How to dress like a grown up

Twixmas tops to take you from pub to party: How to dress like a grown up

  • This year you could put your money on a velvet tuxedo or a longish silky dress
  • These days dress codes are a lot more relaxed and the party top is flexible
  • To my mind a proper party top is a top and not a blouse
  • READ MORE: My fashion resolution? I won’t go back to black 

Very good news, just when we need it: the party top is having a moment.

There are some things, once sorted, that make everything else feel more manageable, and those are, in no particular order: a haircut that looks after itself; jeans that make your legs look younger; and something you can wear to parties, wherever the invitations may come from.

This year, you could put your money on a velvet tuxedo, a longish silky dress, a luxe jumpsuit, or you could not look a gift horse in the mouth and go with a party top — not just super-easy, but the key to negotiating your way from the pub bash to the neighbours’ knees-up, to the smartish thing at New Year.

I still have party tops that I bought in the 1990s, but having tried them on recently they’ll all have to go. Floaty and embroidery and sheer and lace and bishop sleeves with trailing ties now look all wrong on me. And apart from that, the hard-working party top needs less shazam in 2022.

Sparkle: Holly Willoughby

I want an easy all-rounder that says Effort Has Been Made, but that’s not so full of itself that I couldn’t wear it to my friend’s kitchen party.

These days dress codes are a lot more relaxed (take the Queen Consort, out-and-about in a Me+Em velour dress recently . . . velour) and the right party top should be infinitely flexible.

You can wear it with jeans or tailored trousers, with a skirt or floppy palazzo pants. You could go for feathery cuffs and rhinestone-encrusted collars, but I wouldn’t; that’s a one-wear-only party top and we’re not in one-wear-anything territory any more.

To my mind a proper party top is a top, not a blouse, the exception being if it’s satin and comes with generous sleeves or a slippery bow-neck tie. John Lewis has a Monsoon one in a good shade of red (£38, and Me+Em does a shiny polka dot pussybow blouse in cream (£175,

Brights: From Naeem Khan

Neck ties really come into their own at party time, allowing you to have a plunging decollete with plenty of coverage, and they work well under a tuxedo when a regular V‑neck looks too plain. Rixo is a good brand for V-neck tops with neck ties, and its signature Moss style in silk metallic gold (£195, is selling like hot cakes.

Of course, fabric is what makes a party top: it has to be special, and if it’s not satin or velvet, then you’ll need some sparkle in the mix.

NRBY is the place to look for relaxed silky velvet everything, and its dark-blue, round-neck top with short sleeves (£110) looks pretty with wide-leg velvet trousers, (£150, both or a bias‑cut midi skirt (£69,

This is definitely the moment for rich jewel colours, and deep purple is making a strong bid to be this party season’s black. A satin top in purple (£95, would look good half-tucked into a velvet skirt (try Nrby or Hush).

Otherwise Hush’s purple boat-neck, three-quarter sleeve Verity top (£40, has lots of potential for dressing up (worn with a long skirt) and smart casual (with tailored, tapered trousers and gold sandals).

The next level, impact-wise, is sequins. See opposite for top-to-toe showstoppers, but, for easy-to-wear separates try a fitted classic T-shirt shape top (£29.50, or a soft easy jacket. M&S does a relaxed silver sequin ruched-sleeve blazer (£69,, which has this year’s party top written all over it — it’s the floppy nonchalance that’s key; sequin jackets must not look stiff and crisply tailored. You can wear this over a camisole or plain vest top and pair it with almost anything.

A bit of sparkle is also the way to give plain black an extra party buzz. Essentiel Antwerp’s black puff-sleeved top with shiny gold spots would make black below the waist zing (£128,

Otherwise H&M does a striped sequin top with flyaway feathery fringing (£25, that will catch the light and flutter prettily. (You might need a camisole underneath — it is a little sheer.)

If only everything in life were this simple.


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