic sparkle and shine
  • Fun accessories like headbands, clutches, jewelry
  • Playful heels with fun details

Family or Neighborhood Holiday Gathering

When getting together with the family for a holiday meal or neighborhood cookie exchange, comfort and versatility are key. You’ll want to look stylish while feeling relaxed. The dress code for these parties is smart casual or casual. Focus on soft fabrics that move with you and versatile shoes you can wear while cooking, eating and mingling. Popular home party themes include:

  • Ugly Sweater Party - Don your gaudiest, most outrageous sweater
  • Singing Carols - Festive knits with whimsical prints and details
  • Thanksgiving/Xmas dinner - Pretty shirtdress or sweater dress
  • Raffles and silent auctions - Cocktail attire and holiday glam
  • Dance Party - Comfortable party dress you can move and groove in
  • New Year's Eve - Sparkling sequined or beaded dress to ring in the new year

Family or Neighborhood Holiday Gathering

What to Wear:

An easy tunic sweater dress feels polished but comfy with leggings and booties. Look for soft knit fabrics like cashmere with minimal decoration—let the luxurious fabrics be the star. Pair with leather or suede booties and a colourful scarf for an effortless chic vibe.

A long sleeve wrap dress in jersey or a soft knit material moves with you. Jersey wrap dresses are perfect for cinching in your waistline while remaining stretchy and comfortable. Look for long sleeves and lengths around the knee. Complete the look with ballet flats for all-day ease.

Look put-together with a plaid shirtdress cinched in at the waist. A classic button-down shirtdress in a holiday-inspired plaid or check instantly pulls together a casual holiday outfit. Add tights and ankle boots for a cute yet cozy look.

A cozy cowl neck sweater dress brings simple elegance. Look for knit sweater dresses with graceful necklines and minimal decoration. Neutrals like gray, navy and marled black and white work well. Finish with loafers or smoking slippers for a refined casual ensemble.


  • Anything too slinky, short or tight
  • Evening fabrics like satin or velvet
  • Bold prints or loud colours
  • Stilettos or flashy accessories


  • Soft knits, cashmere and jersey
  • Versatile lengths and coverage
  • Relaxed silhouettes like shifts and tunics
  • Chunky sweaters and textural fabrics
  • Booties, flats, loafers and low heels

Our Dress Picks

For Office/Social Holiday Party

Lace Cap Sleeve Lace A-line Dress - This midi lace dress features a sophisticatedly embellished bodice. The lace pattern makes it special yet appropriate. Pair with black pumps and dazzling chandelier earrings for a chic office party look.

Lace Cap Sleeve Lace A-line Dress

One Shoulder Bodycon Evening Dress - The knot front bodice, one shoulder design and ruffled details of this dress make it ideal for a work holiday celebration. Complete the outfit with simple heels and a metallic box clutch.

One Shoulder Bodycon Evening Dress

Metallic Evening Gown - For a more formal office gathering, this stunning metallic gown is sure to impress. The long sleeves provide ample coverage while silver hot drill decoration and sleeve split add a hint of allure. Keep accessories minimal and let the dress shine.

Metallic Evening Gown


For School Reunion/Party

Sheer Lace Halter Dress - This cocktail dress combines a halter neckline with a mini length and sheer lace embellishment. The delicate lace overlay is eye-catching without being over-the-top. Finish the look with coordinating heels and dainty earrings.

Sheer Lace Halter Dress

Spaghetti Strap Sequin Bodycon Dress - Make a sparkling entrance in this fun and flirty dress. The v-neckline and mini length show some skin while the allover sequins add glamorous flair. Pair with black heels and a dazzling collar necklace.

Spaghetti Strap Sequin Bodycon Dress

Tea-length Tulip Dress - This fit-and-flare dress boasts an adjustable spaghetti straps and pleated skirts that will turn heads. The backless style is perfect for showing off shoulders and arms. 

Tea-length Tulip Dress

For Family or Neighborhood Holiday Gathering

Ribbed Knit Sweater Dress - This ribbed knit sweater dress epitomizes effortless minimalism. The soft knit fabric, minimalist style and long sleeves make it perfect for a relaxed holiday affair. Elevate with suede ankle boots, a sparkling necklace and oversized wool coat.

Ribbed Knit Sweater Dress

Faux Wrap Chiffon Dress - The faux wrap silhouette flatters the waist while flowing chiffon fabric allows for carefree movement. Long sleeves give it seasonal flair. Ground the easygoing look with classic ballet flats and understated jewelry.

Faux Wrap Chiffon Dress

By sticking to our guide on how to dress for every type of holiday party and theme, you're sure create the perfect outfit whether it's for the office, catching up with old friends or celebrating with family. Focus on the details from necklines to shoe choice to nail the dress code every time. 

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