Ask not for whom the jingle bells toll

Every year at about this time, I become dimly aware that some holidays are approaching. And like death or taxes, they are coming whether I’m ready or not.  The Holiday Express is rumbling toward me while I sit tied to the tracks, looking the other way and saying, “Huh. Does anybody else hear something?”

I think I have very good reasons for bungling holiday-related timelines. My chorus starts singing Christmas music in early September, for crying out loud. Of course I’m confused. The first Christmas decorations arrive in stores before Halloween. Remember, back in October, when we were all poking merry fun at that? Remember taking all those photos of store displays, then posting them on Facebook with pithy little “Oh, ha ha ha, it’s far too early” captions?

By mid November, the distant, rumbling thunder of the coming storm is slightly less distant. But we can still dismiss it, because most of the energy is focused on Black Friday, which we all know is insane. Crazed, desperate retailers are trying to find new ways to separate us from our money, as they always do, only becoming craftier during tough economic times. But when I haven’t eaten my Thanksgiving turkey yet, it’s still very easy to keep laughing: “Oh, ha ha! Silly consumers and retailers! It’s still too early!”

Until, suddenly, it isn’t.

Christmas lights appear overnight, everywhere. But I’m still too busy slogging through the last 2-3 weeks of my semester. Foolishly, I continue giving assignments to my students. Incomprehensibly, they still expect me to give meaningful feedback on these assignments. We continue doing our best, even though we all know that we’re on the downslope of a rapidly receding term, even though our fates are more or less sealed, even though — let’s be honest — part of us is ready to say “enough,” waiting until next term to start over, fresh.

But we don’t do that. We don’t quit; we keep going. We do this because we are dedicated, and that’s what dedicated people do.

So despite the Christmas lights and music that start creeping into my consciousness, the holidays are mostly something that I deal with after my grades are in. And my grades are usually due sometime between December 18-21.

You do the math.

Of course, part of the reason I get away with this is because Mr. Frump and I don’t have children. We don’t decorate our house. We celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah, but we do so in a very free-form, individual way. If we’re here alone, we cook a nice dinner and open a few presents. If we travel to visit family for Christmas, we are the guests, not the hosts.

But we do provide companionship and sparkling conversation, I think, and we certainly try to help with the cooking and cleanup. We bring some gifts, and maybe some wine. (No, I don’t drink all of it myself! Why would you even think that?)

We’ve never thrown a Christmas party, a Hanukkah party, a Kwanzaa party, or a holiday party of any kind.  And a number of our friends are very much like us, so we all enjoy meeting at restaurants to socialize. It works well for everybody concerned.

Yet, still, we have a few friends who are kind enough to invite us to their holiday gatherings. Suddenly, I find myself with nothing holiday-appropriate to wear.  And I do mean nothing.

This year, we are traveling to see my parents, so there will be a warm, intimate family gathering.  Fortunately, I am quite literally the only person who cares what I wear to this. Unfortunately, I do care, a little bit. I mean, I should at least make some effort. Shouldn’t I?

So this year, I’m considering wearing my new leopard print top from the Talbot’s outlet:


along with my ubiquitous brown ruffle skirt:

brown skirt cropped

Are these items that I also wear to work? Of course they are! Which is fine, except that I can’t forget what style writer Kimberly Bonnell wrote in her book, What to Wear: “Nothing is quite as depressing as generic workday clothes trying to pass as weekend party wear.”  I’ve quoted her before, and there’s a reason for this. Her quote haunts me every time I do exactly what she advises against.

So I’m gonna have to perk these babies up a bit. Here’s what I think I need:

  1. A festive pair of shoes (sparkly, maybe?). But I want them to be flats, even though I know somebody’s gonna tell me that I can’t — simply can’t — wear flats with that skirt. But I have to pack them in a suitcase and go on a plane! And then in a car! If they’re sparkly enough, I can do it, right? Right? If not sparkles, then what? 
  2. Some good jewelry. I’m just not sure what “good” means. What goes with leopard print? Does anybody know?
  3. A festive, dressy little bag. See notes 1 and 2, above, re: what kind?

So here comes the sinister purpose of this post. I’m open to any and all of your ideas and advice regarding items 1-3. You, my readers, are better at this than I am. What would Frump Nation do? (WWFND?)

