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LBD out, kitchen disco in: NYE 2020's pandemic party trend


In any normal year the festive season is the dressiest period of the calendar. But in a party season with no parties, what becomes of the party dress?

With festivities curtailed by coronavirus restrictions and many families choosing not to risk gathering, and with bars and restaurants closed in many areas, this year’s new year celebrations will be small-scale and home-based. As a result, the LBD has been replaced by a new dress code: kitchen disco dressing. Cocktail frocks, tailoring and heels are out and fancy pyjamas, velvet slippers and sparkly knitwear are in.

Dancing, after all, is still permitted, albeit under kitchen spotlights and Christmas tree fairy lights rather than glitter balls. Icons of the 2020 kitchen disco scene include Nigella Lawson, perched on her stairs tucking into a creme caramel on her recent BBC cooking show, and Stanley Tucci fixing a negroni for his wife on Instagram during lockdown. Despite the disco tag, Bianca Jagger riding a white horse into Studio 54 is not where these parties are pitched – although Truman Capote, who liked to hit that club’s dancefloor dressed in a plush dressing gown and monogrammed velvet slippers, could be said to feature on the mood board.

This year, the bestselling look in John Lewis’s 12 Days of Christmas Dressing collection is a kitchen disco two-piece by Hush, with gunmetal sequin sweater and matching silky tracksuit-style trousers. The head of womenswear, Jo Bennett, said she “can’t wait to dance around the house with my boys” in it, for “a little bit of joy and a small moment of escapism”.

At River Island, the social media sensation of this winter’s collection has been its £83 silky pyjamas with detachable feather trims for cuff and hem, which sold out in days, eclipsing every party dress on offer. Meanwhile at Primark, a £35 cocktail trolley featuring brass rails, mirrored shelves and a champagne flute rack, petitely scaled to fit into a modest kitchen, has been flying out of stores.

Even if they had parties they could attend, shoppers who have spent the best part of a year in loungewear would probably be resistant to Spanx, uncomfortable high heels or the desperate hunt for unsnagged hosiery. By leaning in to the home comforts of pyjama- or tracksuit-based looks, kitchen disco fashion makes a virtue of staying put.

The freedom to wear elasticated waists and stretch fabrics having been one of lockdown’s few luxuries, comfort is emerging as a strong priority for shoppers as 2021 looms. Joseph Altuzarra is one of many designers focusing on soft fabrics and non-constrictive silhouettes in collections going into 2021, believing that “after spending months in sweatpants, people are going to want to feel comfortable”.

The kitchen disco dress code is both a mirror to consumer psychology and a savvy marketing ploy on the part of retailers. During the summer, brands such as Kitri, designed by Haeni Kim, made a strategic decision to pivot away from taking “event” dressing to market in December and towards dressy clothes that would appeal in a domestic setting. A £49 “Elisa Rose” embroidered knit camisole featured in the holiday-wear edit is styled for the Kitri website in an at-home setting with a cardigan and knit joggers, described as “a supremely soft conversation piece”.

Formalwear is traditionally bought with a specific event in mind, and with parts of the UK continuing to shift unpredictably between different Covid restrictions going into 2021, the versatility of separates that can be dressed up or down outshines the appeal of formal dresses. With many social and professional interactions still taking place on Zoom, outfits that can be deconstructed when polish is only necessary from the waist up are outpacing dresses.

There are signs that the kitchen disco may prove vaccine-resistant and continue to thrive in 2021. The singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor, whose Kitchen Disco videos from her family home became a lockdown hit in the spring, is preparing to take the concept on the road, with a Kitchen Disco album and live tour planned for next year.



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