‘Tis the season, folks, for dressing up. But, you know, I find as I get older, I’m not as excited by the prospect of getting dressed up as I used to be when I was in my twenties. Maybe I’m jaded after the surfeit of party and dress-up outfits in the seventies and early eighties. I’m remembering sky-high heels with tight pants, a sparkling sweater with a black leather skirt, or, my favourite, a head to toe winter white outfit.

I still have a vivid picture in my head of that winter white outfit. A beautiful cream sweater with matching slim-cut wool pants that I wore with burgundy high heels. And I have an even more vivid picture in my head of the bottle of red wine that someone knocked over one night in a restaurant, and my unsuccessful attempt to scramble out of the way as the wine flooded across the table, dripped onto my sweater and pants and pooled on my chair. Oh… I was greatly distressed… so distressed, in fact, that I didn’t even notice that the stain matched my pumps perfectly. I could ill-afford that outfit to begin with, let alone having it ruined on its first outing.

It’s ironic that, over the years, my desire to “put on the Ritz” diminished, as my ability to afford to do so grew.

These days I’m not attracted to head to toe sparkle, or sky-high heels. Now-a-days I’m more interested in dressing down when I dress up, pairing something festive, with something more casual. Below are some of the looks that I added to Pinterest when I was looking for inspiration for holiday party wear this season.

I love this outfit from the J. McLaughlin Holiday Collection. I had never heard of this company until I read a post on the blog Habitually Chic. I love this outfit, and the mix of cozy casual sweater with the flashy gold pleated skirt. I’d wear this, but probably go for a slightly longer skirt. That is if I owned anything like this skirt, which I don’t.


J McLaughlin Holiday 2015
As usual, blogger Silvia Cristescu, of The Stunning Look, gets it just right as far as I’m concerned. I really like this simple midnight blue sweater and cool, cropped pants with the big blingy earrings. But while I love this look, it really didn’t help me solve my what to wear problem. Unless I wanted to go shopping, which I didn’t.
“Midnight Blue” on The Stunning Look
Now, Kate Moss in leather pants, black blazer and sheer black top gave me pause. Not because I thought I could pull off this look in quite the same way. Ha. Excuse me while I stop to guffaw here. But because I do own black leather pants (my ubiquitous leather trousers) and a lovely black jacket. So I filed this image away.
Marie Claire
Ditto this outfit worn by Pernille Teisbaek who writes the fashion blog Look de Pernille. I own a couple of cream ruffled blouses and a black vest. So I filed this one too.
“Bows and Lace” on Look De Pernille
And this one, also from Pernille Teisbaek’s blog. I do love the look of a dressy top, and ladylike shoes, with faded jeans.
“Trendsætterne” Look De Pernille
Then I dug around in my closet and hauled out my few dressy bits, and my comfortable, more casual bits and tried to see what I felt like wearing with what.
For our annual hockey gang Christmas get together, I wanted to be a bit festive, but not fussy. So channeling Pernille Teisbaek, and her sparkly top and faded jeans, I paired my black Helmut Lang jacket and gauzy Rag and Bone silk tank, with my Citizens of Humanity cropped jeans, and these Stuart Weitzman kitten heel pumps. Of course the jacket and tank were summer staples; I bought them both for our trip to France. But because they’re black, they can also work for a winter dressy-ish occasion. I added a brooch and matching earrings that Hubby bought me waaay back in the late 80’s. And Grammy Sullivan’s clutch. It’s seventy-plus years since my Aunt Gwyneth brought this bag back from Montreal for my grandmother.
          High Heels in the Wilderness: Dressing Down to Dress Up
Then I had to decide what to wear to my Ladies Only Cocktail and Canapés Partay. I have a couple of LBDs that I tried to find enthusiasm for, unsuccessfully. Then I settled on my black leather pants. And the same black jacket and silk tank. I really love these three black pieces together. Partly because the very different textures, leather and silk with the viscose jacket, look so rich and lovely together. Partly because the stretchy jacket is so comfortable, the pants never, ever lose their shape or bag at the knees, and the tank which falls away from the mid-section allows for worry free… uh… buffet indulging… so to speak. Win, win, win.
High Heels in the Wilderness: Dressing Down to Dress Up


And when the laughter and animated conversation make the old internal furnace kick into overdrive, I can take off the jacket and still look good. In fact, I like the look of the tank with the pants alone, almost as much as with the jacket.


