Cocktail parties are a great opportunity to show off your style and have some fun with your outfit. Whether you’re attending a wedding, a reunion, an engagement party, or a holiday celebration, you’ll want to dress to impress and feel confident in your look. But what exactly is cocktail attire and how do you choose the right outfit for the occasion? In this guide, we’ll break down the basics of cocktail attire for women and give you some tips and ideas on how to rock a cocktail dress or an alternative ensemble.
What Is Cocktail Attire?
Cocktail attire is a standard dress code for parties and evening functions. For women, cocktail attire typically calls for a dress that finishes at or above the knees and high heels. Although cocktail looks should always appear sophisticated, they can also be fun and embrace exciting colors, embellishments, cuts, and unique accessories.
How to Choose a Cocktail Dress
The most classic and versatile option for cocktail attire is a cocktail dress: a knee-length dress designed for just such an occasion. You can never go wrong with a little black dress, but you can also experiment with different colors, patterns, and fabrics depending on your personal style and the season. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a cocktail dress:
- The event. Think about the type, location, and time of the event you’re attending. Is it formal or casual? Indoor or outdoor? Daytime or nighttime? These factors can help you decide how dressy or casual your outfit should be. For example, for a formal indoor event at night, you might want to wear a sleek black dress with some sparkle. For a casual outdoor event during the day, you might opt for a light-colored dress in a breathable material like cotton or linen.
- The season. The season can also influence your choice of color, fabric, and style. For winter cocktail parties, you might want to wear darker colors, heavier fabrics, and longer sleeves. For summer cocktail parties, you might prefer lighter colors, lighter fabrics, and shorter sleeves or straps. You can also add layers like jackets, cardigans, or shawls to adjust to the temperature.
- The fit. The most important thing is to choose a dress that fits you well and flatters your body shape. You want to feel comfortable and confident in your outfit, not self-conscious or restricted. Avoid dresses that are too tight, too loose, too short, or too long. You can also use belts, ruching, or draping to accentuate your curves and create a more defined silhouette.
- The style. Cocktail dresses come in a variety of styles, from sleek and minimal to statement making. To cater to every taste, our collection has myriad styles to suit every stage of the spectrum. To opt for understated elegance, plain maxi dresses in cotton and satin come to the fore in strappy silhouettes and block colors like black, white and navy blue. Arriving in midi as well as floor-length designs, they are ideal for formal engagements or professional events. For maximum statement style, sequinned, embellished and glitter dresses dominate. Strapless and off-the-shoulder pieces demand attention, while mini as well as maxi lengths provide drama in equal measure. Babydoll, boho and ruffled dresses introduce a playful note to the collection, while crochet, velvet and lace designs cater to parties by both day and night. Elsewhere, patterns and prints – including florals, stripes, tie-dye, polka dot and animal print – further elevate our party silhouettes.
How to Accessorize a Cocktail Dress
Cocktail dresses provide the perfect canvas for accessories, whether discreet or ready to disco. Our collection of jewellery, headpieces, scarves and hats provide multiple ways to customise a cocktail dress. Clutch bags, shoulder bags and bumbags, meanwhile, are on hand to keep basics close to hand, while our shoes – from stiletto heels and sandals to sneakers – will stamp your look with personality. Here are some tips on how to accessorize a cocktail dress:
- Choose one focal point. You don’t want to overdo it with too many accessories that compete for attention. Instead, choose one area of your outfit to highlight with a statement piece, such as a necklace, earrings, or a belt. Then, keep the rest of your accessories simple and complementary.
- Match your metals. A simple way to create a cohesive look is to match the metals of your accessories. For example, if you’re wearing a gold necklace, opt for gold earrings, bracelets, rings, and shoes. You can also mix metals for a more eclectic look, but make sure they don’t clash or look too busy.
- Consider the color scheme. Another way to coordinate your accessories is to consider the color scheme of your outfit. You can either match your accessories to the color of your dress, or contrast them for a pop of color. For example, if you’re wearing a black dress, you can accessorize with black shoes and bag, or add some color with red shoes and bag. You can also use accessories to create a monochromatic look by wearing different shades of the same color.
- Balance the proportions. The size and shape of your accessories should balance the proportions of your outfit. For example, if you’re wearing a voluminous dress, you might want to wear smaller and daintier accessories. If you’re wearing a fitted dress, you might want to wear larger and bolder accessories.
How to Wear Cocktail Attire Without a Dress
You don’t have to wear a cocktail dress to a cocktail party, though—jumpsuits, pantsuits, blazers, and blouses in fine materials are all great alternatives. Here are some ideas on how to wear cocktail attire without a dress:
- Wear a jumpsuit. A jumpsuit is a one-piece outfit that can be just as chic and elegant as a dress. Look for jumpsuits that have a fitted bodice and a wide-leg or tapered pant for a flattering silhouette. You can also add a belt or a jacket to define your waist and add some structure. Choose jumpsuits in solid colors or subtle prints for a sophisticated look, or go for bold colors or patterns for a more playful vibe.
- Wear a pantsuit. A pantsuit is a matching set of trousers and blazer that can be very stylish and modern for cocktail parties. You can wear a pantsuit with a blouse, a camisole, or even nothing underneath for a sexy touch. Choose pantsuits in sleek fabrics like satin or velvet for a luxe feel, or opt for classic fabrics like wool or tweed for a more professional look. You can also play with different colors and cuts, such as pastels, neutrals, or brights, and slim-fit, wide-leg, or cropped styles.
- Wear separates. Another option is to mix and match separates like skirts, trousers, blazers, and tops to create your own cocktail outfit. You can pair a pencil skirt with a blouse, a pair of jeans with a blazer, or a pair of trousers with a crop top. The key is to choose pieces that are well-fitted and made of high-quality materials. You can also add some interest with textures, prints, or details like lace, sequins, or embroidery.
Cocktail attire is all about dressing up and having fun with your outfit. Whether you choose to wear a cocktail dress or an alternative ensemble, you can express your personality and style with the right accessories and attitude. Remember to consider the event, the season, the fit, and the style when choosing your cocktail outfit, and you’ll be ready to party in no time.