How to dress after weeks of festive excess

The accrual of festive flab is unpleasant on several scores: one, none of your clothes fit properly, leaving you obsessively watching the clock until you can go home and sprawl in pyjamas on the sofa. Two: weight gain inevitably dents self-esteem. Walking around with a spare tire peeking over your slim-fit Armani trousers or a second chin emerging over your Marc Jacobs scarf just makes you feel like less of a man or woman – certainly like a less attractive one.

So, until the January detox kicks in, it’s essential to cheat a bit sartorially. First of all, ladies, be kind to yourselves physically. Do not succumb to denial’s embrace: the fact is, you’re temporarily fatter, so don’t punish yourself with the suits that fit in November. Dispense with fitted trousers and jackets – especially those with too-snug, zero-stretch waistlines and jacket buttons that require breathing in. Belly and breasts (yes, breasts too) are both prime resting places for all that booze and Christmas pudding and nothing feels worse, physically and psychologically, than a bulging button or a squashed cleavage.

This is where the world of the stretchy waist (pity men - they have no such option) and the forgiving dress/skirt come into play. Pair a skirt with an elastic waist - M&S does some very nice pencil-style ones that make you look respectably non-balloonish and neat, especially with a vest tucked in and a cardie or loose open blazer worn over it.

Pick up some bold print cotton dresses with drawstrings – cinching a tie at the smallest point of your waist will draw the eye away from the trouble area, and make you look more svelte. The drawstring is more forgiving than a belt so you can actually eat lunch (a salad, mind). Wear a luxuriant, elegant scarf, chunky earrings and the odd glinting necklace to bring attention up to your best feature – your face.

For clothes, stick to dark colours but avoid black – loose-fitting black-wear is the tip-off that you’re feeling like a balloon. Charcoal and navy are excellent for looser clothes as they somehow look neat and authoritative, not moody in an I-put-on-half-a-stone-so-shoot-me way. This may sound odd because your feet will probably be the same size, but avoid heels. Wear as flat shoes as you can because it will encourage you to move more energetically – springing about vigorously and freely, unhampered by the corsetry of skyscraper pumps and cinched waists will only help you burn the calories you need to get you back into shape. Who knows, once you're back in those slim-fit suits, you may miss your leggings and stretchy skirts.