Party dresses: the brands that’ll keep you sweet through silly season

There are those that argue splurging on frothy, fabulous party wear is a form of seasonal madness.

Instead, say the sensible Christmas-makers, we’re better investing our holiday cash in hard-working separates.

Of course, they’re not wrong. But if, like me, you are of the thinking that life is short and the occasional metallic mini dress can go a long way to brightening the dark nights of winter, then partywear purchasing is par for the course.

That said, plumping for fun frivolity needn’t mean a last minute dash for disposable high street spangle. This Christmas, dodge the throwaway and the flammable, and instead invest in great quality eveningwear that you’ll be dance floor shimmying in for years to come.

From chain mail minis to slinky, sophisticated suiting, these nine party-ready labels are on hand to make your ‘out-out’ outfit dreams come true…

16 Arlington

16Arlington was founded in September 2017 by London-based Italian couple Marco Capaldo and Federica Cavenati, and in a few short years has made a name for itself as a go-to destination for outlandish sequin and feather-heavy partywear. Fusing high-octane Italian glamour with London cool, the brand, which showed at London Fashion Week for the first time in February, has already been worn by everyone from Solange and Lady Gaga to Claire Foy and Lena Dunham. If you’re a confident dresser in the market for accentuated thigh splits, long dresses with feather hems and fully sequined, feather-trimmed separates that’ll keep you dancing from sundown through breakfast, this one’s for you.

Stocked on: Net-a-Porter, Selfridges, Moda Operandi, Farfetch, The Modist and Harvey Nichols

Price range: £165 – £2400



If feathers, sequins and frou-frou dresses make you shudder, sleek LA label L’Agence is one to bookmark in your favourites. Known for its stellar denim and staples, the brand also delivers on understated satin suiting, silk and velvet pussybow blouses and minimal minis in a grown up black and white colour palette with flashes of bold red, blue and metallic. Beautiful materials and cuts so flattering you could weep, L’Agence quietly and confidently delivers the sort of eveningwear we all want to wear.

Stocked on: Selfridges, Harrods and Net-a-Porter

Prices: £85 – £1850



​If a seriously sharp tux is your party uniform of choice, then you’ll probably already be familiar with Racil. Launched by Lebanese designer Racil Chalhoub in 2015, the label centres on variations of Le Smoking – from monochrome to satin and metallic – in mix and match variations. Yet while the brand’s bread and butter comes with two legs and a lapel, Racil’s more recently launched dresses, tops and accessories are also well worth considering for your cocktail party arsenal. Created using classic tailoring techniques, these are structured party pieces that feel feminine yet completely modern. We’ve got our eyes on a black puffed-sleeve cotton-blend faille cropped top with a square neckline that looks amazing paired with matching cigarette trousers and a brightly coloured heel. Smoking, indeed.

Stocked on: Net-a-Porter, Harrods, Browns and Matches 

Price range: £300 – £1400


Lucia Dailey launched Seren with a collection of printed jumpsuits in 2016. Her backless, silky all-in-ones have since firmly established themselves as holiday wardrobe workhorses and a cool-girl alternative to wedding guest dresses. For SS20, she’s added gorgeous dresses, shirts and trousers to the range, but it’s still her one pieces that make us want to crack open the Champers before lunch. The bottle green and burgundy velvet backless numbers in particular have serious pulling-under-the-mistletoe-power.

Stocked on: Net-a-Porter

Price range: £375 – 3720



If you’re a fan of making a Bianca Jagger hitting the Studio 54 dance floor on a white horse kind of entrance, then New York-based brand Retrofête is the one for you. Launched by husbands Ohad Seroya and Aviad Klin in 2018, the brand derives its name from the French for ‘vintage party,’ and its disco-fabulous fashions are based on the best of the vintage partywear its founders have sourced from all over the world. The signature balloon sleeve sequinned mini dresses are so fabulous they’ll make you reconsider those plans for a New Year’s Eve on the sofa.

Stocked on: Net-a-Porter and Harvey Nichols, and the brand is opening a 2-week pop-up in Harrods on Tuesday December 3.

Price range: £245 – £1315​

De La Vali

De La Vali AW19

Founded by Ibiza-born friends Jana Sacha and Laura Castro in 2017, De La Vali takes its fierce and fun aesthetic from the bohemian culture of the island the founders call home. De La Vali shot to fame last summer with its part-ruffled, figure-skimming chiffon ‘Juliette’ maxi, while their tiger-printed oriental-inspired AW18 collection for Selfridges was big on the Christmas party circuit last year. This season’s winter collection, Absinthe, will no doubt be similarly popular, and is as seductively dangerous as the drink itself. From silver sequinned Chinese Cheongsams to puff-sleeved mustard yellow blouses, this is party kit with one hell of a side of sass. 

Stocked on: Net-a-Porter, Browns, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Luisa Via Roma.

Price range: £225 – £995

Vampire’s Wife

When ex-model Susie Cave – wife of “Prince of Darkness” musician Nick – decided, in 2016, to turn her hand to designing dresses, the outcome was bound to be in equal parts kooky and cool. Cave’s gowns – all high necked, most long-sleeved and invariably ankle grazing – manage to be dramatic yet demure (think Addams family meets Little House on the Prairie), and have become a fashion girl’s answer to a formal dress code. This season’s metallic minis would look equally cool quaffing Ruinart at the Royal Opera House as they would worn with trainers to a warehouse in Dalston. It’s no surprise then that high-low queen Kate Moss is a fan.

Stocked on: Net-a-Porter, Matches and Browns

Price range: £495 – £1995

Rêve Riche 

Reve Riche

Since Revolve (California’s answer to ASOS) launched into the UK last year, we’ve come to depend on its extensive selection of niche brands and daring designs to solve our party and wedding guest dressing dilemmas. This season, rather than trawl through the impressive 10,000 dresses on the site, might we suggest filtering on newly launched in-house brand Rêve Riche? From ruched-sleeve semi-sheer minis to feather-trim tops and bodycon thigh-split velvet gowns, it’s a super sexy, feminine collection for girls that don’t mind flashing a bit of leg, or bra… or both. It’s all very LA nights.

Stocked on REVOLVE and FWRD

Price range £92 to £1,825​



Italian It girl duo Giorgia Tordini and Gilda Ambrosio launched their luxurious loungewear-inspired brand Attico in 2016. Their initial capsule collection of kimono-inspired dresses was an immediate sell-out, thanks at least in part to the boost given by the pair’s combined Instagram following of over 800,000. They’ve since branched into peignoir robes, drawstring pouch bags and their signature velvet ankle strap shoes, and their latest drop is an eighties-inflected collection of power shoulders, metallic ruching and feathered puffball dresses. Seriously, what are you waiting for?

Stocked on: Net-a-Porter, Matches, MyTheresa and Moda Operandi

Price range: £238 – £7819


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