NEW YORK — We ask more of our clothes during the holiday season. The rest of the year, an office outfit is an office outfit and an evening ensemble is just that.
But during that brief time when one might be called on to do her day job during the day and then attend a party or charity event at night, dressing becomes a strategic activity. The outfit needs to look crisp and fresh for an extended period of time, be appropriate for all sorts of settings and, most importantly, be comfortable enough so a smile can be mustered at 8 p.m.
Three busy women — Nancy O’Dell, dress designer Julie Haas and Banana Republic’s vice president of women’s design, Alessandra Brunialti — show the AP how to dress for all-day success:
—Nancy O’Dell has the luxury of a secondary closet, the wardrobe room at the “Access Hollywood” studio in Los Angeles. When she goes from the set, where she describes her typical outfit as casual yet professional, to either a more formal premiere or a personal event, she reaches for one of three “Access” dresses.
Each one is in a jewel-tone color — black isn’t good for her on-camera gig — and each has a pencil-skirt bottom. One of them has a zippered front so she can pull it all the way up and look conservative during the day and then send it south for a sexy neckline at night.
She calls her pencil dresses her “quick-change” dresses, even though she never changes her dress at all. O’Dell changes her shoes from flats to strappy sandals or high-heel boots and then adds a chunky piece of jewelry. She’ll also swap little stud earrings for larger sparkly ones.
“For me, the biggest change is the accessories and shoes. Shoes give a huge fashion change: You can go from a beach party in flip-flops to strappy high heels and look very eveningish,” O’Dell says.
All-day hair and makeup is another challenge. “If I want my hair to last a long time, a long pony for work and turn the pony to a chignon for evening,” she says.
She wears minimal eye makeup during the day, so she can pump it up in the evening — eye makeup can get cakey if you wear it too long. Her lips are colored in a pale-colored lipstick no matter what time of day it is.
Usually O’Dell knows in advance if she’s going to have one of those long day-to-night days but, she says, surprises do come up. She’s prepared, though.
“I keep in my bag, in my car, my essentials: a silver and gold chunky necklace, hair pins, costume jewelry, platinum strappy heels, an eye-shadow kit,” O’Dell explains. “I have my earthquake survival bag, my wardrobe survival bag and my baby survival bag.”
—Julie Haus, a designer best known for dresses, chose a pantsuit as the ideal day-to-night outfit during the holiday season. She suggests the skinny-leg black satin trousers known as the “rock-star pencil pant” from her line with a cropped conductor’s jacket, also in shiny black satin.
“I would wear this to a meeting with a buyer, a cocktail party or a restaurant for dinner,” Haus says. “November to January is when you can wear satin charmeuse every day. It’s the only time of year you can do that.”
She likes these particular satin pants because the fabric also includes Lycra, which helps them keep their shape from morning to night and also keeps them from wrinkling.
Her daytime top is a silver charmeuse blouse with high ruffled-collar neck and a total of 43 covered buttons down the front and up the sleeves. It’s also from her own collection.
She likes to carry a metallic shoulder bag that fits folders — and the Katherine Kwei patent-leather fringe clutch bag that she’d take out once the sun goes down.
Other accessories for the workday outfit include pearl earrings, a brass-and-glass vintage ring and a pair of pewter-colored, patent-leather Chanel pumps that were a recent birthday gift to herself. For makeup, the most important item was a brownish-pink shade of Cle de Peau Beaute lipstick.
It took less than five minutes for Haus then to change into a silver-sequin tank top, a Trish McEvoy fire-engine red lipstick, a 1920s-style headband, a velvet cuff bracelet and dangling earrings.
“They’re costume but they look antique,” Haus says of her earrings. “They cost probably $30 but when something has an antique or vintage look, you cant tell how much they cost.”
Her pricey Chanel shoes also proved their worth: She didn’t have to change them when she switched her other accessories.
—Although she is vice president of design for Banana Republic, which has steadily expanded its special occasion department, Alessandra Brunialti prefers to be in jeans and a cashmere sweater.
The key piece for her holiday season outfit that’s stylish, practical and appropriate for many occasions is a T-shirt dress with puff sleeves in teal-colored satin. At $148, it seems a reasonable investment for a versatile item.
“It has to be comfortable. You have to live with it all day long,” she says.
For day, Brunialti pairs the dress with a cream-colored cashmere cardigan, brown knit tights and chunky brown sandals. (You can forget the no-hosiery-with-sandals rule if the tights are textured and funky and you work in a creative industry, she says.)
“Brown and cream are neutrals. They’re great for day. The satin adds a little jazz but not too much,” she explains. “And brown is more fun than black. It’s more unexpected.”
The teal also provides pop but it’s not flashy like a bright red, she says, and black satin seems very dressy. A deep purple or a black-and-white graphic print are also options for an all-day dress, she advises.
Platinum-colored strappy sandals, black tights and a black satin trench coat make for an easy transformation for a party or charity event.
The coat also has bracelet-length sleeves, a match for the seasonal trend of long leather gloves. “You can do a shorter sleeve on a coat for evening because you expect to be getting in and out of a car,” she says.
But don’t look for her necessarily to pile on the bracelets — or any other jewelry. “For me, this is as glitzy as it gets.”