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Affordable Party Outfit Ideas + The EHD Holiday Party


We take any excuse to get dressed up, leave work early and hang out as friends (fine… I’m more like “the mom”, but I swear I‘m a super cool mom). Thus is the benefit/burden of working for someone who values the importance of happy hour and fashion. We always have a holiday dinner (secret Santa, awkward speech by me, inevitable tears) so we figured we’d multi-task our life and make it a fashion post. Like the “super cool” mom that I am, I gave everyone an allowance of $75 to pull together a holiday party look, and while most went over budget a bit (grounded) or used some pieces they already had (cheaters), these outfits are affordable and available if you like them. We make a small affiliate commission (more on that in the new year) from any sales of these pieces if you use the link, so I figured/hoped it would pay for itself. Win. Win. Win?

But first, like a mom, I’m endlessly sincerely touched by how good of friends everyone is here. They love each other, support each other so much, and they hang out together outside of work ALL THE TIME. They invite me sometimes, (thanks, guys) and if kids/life permit I go but I know it’s different when I’m there, despite how cool and “one of them” I think I still am. I imagine it’s a percentage of how I’ll feel if/when Charlie and Birdie hang out as adults, share a group of friends and travel together —we won’t be bummed that we aren’t invited, because there is this relief that you aren’t all they need anymore. Their relationship doesn’t hinge on you, and that through all your failings, you’ve helped create and foster friendships that will outlast you (or your company). I’m not dying. Just sentimental. They are all so amazing, every single one of them and I could cry because I feel so lucky to have them.

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Knowing we were going to be all gussied up, we headed to a spot that matched our gussied-up-ness to celebrate: Five Leaves. It’s VERY pretty/”designer-y” and delicious restaurant, near our office building. If you’re in LA and haven’t been (there’s always one in NY), I recommend it, both design-wise, and food/drink wise. The team goes often after work because the atmosphere is awesome, everything is good, and the staff is so friendly. We are big fans of this place. If you come and happen to see any of those faces above, feel free to say hi (we like meeting readers more than anybody else, i promise).

But first, let’s talk about our outfits:

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I wore the same red dress that you may have seen on social last week because IT’S VERY VERY GOOD. Literally everyone—in elevators, on the street, my babysitter—compliments me on it. When I tell them it’s from Target, their eyes light up, out of both shock and happiness that it can be theirs as well. It’s lined (who has time for slips?), falls/drapes really well and has that prairie vibe in the most holiday kind of way. I paired it with some snakeskin cowboy boots to dress down the “gown” a bit and embrace my inner badass. And then I added my red belt bag (which sadly doesn’t look like is available anymore but linking to something similar) to enhance and cinch the waist and edge it up.

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Shop the Look: Dress | Boots | Bag (similar)

Now for the rest of the team’s party looks, starting with Veronica, Sara and Arlyn.

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Emily Henderson holiday outfit ideas 13

Shop the Look: Dress | Earrings | Shoes | Eyeshadow | Lipstick

From Arlyn: “Makeup notwithstanding, I got this whole outfit, head to toe, for under $80 (thank goodness for Black Friday, but still, super affordable). I tried this dress on weeks ago before I knew we were going to be having a shoot and loved that it was covered up but playful with some ruffly moments. It’s a nice sharp bright red which I think works on just about everyone and at 5’3″ it hits me right above the knee. It runs a little big (I got a Large but in retrospect should have gotten a Medium), but I can see myself wearing this throughout the year to come. I pulled the black out of the pattern for my accessories. Any excuse I get to wear a big statement earring, I’ll take, plus a tassel is just too much fun to not opt for in a holiday ‘look.’ As for the shoes, the second I saw these bow babies on ASOS, I knew they’d be just the thing to wrap up (ha) my serious festive vibes.”

