Get Connected
  • facebook
  • twitter
Print

Fabulously festive

By Dennise Smith

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Anyone who has lived a short time in West Virginia knows it is a state whose natural beauty is of unmatched vibrancy during the summer and fall. When I lived in Southern California, where muted desert hues dominate, I recall coming back home in the summer and thinking how there really is no word for the eye-achingly Technicolor green of our mountains.

And then there is the swan song of autumn when the mountains are ablaze with coppery orange, deep amber and gold, all contrasted against the brightest azure skies. Ah, but November comes and it all ends ... and dramatically so. Then we all wait for those first bursts of daffodils to pop out of the cold earth, a reassurance that the sun is returning.   

But when the skies turn gray and nature's glory goes dormant, the party season begins, forcing us out of our hibernating state to gather with family members and friends, new and old, and celebrate the holidays.

Indeed, the party season is a time when the citizens of our fair state start to shine. Despite the drear and cold outside, the winter holiday season has always been my favorite in terms of glamour and fashion. It's a time when I stop fooling myself that yoga pants and Ugg boots constitute appropriate daytime apparel and my inner diva starts demanding party frocks and bling!

For many women, the pre-holiday party sartorial regimen is an event itself. The ritual begins in early December with phone calls to your female friends asking that time-honored question, "So, what are you wearing to the party?" As many of you are aware, this tradition starts in childhood. Carly Chafin, a student at St. Agnes Elementary, noted for her interview below: "My favorite part is right before the party, when you are getting dressed up!"

The fun of picking out your outfit and getting dressed up can only be matched by seeing what your friends and other guests wear. How many acquaintances have been made over a compliment on a great dress or outfit? And then there is the food! Buffet tables lit with candelabras and laden with countless sugary and savory delectables, which I am certain are on not even on the Weight Watchers points list, or at least not more than a bite.

This party season's festive attire did not disappoint. The emphasis was on luxury with opulent colors such as emerald green, ruby red and shimmering metallics. Black is always a favorite for festive attire, but this year it is bejeweled, sequined or accented with lace. In terms of the silhouettes, the look was old-school Hollywood glamour with retro-styled peplums, draped bodices and curve-hugging pencil skirts.

For this story, since reality is more interesting than Hollywood, we interviewed five women and young ladies about their holiday outfits, dressing up and their thoughts on party season.

Joanne Jaeger Tomblin, West Virginia first lady and president of Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College:

Tell us about your outfit.

I like very simple, classic clothing. The outfit is a pair of tailored, black dress pants, a sparkly blazer with satin lapels and a black velvet turtleneck top, accented with silver jewelry and sparkly black heels.

Where did you wear it this holiday season?

I wore it to the annual holiday party sponsored by the governor and first lady, at the Culture Center in Charleston on Dec. 6.

When you are shopping for a party outfit, what are the most important factors for you?

I am all about comfort, as well as style, highlighted with bling!

Do you ever "recycle" any of your party dresses? If so, do you do anything to refresh them?

I recycle and have done this for years. I refresh them with different shoes, jackets and jewelry.

What makes a great holiday party?

A holiday party is always about the guests, having good friends and family together, having fun, eating great food, relaxing together and enjoying good music.

Heather Hill, Pilates and Core Barre instructor at PilatesWV:

Tell us about your outfit.

I purchased this dress after modeling it for the West Virginia Symphony fashion show two years ago. It was from a vintage store in Huntington, The Velvet Owl. I think the color is magnificent and a nice departure from black.

Where did you wear it this holiday season?

I already wore this dress last weekend to the Bailey holiday party. As a Pilates instructor and counselor, I don't have the ability to dress up much anymore, so it was fun!

When you are shopping for a party outfit, what are the most important factors for you?

I typically purchase a dress that can be a permanent staple in my wardrobe. I also want something that no one else will have; vintage helps.

Do you usually buy a different outfit for each party you attend or do you sometimes "recycle" any of your dresses? If so, do you do anything to refresh them?

I do not buy a new dress for each party because I have dresses that date back years which I can choose from. I change out jewelry, shoes, makeup and anyone who knows me, knows the hair changes quite often as well.

What are your favorite types of holiday parties -- formal or semiformal galas, intimate house parties or something in between?

I love dressing up, but I must say my favorite type of gatherings is small and intimate. When I know someone well, I can talk/listen in deep conversation, but I may get lost in a large crowd.

What makes a great holiday party?

