Whether you’re shopping for an LBD or want to try something a bit more daring, the cocktail dress is a go-to choice for partywear. These shorter dresses come in a variety of lengths, styles, neck and sleeve shapes and fabrics, but they all work for the same purpose: to make you look and feel your best.
The quickest way to find your perfect cocktail dress is to stick with a classic color like black. But don’t be afraid to experiment with bolder shades like rose gold, teal, or fiery red. You’ll also be able to find cocktail dresses in many different materials, from velvet to sheaths to crepe. While some of these fabrics may seem a bit casual to be considered cocktail attire, you can easily elevate them with a few well-chosen accessories and shoes.
If you’re a little more adventurous, opt for a midi or mini cocktail dress with a hemline that falls just 2 inches above the ground (for flats). But remember, this is not an excuse to be overly sexy. Avoid any frocks that are too sheer or reveal more than they need to, and always check the hemline before heading out to ensure it’s cocktail-appropriate.
Do consider a dress with embellishments that evoke eveningwear, such as lace, sequins and swishy fringe. Then pair it with the appropriate earrings, clutch or jewelry for a look that’s elegant and ready to party. Just be sure the embellishments are tasteful and in keeping with the occasion. If you’re going to a winter event, choose a dress coat that will keep you warm without detracting from the elegance of your outfit. Or, if you’re going to a warmer summer event, a lightweight shrug or pashmina will add the finishing touch to your look.
Don’t wear jeans, which are too casual for the cocktail attire dress code. If you must wear pants, choose a tailored pantuit or appropriately styled dress pants, such as wide-leg palazzos or a high-waisted suit. Don’t forget a pair of sophisticated heels. Flats are fine, but they should be a bit edgy and match the tone of your dress. Don’t carry a slouchy handbag or tote bag, which will distract from the line of your dress and detract from the overall elegance of your ensemble.
Don’t forget your undergarments. Stick-on bras and seamless panties are always a good idea, and strapless or plunging bras can give you that perfect cleavage without showing too much skin. Never show up to a cocktail party with a dress that’s wrinkled or crumpled. It’s not just an etiquette faux pas—it’s also downright unattractive.