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Light up the room at your holiday party

  • Chicago Tribune
  • Published Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, at 7:16 a.m.
  • Updated Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, at 7:29 a.m.

Here you go again? You want to light up the room at a holiday party so you find yourself shopping (desperate, at the last minute) and spending more than you want on an outfit you probably will never wear again.

Stop right there. Instead of repeating your previous mistakes, here are six options to get your glow on — all but one for less than $100. Each of these builds on basics already in your closet.

Lots of bling for the buck. Ho, ho, ho.

A shoe-in

We all know that towering stilettos make a great entrance, but then what? Ten minutes into the party you need crutches or a chair. And dancing or hostess duties? Forget it.

Pair these not-sky-high knockouts with a little black dress from your wardrobe and that’s all you need to kick up your heels.

Topshop, Jazzhands glitter peep shoes, $120, topshop.com

Short and sweet

Many women avoid stores and Internet sites where skirts are short and prices are low. The conventional wisdom is that shops like Express, Forever 21 and Topshop are for the under-30 set. It’s time to think again.

This midthigh black and silver mini from Express shows more leg than makes you comfortable? So, re-imagine those short little dresses you see everywhere as tunics over your classic black pants for a great, easy, frugal holiday look. And those "young" stores are great for all-age accessories like evening bags, belts and bangles, each for less than $10.

Even a belt — this one glitters and almost glows in the dark — can amp up your outfit, and the one shown here costs less than a specialty coffee.

Dress: Express, $59.90, express.com; belt: Forever 21, $4.80, forever21.com

Tip-top topper

Those black pants, that pencil skirt and that little black dress are your wardrobe workhorses. To let your inner show horse out, top any of those dark basics with a sequined T-shirt. I found them in black, cream, copper and colors in stores across the price spectrum. This striped one in unexpected pink and gray is less than $20 and it’s all you need for a 200-watt look. By the way, when it comes to sparkle, stick to a single item, two at most. Too much gleam and you’re venturing into more-is-less territory.

Forever 21, $19.80, forever21.com

Neck and neck

Your dark, boring sweater is suddenly smashing when topped with an eye-popping necklace like this one from Zara. There are dozens of other bargain jewelry options at Forever 21, Marshalls, T.J. Maxx and others. They’re at prices so low that you won’t worry that you might not wear them more than once.

The statement necklace is an especially good option for those of us not so happy with our figures. It pulls the eye up, away from those problem areas. That’s so much simpler than diet and exercise.

Zara, $35.90, zara.com

Wrap-up

Even the busiest hostess can find the time to wind a sequined scarf over the neckline of a workday dress, sweater or blouse to turn day into evening with wattage to spare. One cautionary note: Try the scarf before you buy. Some of these sparklers cut into your flesh and are brutal against your skin. No matter how little it costs, it’s too much if your accessory becomes a torture device.

From $5 at various retail stores

For the bold at heart

This isn’t for everyone, but if you’re happy with your size this clingy little gem is ruby-licious. Wear it with a simple top you already own and you’re a wow. And this is just one more example of how shops that you might think trend too young for you aren’t necessarily so. This skirt hits at or below the knee, and you even can sit down and not worry that you’re showing off more than you intended.

Topshop, petite sequin tube skirt, $96, topshop.com

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