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Holiday fashion stories often begin something like this: “How to look festive – without looking overdone.” Or “Different ways to wear sequins – without looking like an ornament.”

In this season of sparkle, shine and, yes, even silly seasonal sweaters, it’s easy to go a little overboard. And sometimes that’s OK.

“It depends on your personality. I’m an over-accessorizer,” said Nancy Monroe, owner of Monroe’s Place dress shop and accessory boutique, 182 Lake St., Hamburg.

It’s also perfectly fine to pull out that trusty red cardigan or little black dress again this year – with an updated accessory or two, perhaps – or your favorite velour outfit.

But if it’s a fresher look you’re after, there are several other holiday looks worth considering.

One of Monroe’s top picks? A dress – but not necessarily worn with high heels and panty hose.

“The lifestyle not only of Western New York but probably America in general has become much more casual than it probably ever has before … We now have an Uggs-and-leggings lifestyle,” she said.

While some events call for gowns, a versatile dress is ideal for many types of holiday gatherings. “We have dresses that are what I call ‘dressy professional.’ It’s a dress, but it will still go with leggings and an equestrian boot,” she said.

Especially for the age 50-plus crowd that wants to look stylish but not dress like their daughters or granddaughters, “you can wear a little more conservative dress, but once you put on those boots and leggings or opaque tights, it makes it more cool and hip looking,” she added.

For holiday parties, she also is a fan of what she calls “inside scarves” – lighter-weight scarves, perhaps with some sparkle – that can easily transform an outfit to party-ready.

Other trends of the season.

• Party pants: Fun to say. Fun to wear. Try a pair in a dressy pattern or fabric. Even denim gets fancy, such as silver-colored jeans with a metallic shimmer finish.

At taylorK, a fashion boutique at 5823 Main St., Williamsville, owner Dawn Mazur tops a pair of wide-leg black lace pants with a burgundy top accented with rosettes on the side.

• Polka dots: Not just for spring. Ann Taylor shows a black top with sheer dotted long sleeves and neckline, as well as a pair of gray slim-cut pants covered in black “velvety flocked” dots. LOFT features a dot-covered quilted puffer vest. The Lulu by Lulu Guinness accessory collection at J.C. Penney includes dotted scarves, hats and gloves. And, elsewhere, sparkly embellishments form dot patterns on everything from party shoes to cocktail dresses.

• Sweater dresses: Perfectly suited to Western New York winters. Popular in the 1980s, today’s versions come in a variety of colors, patterns and materials – including natural and synthetic blends. Again, as Monroe suggested, wear one with leggings, solid or textured tights and, possibly, riding-style boots.

• Fair Isle patterns: This preppy, ski-lodge look will be perfectly at home in numerous social settings this season. Gap, for one, calls its Fair Isle cardigan, a “winter must” with a “fun, retro vibe.”

• Monochromatic looks: Yes, you can go head-to-toe black but why not try something new? Go all red, burgundy, winter white or gray but mix textures – leather and knit, perhaps – to keep it all interesting.

• Circle skirts: This fit-and-flare skirt comes both short and long.

• Embellishment: You’ll see dresses and short skirts with all-over sparkles but also sprinklings of them on shirt collars, shoulders or on the backs of shoes. Even casual pieces get embellished. Kohl’s places the Luxe Tee and Glam Sweatshirt on its list of holiday fashion trends.

Some advice from the style pages of Better Homes and Gardens for wearing an all-over sparkly dress: “Go for a simply cut dress with sleeves, and keep jewelry on the minimal side.”

Another way to tone it down: Pair a sparkly piece with something more subdued and casual. Banana Republic tops a sequinned miniskirt with a sporty Fair Isle pullover, for example. Not into sequins? Sweaters with metallic threads are another option, Mazur suggested.

Final tip: In addition to shopping malls and specialty shops, thrift and consignment shops are other places to check out for unique holiday clothing and accessories. Another option: The group Communify: Buffalo is holding a fall clothing exchange from 7 to 10 p.m. Nov. 30 at the Foundry, 298 Northampton St.

How the exchange works: Participants bring in new or used clothes in good condition, hang them on designated racks and then are free to browse among the clothes other people brought in. Organizers ask that everyone leaves with the same – or less – amount of clothing than they brought in.

While there is no guarantee you will find the perfect party outfit, there’s a pretty good chance.

At the spring clothing exchange in March, there was such a wide variety of clothes, said Stephanie Brochey, Communify founder. “We had tons of clothes last time. Some people are getting rid of stuff to find new things. Some people are getting rid of stuff because they need to get rid of it,” she said.

It’s $5 at the door. More information can be found on Communify’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/communifybuffalo.

email: smartin@buffnews.com