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Q. For Christmas, I will be spending a week with my boyfriend and his family in Philadelphia, which is wonderful except for the fact that I’m from Texas and the coldest it ever gets around here is about 60°! What can I wear that will be super cute but still allow me to stay warm?! Oh, and of course because of the bag restrictions I can’t really pack a ton of stuff because of the weight. Every day will be pretty casual except for the night of the Christmas party… Ahhh… I have no idea… PLEASE HELP!

A. The great news is, you can create a week’s worth of outfits with just a few key additions to items you likely already own. Let’s start with your casual attire: the idea is to impress without looking like you are trying too hard. Pack a couple pairs of your favorite jeans and invest in a few chic and cozy sweaters, including a few cardigans that you can layer over some tanks or tees from your closet. Add a pair of ankle boots (which you can easily wear in Texas with jeans or dresses) in a color that works with all of your outfits and some simple but striking jewelry and you’re good to go. Here are 2 casual looks incorporating jeans to give you ideas (both from jcrew.com):


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Without knowing how dressy your Christmas party is, your best bet is to pack a cute dress (perhaps something you already own), a pair of tights, some glamorous heels and great jewelry. If your dress is short sleeved or sleeveless (this is perfectly ok by the way, even if the weather is cool), then pack a cashmere cardigan or wrap to ward off the chill.

The only other item you’ll need to pack is a chic but warm coat that easily transitions from day to evening.


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dress: Flutter-sleeve dress, $150 at bananarepublic.com; coat: GUESS by Marciano Barrel Shape Coat, $148 at nordstrom.com

Q. What color/type of shoes do I wear with brown dress pants?

A. Great colors to wear with brown pants: gold, cream, tan, cognac, deep red, bronze, copper. As for what style shoes to wear, virtually any heel will look great with your pants. Without knowing how dressy your pants are or where you are wearing them, here are some suggestions:


Q. My husband and I will be attending an evening gala that is cocktail chic. What type of clothing is cocktail chic? Any suggestions for both of us?

A. “Cocktail Chic” is similar to “Cocktail Attire” but with a little extra room for interpretation. Typical cocktail attire consists of short party dresses for women and dark suits for men. Cocktail Chic includes these items but can also include more creative combinations like a dressy top and pants for women or sport coats and blazers for men. Listen to the “chic” part of the dress code and wear something stylish and modern, rather than safe and classic.

A few suggestions for you:

Q. I am attending a weeknight charity dinner with my husband in New York in late October. The invitation suggests “festive attire”. Do you have any recommendations? Would a wrap dress or skirt suit in a luxurious fabric be appropriate? I’d love some stylish tips, especially something I could wear again to another event.

A. Typically, festive attire is less dressy than black tie or cocktail attire but more dressy than casual or work attire. Festive attire is meant to evoke a fun, flirty, party atmosphere. Think metallics, sequins, beading, ruffles, bows, etc. If your invitation is for a holiday party, then festive attire can also include velvet and other fabrics, colors and prints evocative of the holidays.

Your wrap dress or skirt suit in a luxe fabric might work, just be sure to add something fun like metallic shoes or dazzling earrings. Here are a few other options for your weeknight charity dinner:

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1. Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent Ruffle Dress, nordstrom.com
2. Abaete Women’s Arthur Top and Ricky Skirt, bloomingdales.com
3. Jill Stuart Gantz Top (pair it with nice black pants), shopbop.com
4. Cynthia Steffe Marla Top (pair it with nice black pants), shopbop.com

Want more mileage out of these looks? Either of the sparkly tops above can be worn out to dinner or on a date with jeans, while the ruffled top makes an ideal layering piece under a v-neck sweater, cardigan or jacket.
Q. I am attending a black tie optional affair and am wondering what to wear? Female/35. Some of the ladies are wearing slacks, but this is an affair where all the bigwigs will be attending and I want to make a statement. What should I wear?

A. At a black tie optional affair, men wear tuxedos or dark suits and women wear everything from gowns to dressy cocktail dresses. Slacks can be difficult to pull off, but if you choose to go this route, make sure that they are dressy evening pants and pair them with a glamorous top, great jewelry and heels.

Since you want to dress to impress, a dress always offers the greatest impact. Look for luxe fabrics and special details. Here are a few black tie optional choices that demonstrate the range of appropriate attire:

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1. Maggy London Chiffon Gown with Charmeuse Waist, $158 at nordstrom.com
2. Adrianna Papell Shutter Pleat Satin Dress, $158 at nordstrom.com
3. JS Boutique Beaded Waist Cutaway Dress, $158 at nordstrom.com
4. Carmen Marc Valvo Satin Pants, $210 at saks.com

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