There are two types of people in the world: Those who can go to a holiday soiree and avoid the globs of spinach dip on their party dresses, and the rest of us, who wake up covered in mystery stains, most likely from the 3am nap on the bathroom floor. Yet even with a closet of dresses speckled in merlot and pot-sticker sauce, the impulse to purchase a new outfit for the holidays still throbs, biologically stuck in the DNA pile somewhere between After Eight cravings and bawling during Tim Hortons commercials.
Financially and environmentally, however, it’s time to get strategic in all our clothing purchases. Holly Golightly’s little black dress may be lauded as the pinnacle of timeless elegance, but really, Holly was working on a limited budget. She knew that her one dress had to last through the party, masking champagne spills and cigarette ashes, until breakfast at Tiffany’s. There is a perfect black dress for every body type and it’s worth taking the time to find the right one or having someone make it for you---just make sure it’s well-constructed and washable. Then go spend your money on fun accessories, not drycleaning bills.
Sounds boring? We’re not suggesting an army of black dresses hovering around the cheese ball. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out The Uniform Project (theuniformproject.net). For one year, UP founder Sheena Matheiken wore the same organic cotton-silk black dress as a call-out for sustainability and to raise funds for a charity that supports education for kids living in Indian slums. The project was so successful she has turned over the website to other stylish philanthropists for month-long dress projects. Incredibly, Matheiken created 365 unique looks using only vintage, handmade, reused and donated accessories. She donned hats and scarves, vests, belts and knee-high socks. But if you need inspiration for just one night and have limited time and budget, grab a pair of patterned or bright-coloured tights--- metallic legs always shine on the dance floor (Sock it to Ya, 5495 Spring Garden Road, 429-6725).
Instead of Holly’s pearls, party animals might want to accessorize their necks with a faux-fur collar. Looking around downtown, Spree Designer’s Market (1528 Brunswick Street, 406-3414) and Elsie’s (1530 Queen Street, 425-2599) have reasonably priced second-hand collars on their shelves. We’re a big fan of Leave Your Hat On’s faux-fur hats and collars (leaveyourhaton.com, Boutique Joliette, 1870 Hollis Street, 405-4057), too. For the fashionably brave or for those planning on some midnight iceskating, designer Thea Crawford also makes cute matching faux-fur leg warmers.
When wearing a black dress keep in mind there is always the risk of looking like an extra from Six Feet Under. And a little sparkle never hurt anyone. The Clothes Horse (1532 Queen Street, 483-7067) always carries a great selection of vintage jewellery, but we’re kittens drawn to string at the sight of all those big costume rhinestone rings ($20) on the counter. Dress in Time (5670 Spring Garden Road, 488-7116) also carries an amazing collection of hats, gloves, shoes and handbags. Pretty Things Boutique’s mini feathered top hat (5240 Blowers Street, 492-8329) not only screams elfish sass, you can tip it off to escape lame small talk. Keeping with the classic style, Love, Me Boutique (1539 Birmingham Street, 444-3668) is now selling BuenoStyle and OAK Vintage Jewelry. Each locket and pair of earrings is assembled from vintage parts.
To be remembered for more than that long crying jag, learn how to dress like the life of the party on any budget. There are always inexpensive locally designed accessories at the Halifax Crafters’ Market (see page 44), on this weekend, or on December 17, check out NSCAD’s Intermediate Fashion Show at the Port Campus (7pm, $7-$10) for some ideas. Start a collection of vintage buttons and scraps of lace, or steal your dad’s tie clips.
Just don’t be afraid to take a style risk---this is the holiday of tinsel and spray-snow, after all.