Going Out

What to wear for the holidays – our fashion panel weighs in

Parties and pastries galore – ’tis the season of excess. Want to try that little red dress and gold statement necklace? Do it! Want to eat an entire gingerbread house, chimney first? Go for it! We’re not here to judge – we’re just here to encourage. We spoke to four fashion-savvy Ottawans to give us the low-down on how to look fabulous at any event this season. Below are edited transcripts of the interviews.

Photo by Throne Photography
Cropped from original – photo by Throne Photography

Erica Wark, no lightweight in the fashion industry, has appeared on television several times – including the popular talk show, The Social – she is a representative for St. Laurent mall, and has written for Ottawa Magazine several times. 

Holiday parties this year – what’s the go-to look?

I’m celebrating my 30th birthday this month and it’s actually my champagne birthday too (December 30th)! So I plan on wearing a body-con gold lamé dress, ’cause hey, I’m turning 30!

New Year’s Eve, what will you be wearing?

This year I’ll be attending a friend’s wedding on New Year’s Eve, so I’m planning on wearing something fun and colourful! Short with long sleeves for a more winter-ready feel.

Any suggestions on where to shop for holiday gear?

There are so many amazing places to shop local in Ottawa – some of my faves include Vincent on Preston, Viens Avec Moi in Westboro and Schad on Sussex. And if you’re spend-conscious this season, opt for my go-to consignment shop, AMH Style, also in Westboro! They all offer unique and beautiful separates and dresses that you won’t find anywhere else!

Is there an accessory or type of accessory that you think will be adorning many-a-lady?

I love fringe earrings right now – they’re vintage with a modern twist and really make a strong statement!

And shoes, what’s your take? Wear boots and then change at the party or is there something you would wear to and at the party?

That’s a tough one – lucky for us it looks like we’re having a green Christmas so any shoe will do! I usually wear the shoe that suits the outfit the best, and just try to park or cab as close as possible, to avoid any issues! Never sacrifice the perfect look ’cause of a little snow fall, haha!

Nail polish colour of choice for this time of year? Will it be different for New Year’s?

Right now I’m wearing an incredible chrome shellac from OPI and will probably change to a bold red for NYE and my birthday! Nails are the perfect way to play up your look and try something different for the holidays!

Any hair styles that you think would be great for this time of year?

I love a classic wave, even better parted on the side, but I’m also a big fan of the tousled top knot or the messy side braid.

And any other holiday tidbits you can think of?

I think this truly is the time of year where you can step outside of what you’re used to and really have fun with your wardrobe and accessories. Been dreaming of that little red dress? Give it a try! Time to stand out and have fun!

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Alison Hughes of AMH Style (one and the same that Wark mentions above) is, quite possibly, responsible for the consignment craze that has taken over Ottawa. Curating only the best, the shop – which she runs with her sister – is a great place to seek out your holiday outfit. And if Alison is in, pick her brain for ideas on how to pull all elements of the look together.

Holiday parties this year – what’s the go-to look?

This year, I am loving faux leather leggings. They are sleek and stylish and SUPER comfortable. They can be worn by day paired with an over-sized sweater and also work well at night with a fitted jacket or a soft, flowy top. These leggings tend to have an elastic waist, which you’ll be happy to be wearing during big holiday meals!

New Year’s Eve, what will you be wearing?

Sparkles! This is the time of year to shine at your dinners, parties and get-togethers, but nothing says New Year’s like sequins!  Avoid wearing sparkles from head to toe, as you don’t want to compete with the Christmas tree. Focus on one great sparkly piece – tank top, shift dress, sequin skirt – and build your outfit around that statement moment.

What’s the sitch like at AMH?

We are fully stocked with many great holiday looks including dresses for lunches, brunches and late nights out.

Is there an accessory or type of accessory that you think will be adorning many-a-lady?

Statement necklaces – also, don’t be afraid to add a little more bling. ‘Tis the season for cocktails and cocktail rings! Borrow something fabulous from your grandmother’s jewel box or pick something new and pretty. Not only are these rings fabulous conversation starters, but also they make great stocking stuffers too!

And shoes, what’s your take? Wear boots and then change at the party or is there something you would wear to and at the party?

This year’s weather is definitely an exception but, ordinarily, I would say wear boots and take a pair of shoes to change into. There is no sense in ruining a fabulous pair of shoes while you trudge your way through the snow; nor is it worth freezing your toes! Accept that we live in a challenging climate, pack your pretty pumps and pop them on when you arrive at your destination.

Nail polish colour of choice for this time of year? Will it be different for New Year’s?

For winter I LOVE a dark and dramatic nail colour but, if that’s not your thing, then adding sparkle to your nails is a great way to brighten up your New Year’s Eve look.

Any hair styles that you think would be great for this time of year?

We are seeing a lot of great options such as buns (side or topknots), big blow-outs and curls. Don’t be afraid to try something new and glamorous!

And any other holiday tidbits you can think of? 

We talk a lot about looking good, but most important is feeling good. If your clothes are uncomfortable, you won’t be able to enjoy yourself. Choose outfits that make you happy – a smile is always your best accessory!

Cropped – photo by Kristy Chapman Photography
Cropped from original – photo by Kristy Chapman Photography

Chantal Sarkisian – creator of the popular plus-size fashion blog, Mode Xlusive – is a self-proclaimed girly-girl. She has a background in makeup and a know-how when it comes to pulling an outfit together. She has also recently appeared on CTV Morning Live sharing gift ideas and has modeled for the popular Shepherd’s Fashions.

Holiday parties this year – what’s the go-to look?

