'Tis the season to embrace frivolous fashion

Bec Oakes 17 December 2021

Bec Oakes discusses her sartorial plans for this year’s festive season

When it comes to Christmas Day style, you likely fall into one of two camps. You’re either dressed to the nines with a full face of makeup and perfectly coiffed hair or you use the holiday as an excuse to spend the entire day in your pyjamas.

I have always been the latter, forgoing getting dressed in favour of staying cosy in a pyjama set—I’m gifted one from my parents every year—and bed socks. Christmas in my family has always been a small, laidback affair spent at home with Buck’s Fizz and The Sound of Music and I’ve never seen the point in making an effort for it.

For the 2021 festive season, however, I’m making a change. I’ve had this sudden urge to dress up, to break away from my PJs and embrace all the sequins, sparkle and finery that come with the festive season.

This sudden change of heart is due in part to a job I started recently at Selfridges. Within the Women’s Designer Galleries is the dress edit—a curated collection of classic designer pieces, alongside occasion wear by some of the best contemporary brands.

Being exposed to impeccable gowns by Galvan and Alexander McQueen and perfect party pieces from the likes of Dion Lee and The Attico on a regular basis has certainly inspired me to up my style game. 

I suspect the pandemic has also played a role. During various lockdowns I've missed a lot. And with that, came missed opportunities to get all dressed up; tailored suits, cocktail dresses and a black lace number from Self-Portrait being relegated to the back of my wardrobe and replaced with yoga pants, sweatshirts and slippers.

So now, as the opportunities to get dressed up return, I want to grasp them with both hands. 

Behavioural psychologist Dr Carolyn Mair, author of Psychology of Fashion and founder of the website psychology.fashion, suggests I won’t be the only one feeling this way.

“As we emerge from being indoors for a year and a half, many of us want to express a different identity, one that is outgoing, fun and frivolous. What we wear allows us to negotiate our identity by expressing it differently through clothing. This can influence not only how the wearer thinks, feels and acts, but also changing how others relate to us.”

She continues, “Party clothes have always been popular during the festive season, but this year we may be even more motivated to dress up as an expression of celebrating freedom and embracing life.”

Actively choosing clothing that makes us feel good is known as “dopamine dressing.” A 2012 study found that when participants wore clothing of symbolic meaning, their perceived confidence increased. 

When we have a strong belief in the potential "power" of a piece of clothing, Dr Mair explains, it can influence our behaviour and the behaviour of others.

“[When we’re confident] we stand differently and use more expressive mannerisms, as well as being more alert to opportunities. These lead to more positive interactions with others.

"Actively choosing clothing that makes us feel good is known as “dopamine dressing"

“Dressing up shows we want to be seen and to engage positively with others. When we believe these things will happen, we are more likely to experience them. As the party season approaches, we can use the power of belief in what we wear to help us feel great and have great interactions with others.” The perfect antidote to a tumultuous past year and a half. 

The fashion world certainly seems to agree. From sequins and sparkle at Valentino and Isabel Marant to faux fur galore at Stand and Anna Sui and a roaring 1920s redux at Chloé and Khaite, the autumn/winter 21 collections provided us with a plethora of partywear inspiration.

And, the recent fashion season showings for next spring suggest joyful fashion will last long beyond Christmas and New Year, with hiked up hemlines, high-octane glitz and glamour being a common theme among many of the collections. 

As for the exact direction my Christmas Day ensemble will take, I haven’t yet decided. All I know is I want velvet, I want sequins, I want faux fur and marabou trims. I want everything fine, fun and frivolous to celebrate Christmas. That said, I can guarantee you’ll catch me swapping my stilettos for Ugg’s finest slippers as soon as I’ve finished my Christmas pud! 

Read more: The lowdown on Tiger Grass

Read more: How to master the art of transeasonal dressing

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