There’s clothes for weekend parties and there’s clothes for office meetings. One set is for letting loose and having fun, the other is for looking professional. But how do you combine them? How do you style an outfit that’s both sophisticated enough for your coworkers but festive enough for the holidays? At company parties designated wardrobe lines turn to gray. Understanding the loose rules of business casual is complicated in itself, but throw a party on top of it and things start to look real messy. Styled Seattle chief stylist and founder Darcy Camden chatted with us about how to navigate the slippery slope of what to wear to a business holiday party.

Want some one-on-one guidance from a Styled Seattle stylist? Camden and her team are working at Westfield Southcenter this holiday season at My Style Suite.

The Golden Rule: Look Nice

“If your office is typically very casual, a little dressing up for the holiday party goes a long way. You don’t need to go overboard, but you should do something. A holiday party is a great way for your coworkers to see you in a slightly different way,” – Camden

Such a basic concept has a lot of rewards. In the end, your company is trying to do something nice for you with a party. Dressing up, even slightly, is easy way to convey that it means something to you. That you care. Also, you can have a little fun with it. Wear that you might not normally sport at your desk, as long as it’s appropriate,, such as a nice sports coat for men, or leather jacket for women.

But How Nice Should You Look?

It depends on a number of factors. First, it’s a no-brainer, but check the invitation to see if anything is specified. Camden tells her clients that “black tie optional” basically means that it’s not optional. If other people are dressing up, you should too. Parties that are earlier in the week tend to be more causal than parties at the end of the week or on the weekend. Same goes for time of day. Early is more casual, later is dressier.

If You’re Going Straight from Work to the Party

No. Please don’t sit in your cocktail dress all day before the party. Camden suggests wearing something that’s workwear appropriate and packing a few accessories for the party. For example, if you’re a woman you might wear a favorite simple black dress and pack a statement necklace and a pair of heels. For men, wear your typical collared shirt to the office and add a tie for the party. Camden recommends wooden bow ties if you want to be original. Seriously, they’re wooden.

Where to go for Statement Jewelry

A great necklace doesn’t just add some sparkle to your look, it can affect the neckline of your top. Camden often goes to Zara for statement jewelry. They have a really great selection and pieces are typically in the $30 range.

The Sexy Factor

A holiday party really isn’t the place for low-cut shirt and high skirts. As Camden likes to put it, “if you’re questioning whether something is too sexy, it probably is.”  But, hold on! If you have a dress that’s sleeveless and you’d feel more comfortable in it with sleeves, try Sleevey Wonders. The company offers mesh- and lace-styled sleeves you can match with a simple dress. When Sarah Jessica Parker visited the Nordstrom in downtown Seattle she wore mesh sleeves (not necessarily Sleevey Wonders) under a black sheath and it looked amazing.

If You’re Going to The Boss’ House

Camden said that anytime you go to someone’s home for a party, you should be prepared to take off your shoes. Especially considering the weather. It’s better to pop them off than track mud all over your boss’ home. “Men should wear nice socks, and women might want to avoid wearing pants or dresses that ‘need’ a high heel. It’s not a bad idea to bring a pair of ballet flats in your clutch,” Camden said.

Should You Splurge on a Holiday Dress?

The racks are stacked with holiday dresses these days. Whether they’re sparkly or are Christmas colors, they’re pretty enticing. But are they a good investment? Camden suggests only buying a dress when you know you’ll wear it three different times. If you can get away with wearing it after the holidays, even better! If you’re dressing for a party after the New Year, avoid the sparkle and accessorize (shoe, tights, neckties) with bright colors.