One Writer Reflects On Sparkly New Year’s Eve Fashion


When I was 25, I went to my first grown-up New Year’s Eve party. It was one of those overpriced events where you pay to drink unlimited champagne and eat oysters off big tray tables that someone probably sneezed on. I’m sure it was a fun night. In every photo from it, I’m smiling. But the memory that lingers when I think about ringing in 2015 is how uncomfortable I felt.

It’s a sad admission, really. The problem wasn’t the company, the place, or the party itself; it was my clothes. I put so much pressure on marking the perfect evening with the perfect outfit. I wanted so badly to convey a new version of me who went to fancy holiday parties that I forgot something: getting dressed up is supposed to be fun. I didn’t own sparkles or sequins, so I cobbled together some pieces I bought on sale. I landed on burgundy work pants and a black tulle, backless bodysuit that vaguely had glitter in it. Even writing that out, it’s confusing. It wasn’t a bad outfit necessarily, but in no other circumstance would I have worn it—especially because the pants didn’t fit.

I spent the night pulling the strangely low-waisted slacks up and checking to make sure the double-sided tape, which I used in lieu of a bra, was still there. I ran to the bathroom every 20 minutes to readjust and reduce the risk of my pants falling down or my boob popping out. With every move, I held my breath, convinced that the latter would happen.

I might be a bit melodramatic, but I’m not unique in feeling pressure to look a certain way on New Year’s Eve. The celebration is rooted in superstitions and cultural traditions throughout history, suggesting that getting one thing wrong might ruin your incoming year. And of course, this includes what you choose to wear.

In an article for Bustle, Marlen Komar reports that wearing a bit of sparkle traces back centuries. One early example comes from the 700’s, when Romans would wear special amulets representing different themes on New Year’s Day. The report also explains that as parties literally electrified in the 20th century, so too did the looks. Dressing in something that sparkles was a way to bring in the next 365 days on a high, shiny note. Today, the pressure to start the year with the right outfit is compounded by social media and quick-moving fast fashion trends. We have to stand out and fit in all at the same time.

That brings me to now, just a handful of days before 2023. The difference is that I won’t stand in front of my wardrobe, perplexed by the fabric staring back at me. My often unkind inner monologue might still scramble into a mess of questions, like: What will other people wear? What if I’m overdressed? Are my clothes nice enough? Why doesn’t this dress fit perfectly? Or my favorite: why don’t I like any of my clothes?

But I will realize that these questions have less to do with my clothes and more to do with insecurities that one outfit won’t fix (or make worse for that matter). That night, when 2015 was settling into New York, I was in the throes of the quarter century crisis so many people go through. I was trying to dress for something I was not, and ended up starting the year stuck in last year’s self-doubt.

I have since learned that I can opt out of the pressure, as long as I have an honest conversation with myself about why those questions are popping up. Is it that I don’t have anything to wear, or is it that I don’t feel comfortable standing out in something meant to draw attention? Headlines like “On New Year’s Eve, We Wear Glitter,” don’t to apply to me if I don’t want them to. It’s not that I’m more confident in my style— the unkind voice has admittedly lingered as I age—it’s that I have less energy for what silly rules tell me I’m supposed to do. I’m more committed to doing what I want. Applying this idea to my most panicked dressing situations has allowed me to not only feel better, but stop shopping for things I ultimately don’t need or like.

Fashion and clothing don’t need to be as complicated as I often make them, but what I wear and how I wear it is the key to everything about me in a given moment, good or bad. So to ring in 2023, I might wear sequins I guess, or I might wear all black. Most importantly, though, I’ll wear what I feel like wearing, because as much as I love her, I’ve let go of the 25-year-old tugging at her top, caring way more about how she’s perceived than just having a good time.


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