The Most Instantly Fabulous High Street Party Dress

ultimate christmas party dress

There are some dresses that just make you feel instantly special when you wear them. In my modelling heyday, when I was shooting for magazines and clothes brands dozens of times a month, I would become quite blasé about the clothes I was putting on. Quite often, if it was a catalogue shoot, I’d be so bored by the tenth, fifteenth, twentieth outfit that I didn’t even look down to see what I had been dressed in! I just went on set, pulled out the classic modelling moves and waited for the photographer to shout “next outfit”.

ultimate christmas party dress

But now and then there’d be an outfit that would grab my attention; a dress that was so wonderfully cut that it made me feel transformed into an entirely different creature, or a sharp trouser suit that gave me a new and interesting silhouette. Admittedly, it was usually the very expensive fashion that made me feel this way (sometimes I’d wear couture, and that was a whole new level of clothing, like wearing pieces of art), but now and then there would be a high street sample that would be just fabulous.

ultimate christmas party dress

I’d pull it on and do my usual “where’s this from then?” to the stylist, always expecting to hear “Stella” or “Preen” or “McQueen”, but they’d lean forward conspiratorially and whisper “H&M, seventeen quid!” or “Primarni, a tenner!” And I would rejoice at the fact that I was wearing something I could even remotely afford to buy and then make a mental note to actually go and buy it. Take advantage of the insider knowledge.


In those days, though, we’d shoot fashion three or four months ahead, and so usually by the time the clothes were out in the shops I’d have completely forgotten about them. Many an amazing buy was missed in this way – if only I had kept a little notebook and logged my fashion finds, I’d have had the world’s best budget wardrobe. A treasure trove of high street masterpieces.

ultimate christmas party dress

But here’s one for you – and it’s out now, so no chance of forgetting it – my ultimate Christmas party dress. Can we take a moment to just absorb how amazing those ruched sleeves are? I absolutely love that the sleeves are the main attraction, here – the rest of the dress is rather sparse, but you don’t even notice because the sleeves are just so brilliant.

ultimate christmas party dress

I wouldn’t normally wear red, ever, but there’s something quite spectacular about this little number. It feels festive, but it’s not your typical party dress – it looks as though it’s been pulled straight from the catwalk with its voluminous sleeves and power shoulders. I don’t even care that it’s shorter than I would normally go for, these days because it’s all about the sleeves!

ultimate christmas party dress

And the price of this glorious little dress? £59.99 – from Mango*. I’m in dress heaven. I need to be invited to a lot of parties, please, so that it gets frequent outings. And nobody is allowed to comment that I’m wearing the same dress to them all. Because I don’t care. I would sleep in this dress if I had someone to launder and iron it every morning. That’s how much I love it – it makes me feel incredibly expensive and instantly glamorous.

ultimate christmas party dress

Just needs a slick of red on the lips and something sparkly on the feet. Here I’m wearing my Louboutin Moulamax boots, because I do like boots with a party dress – it’s a bit quirky – but admittedly shoes would be more leg-lengthening.

Buy the Ruched Sleeve Dress at Mango*

(I bought a UK10/medium and it fits true to size, I would say. I’m a large 10 and it’s just big enough for me.)

The above images were shot at Opium bar in Bath – many thanks to the lovely people there for letting us use their space. It’s a very cool cocktail bar set into underground vaults, so it has a naughty, vintage feel to it and it’s stuffed full of interesting furniture and objets. It took me an hour to realise that I’d actually been there before, on a hen do, but must have been quite drunk (obviously) because I could only recall fragments of the experience. Anyway, it’s one for the “must visit” list if you’re going to Bath – you can find their website here.

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