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Does Christmas have a dress code? We found out

The Queen of Christmas’ stylist tells all.

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Ah, Christmas. A holiday full of cheer, conversation with loved ones, gifts, and—if you’re anything like me—a time for mild styling panic. (Yes, even style editors freak out over semi-formal Christmas outfits.) It can feel daunting to choose what to wear for such a festive occasion. Should you show up to Christmas dinner in jeans and a T-shirt to face the wrath of a grandparent? Or should you go the formal route and risk too-stiff taffeta and uncomfortable shoes?

For many cable-watching Americans, modern holiday style is embodied by merry made-for-TV movies like A Christmas Contest and A Shoe Addict’s Christmas, to name a couple. In those, star Candace Cameron Bure sports snow-white knit sweaters, dazzling red dresses, and flannels. So who better to talk Christmas dress code than Bure’s stylist, the aptly named Erin Noël? We asked Noël to give us an idea of how we should dress for the upcoming holiday.

What is Christmas style?

Woman wearing sparkly metallic dress while holding a sparkler.
Credit: Getty / CoffeeAndMilk

Metallic accessories and clothing pieces are fashionable for Christmas.

Traditionally speaking, Christmas fashion tends to lean toward “classic” items that make us feel alternatively cozy or glamorous: from silly holiday sweaters and flannel to glistening accessories to color-coordinating green and red. But for Christmas 2021, we can dress up however we want, Noël assures us.

“I think in the ‘90s we ended our Christmas dress code, and there’s more of an anything-goes feel to the holiday season now. But there are expectations, such as sequins, velvet, reds, greens, and metallics, that we all long for once we move into the month of December.”

Noël says that although she styles Bure’s holiday outfits differently every year, they’re curated around the aforementioned typical Xmas attire. Because Christmas style is seen as so firmly classic, curating looks in December means trying out a fresh take on these expectations or safely relying on an old favorite outfit, she says.

What should you wear this Christmas?

Credit: David Dolsen / Crown Media

A still from the Hallmark film "Christmas Town," starring Candace Cameron Bure and Tim Rozon. Here, Bure wears a maroon coat and white scarf for a subtle Christmas styling.

That depends on the occasion, but generally speaking: You can take those expected holiday style attributes and subtly incorporate them into your outfit.

For example, on Christmas morning, go for the coziest option, whether that’s matching family Christmas pajamas or just your favorite robe and slippers.

If you’re attending a Christmas-themed party or social outing, follow the theme of the event. Noël believes Christmas plaids and comfy sweaters fit well when decorating cookies or picking up a fresh Christmas tree.

If you’re looking for garments to wear for more formal occasions like cocktail parties, Noël suggests reaching for classy pieces. For those who dress masculine, that means velvet pants and suit jackets. Those looking for something more feminine can wear dresses with a hint of sparkle. Adding a bit of festive flair to these pieces is as easy as tossing in a matching accessory—think red pocket squares, ties, or socks, or sparkly earrings and sequin handbags. “Anything that can add that extra pop to an outfit you already own.”

Not into the idea of wearing red or green? That’s OK. Instead of thinking in terms of Christmas colors, play with fabrics. “Changing your fabrics to invite a warm, cozy feeling, can display Christmas without dressing up like a tree,” Noël says. She believes satin dresses in navy, hot pink, purple, and burgundy are all pretty at Christmastime, while knits (especially cable knits, which looks thicker), velvet jackets, and pants look handsome.

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If you’re in need of some style inspiration this Christmas, it might help to take a look at festive trends elsewhere. “I always look to ornaments and interior trends for styling ideas,” Noël reveals. Looking to store shelves at Target or TJ Maxx, for example, could inspire new holiday outfit ideas.

Movies are another great way of finding ways to find new Christmas styling ideas. “One of my favorite movies to watch each year is The Holiday,” Noël says. “I really love Cameron Diaz’s wardrobe in the movie—beautiful winter whites with touches of sparkle. It felt like Christmas, but wasn’t over the top.”

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