If you have a soft spot for classic elegance, you’ll be into lace, vintage fur, and sequins galore! I think the two-piece skirt and crop-top look will also be in full force this season. And if you are a true girly-girl, you may go for a full skirt in metallic print with a fun top. The edgy tom girl might show her legs in a short T-shirt dress, sparkly tights paired with her studded ankle booties, because – why not?

New Year’s Eve, what will you be wearing?

I have recently lost weight over the past year so I had a previously-owned lace overlay dress altered. A snip-snip here, and tuck there, and now it fits like a glove! I am so happy with it! I’ll pair this black on blush party dress with my new red suede heels and a fun silver clutch, you know, to change it up!

Any suggestions on where to shop for holiday gear?

You can find lots of gorgeous and unique dresses in local Ottawa boutiques like Vincent, Viens Avec Moi, Fashion United and even Shepherd’s. If you’re more of a mall girl and on a budget, I’d hit up H&M, Winners, Zara, BCBG and Simons. For my curvy girls, I highly recommend Addition Elle.

Is there an accessory or type of accessory that you think will be adorning many-a-lady?

Cuff earrings with stones and laurel leaf designs. In addition, I think vintage jewelry is always a hit for New Year’s. Dig up your grandma’s old pearls or brooch and make your outfit stand out from the rest.

And shoes, what’s your take? Wear boots and then change at the party or is there something you would wear to and at the party?

I’m a practical person. If it’s snowing, I’ll be wearing boots. Unless you’re rocking the ankle booties this holiday season, bring a change of shoes that you can send to coat check (in a cute dust bag of course!). You’ll be more comfortable all night and will not regret the wardrobe change when your feet start hurting at the end of the evening.

Nail polish colour of choice for this time of year? Will it be different for New Year’s?

This season we are seeing a lot of metallic. Rich red tones and dark silver hues come to life with a little sparkle. I think you are safe to switch it up. Maybe red for Christmas and gunmetal for New Years!

Any hair styles that you think would be great for this time of year?

The wavy bob, a.k.a wob, will undoubtedly make an appearance this holiday season. Many have already chopped off their locks and will be looking for ways to step up their hair game. The top-knot is also a favourite. Plus, having your hair up really allows you to show off your jewelry (remember those cuff earrings we talked about).

And any other holiday tidbits you can think of?

Invest in a dressy overcoat to lift your outfit. Vintage fur can also do the trick! And rethink the clutch – although they are gorgeous, they can be a nuisance for stand-up events. How many hands do you need to hold your purse, your glass of bubbles and the hors d’oeuvres? More than two. Lastly, recycle your outfits! If you spent a pretty penny on a gorgeous dress, try to wear it at other events where the guest list won’t be on repeat.

Christopher_mong_0354cropped andrew carson
Cropped from original – photo by Andrew Carson

Dr. Christopher Mong is our real-life, really-good-dresser. An emergency pediatrician at CHEO, he was featured in the winter issue’s My Look section of Ottawa Magazine. He fancies bow ties and was once called “Dr. Tight Pants” by a patient’s father.

Holiday parties this year – what’s the go-to look?

It really depends on the party – just remember that, unless it’s a black tie event, it’s sort of like they say in Pirates of the Caribbean – “The code is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules”.

If it’s a Christmas work party, I’d pick conservative colours (navy, greys, not brown, not all black unless it’s black tie – servers wear black), close cuts. Avoid kitschy Christmas stuff unless you’ve got something to hide, like a deficient wardrobe. Nobody makes out with the guy wearing kitschy Christmas stuff. The holidays are a chance to look good in a suit, so it’s about cut, cloth and lapels. If you want my advice on a suit, I’d say close-fitting cuts are still in, pleats are still out, heavy or textured fabrics are a must (please don’t wear your summer suit!), fun socks are your friend (is the party going to be shoes on or shoes off?). Don’t wear a waistcoat unless you have a jacket over it, this isn’t the 90’s and nobody thinks that’s cool anymore.

New Year’s Eve, what will you be wearing?

I might be working, so nothing crazy. If I’m not, the plan is a wool check-grey/purple jacket, textured wool pants from S.N.S. Herning (black), a white shirt from Patrik Ervell, and a bow-tie from The Hill-Side (green). I might throw on a flecked black vest from Camo. I’m undecided on shoes but probably my Red Wing Heritage ice cutter boots (black). Dress to impress, you’ve got the rest of the year to get all the wine stains out.

Is there an accessory or type of accessory that you think will be adorning many-a-man?

Personally, I think quirky lapel pins are on their way back this year so I am very much planning on rocking one if I can find it. If you don’t have one, just wear an expensive watch, those are always in. Bracelets are on their way out (I’m sad), hats are still out (also sad). remember, tattoos count as an accessory – some people can match them to their outfits and some people just have no idea.

And shoes, what’s your take? Wear boots and then change at the party or tread carefully in your dress shoes?

I’m probably in the minority here but I’m all about functional fashion. If there’s no snow on the ground – [dress] shoes, obviously. Wear nice ones, get them polished (show some self-respect), unless it’s black tie nobody cares if you’re wearing brogues or non-perforated shoes. If there’s snow on the ground I personally think wearing boots in-and-outdoors is not only acceptable but adds a sense of ruggedness to an otherwise sterile environment – so long as they’re nice boots. I’m talking leather or suede, 8-12-eye lace-up boots. Wear them in, wipe them off, look like you came from shooting a ski ad. Everyone wins!

And any other holiday tidbits you can think of?

I  hope this is the year that the jeans and blazer look dies a quick death, that’s sort of what I hope every year.