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Shop the Look: Jeans | Shirt | Blazer | Shoes | Headband (similar)

From Sara: “My #1 inspiration for this is the classic cinematic triumph, Clueless. Enter this amazing oversized blazer in festive green and red. I went for a velvet camisole underneath to keep things subtle but cocktail appropriate, then I dressed it down with ripped skinnies (because sometimes the holidays get crazy and you just haven’t shaved your legs…or it’s just cold). Next, I accented the hits of red in the blazer with bold red shoes and lipstick. And lastly, I added a bunch of gold jewelry as my “tinsel.”

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Shop the Look: Dress | Shoes | Eyeshadow | Lipstick | Eyeliner

From Veronica: “I saw this dress at Nordstrom and thought it was really beautiful, but wasn’t sure how it was going to fit. Fast forward to trying it on and me falling in love! It falls really nicely thus shaping your body very well. It’s also super comfy. Those shoes are comfy enough to wear all day and are a great price + come in lots of colors.”

Next up is Jess, Ryann and Julie…

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Emily Henderson Holiday Outfit Ideas

Shop the Look: Dress | Necklace | Shoes | Lipstick | Nail Polish

From Jess: “I love this dress. It’s classy, fun, feels holiday-y without screaming “Christmas” and has the right amount of sexy for any holiday party. And woo wee does the slit make the dress. I know this dress is $$$ (I got it 30% off on Black Friday) BUT Reformation is an awesome and sustainable company that I am happy to throw my dollars at because I will keep those pieces forever. I also wanted to mix up the classic “red and green look,” so I threw on my favorite (super comfortable) brick-colored suede pumps I already had.”

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Shop the Look: Dress | Lipstick | Shoes | Wallet

From Ryann: “I felt like a prince in this dress in the best way possible. I literally walked in the office and exclaimed “The Prince is here!” as a true Gemini would. I love the puff sleeves and the length is perfect for my 5’8″ frame, plus the two slits in the front make the dress feel less matronly and sexier. In retrospect, I wish I would have worn higher heels, but those boots are REALLY good and I wear them all the time. They are a great everyday boot but a little more elevated because of the block heel, so you can easily wear with dresses and look pulled together. A dark red lip is my staple for any party look, but especially for the holidays, that NARS Velvet Matte Lipstick in Endangered Red is the perfect shade. Oh, and the wallet (from ABLE) became a clutch when I realized I didn’t have any accessories, but it worked out because I even fit my phone in it so I didn’t have to lug around my purse.”

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Shop the Look: Dress | Bag | Shoes (similar) | Lipstick | Necklace

From Julie: “When it comes to dresses, I either like to be covered up top and show a little leg or vice versa. This dress definitely meets the criteria and I love the crushed velvet fabric because I am a big fan of anything that doesn’t need to be steamed. The little detail of the puff sleeve makes me feel like a fancy and trendy lady! I really wanted a mustard-colored purse to contrast with the deep blue color of my dress, so like a normal person, I went to eight different stores looking for one and at the last one, I found the perfect purse. This purse from Anthropologie is amazing and will be my new everyday bag, it’s a great size with two compartments to make me ‘organized.’ It also comes with three different straps, you can wear it as a belt bag, a crossbody or with the gold chain link for a night out. This is the first official lipstick I have bought for myself so I am taking baby steps into this makeup land with a lip color that just enhances my natural lip color by a shade or two. Maybe one day I will rock the bold red lip like many of my coworkers pull off on the daily.”

Velinda, Mallory and Caitlin, you’re up”

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Emily Henderson holiday outfit ideas 5

Shop the Look: Dress | Shoes

From Velinda: “I love that this dress is both fitted and flowy. The embroidered detail and design of the back sold me! It’s got a modern flair with just enough hippie vibes to be my cup of tea.”