I’m listening. And while I could apologize for asking for guidance rather than giving it, we all know that I have absolutely no shame in this regard. All I can promise in return is my heartfelt gratitude. And maybe I’ll try to entertain you once in a while by inviting you to laugh at me as well as with me. If you bring the Christmas roast, I promise to bring  the wine and a silly story or two. Does that sound like a deal?

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About Anne @ The Frump Factor

Reflections on beauty and style, for women who weren't born yesterday. Bring your sense of humor and "Fight the Frump" with me!
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40 Responses to Ask not for whom the jingle bells toll

  1. Beryl says:

    Patent Leather! It’s just shiny enough without having glitter rub off on the furniture. If you need more sparkle, get some rhinestone shoe clips. I think that top is terrific!

  2. Louise says:

    “Good” jewelry that plays nicely with leopard: amber. Seriously, amber is so cool. I always look for the pieces that have big chunks of insect entombed in it :-) And since amber is often paired with sterling silver, the price is reasonable, too.

    Totally with you on the low-key holiday celebrations.

  3. Anne says:

    I agree with the comments above, but instead of the skirt, you could do some skinny ankle-length black pants with black ballet flats – very Audrey Hepburn! Maybe velvet, satin, or even black denim. Chic, comfortable and would go beautifully with your cute top.
    With you on the low-key holiday celebrations as well!

  4. Susan says:

    I can so relate to this. I can’t wait to read the suggestions that your lovely readers offer.

  5. Lorna says:

    Shorten skirt to the top of the knee. Add black or pattern tights in a dark shade. Flats if you must, but I suggest jewels on the toes at least, shoe color to match the tights. Chunky necklace in gold or silver (or even a mix) to make that neckline interesting and draw attention to your face. maybe a third piece like a cream or black or brown shrug or fitted knit jacket with a little pizzazz like a band of glitter. A little stack of coordinated bangles. It is the season to sparkle!

  6. gracefully50 says:

    You always make me smile….
    I don’t do bold jewelry so I would prob. do a cream color scarf & a clutch in same color. A black ballet flats with a little bit of flare would be cute. Whatever you decide, own it, and you’ll be fabulous! Happy hunting!

  7. That leopard print shirt is fantastic!
    I would go with metallic flats in a bronze or copper colour (slippers are very popular right now, same for the bag and then a big tribal inspired, or hammered metal necklace. Or you could do leopard print shoes a metallic clutch and the tribal necklace. But most importantly you should feel good about what you are wearing because that gives you confidence and confidence is very attractive. :)

  8. Poppy Buxom says:

    How shmancy do you have to be? If fairly, I’d suggest: gold ballerina shoes, a gold clutch, and either a wide gold cuff on one hand, a stack of sparkly gold glittery bracelets, or that pavé link bracelet from J. Crew. They would go with leopard and you could wear them with other things.

  9. HI Anne, has anybody mentioned how great RED looks with leopard print. Some great red sparkly shoes would be amazing for this look. If you do red shoes, I would accent with a great pair of gold earrings and a small bracelet. This top looks like it is very flattering. I have had good luck lately with coats and accessories at Goodwill….but there are many places to find affordable, cute items…like Kohls. I think you will look great!

  10. gingerR says:

    What’s wrong with the shoes you have on with the skirt in the picture? Try some sheer darker colored stockings with those. Add the sparkle up top. Who the heck cares if your feet are sparkly? It’s your upper half that’s having the holiday.

    I usually wear a tank under criss-crossy tops like that because I have a small chest and the fabric doesn’t stay put. If you do that then why not glam that up? Glittery tanks are all over the place, try Old Navy.

    • Louise says:

      “It’s your upper half that’s having the holiday.” This cracked me up! It’s definitely true for me, since my feet usually hurt and therefore are the cranky party-pooper parts of my body. So bling up your earlobes, cuz they’re always ready to party!

  11. We celebrate the holidays in a very similar way to you – we’ve never hosted a party (ever!) and we don’t decorate or do cards. We keep it small, and casual, and usually eat at a local restaurant with a couple of friends – no kids, so no grandkids. I do love the spirit of giving and goodwill and wish it lasted longer!

    You’ve gotten great advice for your outfit. When going from work to party, I usually change shoes, bag, add a little bling and bright lipstick. Maybe fluff out your curls : >

    Happiest holiday to you and the DH.

