Cover Young woman drinking coffee / tea in a Christmas fare.

There's no point hitting the mall in search of the perfect party dress this year. In fact, it's your winter coat that's more likely to make an impression during this holiday like no other. If you're planning a meal with guests from outside (or even within) your household, health experts tend to recommend airing rooms regularly ... which means it might not be worth going to town with festive evening wear.

Guidance for end-of-year gatherings has now been released in many countries worldwide. As well as wearing masks, airing rooms is often recommended to help stop the spread of covid-19 during holiday get-togethers. In other words, it looks like this year's celebrations could be a little on the chilly side ...

Goodbye sequins, gold and other festive frivolities

If you're used to getting your glad rags on for holiday celebrations, this year may leave you feeling a little disappointed. That festive makeup with glitter galore may not seem so great with a face mask. And what's the point of slipping into that sparkly little black dress when you'll need to keep putting your coat or puffer jacket over the top to keep out the cold? Even ugly sweaters won't have the same effect this year, since they'll be hidden under 2020's star party piece: a coat.

At the same time, it was only too predictable that the full at-home hibernation look -- that's been the shape of the year so far -- would be the way to go for these eagerly awaited end-of-year festivities. As soon as temperatures started to fall, we were all suddenly aware that the puffer jacket -- or worse still, the sleeveless puffer vest -- was set to resurface to keep us warm while working from home and constantly opening and closing windows to keep covid-19 at bay. At the time, Vincent Grégoire, of the trend forecasting agency Nelly Rodi, explained: "All the outdoor practices now take place indoors, and so we need to feel protected. There's a tendency afoot to cozy up our homes and living environments like we would wrap ourselves up warm in a puffy jacket. If we stay inside more and are in search of comfort, we'll need to add protective, cocooning layers." And that's something that will no doubt still be valid this December 24, 25 and 31.

Read also: The Best Outerwear Pieces To Invest In — And How To Style Them According To Your Mood

The right coat for the occasion

So instead of hitting the stores to find the perfect dress, skirt or outfit, this year, you'll need to think more about what you're going to put over the top of it. Choosing the right outerwear isn't just about picking the right design or a style you like -- even though that's obviously important. It's also about the cut and the comfort level, because it looks like you're going to be wearing your coat for a good part of the evening. You might even be raising your glass or sitting down to eat coat-clad.

While a classic long, straight coat may seem like a top choice for making a sophisticated entrance at an evening shindig, it may not be the best when it comes to comfort. It's hard to imagine being at ease when sitting down to dinner, that's for sure! And so the padded puffer -- the ultimate symbol of snuggly cocooning -- inevitably comes to mind … except, it's not really the most suitable attire for a Christmas or New Year's evening do, and even less so for a formal dinner. So what does that leave as the ultimate festive choice? Well, capes and ponchos have made a huge comeback in recent weeks, and they do seem to be the most suitable options for this unusual situation. The good news is that brands have got extra creative, making these styles into highly desirable outerwear pieces with super-trendy motifs and prints.

Anyone who's less sensitive to the cold could stay snug by wrapping up in long, chunky-knit cardigans, which can be both chic and comforting. Otherwise, try topping your outfit with a masculine-style blazer -- a particularly trendy choice -- which will keep you at ease without feeling (too) cold. Alternatively, a simple tartan rug or blanket is always an option. Your guests can pair up and get cozy underneath for a particularly friendly get-together.

At a time when social media is usually flooded with festive photos, this year could bring a very different selection of selfies and snaps, each more original than the next. Happy holidays.

Read also: Harry Styles, Marine Serre, "Emily In Paris": How These Pop Culture Icons Defined 2020 Fashion

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