six of the best party dresses

1 Next, pounds 59.99 Black shiny corset dress in 100 per cent polyester. Also available in full length. A strong fashion look that harps back to past collections from Gucci and Prada. This is a lovely dress, although the shape is not suitable for all body shapes: the waist and hips can look a bit thick. From branches of Next and Christmas mail order. Enquiries on 01162 849424

2Pearce Fionda, pounds 390 Satin-backed crepe dress with asymmetric hemline and straps. This is a definite show-stopper from one of Britain's most exciting young design duos, who recenly won the New Generation Designers of the Year award. From Liberty, Regent Street, London W1 and Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, London SW1. Enquiries on 0171-734 0123

3 Wallis pounds 49.99 Glitter halter-neck dress in 94 per cent acetate and 6 per cent Lycra. The Lycra content means that this dress has a certain amount of support, but still should only be worn by those with a Barbie doll figure. Very slinky, and very good value for money. From Selfridges and branches of Wallis nationwide. Enquiries on 0181-910 1333

4 French Connection, pounds 100 A sweet, non-threatening velvet dress which most of us could feel reasonably confident in, if not drop-dead sexy. The neckline is very neat and comfortable to wear. From Selfridges and branches of French Connection nationwide. Enquiries 0171-580 2507

5 Nicole Farhi, pounds 199 Very elegant velvet shift dress with deep V-neck. Has a cool, sophisticated look, with a sexy edge due to the side split and plunging neckline. Body- skimming rather than clingy. From Nicole Farhi, 158 New Bond Street, London W1 and 6 Market Street, Manchester. Enquiries on 0171-499 8368

6 Hearts of Oak, pounds 95 Black sleeveless shift dress in stretch needlecord from the diffusion line by Ally Cappelino. Quite a casual piece that can be worn for day or dressed up for night. From Ally Cappelino, 95 Wardour Street, London W1. Enquiries on 0171-488 9777

Photographs: Andrew Lamb Stylist: Charlie Harrington