Keep the holidays classy

Leave the reindeer sweater at home and the red silk G-string in the drawer

By Christopher Muther
Globe Staff / November 25, 2010

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A word on this week's column: I regularly receive letters from readers asking for style advice. These letters seem to grow more desperate in tone with the approach of the holidays. Here are some of those questions. Feel free to send along your queries if you find yourself in a sartorial quandary you'd like to share.

Dear Christopher,

I'm having an argument with my 17-year-old daughter that I'm hoping you can clear up. I have a few sweaters that I enjoy wearing this time of year. For Thanksgiving, I have a cardigan with colorful leaves. At Christmas, I like wearing festive sweaters with holiday characters. They're cute, they're warm, and I always get lots of compliments on them. My daughter makes faces if I wear them to parties. I don't really see the problem, but I'm wondering if it's really bad for me to wear them?


Dear Fannie,

I applaud your holiday spirit and enthusiasm. Christmas sweaters are perfectly fine for a cozy evening at home cuddling with the cat and watching the Hallmark Channel. But I would restrict these sweaters to home use only. You mentioned that you receive compliments on the sweaters at parties. Here is the brutal truth about holiday sweaters that are worn without irony: People feel compelled to comment on them. Whether it's your intention or not, the elves and reindeer frolicking on your sweaters are screaming ``Look at me!'' In the process, you lose your identity and simply become known as ``that holiday sweater lady who likes cats and the Hallmark Channel.''

Leave the sweaters at home and remember that holiday parties offer a perfect opportunity to inject style and glitz into your routine — but as a rule, stay classy. Image consultant Marla Tomazin suggests keeping your ensemble simple and straightforward with a basic black cocktail dress. Add sparkle with your jewelry. Or try a white blouse and a skinny black pant or skirt. There is no need to compete with a Christmas tree when you attend parties.

Dear Christopher, I decided to get my girlfriend something special for the holidays: Me. My plan is to surprise her on Christmas Eve by wearing a red silk G-string with white fur trim. I've been hitting the gym hard and want to show off my new body. My friends look at me skeptically when I tell them about it. What do you think?


Dear S.C.,

I'm joining your friends and looking at you with a raised eyebrow. This sounds like a shameless ego-boosting gift for yourself, not your girlfriend. I'm more of a Dr. Philistine than a Dr. Phil, but even I'm qualified to give advice on this one. If this is a gift for your girlfriend, why not get something that makes her feel special? Also, as a general rule, you should avoid all undergarments that contain the word ``string'' in the name.

Dear Christopher,

I regularly get a spray tan during the summer and fall. I don't overdo it, but I'm definitely noticeably bronzed and golden. I know that I look much better with a tan, but as it gets colder, I'm afraid that I look ridiculous. With winter coming soon, should I stop so I don't stand out? I'd like to look good for holiday parties, but I don't want people to think that I've just stepped off the Jersey shore. Any suggestions?


Dear B & B,
Since I'm regularly mistaken for Casper the Unfriendly Ghost, I thought it would be best to forward your question along to someone with actual tanning experience, like Sinead Norenius, self-tanning expert and creator of the self-tanning line Beautisol. She suggests the following: ``Switch to a gradual self tanner. A little warmth in your skin is gorgeous in the winter. I use the `extremity technique' which is to only tan what people can see, such as your face, décolleté, lower arms, and hands and feet. Gradual self-tanners can be applied like a moisturizer. I would recommend you self-tan once every three to four days or so. This will give you a light application and a warmth that isn't too overdone. Look for one with a green-ish undertone, especially if you're lighter because clear self tanners tend to look yellow on lighter skin. A green undertone will make you look brown versus yellow.''

Christopher Muther can be reached at