How to Dress for a Cocktail Party

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Do you know how to dress for a cocktail party? Cocktail parties are a hot event, especially for small groups of people. They can replace a formal wedding reception dinner, and they’re a great way for business associates to mingle with each other. Who wouldn’t want to throw an elegant but fun party instead of a stuffy formal gathering?

If you’ve been invited to a cocktail party (or are hosting one yourself), you may be wondering how you should dress. It’s glitzier than business attire, but it’s not as formal as a black-tie event. Determining which dress you should wear can be a bit of a struggle. Follow these guidelines so looking glamorous at your next cocktail party is a breeze!

What is Cocktail Attire? 

An easier way to think of cocktail attire is to think of semi-formal dresses. Picture what you would wear to a fundraiser or a friend’s wedding. The dresses you would choose to wear at these events will be appropriate for cocktail parties. Cocktail dresses are often knee-length and come in a variety of colors.

When Should You Wear Cocktail Attire?

How to Dress for a Cocktail PartySpeaking of fundraisers and weddings—these are just two of the events that are appropriate for you to wear cocktail attire to. You can also wear a cocktail dress at business events, engagement parties, graduation parties, and reunions. Any time an event has a festive feel, a cocktail dress is the right choice.

When choosing the style or color, consider the setting. More formal events—such as a cocktail party celebrating your boss’s ten-year anniversary—may require a more conservative dress. For more casual, outdoor, and daytime parties, you can choose flashier dresses or outfits that are lighter in color.

Guidelines for Cocktail Dresses

Dressing for a cocktail party shouldn’t be a hassle or a stressful experience. Before shopping for the perfect dress, review these guidelines for cocktail dresses. With these dress codes in mind, you’ll be able to feel more comfortable choosing a dress that is perfect for your event!

  1. Think LBD (Little Black Dress). No, we don’t mean you have to choose a black dress, but in terms of length, having your ideal LBD in mind can help you find a good length of dress. Stay away from maxi and mini dresses. Instead, choose knee-length.
  2. Sequins and Beads. For fancier, more glamorous events, select a cocktail dress that features sequins or beads.
  3. Keep It Classy. When attending a business cocktail event or fundraiser, be sure to keep everything covered that you wouldn’t want your boss (or your grandmother!) to see.
  4. Holiday Festive. Don’t be afraid to choose holiday colors (think red or metallic hues) for office Christmas parties or New Year’s Eve celebrations.
  5. Beachy Vibes. If you’re attending a semi-formal function at the beach, try a cocktail dress with a more comfortable fit and a vibrant color.
  6. Dress for the Season. It’s important to note the time of year your cocktail party is taking place. For summer cocktail events, choose a white or light-colored dress. For winter cocktail parties, wear a dark-colored dress, such as navy or black, and opt for one that has sleeves to keep you warm.
  7. Wear the Right Undergarments. Make sure you have the appropriate bra, underwear, or shapewear for your dress before the day of the big event. You don’t want to be tucking your bra straps away or worrying about a panty-line the whole night!
  8. Dress Alternatives. Not a fan of dresses? No problem! Blazers and blouses, jumpsuits, and pantsuits are all beautiful alternatives to cocktail dresses.

How to Accessorize Your Cocktail Dress

Now that you’ve found the best cocktail dress, it’s time to select all the finishing touches! Elevate your look with these tips for accessorizing your cocktail dress.

Shoes

A cocktail party is the perfect excuse for going all out on a pair of high-heels. Those strappy ones you’ve been eyeing in the store? Now’s the time to splurge! The right pair of shoes can do so much for your cocktail attire. Stay away from flats, flip-flops, and boots. Instead, choose heels or peep toe sandals or flats. Have fun with the colors and embellishments. Choose a color that compliments your dress but adds a little pop. Select a pair of heels with sparkling sequins.

Jewelry

bracelet, silver, gemstones

Photo by pony_up on Pixabay

A statement piece can really make your cocktail dress flare. A glittery hair accessory or dangling earrings can catch the eye of everyone around. Stackable bracelets can also be a fun way to accessorize your dress. Remember to keep it simple. One statement piece is enough to complete a classy look.

Clutch

Keep your essentials close with a stylish clutch. Match the clutch to your shoes or your statement jewelry piece. Be sure to leave your large purse at home. During cocktail events, a purse strap shouldn’t touch your shoulder!

Dressing for Yourself

Dressing for a cocktail party can seem daunting. It can be hard to remember all the dress codes for different types of attire. But you don’t have to stress! Just remember to choose a knee-length dress in a color and style that fits the occasion and accessorize it with heels, a signature piece of jewelry, and a clutch. Most importantly: feel free to get creative and express yourself! When you wear a dress you love, you can hardly go wrong.

Author Bio: Jonah Levine is the Creative Director of TheDressWarehouse.com. TheDressWarehouse.com was launched in 2018 as the go-to online source for amazing prom dresses on sale. With 10 years of experience in the industry, Jonah works daily to scour the evening wear markets to find the hottest styles and to negotiate the best prices for special designer dresses on the internet.

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