How to Shop Your Closet for Great Holiday Outfits

Do you ever look at your closet and want to burn it all down and start over? That was me a few years ago. Since then I’ve worked on things like learning my style, purging my wardrobe, and only keeping things I love to wear.

The result has been a ‘capsule wardrobe‘ and it makes my life far easier than I could have anticipated. In fact, I want to keep purging, being restrictive with my shopping and taking time to shop my closet more often.

So this Christmas I decided to do just that. The past couple of years I have borrowed or bought a new outfit for the annual Christmas party. This year I shopped my closet. Which is a nice way of saying that I tried on almost all my clothes while going through all the stages of grief, telling my husband he ‘doesn’t get it’ and stuffing my face with granola bars and apples to stay nourished.

I ended up wearing something I felt great in. And yes, something my husband told me to wear in the first place. Sure, he can’t use a flat bedsheet but he can pick out my party outfit and make the kids nap for hours longer than me. #hegetsit

Closet remix and shop your closet to find simple holiday party looks

So here are my tips on shopping your closet to find outfits for you holiday parties and gatherings (because the rest of the time you get to wear Christmas PJs).

(Remember, I’m not a fashion blogger but a blogger who loves fashion, in case my fashion photography skills didn’t give it away)


Dressing up your everyday clothes to make them fancy

Sort through your closet and pick out some of your ‘basics’. These will be everyday items you can dress up. Good choices are clothes that are jewel toned, champagne/ivory coloured tops, well-fitting, dark denim (if jeans), have lots of texture (satins, wools, knits, lace, corduroy, leather), and ones with good shaped to them (like a blouse instead of a t-shirt).

The next step is to mix and match them to see what combos look good together.  This is a simple practice that will help you dress faster, better, smarter and more stylishly.  It feels tedious but take the time to try lots of looks and go to Pinterest for inspiration too. The #moms30for30 has taught me the power of getting creative with how I wear my clothes – try to tuck in shirts, layer collared shirts for interest, wear different belts, accessorize, try different shoes, etc. There is no skipping this step – trying clothes on, taking pictures of them and texting them to your bestie for advice is just part of being a grown ass woman, ok!?  Then save all those pics to the cloud for later reference (Nerdy Girlfriend Tip)

Once you have the basic combinations you are happy with, it’s time to dress up your look.

Here are some simple ways to dress up basic clothes and make your friends say ‘you fancy girl!’ . . . .

Shop your closet and dress up your basics for simple holiday style

  • Add a layering piece like a leather jacket, blazer or vest – something different that your everyday layering piece. Specifically – something that has more structure than a cardigan or hoodie.
  • Accessorize! Jeans and a blouse can be elevated with a statement necklace. A sweater dress can be dressed up with a cute bracelet.
  • Get a little fancier with your hair. Learn some simple updos, learn how to rock a messy braid. When in doubt, add some big curls.
  • Nothing dresses up an outfit like lipstick. Jeans, sweater, red lipstick?Done! It even makes you feel better when you are wearing stained sweats and being held hostage on your couch by a teething baby.
  • Wear heels or wedges to up-class any outfit. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t always practical for momlife, but shoes are a game changer and heels level up that game. If you aren’t feeling heels than go for some cute wedge booties.
  • Add sparkle to your outfit. Most holiday party outfits you see online feature a sequined miniskirt, which you may own if you are younger than 24. But for the rest of us who only dream of a lifestyle that lends itself to needing a sequined miniskirt in our closets….it can be anything sparkly in your arsenal. A gold belt, jeweled barrette, a blouse with lovely buttons, a simple gold headband, metallic shoes, a statement necklace, you get it – anything but your shirt with the bedazzled cat eyes.

Shopping your closet for a party outfit

Maybe you want a basic look that is dressed up for a get together. Maybe you want a fancier look for a party. It is time to take out all the skirts, dresses and belts out of your closet and have some granola bars on hand.

  • We don’t usually wear summer dresses in the winter because they are usually more flowy, patterned and lighter weight than our winter party dresses. But if you have a sleeved dress, you can pair it with dark tights and dark shoes to dress it up.
  • Necklaces are a quick way to add your unique style to your dresses.  Shorter necklaces will give a more sophisticated look whereas longer ones will be more casual. And a necklace is great, but adding a bracelet also makes it a more polished look.

Mixing dresses and skirts for a new outfit. Shop your closet for holiday style.

  • Mix and match everything. The outfit I ended up wearing to the Christmas party was actually a dress and two skirts. I thought the red skirt alone was too short and lightweight so I added the black one under. I thought it made the outfit more interesting as well.Wearing two dresses. Shop your closet for simple holiday style
  • You can also mix and match two dresses, or wear a skirt over a dress to change up a look of a dress (like the one that you may have worn at the last year’s party)Wearing a bridesmaid dress as a skirt. Shop your closet for simple holiday style
  • Or wear the bottom of a dress as a skirt with a top, especially if there is a tie at the waist to hide the zipper. A good candidate for this is bridesmaids dresses, which have a nice full skirt but a more matronly bodice.
  • Add a statement clutch or purse to bring more texture, colour, interest to your outfit.
  • Don’t skip on the heels, but don’t feel like they have to be some new fancy shoe. I usually wear the same heels to almost every party I go to, black velvet wedges. BUT I do totally dig a woman who can wear a fierce pink pump (cough, Jamie). Statement shoes are also a great and simple way to upgrade the look of a basic one-colour dress.

Beauty tips for your fancy face

I believe that it is worth learning how to do your own five-minute face. But if you don’t wear makeup very often then you might feel a little list putting in a few extra steps for a fancy occasion. Add in some of these steps and you will look back in your pictures of the night and be all, ‘oh yeah I did!’

  • Start with a foundation. It doesn’t have to be fancy stuff, a simple BB cream is great too.
  • Wear dark black eyeliner close to your lash line to make your lashes look thicker
  • Define your eyebrows with powder or pencil. Try it out even if you have been emotionally wounded by the sharpie eyebrows that are trending in misguided young women these days. Friends, I brow because I care!

A photo posted by Shawna Scafe (@shawnascafe) on

  • Put on an extra coat of mascara, or false eyelashes if you are willing to take on a lesson in lash adhesive. They sound tedious but really, you could just do false lashes and lipstick and walk around feeling like Beyonce.
  • Lipstick and blush will make your face and skin look more youthful than your tired momlife really lead them to be
  • Do some simple contouring with a bronzer, under your cheekbones and around your face.

But if this still sounds daunting, check out my Favourite Makeup Tips for Reluctant Moms (cause I was one too!)


On rocking a Johnny Cash look

For some, wearing all black is our go-to way to look classy. All black can be very classy (ala Rachel Zoe) but it can also look dated and drab. Some ways to make this look work are to use rich blacks, different textures and well-fitted shapes.

First of all, don’t mix faded black with rich black. If your blacks have lost their colour, try tinting them.

Avoid dressing in all cotton, it feels very pajam-ey. Use different textures and materials to richen the look of all black.

Don’t go with basic black pants and a black t-shirt. Instead opt for a black dress/tunic and leggings, or fitted black pants and a black blouse. Flowy can feel good, but in all black it can cross over into halloween-witch garb. Opt for clothes that are fitted and have structure to them.

Make sure to add some accessories and makeup to bring some vibrancy to your look.  Also, don’t forget to use the lint brush or depiller when wearing all black.


Love Shawna, your nerdy girlfriend who believes in dressing in a way that feels empowering instead of overwhelming.






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