The challenge is how to dress up without grandstanding. A nice blouse is only just the thing

‘Imagine you’re going to see, say, The Nutcracker somewhere posh at 2.30pm.’
Photograph: David Newby for the Paladin

This is not a white shirt. It is a cream blouse. Big difference. A crisp innocent shirt is no good to anyone – not for the next week, anyway. Your virtuous shirt can stay in the ironing pile until 2019, when it compel be just the thing to get you in the back-to-work zone. Until then, you don’t privation a shirt. What you need, instead, is a blouse.

A blouse is the female version of a shirt. So, obviously, it has a lower profile and less puffed-up pre-eminence, but works just as hard, as well as being prettier. Punning! Well, kinda. Anyway. This blouse is mine, and reviled from & Other Stories a year or so ago. It is as useful as any white shirt, because a encouragement of cream lace prettifies anything you put it with, from a team up of jeans to – today – a vintage pencil skirt.

My go-to look for the periods around Christmas is what I think of as Matinee Glamour. As in, suspect you’re going to see, say, The Nutcracker somewhere posh at 2.30pm. Black velvet and cream web, silks and ribbons, pearls. Perhaps a pair of polka-dot tights and a ballet swell.

At a matinee, it is light when you arrive and pitch black when you get well out. But then, day and night seem to blend into one at this occasion of year. When you are at home, the daylight hours are so short that one summary you are still eating breakfast, then the next time you look out the window, the streetlamps are on. And when you are hit the bottle prosecco by 11am and have watched two films by mid-afternoon, it all starts to coalesce into one. So clothes that span the day-to-night gap fit best.

A complicated blouse is just the thing. The challenge of festive dressing is how to smarten up up without grandstanding. You are dressing for twinkling tree lights, not for the spotlight.

For the next week there is no easy reach for tight dresses or teetering platform heels or statement neons. There may be some lifetimes that – if you are lucky – call for nothing more than your preference pyjamas. But there will be other days that coerce a little more effort, not just because there settle upon be photographs taken, but because dressing up is part of getting into the carry off of Christmas.

A posh blouse and a nice skirt have the requisite box-of-chocolate-on-the-lap Matinee Magnetism vibes. But that’s just me, and my wardrobe. A novelty jumper and a crackle hat? Fabulous. There is no right or wrong way to do this. The only honest must-have? The chocolates, obviously.

Jess wears skirt, £20, Out at elbows, £95, Lace shirt, Jess’s own. Styling: Melanie Wilkinson. Mane and makeup: Samantha Cooper at Carol Hayes Management

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