So it’s that time of year again. Between now and the start of the new year your social calendar has next to no downtime, chock full of cocktail parties, dinner parties, company holiday parties, nice family dinners, and of course, New Year’s Eve. Some or even most of these may be casual affairs but odds are you’re going to have at least one occasion during the holiday season that requires you to suit up.
But how do you turn your standard suit-and-tie looks into something more appropriate for the holidays? Especially if your normal wardrobe consists of just one or two go-to suit options, there are a handful of simple tweaks that can give them a festive feel without looking like you’re headed to an ugly Christmas sweater party.
Add Festive Colors
Combinations of darker blues, reds, and greens will give any outfit a holiday season feel. You can add any of these to your outfit with accents like a pocket square, a tie, a shirt, and so on, but you have to be sure not to overdo it by adding too much color. Even something as simple as just one or two of these things added to your outfit are going to accomplish the job.
As a general rule of thumb, the darker shades of these colors will keep your look more formal and classy, while brighter reds, greens, blues, and so on, are going to look more casual. You can keep this in mind depending on how formal or informal your event is going to be.
Mix In a Pattern
Every guy should have a plan when it comes to patterns and formal wear.
Personally, I think the classic solid-colored suit with a white shirt and a solid tie is as good as it gets, so when patterns are worn they’re done so sparingly. The holidays are a time when you can throw on a patterned coat or patterned pants (assuming they work with basic holiday-themed colors) without looking too casual. And while some guys can pull off the full plaid suit, a safe play is to just keep your pattern to just one article while everything else is done with solid colors. So, for example, if you want to spruce up your favorite dark blue suit for a Christmas party, you can keep the dark blue coat and pair it with some plaid pants. And if you’re not feeling gutsy enough to go with patterns on one of your major articles (the pants or coat), even just a plaid tie or button-up shirt can change your entire outfit.
Layer With a Sweater
Most men who have just one suit typically own a solid black suit, a dark blue suit, or a grey suit. Any one of these three gets a holiday feel by just layering a festive-colored sweater. You can still wear a dress shirt and tie as well underneath.
If you want to go with something even simpler, swap out the dress shirt and tie altogether and put on a solid red, green, or blue turtle neck. A well-fitting turtle neck can still look nice when worn with a dress coat, and with all these solids piling up in this particular outfit, a simple patterned pocket square becomes the perfect accessory to top it all off.
As you noticed, turning the suit you already have in your closet into holiday-appropriate formal wear is really just a matter of picking the right ways to throw in some color, knowing when and where to use them. You don't need something loud and bright for an outfit to become holiday-appropriate.
Overall, the season is actually a great time to refine your own personal taste and style when it comes to suits because many of the events you’ll be dressing up for will have some room for you to take chances. Try out a new pattern, new combinations, or new colors that you wouldn’t usually be emboldened to wear any other season and you just might surprise yourself with a new favorite or two.