The Fifty Best: Fifty ways to look a million dollars

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The Independent Culture
As every woman knows, buying a party dress at Christmas is one of Life's Great Joys. Purely frivolous, totally self-indulgent, worn into the ground for one season and then (be honest now) abandoned at the back of the wardrobe, the party dress is probably the most enjoyable purchase of the shopping year. The only problem is choosing from the dizzying array of designs on offer. To help, we asked Lizzy Shepherd of `Frank' magazine to select the best of this year's models, from classic velvets and Little Black Dresses to the very `now' metallics and reds. All you have to do is flex that credit card, and party.

Photographs by Piers Hanmer

10 VELVET DRESSES

10 METALLIC DRESSES

10 SEQUINNED/BEADED DRESSES

10 COOL BLACK DRESSES

10 HOT RED DRESSES

1

ENGLISH ECCENTRICS

It's not cheap, but this drape-neck flower-patterned gown by Helen David at English Eccentrics looks a million dollars and costs a little less.

How much: pounds 500

Stockist enquiries: 0171-284 2525

2

PRESS & BASTYAN

For those nights in light satin - a silver dress with black lace bust and hem.

How much: pounds 160

Stockist enquiries: 01622 763211

3

FRENCH CONNECTION

Black bugle beads form an abstract pattern on this black crepe party dress.

How much: pounds 90

Stockist enquiries: 0171-580 2507

4

NICOLE FARHI

Super-slinky jersey tube-dress from Nicole Farhi's Diversion line - nice if you can carry it off.

How much: pounds 105

Stockist enquiries: 0171-399 7500

5

RIVER ISLAND

Plum-coloured satin dress with a crossover bust. Looks pricier than it is, and covers a multitude of Christmas party sins.

How much: pounds 44.99

Stockist enquiries: 0181-991 4500

6

NEXT DIRECTORY

This navy-blue full-length velvet dress is well priced and the quality of fabric exceptional for this sort of money.

How much: pounds 89.99

Stockist enquiries: 0345 100500

7

PAUL SMITH

The black-tulle turnover neck adds real charm to this stylish, silver satin dress.

How much: pounds 295

Stockist enquiries: 0171-836 7828

8

GIANT

Gold jersey underdress with an overlay of gold-beaded chiffon. A winner.

How much: pounds 139.99

Stockist enquiries: 0171-255 3007

9

COAST

When you want black lace but you don't want to look too "Agadoo", this Coast dress exudes sophistication.

How much: pounds 95

Stockist enquiries: 0171-613 1310

10

KOOKAI

Versatile jersey-lined, wine red, crochet-and-lace dress. Elaborate, but perfect for all occasions. How much: pounds 120

Stockist enquiries: 0171-937 4411

11

JASPER CONRAN

A black dress with a flowing train, this radiates timeless elegance and is suitable for more formal functions.

How much: pounds 370

Stockist enquiries: 0171-580 0707

12

OASIS

Knee-length silver wool-mix dress whose tapered waist won't allow you too many mince pies!

How much: pounds 44.99

Stockist enquiries: 01865 881986

13

ENGLISH ECCENTRICS

A stunning display of sequins and chiffon on this dress with asymmetric neck and hemline by Helen David at English Eccentrics.

How much: pounds 400

Stockist enquiries: 0171-284 2525

14

PIED A TERRE

Wispy and romantic, fine-wool black dress with a stunning red or green silk underdress.

How much: pounds 125

Stockist enquiries: 0171-491 3857

15

NEW LOOK

Clingy strapless tube dress. Jazz it up with a diamante necklace for a perfect Madonna "Material Girl" look.

How much: pounds 24.99

Stockist enquiries: 0500 454094

16

AMANDA WAKELEY FOR PRINCIPLES

Dip-dyed Morticia-inspired pink velvet gown for those Addams Family functions.

How much: pounds 200

Stockist enquiries: 0990 233 343

17

WAREHOUSE

Simple, sexy and sleek, a silver satin shift dress.

How much: pounds 75

Stockist enquiries: 0171-278 3491

18

FRENCH CONNECTION

The elegant baby-doll look works well in this pink beaded crepe dress with drape neck.

How much: pounds 120

Stockist enquiries: 0171-580 2507

19

KOOKAI

This light, lace dress should get you in the party spirit. The little roses on the straps are a nice detail.

How much: pounds 120

Stockist enquiries: 0171-937 4411

20

KAREN MILLEN

As long as the office joker resists sticking a rose in your mouth, you'll be the belle of the ball in this flamenco-inspired crochet number.

How much: pounds 110

Stockist enquiries: 01622 664032

21

WHISTLES

Black velvet, cowl-neck gown, formal yet functional, with three-quarter- length sleeves.

How much: pounds 175

Stockist enquiries: 0171-487 4484

22

JOSEPH

Get the Lost In Space look with this funnel-neck dress in shiny silver satin.

How much: pounds 169

Stockist enquiries: 0171-590 6200

23

HARVEY NICHOLS OWN COLLECTION

Subtle and sparkly, this is an understated cocktail dress.

