'Office Christmas Party' Costume Designer On What to Wear to Your Actual Office Holiday Party

Kate Gorney and T. J. Miller - Getty - H 2016
Getty Images

Unlike in the film, start with pants.

'Tis the season for office holiday parties, those merry affairs where coworkers mingle out in the wild and consume alcohol in each other's presence. The semi-awkward, fish-out-of-water situations always pose a tricky question: what to wear?

While pop-culture can sometimes serve as a reference point for navigating unknown dressing territory, Office Christmas Party — the upcoming film about a company party-turned-Project X-style rager thanks to a perfect cocktail of desperation, poor workplace morale and a snow machine spewing cocaine — might not be the best place to start.

With the exception of a few characters, including Allison (Vanessa Bayer) and Meghan (Jamie Chung), costume designer Karen Patch suggests you do not take cues from the wild cast's looks. Instead, she advocates a more conservative approach. Number one? Wear pants.

"You don’t have to look super dignified," Patch told The Hollywood Reporter. "You’re supposed to have fun, sure, but always remember it's not a bar. You're not at a cocktail lounge. You’re most likely going to be working with these people for some time, so you should have a sense of decorum."

To get into the holiday spirit, Patch proposes the fabric of the season — velvet — as well as lace or sequined pieces that spice up an otherwise bland outfit. Leave that bra top at home, but showing a little extra skin with a festive low cut blouse, like the emerald brocade top worn by Bayer in the film, is a do. 

"In this world today, that’s ok," she said, adding that women should feel confident showing cleavage. "You can wear something festive and show a little skin, but just keep in mind that you have to work with these people tomorrow."

Patch is also a fan of more outrageous, over-the-top themed looks, like the ugly Christmas sweaters that have become popular in an ironic way, in the past few years — if it suits your personality.

As an example, she points to the "non-denominational" holiday sweater worn by Mary (Kate McKinnon) in the film, created with the help of a professor at New York's Pratt Institute. "I kept sending him ideas and he created the sweater with a special knitting machine," she said. (A replica of the sweater is now available on TipsyElves.com for $65.) "You might never have the occasion to wear something like that again," she added. 

Patch went on to compliment T.J. Miller and his wife, Kate Gorney, for their picture-perfect ensembles at Wednesday evening's L.A. premiere, which would make for the perfect office party attire of a more adventurous sort. "Her dress was amazing, it was a sheer fabric with gold baubles. It was very fun and beautiful and she looked great in it." Of Miller she added, "The sleeves and pants were knit like a sweater. I say, why not?"