Strides ahead: Say pants to party dresses

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Whether patterned or plain, it's time to say pants to party dresses, says Rebecca Gonsalves

For a long time the immediate response to a party invite has been to plump for a frock, but since Yves Saint Laurent did skirt-averse women everywhere a kindness by creating Le Smoking in the Sixties, it would be wrong to think there aren't options.

This season was hailed as the return of the trouser suit, due in no small part to fashion favourite Miuccia Prada, who sent violently patterned and coloured Seventies inspired tailoring down the runway at Prada and Miu Miu. Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton also dressed his ladies in strides of opulent fabrics and with plenty of embellishment for maximum impact. Done right, wearing a top-to-toe pattern can translate into perfect party dressing, but it risks falling into the fashion dress-up category, especially when getting ready for a night out. Instead, wearing a pair of printed trousers with a classic (read plain, and possibly already in your wardrobe) jacket can make for less awkward results. And, with all the best intentions, you don't want to forego your best dance moves for fear of splitting up your total look when things get a little hot under the collar.

If the classic black of a tuxedo more befits your evening plans, a bright or printed shirt will ensure that you aren't mistaken for catering staff – an embarrassing occurrence but one that may result in unfettered access to the canapés. Swings and roundabouts. Wearing a mannish shirt in a silky fabric buttoned to the top is still a suitably sharp look – especially one that has a metallic collar tipping, studded shoulders or crystal embellishment – when teamed with slim trousers.

Although the majority of high street trousers are cut on the skinny side, cigarette pant side, there are still options wide of leg and high of waist for those who want to channel a more louche look as seen at Haider Ackermann and Balenciaga.

Slippers may be inappropriate for wet winter weather but a party shoe needn't withstand lashings of rain. Without a heel to impede dancing all night, this is where dress slippers come into their own, whether bejewelled, velvet, studded, embroidered or embossed.

Jewel-wise, anything too delicate can get lost in the crowd at this time of year – statement doesn't have to mean expensive though. Art deco is still in style so look for sharp facets and over-sized stones.

Last, but not least, a dinky box clutch is a good idea if you have someone who won't mind minding it, but otherwise a chain strap bag can be slung over your body as you make your way to the dance floor.

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