A great holiday party would be any size, so long as it consists of good friends/family having time with each other without rushing. Music, and champagne from The Wine Shop, may even make it better!

Pamela Grimmett, vice president of Southern Building Systems Inc.:

Tell us about your outfit.

I bought it at Charlie's on Bridge Road. I liked the style and how it fit.

Where did you wear it this holiday season or where are you planning to wear it?

I'm planning to wear it to The Greenbrier for New Year's Eve.

When you are shopping for a party outfit, what are the most important factors for you?

Something that is not too trendy and that fits well.

Do you usually buy a different outfit for each party you attend or do you sometimes "recycle" any of your dresses? If so, do you do anything to refresh them?

I may buy one new dress and recycle something from a year or two before. That's the thing about buying things that aren't too trendy, you can wear them again. To change the look, I wear different jewelry and shoes.

What makes a great holiday party?

I like galas and formal parties sometimes so I can wear a long dress or gown, but I prefer smaller, more intimate parties where a fun party dress is more appropriate.

Lauren-Ann Swanson, marketing and membership coordinator at Edgewood Country Club:

Tell us about your outfit.

I was immediately attracted to this dress because of its color. It is fun, vibrant and can be used in a variety of settings. My dress was designed by Nicole Miller and was purchased at Geraniums in the Bridge Road shopping center.

Where did you wear it this holiday season or where are you planning to wear it?

I will be wearing this dress to a friend's holiday party this coming weekend.

When you are shopping for a party dress, what are the most important factors for you?

When I shop for a party dress, I aim to find something that is unique, classy, fun and most importantly, comfortable.

How many holiday parties do you generally attend each year?

From galas, to company and friend's celebrations, I normally attend anywhere from five to 10 parties during the Christmas holiday season.

Do you usually buy a different outfit for each party?

Generally I buy a few dresses when going into a holiday season. When purchasing, I tend to try to cover my bases and have a couple of options for each type of event -- gala, company function, dinners or holiday parties with friends and family. I look for a formal dress and then a few other dresses that can be easily dressed up with heels or scaled down with flats.

Do you ever "recycle" any of your party dresses? If so, do you do anything to refresh them?

Absolutely! When first searching for a dress, I always look for versatility. I tend to "refresh" my look by adding a thin belt around the waist or even wearing a stylish blazer. Having one dress that you can turn into three different looks for different seasons and occasions is always a bonus!

What are your favorite types of holiday parties -- formal or semiformal galas, intimate house parties or something in between?

Honestly, I love a variety of functions. I feel each have their own benefit in a certain way. Galas, around the holidays, are always a great opportunity to get dressed up and mix and mingle with friends, both new and old. House parties are a fun way to create new traditions among your closest friends, whether it is a catered or potluck style event, you can always guarantee it is going to be a great night when you are surrounded by the people who mean the most to you.

What makes a great holiday party?

In my opinion, it is all about the people you are celebrating with. When you are in good company, you tend not to worry about anything else.

Carly Chafin, student, St. Agnes Elementary:

Tell us about your outfit.

I got it in Pennsylvania at a store called Ruum. My sister saw it first and told me I should try it on and I liked it. The shoes are from my mom.

Where did you wear it this holiday season or where are you planning to wear it?

My family is going on a cruise after Christmas and I'm going to wear it to a fancy restaurant for New Year's Eve.

Do you like dressing up?

I love dressing up. My friends and I have fashion shows at home and modeling competitions!

What kind of dresses do you like?

I usually like flowing dresses, but this one stood out because of the ruffle at the waist.

Do you like Christmas parties? Why?

I do. They are fun because you get to see everyone. My favorite part is right before the party when you are getting dressed up!

Ayla Blue Aubrey, student, New River Elementary School:

Tell us about your outfit.

It's green with ruffles and has a bow on it. And there's a flower piece for your hair and pearl bracelet. My daddy got it for me.

Where are you wearing it?

Hmm ... maybe to church and then to my grandma's house.

Do you like it?

Yeah! I like it. It twirls good.

What kind of dresses do you like?

Puffy dresses are my favorite and ones with ruffles too. I like pink and blue dresses.

Do you like Christmas parties?

Yeah. I like my Christmas party at school. Last year we played the bells. This year we sang "Silent Night" in sign language.

What is your favorite thing about Christmas parties?

The activities and the food.

What's your favorite party food?

Marshmallows!

Dennise Smith is a Charleston lawyer, fashion designer and co-founder of the local arts group Nomadic Tribes Collective.


Print

User Comments