What to Wear to a Military Christmas Party

military christmas party
(Samuel C. Fletcher/DVIDS)

​​I still remember my first Command Christmas party years ago. The pressure I'd felt to wear the perfect dress for the Marine Corps Ball was absent. However, I still wanted to look great and represent my husband well.

Plus, I love this holiday season and I tend to go overboard with everything: decorations, Christmas gifts, Christmas cards, etc. I wanted to make an impression, not be a walking Christmas disaster.

Of course, my husband was a fantastic help; his advice, “you look great in everything.” Yes, I am being sarcastic.

So, after searching around Google, fashion magazines, blogs and talking to my gals about their own Command Christmas parties, I opted for a festive casual look: a sequined pencil skirt and a nice blouse.

It turned out perfectly.

I was comfortable. I looked fashionable and, most importantly, nothing was hanging out.

Needless to say, at the party, I saw a wide range of “festive” looks.

So, first, let's talk about what not to wear to your Christmas party.

Ladies, I understand you want to shed a different light on your persona and be “fashion-forward” or even show off your holiday spirits, but remember this is a Christmas party for everyone. Here are some basic tips to keep in mind when deciding what to wear for your Command Christmas Party.

What Not to Wear

Think twice about the ball gown.

Unless it explicitly states to wear formal attire, please refrain from overdressing to this extreme. Your military ball is over and while you may be tempted to recreate your wonderful look, this is overkill. Overdressing is better than being underdressed, but this is not the right event. I’ve always believed that while your heart may be in the right place, you’re trying too hard to “look great” and it shows.

Costumes are not the answer.

Answer this question first before you move forward with pulling out that “cute” Christmas costume: Will you be Santa Clause or his helper? If you were asked to hand out the presents this year as Mrs. Clause or even Santa, please refrain from wearing a costume. Halloween is over, please put the costumes away.

This is not the club.

I know it’s tempting to show your “fun” side, but remember this is a family affair. You will attract attention, just the wrong type. You are beautiful. You should be respected. Having a guy ogle your “goodies” is not the right type of attention. There are so many other ways to have not only the guys look at you, but other women applaud your fashion style.

But don’t go too casual either.

This is not the place to show off your new gym wear or pajamas. While you’re probably someone whose number one priority is comfort, wearing this shows the lack of care you have towards this event. I know, this event is supposed to be festive, fun, and you’re probably even saying “who cares” that you’re wearing this. Stop for a moment. Think about this: If you were invited to dine at your spouse’s company commander’s house, would you wear this? Hopefully, your answer is "no." So please, refrain from wearing PJs or gym clothes.

Avoid too much glitter.

Sequins are great: in small doses, please. Santa hats or reindeer antlers are fine, but the Santa beard, the lights illuminating every inch of your attire or anything that screams “Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!” is ridiculous.

What to Wear

Now that you know what to avoid, here are some useful tips to help you decide on your festive attire.

Choose an accent piece.

Highlighting one piece will allow you a base to build your outfit around. This could even be something simple as a necklace or even a cocktail ring. If you’re keen on wearing sequins, just choose either your top or bottom to be the accent piece. If not, you’ll end up looking like a disco ball. Trust me, I was. As usual, hubby said, “you look fantastic.”

Vary colors or textures.

Mix neutrals with one or two colors Wear darker and cool-toned colors to appear slimmer. And to give you height, wear monochromatic outfits.

Have fun with accessories.

This is where I usually spend most of my money. It may not seem like the amount tallies up, but it does. My answer to this … spruce up the accessories you already own. Search for a do it yourself, project to help you. Google and YouTube both have tutorials galore to assist any type of user: newbie to advance.

Dress for the event.

My husband’s second Command Christmas party was a cocktail affair and required more than cleverly pairing pieces I already own. I resorted to renting from Rent the Runway, a site I also used for my Marine Corps Ball dress. This site provides high-end designer dresses for either a four or eight-day rental period. With over 25,000 dresses and accessories to choose from it was an easy feat to find the right one. Plus the rental price ranges from $30 to $200+ and returning the dress is so simple: stick it in the provided prepaid envelop and mail it.

And, finally, what about makeup?

I usually steer clear of buying beauty products explicitly for special events. Here are several main principles I’ve stuck to over the years:

-- Focus either on eyes or lips, not both, or the overall look will be too harsh. This year, I want to recreate Kim Kardashian’s smokey eyes; I knew that I would need to stick to neutral lip color to compliment my heavy eye makeup.

-- Your makeup does not have to match your dress. Choose colors that are flattering to your skin tone or eye colors. I once made the mistake, of matching my makeup to my dress.

-- To avoid having the “white-washed /masked” effect in photographs, use foundation that contains the least amount of titanium dioxide and, or zinc oxide -- the main proponents for sunscreen protection. If you only have a foundation with SPF, which most foundation naturally do, minimize this unsightly effect with matte powder and use a light touch of bronzer to detract any strobe effect of the flash or lighting from the camera.

-- If you’re unfamiliar with how to apply makeup that is both appropriate and, or makeup application techniques, use tutorials on YouTube or Google for ideas and steps to recreate a makeup look. I’ve always used a combination of techniques from different beauty gurus to fit one that fits my ideal look for the night.

Hopefully, these tips have helped or nudged you in the right direction (or, in some cases, away from a mistake). Have a great party!

Both a military brat and a Marine wife, Christina Carrillo has learned to navigate the military lifestyle. She currently resides in MCAGCC 29 Palms, Calif. with both her hubby of 7 years and her adorable 4-year-old.

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