A tree-trimming party at home. Cocktails at your best friend's house. The neighborhood brunch. A gala evening at the Nutcracker Ball. New Year's Eve.

This time of year the invitations arrive and you immediately head for your closet. You've been shopping all right, but not for that glamorous gown that's going to glitter at the ball. And those holiday sweaters from seasons past ... well, they're just so ho-ho-hum. ... So, how do you stretch your wardrobe and still keep that holly jolly fashion spirit that keeps going party after party?

Here are five suggestions on ways to dress for five different occasions:

1. A party at home: This is probably one of the easiest fashion dilemmas to solve. You're in control and you set the tone.

It's all about ease and comfort. Separates usually work best. Cozy sweaters and velvety skirts or pull-on pants are always appropriate. Depending on the occasion, jeans are also invited. This holiday season, however, denim definitely has an attitude, jazzed up with crystal beads, rhinestones, fringe or fur. Skip the dangling dingalings on the sweaters this year and go for color instead. It's what's on top that usually counts the most anyway.

2. The office party: If you suit up to go to work and the party is after hours, it's easy to switch gears and dress up that workaday look with a little sparkle. Glitz up the pinstripes with a silk charmeuse blouse in a hot fuchsia or a sleeveless sequined top in bronzy gold. Add more heavy metal with gold bangle bracelets, a gold chain belt and crystal hoop earrings - not your everyday in-the-office professional attitude. Put on some more shine with patent crocodile sling-backs or slides and a clutch handbag. Leave the leather tote behind.

3. The cocktail party: Formal or informal, today's cocktail parties are the perfect place to mix it up. Combine day with evening wear, casual with dressy, old with new. Give your outfit a twist. Wear a chunky sleeveless knit turtleneck with a sleek leather skirt or team that charmeuse tie blouse with a pair of rhinestone-studded jeans.

Take that three-quarter-length mohair jacket and team it with tuxedo boot-cut pants. Top off that sweater you bought last year with a new fur collar. Tie a jeweled lariat necklace on. Wear anything velvet - the quintessential holiday fashion favorite.

4. The casual brunch: It may be a relaxing time to catch up with friends, but these kinds of parties during the holiday season also call for some festive fashion flair: a sweater accented with feather collar and cuffs; a long tunic in crushed metallic satin; a jacket with Asian pizazz; a sparkling scarf around your neck; a vintage brooch at your throat; leather pants if you dare. No Rudolph pins or light bulb earrings, please. And, remember, cashmere is always in style at any holiday party.

5. The gala: When the invitation reads black tie, whether it's a special New Year's Eve ball or another holiday soiree, the dress that's best this season shines in lustrous fabrics sparked with fiery diamonds, beaded bags and strappy metallic evening sandals. Now's the time to go long - a long gown or ball gown skirt goes a long way in giving everyone that holiday spirit that comes once a year.

Since bare shoulders are included in many designer collections this season, cover up with a festive wrap in luxurious cashmere or shimmering taffeta. Formalwear for men also gets updated with long touches - jackets that reach new lengths accessorized with four-in-hand ties and coordinating vests.

And, the best tip of all: Wear comfortable shoes no matter what kind of party animal you are. Ho, ho aaahhhh.