          High Heels in the Wilderness: Dressing Down to Dress Up
I put together a third outfit, that I haven’t actually worn yet. This cream ruffled blouse and black brocade vest are years old, but I still like them with my leather pants.
High Heels in the Wilderness: Dressing Down to Dress Up, black and white outfit
Add some silver and black earrings, a vintage brooch, and this bracelet that I was given by a former student… and I’m good to go to party number three. But we don’t have a party number three to attend. Hmmm. Note to self: organize event requiring use of outfit #3.
High Heels in the Wilderness: Dressing Down to Dress Up, black pants and white ruffled blouse


This last shot is the only one I saved from the aborted “fashion shoot” that Hubby and I tried the night of my ladies party. I’ve been struggling lately, in the absence of sunny days, to get good light to take blog photos. And I’ve been experimenting with our digital camera, a dodgy tripod, the flash, and the delayed shutter setting. So not working. So labour intensive. On Saturday night Hubby volunteered to be my photographer. And, well, he never notices whether my hair is stuck up in the front. Delete that one. Or if one pant leg is caught on the back of my shoe, or if I’m looking down momentarily and thus turning one chin into three. Delete, delete.


He snapped this last shot when he was really getting into the act. Okay, Suz, ready? Okay, let’s do another one. Yep. Yep. Cue the wind machine. Lookin’ good, babe! And I erupted into giggles. You’d have to know my husband… but he is just about the last man on earth who would ever say something like “Lookin’ good babe.” He may be a grumpy so and so sometimes (not without reason) … but he does make me laugh.


High Heels in the Wilderness: Dressing Down to Dress Up. Hubby takes shots


So that’s me sorted for this festive party season. Not flashy, or terribly fashion forward, or particularly colourful. But black on black is always chic, in my opinion. And all the pieces fit me well, and look polished. And…. here is the important part… they don’t require me to stand in four-inch heels all night, or suck in my stomach, or swelter in layers of confining spandex “foundation” garments… or worry about red wine stains. Sigh. There’s something to be said after all for abandoning dressing up, for dressing down to dress up.


Christmas is fast approaching, and I’m not ready. Still not stressed about it, though. Come Christmas Eve everything will be done. Today was tree trimming and house decorating, tomorrow I’ll be baking a few sweet things and preparing my Christmas Eve tourtière. Most years we try to go skiing on Christmas Eve day or Christmas Day, depending on our schedule and the weather. This year skiing is out of the question. So on Christmas Eve, after Hubby comes home from his physiotherapy session we’re going… biking. Yep. His shoulder is in good enough shape that if we don’t do any off-road, bumpy stuff he’ll be fine… and the weather forecast predicts it will be +14  Celsius. Imagine!


This is a shot Hubby took from our front lawn, early on Sunday morning. We had a skiff of snow. And the usual multitude of geese on the river. I swear this picture looks like those shots in the Lord of the Rings movies where they used some computer generated thingy to create the hordes of marauding orcs, wave after wave of them. Don’t you think? Still, they’re a magnificent sight when they all take off. The geese, I mean, not the orcs.


High Heels in the Wilderness: Dressing Down to Dress Up, geese on the Rideau


I’ll be taking a blogging break for week or so. But I’ll be back by the New Year.


So in closing, dear readers, from our family to yours, Hubby and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.





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From the archives


Fall Wardrobe Edit. Or Is It?

I’m doing my fall wardrobe edit this weekend, my friends. At least that’s what I started out doing. But it didn’t quite go as planned.


Telling Your Inner Critic to Shut It.

Learning to tell your inner critic to shut it is not easy. But necessary. Otherwise you can miss out on a ton of enjoyable activities.