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Shop the Look: Dress | Shoes | Lipstick | Necklace

From Mallory: “When I first showed my boyfriend this outfit, his first reaction was ‘that’s a spring dress!’ I guess to his point, it technically could work year-round, but when I tried it on with these white boots and a lil’ red lip, we both agreed it’s the ultimate holiday look. It’s perfect for a Christmas Eve dinner or even church service! Okay, okay, I’m kidding. This is probably not the tamest look for church, especially since my dress is clearly the ‘nightclub’ version of Jess’ dress. But let me tell you, it’s now my new go-to holiday party look and the shoes have become my favorite way to dress up any everyday outfit. Lastly, since we all know how much I love a deal (pop back here tomorrow afternoon for my weekly sales post to see what I mean) I should share that this dress is only $30 and the shoes were $48. How’s that for some Christmas magic??”

Emily Henderson holiday outfit ideas 3

Shop the Look: Dress | Shoes | Lipstick

From Caitlin: “Confession time: despite having 2.5 weeks to figure out what I was gonna wear for this shoot (and like, the holidays in general, ya know), I waited until THE NIGHT BEFORE to go find something. I went to The Grove in December (not recommended) and walked straight into Madewell (highly recommended). This is the only dress I tried on and I was in and out in under 20 minutes. It’s comfortable, it fits my boobs, and you can’t really tell that I ate a ton of tacos right before we took this picture. If you’re in a pinch and you’re like, ‘hey, I NEED A DRESS RIGHT NOW BUT I DON’T HAVE TIME TO TRY ON A TON OF THINGS,’ then BOY OH BOY IS THIS THE PICK FOR YOU!”

Et voila, our holiday lewks. It’s party time.

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As I said before, myself and the team frequent Five Leaves and one of the things we always get there is their El Rey cocktail. If you are a fan of Palomas, this is the drink for you. Hot tip: if you are dining with four or more people, we recommend getting a pitcher because it just economically makes sense if you will all be having one cocktail a piece.

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See, here we are happily sipping on our El Rey cocktails. 🙂

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One of the best things about Five Leaves is you can easily order family style, which is usually what we end up doing. This time we ordered a couple of chopped black kale salads (which are phenomenal by the way), some truffle fries (because, WHY NOT), regular fries (because Arlyn screamed “NO” when Sara accidentally ordered truffle fries all around), charred shishitos, house-made ricotta, their local cheese board, and more and just shared everything.

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Emily Henderson Five Leaves LA

I mentioned the design of this place and really wanted to highlight how good it is. It has high ceilings, beautiful light fixtures, and everything is just done right. It is also worth mentioning this isn’t a teeny restaurant that fools you with their photos online. Five Leaves is spacious and not incredibly loud (unless perhaps team EHD is there) so you can go with a group and still feel like you can breathe and hear each other speak. At night, it is a dimly lit and the perfect place for date night with your S.O., or a date night with 9 of your employees. Seriously, if you are in LA, GO.

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Man, that shot sure does make me so happy and it’s our new company photo. We aren’t saying goodbye to each other or you for the rest of the year quite yet, don’t you worry, so do come back later today for another afternoon snack. And if you want to know more about those wonderful ladies, head to our team page. xx

***photography by Veronica Crawford

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4 years ago

Loved this post.

4 years ago

Love the $75 shopping challenge, tho I noticed a few people didn’t play fair! In this era of social media picture posting I can’t understand why anyone wants to spend a fortune on a holiday outfit that is already seen and ‘liked’ before you even leave the venue?! My personal fav: Velinda’s dress❤

4 years ago
Reply to  Ally

I think we all cheated a bit (which I disclosed in the first paragraph) – it wasn’t really a challenge or else we would have stuck to it.

4 years ago
Reply to  Ally

Thanks for the love, Ally.

4 years ago

What a great looking group! My favorite dresses are Veronica’s and Velinda’s, both are tres chic.

4 years ago
Reply to  Ann

Thanks, Ann! we all had such a blast dressing up

4 years ago

Ahh this is such a fun post — you all look fabulous! And Emily being my small business #bossgoals per usual. Happy holidays, ladies!

