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CHRISTMAS PARTYWEAR Under Dressed And Over Judged

Office Christmas parties - one time a year for a reason
Office Christmas parties – one time a year for a reason

As companies wind down towards the end of the year, the workload gets smaller and the pressure to tie up loose ends eases there is an overwhelming energy of sheer joy in the office.

Finally, a break from the humdrum, a sleep in and a hangover I don’t have to hide!

But wait, it’s not all that simple. Before you leave, there are the dreaded Christmas parties. Thrown together on small budgets or being ‘health sensitive,’ the event drags and everyone is conscious that if they let loose, they most definitely will have to see these people again (if they keep their job).

Within the fashion world Christmas parties, or any informal function, comes with the trickiest of dress codes, ‘business casual.’ As the women who work in an office shudder, I will explain to everyone else the horror that comes with this dress code.

You see, there is no such thing as ‘business casual.’ It is a mutant of work and casual clothes that has no home in any woman’s wardrobe. On the catwalk they have a range for every season, resorts, bridal and any other possible excuse, but never ‘business casual’. Just like the giant bunny that delivers chocolate, the idea is too good to be true. Comfortable clothes, that are also professional, tell them they’re dreaming.

While men can whack on some jeans and a polo and fit the ‘business casual’ call, women are left hanging. In this sense being spoilt for choice is not always a blessing. Women who wear a nice loose/short dress, or a pair of trousers and a t-shirt often feel they are not well presented enough, but rock up in a suit and you are the stiff. Window shopping, endless back and forth with other female work colleagues and stalking last year’s group photos, the effort women will go to to fit in knows no boundaries.

Although each workplace is different, every ‘business casual’ event I have been to has been accompanied by the angst of trying to fit in, but look nice. This double-edged sword has been a struggle for most women in the corporate world, ostracised for looking too done up and feminine or feeling self-conscious for being underdressed and over judged.

To combat this dress code, women often find themselves in the higher price ranges. Simple and elegant clothes may be obtainable, but at a cost. Sass & Bide, SABA and Country Road lead the way as they attempt to forge a path for classic comfort. However there is a silver lining, as ‘business casual’ becomes an increasing trend companies such as Target, Portman’s and Wish are pushing for tailored designs that still allow us to enjoy a pasta lunch.


As we ride out the fashion storm until next year, to those who have still to brave the ‘business casual’ events of the future my only advice is to pick good tailoring, layer your outfit (for last minute changes) and know your audience.

HAYLEY GRAYDON