How to Dress for a Cocktail Party

Whenever there is a special occasion for us to show up, we immediately start thinking about what to wear. Cocktail parties are one of the enjoyable parties we all want to dress up, exchange words with friends and partake to small refreshments. There’s nothing worse than arriving in the venue feeling dramatically under or over dressed just like wearing a sequined ball gown only to find your friends are just wearing jeans and shirts. Keep on reading to get some styling tips on dressing for a cocktail party.

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Though all cocktail parties are relatively formal functions, you must determine the variation of formality between different events. Cocktail dress code etiquette is usually more formal than casual clothes and less formal than evening wear or black tie. The level of formality for cocktail party attire can also alter dependent on the location, reason, and season as a pre-opera cocktail party would be more formal than an after work event. If it’s a formal invite, especially from a charity or association, then you should consider it dressy. So, some might require you to wear your silks and sequins, and take note that the concept of a cocktail party is to serve drinks and canapés for just a short while allowing time for mingling and chatting.

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If your invitation came by phone or email, it is more likely to be a casual affair. Forget about jeans or any other trousers as a blouse and skirt or a dress of light material is the best choice. Traditionally, women wear dresses to cocktail parties which sit at mid-thigh to knee length, but nowadays, you can go for something a little shorter or longer if you wish. Since it is an informal occasion, you can pick a mini dress, maxi dress, halter dresses, and even ones with asymmetrical hemlines. While the traditional variation of cocktail party dresses is usually made from formal fabrics like satin or silk, you can make a simpler casual dresses work for more relaxed events as well.

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If you are attending a cocktail party straight from work, just remember to keep it dressy and elegant, but not too formal. Keep in mind that different cities have their own dress codes as cocktail party attire in New York is dressy and chic regardless of the weather differences, while in San Diego it’s interpreted a bit more casually, because the city is relaxed. Avoid fabrics that are too casual, like chinos, jersey, and denim and lean towards sensual fabrics like chiffon and crepe in good colors. Tulle or ballerina skirt can look great in cocktail parties paired with a fitted cashmere, wool top, classic shirt, and knitted sweater, to avoid looking too corporate.

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Classic dresses in pastel or neutral shades look great too for a dressy but not too formal cocktail party wear. Think of feminine colors like peach, pink, red, baby blue, lavender, and such as well as shades of neutrals like black, white, gray, brown, and so on.

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For a feminine and alluring vibe, you may opt for sexy cuts of mini dresses like cut-out designs, backless styles, asymmetrical necklines, form-hugging fit, and even lace details. Keep the look formal by wearing classic pumps, platform stilettos, and even high-heeled sandals to keep the party look going.

leather skirt with burgundy top leather skirt with classic top

You may add some edge to your cocktail party attire by wearing anything leather without rips, studs, and spikes. Go for plain leather in classic colors of black, white, blue, burgundy, and brown and stay away from flashy colors and glossy finish of leather like a patent one. Keep your looks dressy by reaching for chic sunglasses and an elegant clutch.

gold necklace with cocktail party outfit cute clutch with pastel dress

You’ll be able to dress your simple outfit up or down depending on how you pick out your accessories. If your dress is a simple one, take the best jewelry you have to fill the simplicity of the dress. But, never wear too much jewelry since it may work against you. If you are wearing earrings and a bracelet, no need to take a necklace. Yet if the dress requires a necklace, then get rid of one of the other two items. Go for the most matching shoes and bag appropriate for your dress. If you are wearing a maxi dress, ballet flats are more preferable, while for a shorter dress, high heels are most acceptable. Since the cocktail party is more on standing and walking, so don’t torture yourself thinking about your hands so carry a small purse or a clutch rather than shoulder bags.

Cocktail parties have no consistent dress code as some may be very formal and others are more relaxed. So, regardless of whether you’re required to dress up or not, try to keep your outfit in keeping with the spirit of the event and have fun in the party with your dearest friends.



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