Style: First, the dress. Then the party...

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Welcome to dress stress, the Christmas dose. The summer bit comes, you remember, when the first wedding/birthday/christening/ garden party invitation of the year drops on to the mat.

Now, of course, it is the season to be merry. Invariably this means that we are expected to dress up like the female version of a Christmas tree - something, incidentally, that is all too easy to do, judging by the number of sparkly, sequined numbers in the shops.

We should like you to avoid that Christmas-tree look (you know we're right). After a great trawl of the high street, we have found six party dresses, all of which cost less than pounds 100, are not overdone, and are versatile - to do brilliantly at the Christmas party, and beyond. Each dress was chosen on its individual merits, but each one speaks for itself - without shouting too loudly. They are also all in the shops right now. It is worth remembering that the ultimate party dress should invite the response "You look fab in that dress", not "that dress is fab". Furthermore, only a few accessories are needed: high-heeled shoes, a simple evening bag and a beaded necklace are enough. Get shopping.

Above: The Sixties number

Black dress, pounds 99, by Monsoon, 264 Oxford Street, London W1, and branches nationwide (enquiries, 0171-313 3000); black necklace, pounds 4.99, by Accessorize, 293 Oxford Street, London W1, and branches nationwide (enquiries, 0171- 313 3000); leopard print shoes, pounds 49.99, by Carvella, Brent Cross Shopping Centre, London NW4 (for nearest stockist, call 0171-546 1888).

Photographer: Kevin Foord Stylist: Holly Davies Model: Caitlin Oliver

Left: Oriental

Black dress with fuchsia floral design, pounds 55, by Warehouse, 19-21 Argyll Street, London W1, and branches nationwide (enquiries, 0171-278 3491).

Above: inspired by Miu Miu

Burgundy crochet dress with sequins, pounds 49.99, from River Island, 124-126 Kensington High Street, London W8, and branches (enquiries, 0181-998-8822)

Left: inspired by Dior Couture

Long gold crochet dress with fringed hem, pounds 59.99, by Hennes, 261-271 Regent Street, London W1, and branches (enquiries, 0171-255 2031); red velvet shoes, pounds 49.99, from Office, 55 South Molton Street, London W1 (for nearest branch, call 0181-838 4447)

Far left Bohemian

Purple velvet strapless dress with embroidery, pounds 59.99, by Oasis, 292 Regent Street, London W1 and branches nationwide (enquiries, 01865-881986); black necklace, pounds 3.99, by Accessorize, as before

Left The Oscar dress

Long gold cowl-neck dress, pounds 65, by IQ Trademark, at Debenhams, 334 Oxford Street, London W1, and branches nationwide (enquiries, 0171-408 4444); gold silky crochet scarf, pounds 7.99, by Oasis, as above