22 Ways Give Your Holiday Party Dress an Upgrade

2015 was the year that Marty McFly arrived in via time machine in 1984 in the legendary Doc Brown biopic/documentary, Back To The Future. According to the film, people in 2015 wore modular, super-modern outfits with weird cutouts, avant garde silhouettes, and strangely well-combined separates. Some of that foresight has proven itself to be true in high fashion, but not so much for the average consumer… Except when it comes to party season.

Holiday parties are the perfect time to try out new, exciting dresses. A weird green plaid dress with a velvet bow is more common during this time of year, so go crazy with it and have the fun you’re never allowed to have around your family. I encourage you to go above and beyond your typical holiday party dress and try something totally out of this world! Make Aunt Cheryl shake her head in disapproval. That means you’re winning at fashion, I’m pretty sure.

For a lot of us non-celebrities and really broke people, the idea of wearing something that is unique, original, and statement-making instantly puts dollars signs into our eyeballs. When I think about wearing something that makes me feel adventurous and excited, I picture lavish garments made from cool fabrics that wouldn’t just be party-worthy, but red-carpet-worthy. I think it has scared me off from stepping outside the box when picking something to wear to a party. Uncool, brain. Very uncool.

That’s why I made a point to scour some of my favorite affordable shopping destinations for the biggest and brightest – literally. I found killer dresses from some places you’d expect… and some that will totally surprise you!

H&M Holiday Dresses 2015

Long Chiffon Dress, $19.99,Dress With Fringe, $49.99, Glittery Wrap-Front Dress, $34.99, Sweatshirt Dress, $34.99, Sleeveless Jumpsuit, $49.99

H&M holiday dresses are always good and come in varying price points which makes it easier to ogle them shamelessly. Plus, they hardly shy away from an opportunity to be flashy. As you can see, they went hard and fast with the red and green in this year’s holiday dresses (and jumpsuits!), but for some reason it’s hardly as offensive as I’d expect. Maybe wearing some of the “colors of the season” more boldly isn’t like putting a big neon wreath over your head after all.

Zara Holiday Dresses

Navy Dress with Jewelled Neckline, $39.90; Devoré Velvet Dress, $99.90; Long Emerald Green Tube Dress, $69.90; Faux Leather Cut Work Dress, $49.90; Gold Shimmer Thred Jumpsuit, $59.90; Silver Sequinned Skirt, $39.90 & Ribbed Sweater, $35.90

At Zara, the holiday dresses were a lot more structural and dark. They have some really beautiful jewel tones and deep sea colors in silhouettes I would consider to be a little bit more… serious? Maybe a little more grown up than H&M, but certainly not lacking in the “statement” department. It’s pretty clear that I had a few more favorites from here than from H&M… That turtleneck-sequin-skirt combo was a definite inspiration, too!

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kohls holiday party dresses

ELLE Lace Tuxedo Jumpsuit, $52.80; MSK Coil Halter Dress, $59.99; LC Lauren Conrad Floral Satin Fit & Flare Dress, $44.80; Simply Vera Vera Wang Burnout Velvet Dress, $40.80;  Jax Floral Zip Front Sheath Dress, $94.99; Jennifer Lopez Beaded Surplice Jumpsuit, $58.80

I wonder how many of you will believe me when I tell you that these fine holiday-ready garments are from Kohls. I think a lot of people forget that Vera Wang, Lauren Conrad, Jennifer Lopez, Rock & Republic, and ELLE all have regularly updated collections available at Kohls, plus many lesser known brands like Jax and MSK. The dresses and jumpsuits at Kohls were a lot more vibrant and diverse than the other stores. There are tons of exciting fabrics and shapes to choose from and for whatever reason, absolutely everything is on sale. My personal favorite is the Simply Vera Vera Wang velvet burnout dress, that dull gold color is so beautiful! Also, special mention goes to this $35  LC Lauren Conrad velvet and tulle dress which wasn’t included because it’s only available in sizes 8, 10, and 12. (Pro tip: if you’re one of those sizes, PLEASE GET THAT DRESS.)

Target Holiday Dresses

Long Sleeve Printed Lace Dress, $19.60; Sleeveless A-Line Dress, $56; Patterned Sequin Racerback Maxi Dress, $63; J by Joa Cage Sequin Dress, $56; Striped Sleeveless Fit & Flare Dress, $35

The best plus size selection was definitely at Target. Though nearly every place I checked had extended sizing, Target was the only one who really truly delivered on it. The shimmery green dress you see up there was just one from dozens of gorgeous holiday dresses in plus and regular sizes, but the almost satin finish of this fabric and the color combinations won me over. Some of the biggest winter holiday trends I’ve seen during this search have been florals and low-sparkle gold or dull gold. The sequin “cage” dress is my favorite execution of gold so far! Target also won in the price department, and knowing their propensity for coupon codes, I wouldn’t be surprised if you could make out like a bandit with one of their dresses!


If you’re a magician, you already know what you’re wearing to your employer’s holiday party or New Year’s Eve. If not, I hope that you will encourage yourself to go full Beyoncé on your social events this year. Above all else, be comfortable, but if you have any chutzpah left to spare, channel it into a jaw-dropping outfit!

Lindsay Ginn

Livin' in your basement, eatin' your canned foods.