You’ve got a calendar full of work parties, dinners and other events to attend between now and the New Year.  Instead of shopping the night before and dropping too many dollars on a dress that will soon get stuffed in the back of your closet, see if any of these ideas for finding holiday ensembles float your fashion boat.

First, it’s time to shop your closet and re-assess what you already own.  A versatile dress that goes from office to after-hours saves time and money – and who couldn’t use more of both?!  You may already own one!  If not, go to plan B which involves shopping your friends’ closets.  What are friends for?  Imagine the money we’d save and the variety we’d add to our wardrobes if we did a seasonal swap of frocks with friends. 

What if your friends aren’t your size?  Visiting a local consignment shop is next on the budget fashionista’s list.  These stores usually have high standards and only take gently used clothes and designer labels.  In Chapel Hill try Refinements in Rams Plaza or The Stock Exchange at Falconbridge Shopping Center.  If it’s a truly vintage look you’re after, check out Time After Time on West Franklin Street.

Another new online concept for the cost-conscious shopper is Rent the Runway.  Their motto is “love, wear, return.”  They offer free membership and the perfect designer look for any occasion (including accessories) delivered to your doorstep at 90% off retail prices.  They even have personal stylists on hand to help you pick your look.  Now that’s saving time and money!           

For an important client dinner, try a warm wool blazer paired with a silk charmeuse dress – this lightweight material makes the look elegant and fluid.  Go for a cut that is professional and modest by day.  If you’re heading out to a party right after 5:00 p.m., no problem – go sleeveless, reach for a statement ring and touch up your make-up.

We know a wrap dress is universally flattering.  If a fancy gala or benefit is on your list, you can easily jazz up a classic little black dress (LBD) by switching out understated work pumps for a bold shoe with a bit of a platform and piling on the jewels (sparkly, vintage-inspired pieces are always a good choice).

For a gallery opening – or any event with a creative flair – a funky patterned or color-blocked dress is a perfect solution and needs minimal accessories.  Adding a cardigan and neutral heels make the look office-ready.  Then throw on a colorful blazer with stylish tall boots for night time, and all eyes will be on you.

Need to go ultra glam or start planning for a New Year’s Eve gala?  Hot holiday trends for 2011 include single shoulder blouses and dresses, baby doll cocktail dresses and maxi dresses for both casual and more formal occasions.  You can’t go wrong with metallic hues like gold and silver, but color is making a major comeback this season.  Formal wear for holiday parties is bold and fashion-forward in jewel tones such as radical red and emerald green.  Long dresses are always a classic way to turn heads, but dresses of all lengths are in vogue.  For cocktail parties, set yourself apart and slip into a strapless baby doll dress in an eye-catching color such as hot pink or royal blue.

What’s your favorite holiday look? Tell us in the comments below.