Lazy Tea-Making and Other Lapses

Musing about tea and books. Telling some lazy tea-making stories, and chatting about what I’m reading, and what else I’ve been up to these days.

28 thoughts on “Festive Party Time: Dressing Down to Dress Up”

  1. Timely post Sue …I was able to enjoy this with my early morning coffee after waking suddenly as hubby managed to reflect the lights from our bathroom mirror onto a mirrored wardrobe door and straight into my eyes!!!! 🙂 you look really good in all of your outfit choices. I like the black waistcoat undone …simple and stylish. Your hubby's role as photographer made for a lovely picture of you. Not so keen on the Kate Moss outfit but think the others are definitely worth trying. Especially the looser style tops …. with me being a few llbs heavier than I should be at the moment 🙂
    I'm off now to finish my wrapping and decorate the main tree. It's only had the lights on for a few days….I'm almost tempted to leave it like this as it looks great but also, maybe, as though I couldn't be bothered to decorate it!!
    Wishing you, hubby and your family a wonderful Christmas and a very happy, healthy and peaceful New Year for all of us.
    Have fun Sue! Enjoy your bike ride and see you next year!

    1. Thanks Rosie. My tree isn't finished either. I wanted to finish it today after my baking… but… my "couple of hours of baking" today turned into an all day comedy of errors and wrong ingredients and ad libbing. Hope it's all edible! And hope you and yours have a good Christmas.

  2. Beautiful as usual:) I have narrowed my "fancy" outfits to three also..I agree on not liking outfits that are fussy,hot,trying too hard..also the older I get, I find that casual makes me feel and look younger..I mean very nice casual, of course! Have a wonderful Christmas..Coco

    1. Thanks, Coco. I agree, dressy casual looks can be more youthful than simply dressy…without looking like we're trying too hard to look younger. Hope you have a great Christmas, too.

  3. Merry Christmas to you too! I share your festive dressing philosophy, might sub in gray for black here and there, but still, comfort rules. Have a wonderful bike ride and a happy new year!

  4. 'And…. here is the important part… they don't require me to stand in four-inch heels all night, or suck in my stomach, or swelter in layers of confining spandex "foundation" garments… or worry about red wine stains.
    And I say AMEN to that! It's about being comfortable in your own skin and having a good time in good company!
    That photo of the geese is wonderful. Enjoy the biking!


  5. I'm in total agreement with your outfit choices Susan – I like them all, and would wear something similar. Although, occasionally I do miss getting really dressed up, but we just don't have those sort of parties anymore.

    And I love how you mix in some vintage jewelry pieces.

    Happy Holidays to you and your hubby and all the best for 2016! Maybe we'll have some snow by then in Ontario 🙂

    1. I miss getting dressed up sometimes, just not the idea of shopping for something that fits and which looks great for only being able to wear it a time or two. Yesss… let's hope for snow!

  6. Lovely outfits, and right in the sweet spot of Just Festive Enough. I'm with you on not wanting to "don gay apparel" that isn't comfortable. On those rare occasions le Monsieur takes my picture, he puts on his Italian Fashion Photographer schtick and always cracks me up. Have a very Merry Christmas!

  7. I can relate to your story about the expensive winter white outfit and spilled red wine. At my daughter's wedding reception, during the toasts, my new son-in-law accidentally knocked over a glass of red wine which promptly splashed down the front of my daughter's very expensive designer gown! More recently, at a holiday party, I had just gotten a glass of red wine (didn't even have a chance to taste it) when someone jumped back and knocked into me. It splashed on my expensive cream silk shirt – aaghhh! I am staying away from red wine at parties. Have a very happy Christmas!

  8. Love your outfits. Great that hubby is fit for bike riding again. Hope you have a lovely Christmas. Iris

    1. Thanks, Libby. That video is a hoot. Love the long-suffering tone of the husbands… and the girl with the flag running back and forth in the shots. Really well, done.

  9. You know you're fabulous, right?
    Have a wonderful Christmas — I was just going to suggest that while you're on your break, you check out the viral video "Instagram Husband," but I see Libby's already sent you in that direction. You'll laugh!

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