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Party SOS.

* PENDING all day in dark green overalls means that when it comes to partying, ambulance staff deserve to go to town on dressing up, writes Emily WoodrowWhich is why they were worthy winners of our competition to win a party make-over at McArthurglen's Bridgend Designer Outlet. We received a large number of applications, but it was ambulance control worker Julie Williams who bagged the prize for her and her colleagues in the control room at the South and East Wales Ambulance NHS Trust in Cwmbran. Talking about winning, she says: "We're all working Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, so this is a really lovely treat for us.

If we're not in our uniforms we're usually wearing pyjamas, and the festive period is a very busy and stressful one so we've been looking forward to our Christmas party for a while - it's a chance to get all glammed up and let off some steam."

We went along to Bridgend Designer Outlet with Julie and her workmates to watch in-house style consultant Louise Evans work her magic and take them from 'on-call casual' to 'party perfect'.

Control allocator Julie Williams, 54, from Rhiwbina, Cardiff * She wears: Phase Eight dress, pounds 65, and shoes, pounds 89 She says: "I like the colour and the fit of the dress, but I especially like how it makes me feel.

I'd normally wear something more sparkly for a party, but I could easily glam this up with accessories.

It's just so versatile, and I could see myself wearing it to all sorts of other occasions like weddings and the polo.

As for the shoes, they really complete the look. Although the heel is high, it's surprisingly comfortable, and the gold detail on them matches the lighter panelling of the dress."

Assistant allocator Cathryn Morgan, 30, from Abertillery * She wears: Phase Eight dress, pounds 98 She says: "My outfit is very elegant and chic and I particularly like the detail at the front as it shows a bit of cleavage but not too much.

I have nothing like this in my wardrobe and it's definitely not something I would usually wear. Although it's perfect for a party, I also think I could wear it to a lot of other functions - I've just been to a black and white themed wedding which it would've been ideal for.

I'm generally the wacky one out of my colleagues who wears lots of different colours, but this year at the work do I'll be the sophisticated one."

Control allocator Mel Murphy, 38, from Pontypool * She wears: Ted Baker dress, pounds 89, and shoes, pounds 90 She says: "I love the metallic look and it's very on trend at the moment so my eye was automatically drawn to this dress.

I think the shape flatters my figure and the detail at the front draws the eye to the upper half of my body.

I'd normally go for something with long sleeves but I thought I'd go for something different for once.

As for shoes, I'm generally a boots girl but it's nice to try something strappy and sparkly - it is for a party after all!" Control allocator Sarah Vaughan, 39, from Porth * She wears: Ted Baker dress, pounds 79, and shoes, pounds 90 She says: "I've seen this dress before and liked it so when I heard we'd won the competition I knew exactly what I wanted.

Purple is my favourite colour - I think I even wore a purple dress to our Christmas party last year - and the frill detail gives it a really feminine feel.

I also like the gold studs on the shoes as they give the outfit a glitzy feel."

McArthurGlen's Christmas Party Rules...

* Stick to what you know - now is not the time to make a dramatic change to your look and risk feeling uncomfortable.

If you normally wear black, berry shades are on trend and make a subtle but stylish change.

To inject some old-school glamour, play with lace and embellishment for 1930s screen siren style. * Jewellery can transform an otherwise simple outfit.

Channel the on trend 1970s look with chunky necklaces, bold bangles and oversized earrings. * Your day-to-day handbag filled with all your daily essentials just won't cut it. Downsize for the evening to a clutch in simple block colours. * While heels are a must - they make you feel more powerful and confident - it's important that you can walk - and dance - in comfort all night.

A three-and-a-half inch heel is perfect.

Any higher and you'll start wobbling. * Take note of your hemline and cleavage! While you may be in the mood to dress up, you're still surrounded by your colleagues and bosses.

Stick to the rule that your hemline should never reveal more than five inches above your knee and half an inch of cleavage is just enough.

Assistant allocator Denise Williams, 52, from Aberdare * She wears: Phase Eight skirt, pounds 84, vest top, pounds 17.50, wrap top, pounds 17.50, and shoes, pounds 99 She says: "I loved this skirt the minute I saw it but it's not something I'd normally buy, mainly because of the price.

Once I'd spotted that, I just created the rest of the outfit around it.

Although it's perfect for the party, I also think it would look nice dressed down with thick tights, boots and a jumper.

Per -sonally I prefer skirts to dresses as I find I get more use out of them.

Shoes are the bane of my life as I have such small feet - size two-and-a-half would you believe? I love the style of these and the pretty flower detail at the front, and I also like how they lengthen my legs as anyone can see I'm not the tallest of people."

Call taker Cari Jones, 26, from Penygraig * She wears: Phase Eight dress, pounds 84, and shoes, pounds 85 She says: "I would never have picked this normally as I'm not really into dresses or sequins.

Usually I wear trousers and something quite simple as I'm definitely not a girly girl, but Louise recommended the dress and I actually really liked it on.

It's ideal for this time of year, but with a classic cover up and tights I think I could even wear it out for dinner.

I love slingback heels with a peep toe, and the metallic detail at the front of these shoes gives the outfit that extra dimension."

Engineer Mark Pickett, 34, from Abertillery * He wears: Ted Baker jeans, pounds 60, jumper, pounds 75, and coat, pounds 85 He says: "I left Louise to pick the whole outfit for me as I'm not a big shopper and a trip into town normally results in me coming home empty-handed - it's actually nice to find something I like for once.

It's very casual and versatile, and I could mix and match everything with different items for a com -pletely different look.

I particularly like the jeans - I already own a pair very similar - but my favourite bit is the jacket as I could wear it with anything and it's very warm.

I'd normally wear a shirt and jeans to the Christmas party and just blend into the background but this year I think I'll stand out for all the right reasons."


* Mel Murphy, Cathryn Morgan, Mark Pickett, Sarah Vaughan, Julie Williams, Denise Williams and Cari Jones PICTURES: Liz Pearce [umlaut]
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 15, 2011
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