Forget the plain black dress, the simple sheath and the bare, bare leg. This holiday season, it's time to take our cues from the elegant decades of the earlier part of the 20th century, just like the aristocratic Crawley ladies of the hit TV series, Downton Abbey.
The Emmy-nominated period drama has revived the Edwardian age of opulence. Watch for the third season which airs in January to be even more fashion forward as the costumes become more "art-deco" inspired. Baz Luhrmann's December debut of "The Great Gatsby" will also inspire apparel trends.
Fashion designers from Marc Jacobs to Ralph Lauren to Theia are flocking to those "good ol' days" of yore to come up with a fresh twist on modern fashion. And it's about time, says Don O'Neill, creative director of Theia.
"The elegance of that period and the opulent formal gowns worn at dinner are a wonderful fantasy from a sophisticated time that we wanted to bring into fall and carry through to spring 2013," says O'Neill. "Opulence is a fantasy and an escape from everyday reality. Life is a celebration, and we are dressing for happy occasions. Even in our darkest days, we still need light, levity and sparkles in our lives. We feel like we offer affordable opulence so you can live the dream and not break the bank."
Here are some ways to go for baroque when celebrating the holidays this year.
-The beaded gown. There's nothing quite like the sparkle of beads to brighten up a holiday soiree. Whether the gown makes a grand entrance in a floor-sweeping length or is more on the shorter "midi" side, this is the piece de resistance of party style.
-The lace dress. Another winner for the cocktail circuit - in a streamlined silhouette with an empire waist, this look is a sophisticated take on the turn-of-the-century styles, especially when given more of a "Gatsby" twist draped with long strands of pearls.
-The velvet jacket. Let's face it, velvet just screams holiday celebrations, and it's been a favorite of elegant ladies forever. The longer, buttoned up "princess" style jackets are one way to get the Downton luxe life. Add a faux fur scarf and you've really got it wrapped up.
-The long skirt. The perfect "go-with" for the buttoned-up jackets. Of course, the modern take on this trend is a high slit. Just wear tights and boots and you'll be striding down the city streets in anything but a hobbled gait!
-The harem pants. Well, Lady Sybil did her best to inject a little exotic Bohemian style into the prim and proper manor house crowd, but so did her contemporaries in this era when fashion and interior decorating both shared a love of all things from the Far East.
-The accessories. Now, here's where it really gets fun to dress up again. Who doesn't like an elbow-length pair of opera gloves? Or an exquisite beaded headpiece? Or a huge, oversized hat? Or a pair of embroidered laced-up evening boots? How about an ornate needlepoint clutch?
-Pastel florals. Well, the dress up fun doesn't end this holiday season. Watch for soft, pastel floral dresses to float your way next spring. By then, we will all be ready to play again.