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What I wore this week: black and white for parties

So I’m totally on top of everything and 100% sure I ordered all those presents and they’re absolutely going to turn up on the doorstep Monday morning latest – pause for deep breathing into a paper bag – but, um, there’s quite a lot to do at this time of year, isn’t there? And it gets to the Saturday night before Christmas and you realise that “assemble chic outfit for party, with clean tights, hang on bathroom door” has somehow fallen off your to-do list. And it’s the Strictly final, so any small window of getting-ready time you might have had is going to be spent with one eye on the TV.

What you need are rules. This sounds horribly bossy for the first weekend of the school holidays, I know, but do you want to spend your downtime in a panic, grabbing random dresses out of your wardobe, discarding them and then having to hang them back up again? I thought not. What you need is a calm, fail-safe formula, and here it is.

Wear only black and white, but within that framework pull out the pieces you have that are the most embellished and extravagant-looking. This is the time for anything black or white that has a feather trim, or a crystal neckline, or a band of velvet around the hem. (It’s Christmas, so never mind the dry-cleaning bill.) It could be a cream lace blouse and a black leather skirt; a fitted fluffball black sweater with a white pencil skirt; a white mini dress with black tights and heels. You probably won’t have loads of options, but that’s the point: what you have will work together, give or take a higher heel or a pair of earrings, and who wants yet another decision to make tonight?

Cheat’s option: you can just wear a little black dress, but add something white, cream, ivory or crystal. High-heeled white ankle boots, or a snowy fur shrug. A stonking great diamond or pearl necklace will also do nicely, should you happen to have one to hand: for reference, the croissant scene in Breakfast At Tiffany’s. A touch of white lifts the year-round classicism of a black dress and makes it festive. It is the icing on the Christmas cake, the sugar-dusting on the mince pie, the angel at the top of the tree. When you think about it, monochrome is just as festive a dress code as red and green. Much more chic, too. And – most importantly – simpler. Phew.

Jess wears blouse, £38, oasis-stores.com. Skirt, from a selection, katespade.co.uk. Heels, £130, by Carvela Kurt Geiger, kurtgeiger.com

Styling: Melanie Wilkinson. Hair and makeup: Sharon Ive at Carol Hayes Management.

Follow Jess on Twitter.

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