Perfect party dresses for the festive season

Zoe Gunn

12 November 2021

From micro-mini to glamorous ball gown, pull out all the stops in this year’s most frivolous frocks

12 November 2021 | Zoe Gunn

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Step away from your sweatshirts and lock up your loungewear. The party season is here and, this year, we’re going out out. After last year’s damp squib of a Christmas, never has the appetite to dress up and enjoy ourselves been stronger – and, for that, you’re going to need a great dress. Whether your diary calls for glamorous black tie gowns, flirty cocktail dresses or something a little more fashion-forward, our edit of the best party dresses for Christmas 2021 has got you covered.

The Little Black Dress

16 Arlington Cynthia feather trim mini dress, £750, harveynichols.com
Prada paillette-embellished mini dress, £2,135, net-a-porter.com

While it may be the most classic party style, these designs show that the Little Black Dress is anything but boring. Embellishment is a perfect way of adding oomph to any festive look and, whether you opt for 16 Arlington’s fabulous feathers or Prada’s disco-style sequins, all these dresses need is a great pair of heels and plenty of attitude.

Lanvin cape-effect strapless mini dress, £2,451, net-a-porter.com
Bernadette Lucette one-shoulder puff sleeve dress, £470, brownsfashion.com

More of a minimalist? Opt, then, for a dress that plays with unusual silhouettes. Lanvin’s strapless satin mini may look simple but, turn sideways, and it reveals a dramatic cape back primed for pairing with statement jewellery. Bernadette, meanwhile, has utilised asymmetry and volume to turn this flowing LBD into a true stunner.

The Sequin Dress

Ashish harlequin dress, £1,285, matchesfashion.com
Avalyn maxi dress, £670, loveshackfancy.com

There’s no such thing as too much when it comes to Christmas party dressing – especially if we're talking about sparkle. Channel your inner magpie with a frock worthy of Studio 54: London’s king of sequins Ashish and New York City-based LoveShackFancy both offer gowns which fall squarely in the ‘go big or go home’ category.

Star motif viscose dress, £2,850, burberry.com
Saint Laurent sequin mini dress, £1,320, farfetch.com

If you’re not quite ready to step out in full bling, ease yourself in with Burberry’s star-spangled draped dress or Saint Laurent’s glittering take on the LBD. Two trends for the price of one? We call that a bargain.

The Evening Gown

Azzi & Osta bow-detail strapless gown, £3,900, harrods.com
Roksanda Demetria asymmetric dress, £1,895, matchesfashion.com

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the fantasy of a ballgown but, on a practical level, we recommend you choose an evening dress based on the number of black tie events in your diary. There’s no escaping the fact that evening gowns are pricey and buying a new dress for every event isn’t exactly great for the planet. With this in mind a sophisticated pastel number, like these elegant designs from Azzi & Osta and Roksanda, are ideal for festive events but will also look great at spring galas and summer weddings.

Saloni Camille velvet gown, £750, matchesfashion.com
Semsem evening gown, £927, net-a-porter.com

If you do have a lot of parties to dress up for, however, there’s nothing wrong with splashing out on a seasonal gown that will stand you in good stead for many party seasons to come. There is, perhaps, no gown quite so Christmas party appropriate as Saloni's velvet dress embellished with crystal bows. If that feels a little too on the nose, Semsem’s wonderfully sculptural pleated pine green design treads a fine line between bohemian and disco queen.

The Textured Dress

Needle & Thread Genevieve gown, £450, harrods.com
Rachel Gilbert feather-trim dress, £1,799, farfetch.com

Velvet! Ruffles! Tulle! Feathers! There’s nothing more festive than going OTT on texture. Have a serious feminine side? Unleash your inner Cinderella in frothy confessions by Needle + Thread and Rachel Gilbert.

Taller Marmo Ubud feather-trim gown, £1,530, brownsfashion.com
Talbot Runhof draped velvet dress, £1,400, harveynichols.com

Alternatively, Taller Marmo’s snow-white feather trim gown has diva written all over it, while there’s no better choice for hosts than Talbot Runhof’s highly seasonal green velvet number. It has all the cheer of a Christmas jumper – just so much chicer.

Read more: The best women's jumpers for autumn