Few things are as glam or Christmassy as sequins … just don’t go for new ones

Liza Minnelli in magenta Halston at Studio 54. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell sparkling in lipstick red in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The Supremes in their Bob Mackie silver sheaths. Kate Moss in vintage at her 30th birthday party. Harry Styles on stage in a Gucci jumpsuit. Sequins and glamour go together like Mariah Carey and Christmas.

When the festive season rolls around, the mini-flashbulb-pop of sequins is never far behind. Sequins are both armour and comfort blanket. They look as if you have made an effort. Because of their light-reflecting properties they tend to be flattering. And they give you a glow, like a portable ring light, which is welcome at this time of year, when fatigue and the vampire-darkness of midwinter take their toll on the complexion.

Two decades of Strictly have bonded sequins and Saturday nights in the public imagination. Some of this season’s most covetable partywear brings together the comfort-first fluidity we have come to expect from fashion with disco-ball vibes. At M&S, a soft sequin suit that stars in the Christmas campaign has been a runaway shop floor success. Part of its appeal is that the component parts are a knockout together, but also useful worn solo. On top you can choose from a blazer over a plain dress, or a sequin T-shirt which also works tucked into a pencil skirt. The trousers are languid and elegant with a roll-neck sweater and great earrings; the T-shirt will do a low-key brunch with a denim skirt and ankle boots.

The dress that feels glam but doesn’t require you to pray the venue has the heating on is the one you will be thankful for

If you lean toward a dress, I would nudge you to simple shapes and a high-ish neck. Sequins plus cleavage plus bells and whistles is Blackpool-ballroom territory. I’m not sneering – as a paid-up Strictly obsessive this is a look I love – it’s just that, in my experience, the most useful party dresses are those that don’t broadcast at full volume. When you have 25 minutes to get ready after work on a Friday and you never got round to the spray tan and have eaten slightly more chocolate than you intended and you are trying to dismiss the voice in your head whispering that you could stay in and watch TV, the dress that feels glam but doesn’t require you to rummage for a strapless bra and pray the venue has the heating on is the one you will be thankful for.

But should we be wearing sequins at all? Last year, Boden became the first major fashion brand to ban them, “to prevent petroleum-based plastic being washed into waterways during manufacturing and laundering”. The production of plastic sequins has a high carbon footprint. Consider silk fringing, for similar shimmer and swish, or recycled sequins. Ganni and the more budget-friendly Albaray have chic pieces with recycled sequins.

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Even better – and you know what I’m going to say, don’t you – take a look at what you already own. Sequins are not a new look, so you probably have some already. Pull them out, give them a brush off, a shake and a spritz with fabric freshener. Best not wash them, it not only makes them fall apart but also washes microplastics into the sea.

But the biggest environmental faux pas of all is buying a dress – any dress – with only one night in mind. In a climate emergency and a cost-of-living crisis, that is as unfashionable as fashion gets. Whatever you wear to this year’s parties should be something you will wear next year, and the year after. Sequins should be for life, not just for Christmas.

Model: Shazeeda at Body London. Hair and makeup: Sophie Higginson using Sam McKnight and Armani Beauty. Sustainable sequin dress, £350, Aspiga. Earrings, £155, Tada & Toy.