Avoid Holiday Party Snafus

Rep-saving tips from style expert Fonzworth Bentley

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Style expert Fonzworth Bentley says office party fashion can be festive, yet work-appropriate. (Photo by Lonnie C. Major)

It’s that time of year again, where people get into the spirit of the holidays. As the shopping peaks, the lights are draped, and the travel plans are finalized, most offices are gearing up for the festivities with the traditional holiday party.

The office celebration offers an opportunity to unwind from a year of challenges, to fellowship with those who have worked to address those challenges, and to have a cocktail or two to toast to a prosperous new year.

But you don’t want to be that coworker who is the center of next year’s stories of faux pas — the one who got too drunk and insulted the boss’ wife or who got caught talking with one too many meatballs in their mouth.

BlackEnterprise.com talked with Fonzworth Bentley, style expert, former P. Diddy assistant, and author of Advance Your Swagger: How to Use Manners, Confidence, and Style to Get Ahead (Random House; $24.95), on how to avoid making this year’s celebration one you’d rather forget.

Holiday Party Do’s

DO be sure you’re dressed appropriately. “This is an opportunity to wear something that is festive and fun,” Bentley says. “[Your coworkers] can really get an idea of your personality.”

For both men and women, he recommends the classic business staple — a tailored jacket — which can be dressed up or down. “A velvet blazer is always cool, or a nice red stewart plaid,” he says.

Ladies should shy away from blouses that are too low-cut or revealing and skirts and dresses that are too short. Strike a balance between what you’d wear to work and what you’d wear to an after-hour party.

For the fellas, Bentley says wear something memorable, but “you don’t want to [look like] an all out clown.”

DO come prepared to engage in great conversation. “Make sure you are on point with your reading and your current events,” Bentley says, adding that knowing the latest about news and notable subjects can make for a great conversation ice breaker.

Holiday Party Don’ts

DON’T go overboard with alcohol consumption. “This is not the forum for that because it will come back to bite you,” Bentley says. You don’t want to embarrass yourself or others because you’ve had one too many sips of that special eggnog. “The best thing to do is keep it light,” Bentley advises.

DON’T take more than two of anything at the buffet table at a time. Walking around with a plate piled full of food “is just not a good look,” Bentley says. “If you have to go back [to the buffet table], then go back.” He also cautions revelers to stay “focused on your napkin game,” to avoid the embarrassment of talking with food on your face or mouth.

DON’T bombard your boss or supervisor with forced conversation or pitches. In approaching your boss, Bentley says, timing is key. “If you see a line of coworkers waiting their turn to talk with the boss, hold back,” he says.

Bentley’s biggest rule of thumb for holiday parties: “Avoid embarrassment at all costs,” he says. “Don’t get yourself in an embarrassing situation, period.”

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