Dana Brook
4 years ago

Immediately went to get the red dress from Target. Sold out! Maybe a new rule is that the items are available! *sad face*

Love Five Leaves… just sitting in there is a treat, forget the food. (But you shouldn’t because it’s delish!)

Happy Holidays!

4 years ago
Reply to  Dana Brook

Noo!! It was still available in some sizes yesterday when we checked links. If you can head in store, check there, too. My Target said it was sold out, but there were def some in store, so…not sure it’s SUPER accurate.

nancy m
4 years ago

Arlyn! Such a beautiful outfit!

4 years ago
Reply to  nancy m

Ahh thanks so much Nancy!!

4 years ago

Love it that you are showing budget conscious choices. The most budget- and environmentally friendly choice however is to wear something that’s already in your closet. We all have too much clothing and too many shoes, and everyone is talking about sustainability …. so, that’s one thing everyone can do: buy less stuff, and especially less cheaply made clothes that will end up in the landfill very quickly. Target’s clothes might look nice at first view, but they probably don’t stand the test of time and washing. Just my two cents. Wishing you happy holidays and a Merry Christmas!

4 years ago
Reply to  Alexandra

I agree! Everyone looks wonderful but I have to admit this post feels a bit disingenuous. It was only early this week there was a great post about ABLE and why it is important to support business that support women and living wages (which I totally agree with) and then today there is a post about budget fashion made by (some brands) that clearly don’t share these values. I understand that not everyone can afford the things from shops like ABLE but having these two posts so close together makes me question any commitment to the things expressed earlier in the week.

4 years ago
Reply to  Rachel

If there was a longer time distance between two posts, someone would still comment on it and say – well, you thought we forgot about it, but we didn’t.
If there were only ABLE (or Reformation) dresses in this link-up, someone would still comment about EHD being snobby/ignorant/discriminating and upper-class-only.

Why ignore and exclude someone who just can’t afford higher price tags (but still appreciates the idea of ABLE, nevertheless)?

Everyone chooses for themselves, according to their circumstances at the given moment. I think it is great to know about ABLE (or Reformation), so that they who can buy it – could buy it. Also, there are people who can’t, but appreciate the existence of these companies. They still want to wear something beautiful, though, so they reach for Target.

Be tolerant, try to understand, don’t judge. Happy holidays!

4 years ago
Reply to  Alexandra

Thank you for this!

Annie K
4 years ago


Paige Cassandra Flamm
4 years ago

I love how much you invest in your team, you can totally tell that you have an amazing team of women who love you and what they do!


4 years ago

You all look happy (and beautiful) and Caitlin looks like a model!! Way to go for a last-minute dress!

4 years ago

Awwww you all look so happy and gorgeous and I love your connection with one another! Emily is my dream boss!

4 years ago

So fun, but where is Emily B?

4 years ago

I like Velinda’s and Caitlin’s dresses the best. Caitlin’s reminds me of Melanie Griffiths’s dress in “Working Girl” (the one we “borrows” from Sigourney Weaver to go to the party where she meets Harrison Ford).

Cool restaurant, too!

4 years ago
Reply to  Paula

Thanks, Paula. So sweet. Love Five Leaves!

4 years ago

Wow! You really are goals in every possible way! Would love to work with a team as lovely as this one 🙂

4 years ago

Y’all look great! Ofc what I want is Arlyn’s oval clutch and Jess’s balls(??) ring, which aren’t linked. Ha! So good to hear how close y’all are. <3

4 years ago
Reply to  Anon

Awww I actually got that at Goodwill for like…$4! So sorry I can’t share a link. 🙁

4 years ago

Aw, thanks for replying! Great find! 🙂

4 years ago

Beautiful team!!

4 years ago

What happened to Michael? Is he still with EHD?

4 years ago
Reply to  Erin

No Michael left EHD this summer, though he’s missed!

Arthella Starke
4 years ago

Love that red dress! It is a real winner Emily! You look like the super coolest of all bosses. They are lucky to have you.

4 years ago

Jess, chic as always!