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Look Absolutely Fabulous for the Holidays

How to Look Absolutely Fabulous During the Holidays


Shine like a treetop star at your next winter fête.

If you’ve seen Absolutely Fabulous — either the British TV farce that ran from 1992 to 2012 or the feature film that came out this year — you’ll know what I mean when I say that a holiday party is our Edina-and-Patsy moment: an occasion when looking over-the-top is not just acceptable, but mandatory!

“When you walk into a party,” says Rebecca Hale, costume designer for both the show and the movie, “imagine that you are stepping into a spotlight. Focus on standing out, not fitting in.”

That’s easier to do if you’re a diva than demure, but anyone can make a memorable entrance — or exit — by following these tips:

“Shop” your closet first. Edina and Patsy — the Ab-Fab duo played by Jennifer Saunders, 58, and Joanna Lumley, 70 — get glam by mixing old and new. “Real style comes from a one-of-a-kind look,” says costume designer Hale. “The trick is how you throw it all together.”

So dig out that cache of lamé and sequined tops — the ones with dolman sleeves, draping or Dynasty-style appeal. They’re trendy again! And giant clip-on earrings? “The bigger and bolder, the better,” Hale advises. “Like Edi, maybe you can carry off the ‘shine & sheen’ look with metallic jackets or booties, wild print and a turban. Or make like Patsy by rocking clingy, black, long-sleeved sequined dresses, with a stash of Spanx on hand.”

Finally, Hale advises holiday celebrants, “Don’t be afraid to mix patterns and textures.” Which can mean only one thing: More is more — at least for this season…

Opposites attract. Forget everything you know about taste or common sense: It makes an impression — a good one if you ask me — when an item of clothing or an accessory looks a bit “off.”

Contrast casual, sporty pieces with dressy ones — a rocker can be a lady. Try pairing track pants or faux-leather leggings with a statement sweater (rhinestones or reindeer — they’re all good!). Match a ruffled blouse (think Prince) and a pair of red velvet heels with your boyfriend jeans, or top a lace pencil skirt with a gray sweatshirt.

And might there be a metallic mini in the nether reaches of your closet? Reinvent it by bookending it with a comfy, slouchy black sweater and a pair of black opaque tights (the latter beneath over-the-knee boots). The new proportions make that wearable again. Tacky? No — terrific!

Shake up basic black. If you still subscribe to the “Black makes me look thinner” theory — hey, I do, too — let matte black provide a secure starting point. Then, just like trimming a tree, decorate it with shimmer and shine: Start with black ankle pants or black jeans, a black tee or a black tank; then throw on a sequined or a metallic knit cold-shoulder or sweater, or a silver or gold biker jacket. Finally, top it all off with some awesome jewelry. H&M, Zara and BaubleBar online all offer cheap, chic versions of these options.

Leverage those lips. If you’re going from desk to cocktails or simply don’t want to change clothes at all, a bold lip is a fast and easy way to overhaul your look. Having just caught Jessica Chastain in Miss Sloane, I’d be tempted to select a “take-charge red” from the likes of Maybelline (On Fire Red), Urban Decay (Vice Lipstick in Hex) or Lancôme (L’Absolu Rouge in 162 Rouge Chic).

Bling it on. Nothing says instant party like glitter nail polish, but I had never been able to achieve that opaque, dense sparkle because it required a zillion coats. Then I found the secret: Just apply Aquaphor or Vaseline around your entire nail, framing both the cuticle and sides, before applying your usual clear base coat.  Then brush a thick layer of the glitter polish not onto your nail, but onto the corner of a wedge makeup sponge. Last, use that to apply the glitter to your nails; you’ll produce one coat with the impact.

Savor the moment. Contrary to what evangelists would have you believe, there’s no need to tweet or Instagram every encounter you have at a holiday party. Do something radical: Live each experience instead!

For more beauty and style tips for women 50+, check out The Woman's Wakeup: How to Shake Up Your Looks, Life, and Love after 50 and AARP's new Beauty & Style digital magazine, at

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