Fashion: Night fever

How to be the ultimate party girl when you're feeling fat, bloated and, frankly, just jaded as hell? Tamsin Blanchard offers tips.

First, put down the mince pie. It is not the answer to your problems. Then, hit the sales and make a beeline for the rails you would normally avoid like the measles. You know the ones: they shimmer with gold and heave with disco-ball sequins. You think yuck!, but they will make you the life and soul. You won't even have to open your mouth all night because you'll be swept on to the dance floor and will only have a chance to draw breath and inhale the odd champagne bubble. And while you're out shopping, take the opportunity to allow one of the white-clad cosmetics girls who lurk behind brightly lit counters in department stores to suggest a new lipstick shade: something bright and glamorous, or dark and sensuous that you would only dream of wearing from the cocktail hour on.

The secret of taking the night by storm is to give yourself a whole new look. In this decade of easy dressing, it is refreshing to have a bit of a challenge. The whole point of dressing up for a party - and the ultimate excuse is surely New Year's Eve - is to make yourself look radically different than you do normally by day. And for most of us, that means getting out of those comfy knits and easy trousers and into something that, well, hurts a little. The shoes are not right if they don't pinch or tilt your foot at an unnatural angle. By the end of the night, you'll be grateful New Year's Eve falls but once a year. Those earrings will be just a little too heavy for your delicate lobes; you'll be sick to death of hoiking that fine spaghetti strap back on to your shoulder every five seconds, and the peacock feather you thought looked so louche and bohemian will be driving you to distraction. But you look fabulous, so the pain and discomfort is worth it. Almost.

Our intrepid party girl in these pictures has gone for some Seventies disco gloss, the sort of thing that would not have looked out of place on the dance floor of Studio 54 on Bianca Jagger or Marie Helvin. Appropriately enough, there is a bat wing, one-sleeve mesh dress by the label launched by the king of the Seventies New York nightclub scene, Halston. These days, the label has been revived, along with the designer's style, under the creative eye of Randolph Duke.

If you want to attract dance-floor laser beams and attention, a bit of slinky liquid silver always does the trick. The chain-mail number overleaf is by Stella McCartney. If you can get hold of one of these in the sale, buy it. As well as transforming you into a party animal (and Stella McCartney knows how to party), it will be something of a collector's item: now that she has signed up to the house of Chloe, it is one of the last dresses to bear the designer's name. And if your bank account is feeling as jaded as you are, resort to wearing last year's dress with the addition of a few feathers. Nobody will recognise it and they will tickle your nose all night. Just remember: no pain, no gain.

Flesh-coloured dress with sparkles, pounds 450, by Ghost, 14 Hinde Street, London W1, 36 Ledbury Road, London W11; ostrich-feather hair-stick, pounds 12.95, peacock-feather hair- stick worn as brooch pounds 12.95, both by Johnnie Loves Rosie, available from Fenwick, 63 New Bond Street, London W1, enquiries 0171-247 1496.

Left Liquid silver chain-mail dress, pounds 850, by Stella McCartney, available from Browns, 23-27 South Molton Street, London W1, Tokio, 309 Brompton Road, London SW3.

Right Black beaded one-shoulder dress with bat wing mesh sleeve, pounds 1,700, by Halston, available from Harrods, Knightsbridge, London SW1; gold snake necklace, pounds 4,525, from Tiffany, 25 Old Bond Street, London W1

Hair Earl Simms at Debbie Walters

Make-up Christopher Ardoff at Public

Stylist's assistant Holly Davies

Model Reina

Retouching Gareth at 1st Base, 0171-307 5313

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<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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