By Marilyn Wetston

The Holiday season often means luncheons, cocktail parties, gala balls, and celebrations of all sorts. Each of us has the same dilemma. What should I wear? This is sometimes complicated by the fact that these functions happen right after a day at work, so there is no time to go home and transform. Marilyn offers fashion, image, and lifestyle advice and invites questions from readers.

Dear Marilyn,
I am invited to a charity cocktail reception that starts at 6 p.m. It is work related, downtown and I live quite a distance away. I would like to use my navy suit and go directly from work to this function without going home to change. Any ideas?

Dear Susan,
Good News. A work related cocktail party means that you can dress up a business suit and be appropriate for this reception.
To dress up any suit start with a non-business feeling underpinning. Depending on your own personal style this can be anything from a lingerie-like camisole to a satin tank top or bustier. In any case it isn’t too bulky to put in your bag or briefcase. Along with this add dressy earrings and if you like a necklace. A small evening bag, dress shoes and stockings will complete your transformation. Slip your makeup essentials into your bag so that you can freshen up. If you like glitz a shimmery scarf or wrap can further dress up your suit. As to a colour scheme you can stay monochromatic and add silver, gold, or gemstones to your navy. However, nothing’s wrong in playing with an accent colour of your choice. For example your underpinning can be a blush pink or a blatant fire engine red.
Accessories are the tools that punctuate a simple look. They add spice and can easily elevate a simple navy suit into cocktail attire. Each time you change your accent you have created a new look.

Dear Marilyn,
I have been invited to a black tie event. I never wear skirts. Would it be appropriate to wear trousers to this event?

Dear Barbara,
Simply put… yes. A tux look is fine for men or women at a black tie function. Try any evening pant with a dressy top and finish with a stole, wrap or evening jacket. Add your choice of evening accessories then step into your dancing shoes and enjoy!
Dressing up for the Holidays need not be a problem if you approach it right. First determine how dressy you need to be. Once you know what is appropriate build your outfit so that you are comfortable and feel well dressed. Evening separates and accessories will go a long way to fill your party wear needs. You will find that building your own collection of these items will pay off for more than just this one season.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Use your mirror to judge the total look and once you are comfortable be confident you look great and go out and enjoy the Holiday festivities.

Marilyn Wetston owns a clothing store, teaches workshops on fashion and image and hosts “From a Woman’s Perspective”, 8 a.m. Sundays on AM740 Prime Time Radio. Marilyn’s, 200 Spadina Ave., Toronto, Ont. M5T 2C2