12/17/2012 05:54 pm ET Updated Feb 16, 2013

3 Holiday Party Outfits That Don't Require Shape Wear

The holidays find most human beings at their best and worst simultaneously. On one hand, we are excited to be exchanging gifts with loved ones, happy to be donating to charities and delighted to be cutting loose with friends and colleagues. On the other, we are anxious about money, worried about family dynamics and concerned about looking our absolute best. That last one can go both ways entirely on its own: We may want to look our best because looking amazing helps us feel amazing. We may also want to look our best to rub an ex's nose in it or to show up a competitive cousin. Whatever our reasons, many of us go to great lengths to look breathtaking for December's festivities. And those lengths often include wiggling into some shape wear.

In my opinion, looking good is essentially useless if you don't feel good, too. If you go through the motions of getting gussied, but you feel uncomfortable or anxious or fraudulent, you'll never look as smashing as you would if you felt comfortable, confident and like a gloriously gussied version of yourself. And the fact is that shape wear can help make an otherwise panic-inducing dress feel natural. Gorgeous, even.

But it can also make you feel hot, compressed, deeply uncomfortable and like using the bathroom just isn't worth the hassle. It can keep you from overindulging at a festive gathering, but it can also keep you from relaxing and enjoying yourself. Shape wear can be an implement of fashion-centric torture.

So here are some alternatives:

  • Balance loose and fitted: Concerned about your midsection? Opt for a flowy tunic balanced by skinny printed pants. Want to downplay your thighs? Try a fitted top and full skirt or blazer and wide-leg pants. Instead of pouring your body into shape wear, dress in a way that places attention elsewhere on your figure.
  • Go printed: Solids frequently show lumps and bumps, but prints can be more forgiving. Pick a print or pattern that's in scale to your figure -- medium to large prints work on most silhouettes -- and let it do some subtle camouflage work for you. Mixed prints are still very on-trend, and are a great way to add even more movement and interest, leaving your bodacious bod free of confining shape wear.
  • Layer: Dresses are the items that call for shape wear most frequently, and sometimes a fabulous frock feels like the best option. But mixing it up with a few artfully layered ensembles can allow you to lay off the squeezy panties for a few fêtes. Fitted blazers have structure and contours, so they do a fabulous job of defining figures without revealing too much. Pair yours with a glittery minidress or shirt and tuxedo pants for eye-catching outfits. A printed shawl can elegantly cover upper body areas, and even cardigans can smooth out or downplay a few bulges.

And, of course, there's the "don't worry about it" philosophy, which is my personal favorite. At most holiday gatherings, folks are going to be so distracted that they're unlikely to hone in on your jiggly bits. Grab a drink, have a few laughs and remember that most people are far too busy thinking about how they look to worry about how you look.

Bottom line? If you've got a killer outfit that won't feel fabulous if you wear it sans Spanx, by all means pull on that shape wear. But if compression makes you feel miserable and distracted, consider some dressing alternatives. And the possibility that a little bit of holiday jiggle isn't the worst thing in the world.

Eggnog is. Seriously, that stuff is nasty.