    • I would so do the exact same thing except for Dear Hubby wants “real Christmas”. Once when he and The Teens promised to help take down the tree, I tried to out-wait them. Couldn’t do it. Took the tree down myself in April…lol. I feel like such a Debbie Downer but I’m really only interested in the good eats over the holidaze…

  12. Anne, I just did s similar post on what to wear to a wedding. The comments helped a great deal but the pictures helped more. Something about looking at pictures vs. looking in the mirror always helps me to decide. I like all of the above comments. If you decide to go Tribal check out the two necklaces I currently have in my Silverstyle store (shameful promotion on my part). So far that’s all I have listed but either would work very well with the neckline of your top. Let us see what you decide on!

  13. tamerakitten says:

    I would add RED patent flats and a red necklace/bangles. Seriously!1 Red looks awesome with leopard and it holiday appropriate!

  14. I would say: dear Kimberly Bonnell, for the most part I have followed your good advice, but I value COMFORT over all else, especially when traveling! For that reason, I shall add lovely gold jewelry with gold FLAT shoes, or a black scarf (velvet perhaps?) with black FLAT shoes, to my favorite work outfit, and will consider myself thoroughly decked out for a holiday party. I will use the money I saved by not buying a party dress to buy a deliciously luxurious sweater or fluffy warm robe that I can enjoy for many years.
    (Easy for me to say, since this member of Frump Nation generally avoids leaving the house at all during the holiday season.)

  15. I’d just go shopping and see what I’d find. Wear the top and blouse so you can see how the pieces look. Red, gold, and anything sequined are all “in” this season. You can always add sparkle with your makeup too!

  16. Melinda says:

    Liz and I think that this outfit calls for a tiara. Seriously, how often can you wear one? Actually, the amber and pulling skirt up and copper flats would look great. If you are in true need, I have a lovely (perhaps crazy) sequined bag in copperish color that I picked up at the swap shop a few weeks ago.

  17. Paula says:

    Red stockings. I did it one year. If you dare….lol.

  18. Gail says:

    Anne, I don’t know if it’s happened on your side of the pond but over here the naff Christmas jumper, decorated with reindeer, is suddenly hot. Last seen in The Diary of Bridget Jones! I have one in red and will be proudly wearing it on Christmas Day.

  19. You got such great advice, but I thought I’d add my 2 cents for the travel aspect. We recently went to NYC and stuck with carry-on bags. I had a very basic capsule wardrobe. If we went to the theater or a nicer restaurant, I simply added a necklace and/or brighter scarf (wearing them together was pretty, too). We’re going again in December and my goal is to pack even less.

    The nice thing about your separates is they are all neutrals, yes, even the animal print, and you can accessorize them with something that is totally unique and you, and you’ll still look great. I do like the idea of shortening the skirt a bit. I’m realizing many of mine need a good raise.

    • The funny part is, I think that skirt is a little shorter than it looks. It’s a little loose around the waist so it rides low. I confess that I wear my skirts like this all too often, because I can’t stand anything confining around my waist. Plus, if I get it taken in, I’ll immediately gain 10 pounds, right?

      I know: I fail at style. But I did warn y’all when I chose my blog name……

  20. Marla says:

    I love your top. I am a lot like you. I only have a 17 yr old son left in the house, my other son is at college in CA. This year I only decorated for New Years, ha! I bought a silver candle and some New Years decorations at my local Party City store. It actually looks quite festive.
    We just end up visiting the last surviving grandparent in S. Florida for the holidays and have a nice dinner out. My kids haven’t even asked for anything in particular for the holidays. Thankfully they are pretty content with their lives.

  21. stylecrone says:

    You have received excellent advice, so I can’t add a thing. I see animal print as a neutral, so whatever you choose will be beautiful, I’m sure. The only rule I follow is creative self expression! Have a wonderful holiday season!

  22. angie says:

    Very well written post!I would suggest you wear some kind of fitting pants with the top.

  23. Melanie says:

    Anne, they won’t throw you off the plane for wearing high heels. And they can also be worn in a car. Pack your flats and wear the heels!! Heels with glitter! And why not a glittery scarf too, and mustard tights, and a gold bracelet or two. Grrr (sound of wild animal). Or not. I think those big silky pyjama-like trousers would look great with this top too if you have any hanging around your closet. The main thing is, make sure you have room to eat as much as you like without restriction.

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