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What to Wear: Family Holidays

By Amalah

Hi Amy!
First time poster, long time reader. Congrats on the birth of your son! Here’s my question: Christmas is coming and I’ve got a few family gatherings to attend. Our family parties are very casual – shirt and pants – but I’d like something a little special this year that’s different from my typical khakis and turtleneck sweater combo. Any favorite pieces for this season that are trendy and fun? Oh, we’ll be in Western NY, so it should be quite, quite cold in December. Thanks!!!

What? You don’t have an assortment of festive Christmas sweaters on hand? No snowmen or stockings or little kittens with real jingle bells on their collars? FOR SHAME.
31Rdm13FHaL._AA400_.jpgOh, I’m kidding, but this is SUCH a good year for sweaters. I mean, every year the stores have sweaters, but sometimes I am not a fan of those sweaters. The colors, the styles, the short little things that hit me right above the spare-tire-muffin-top-baby-pouch-whatever-you-want-to-call-it. But this year! Everything is soft and chunky and cozy and I could totally curl up on the sweater display at the store and take a nap. There’s also a decent selection of cotton and regular wool sweaters instead of nothing but crazy-expensive cashmere. My Recession Wallet and I appreciate that.
So if you want to keep it casual but upgrade a little from the khakis and turtleneck, swap jeans for the khakis and add a chunky cableknit sweater over the turtleneck (or a tank, depending on whether your family parties in a sauna or an igloo). Maybe a sweater jacket style, or a long cardigan or shrug. (And I’m only linking for the sake of examples — you can find these styles EVERYWHERE, and for cough cough cheaper Target Ross TJMaxx Filene’s etc. cough.)
I am also particularly a fan of the sweater dress, paired with warm tights — plain, textured, funky-colored, whatever. Dress it down with flat boots or slip-ons, dress it up with heels (am especially fond of mary janes or below-the-ankle boots). It’s easy, doesn’t wrinkle and ta-da! IS WARM. LIKE WINTER CLOTHES ARE SUPPOSED TO BE.
(Sorry. Every year I bang my head against the wall because every year, every vaguely dressy or special item of clothing is still sleeveless, even in the dead of winter, requiring a whole separate collection of cardigans and wraps, none of which ever seem to match more than one dress.)
I’ve bought two sweater dresses this past month alone. They’re both total no-name styles that I found at Filene’s Basement (hey, I’m certainly not going to spend a fortune on postpartum clothing that I hope will be much to big for me at some point in the future, and also the economy ate any spare fortunes I happened to have lying around), but they’re both incredibly cute and versatile. Tights, leggings, and even skinny jeans work with them. Heels, ballet flats, boots, some colorful jewelry — I swear, they’re the most idiot-proof wardrobe item I’ve bought in years.
Although it technically was a “Fall” fashion guide, I think pretty much everything on Heather’s guest entry from October would fit the bill for you in Winter. (Hey! Look at that! Sweater dresses! First thing listed! We’re all a bunch of lemmings! Really cutely dressed lemmings!)


Published December 11, 2008. Last updated December 11, 2008.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Sum

    December 11, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Sweaters and sweater dresses are good, but for curvy or plus-size ladies, this season’s chunky, boxy, clingy, or just extra-fabric-y sweaters and sweater dresses can be tough to wear without adding 10-20 visual pounds and/or distorting the body’s shape. (And who wants to wear Spanx—a near essential under a sweater dress—to the Christmas table? Not me.)
    If you’re curvy and decide to wear a sweater that feels too bulky, you can, of course, add a wide belt at the waist or other accessory to help re-define the shape. Still, I think it best to proceed into sweater territory with caution if you’re concerned about adding bulk to your frame. No one wants to be the Sweater Yeti for Christmas.
    Another good top idea, particularly if you want to emphasize your shape, would be a comfy knit top with a flattering neckline or a structured(!) stretch cotton blouse, worn under a nicely fitted, buttoned tweed vest. (In my experience, vests are easier to find than a well-tailored blazer, which would also work.) Vests in all manner of tweeds are in all the stores right now, and are available at pretty much any price point. (If you’re into vintage suiting, check the men’s section of your local thrift store.) Most off-the-rack vests have an adjustable waist tab, which gives you more control over your silhouette. You can also unbutton the top or bottom two buttons. (Please, do not wear the vest open.) I’ve also seen wide belts over vests, and, on the right body, it can look very cool.
    [A note on staying warm: If you need a third layer, you can put a cute cami underneath it all and let it peek out of your neckline (or just hang out unseen, keeping you warm).]
    Put the top combination of your choice on with your favorite dark jeans, heels/boots/flats/whatev, and add a few accessories (maybe a cool long necklace paired with a shorter one, or an awesome bracelet, or some great earrings), and you’re set.

  • gemma

    December 11, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    My Major Discovery of Xmas ’07 was that you can wear a plain shrug/cardi/bolero/mini thingy over a jersey wrap/v neck dress and look cute. Add a cami and thick tights underneath + knee high boots and you are not only warm but have layers! One of which you can take off if your hosts go in for sub-tropical central heating.
    Cute black mini cardis also go with almost any colo(u)r/style of wrap/v neck dress. And as a bonus are good for offices that start the day freezing cold and warm up later on.

  • Betty

    December 12, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    where is the turtleneck sweater dress in the picture from?

  • ann

    January 2, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    Thank you!!! I ended up hitting Kohl’s (and, of all places, Sears) and found enough adorable and affordable trendy sweaters to get me through the days of family togetherness. I also recalled that once you get thirty some people in a room with alcohol and children running around, it gets a teeny bit warm. So I scooped up some short sleeve and 3/4 length sleeve sweaters that covered up the third-baby tummy and looked fantastic. Even flashed a (tasteful) amount of cleavage … it was fun to take the girls out for a spin. Thanks again and Happy new year!!!