How much: pounds 185

Stockist enquiries: 0171-584 0011

24

JANE NORMAN

It's got frills, and they're multiplying, but you won't lose control in this cute and sexy, black crepe cocktail dress. How much: pounds 39.99

Stockist enquiries: 0171-437 0132

25

TS DESIGN AT TOP SHOP

A no-frills high-street design from the ever-innovative Hussein Chalayan. Designer chic at an affordable price.

How much: pounds 60

Stockist enquiries: 0171-291 2706

26

COAST

Crushed-velvet evening dress with straps that tie into a neat little bow at the back.

How much: pounds 75

Stockist enquiries: 0171-613 1310

27

RIVER ISLAND

Trust River Island to allow you to dress like Marilyn Monroe at high-street prices. A snip.

How much: pounds 39.99

Stockist enquiries: 0181-991 4500

28

GHOST

Purple crepe dress with a smart and simple triangular design set in silver sequins.

How much: pounds 270

Stockist enquiries: 0181-960 3121

29

FRENCH CONNECTION

Simple and stylish, this figure-hugging number is ideal for any occasion.

How much: pounds 85

Stockist enquiries: 0171-580 2507

30

GIANT

The low-cut neckline on this satin dress won't suit everyone, but the quality is apparent and it's reasonably priced.

How much: pounds 69.99

Stockist enquiries: 0171-255 3007

31

JIGSAW

It's fresh, it's fun, and it's got a cute ribbon under the bust. This black velvet dress is for the young and young at heart.

How much: pounds 90

Stockist enquiries: 0171-491 4484

32

JANE NORMAN

Pewter slash-neck, knee-length dress that's straightforward but modern, and clings in all the right places.

How much: pounds 34.99

Stockist enquiries: 0171-437 0132

33

PRESS & BASTYAN

Black crepe dress with silver-sequinned chiffon overlay. The diagonal detailing is an enduring favourite.

How much: pounds 150

Stockist enquiries: 01622 763 211

34

WAREHOUSE

When you don't need to be too smart, this cap-sleeved, double-layered crepe dress is just right. Informally priced, too.

How much: pounds 55

Stockist enquiries: 0171-278 3491

35

WHISTLES

A Stella McCartneyish silk-and-lace slip dress. Looks hot, if you can get away with it.

How much: pounds 85

Stockist enquiries: 0171-487 4484

36

NICOLE FARHI

Green velvet dress. On the expensive side, but given the right setting, it will look stunning.

How much: pounds 529

Stockist enquiries: 0171-399 7500

37

NEXT

Cool and slinky satin slip dress that will add shine to any party.

How much: pounds 39.99

Stockist enquiries: 0116-284 9424

38

GHOST

There's a charming silver berry-branch design on this cap-sleeved, black crepe dress.

How much: pounds 280

Stockist enquiries: 0181-960 3121

39

NICOLE FARHI

Medieval-babes alert! Slash-necked, three-quarter-sleeved dress from Nicole Farhi's Diversion line. A versatile favourite.

How much: pounds 105

Stockist enquiries: 0171-399 7500

40

NEW LOOK

This drape-fronted jersey dress is so classic and elegant you can take it anywhere.

How much: pounds 24.99

Stockist enquiries: 0500 454 094

41

JOSEPH

Joseph's funnel-neck red velvet dress combines a cool, contemporary feel with a Fifties twist.

How much: pounds 159

Stockist enquiries: 0171-590 6200

42

GHOST

A subtle A-line hem distinguishes this silver velvet gown.

How much: pounds 215

Stockist enquiries: 0181-960 3121

43

PRESS & BASTYAN

There's a mild Asian feel about this red silk-and- sequin dress.

How much: pounds 150

Stockist enquiries: 01622 763 211

44

PRESS & BASTYAN

The ultra-fine silver stripe running through the material adds shimmer to this formal design

How much: pounds 140

Stockist enquiries: 01622 763 211

45

GHOST

This stretch, cap-sleeved crepe dress is sheer - though perhaps a bit too see-through for some occasions.

How much: pounds 280

Stockist enquiries: 0181-960 3121

46

PAUL SMITH

The lace trim around the neck and arms add a certain style to this smart and simple black velvet dress.

How much: pounds 320

Stockist enquiries: 0171-235 5000

47

AMANDA WAKELEY FOR PRINCIPLES

Bronze velvet dip-dyed gown by Amanda Wakeley for Principles. Evening wear for the more formal function.

How much: pounds 200

Stockist enquiries: 0990 233 343

48

NICOLE FARHI

Captivating black silk dress with zigzagging black bugle beads. On the expensive side - but then it looks it.

How much: pounds 399

Stockist enquiries: 0171-499 8368

49

DAWN STRETTON

Believe the hype! Dawn Stretton has created a simple dress with tiny silver shoulder straps for Hype DF - proving there's more to the label than just clubwear.

How much: pounds 75

Stockist enquiries: 0181-991 4500

50

MOSCHINO CHEAP & CHIC

This sleeveless, asymmetric dress is pricey, but the fine-quality wool makes it well worth it.

How much: pounds 269

Stockist enquiries: 0171-318 0555

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