What Is Cocktail Attire for Women? 7 Dos and Don’ts
If you’ve ever been invited to a party with a cocktail attire dress code, you’ve likely thought to yourself, “What does that even mean?” or “So, what do I wear?” Well, you're not alone! The term “cocktail attire” can feel like a gray area for fashion, but we’re here to help you make sense of it all!
Here’s a bit about the dress code, and seven dos and don’ts to help you plan your next party outfit.
What Is Cocktail Attire?
Cocktail attire describes an outfit that is appropriate to wear to parties and other semi-formal events. For women, that typically means dresses and heels, but it absolutely doesn’t have to! A cocktail attire dress code calls for something different from what you’d wear to super formal, black-tie affairs. In many ways, it gives you the opportunity to be fun, flirty and creative with your look!
What to Wear: 4 Beautiful Dos
- The classic cocktail dress is a go-to for any semi-formal event.
The perfect cocktail dresses are fun but tasteful. Look for a flattering cut and length that skims your body, but doesn’t restrict your movement. You want to be able to enjoy your night, after all! The little black dress is, of course, a go-to option, but don’t be afraid of a little color. From rose gold, to a bold teal, to fiery red, there are so many colors that look amazing on a cocktail dress.
- Step into style with a classy pair of pumps.
A cocktail party is the perfect excuse to wear a dressier shoe, and pumps are a sophisticated and timeless choice. Look for a pair that has a fun touch (like a hint of sparkle) or is made of a luxe material (like lace). Just be sure to choose shoes that are comfortable enough to wear throughout the entire event. You don’t want to be forced to sit down when you don’t want to just because your feet hurt!
- Look fancy and on trend in a flattering (and comfortable) jumpsuit.
Chic jumpsuits are a great option for people who aren’t into dresses but still like how flattering a flowy fabric can be on the body. You can opt for classic black in a silky fabric, or be bold in a bright color or print like leopard. You can style jumpsuits with any type of shoes, though slingback pumps and wedges are great options.
- Let your personality shine with accessories that reflect your own unique style.
Parties are about having fun, and a cocktail attire party is the perfect chance to wear an outfit that truly expresses your personality. Have fun with accessories like statement earrings or a sparkly clutch.
What to Avoid: 3 Big Don’ts
- Don’t choose to wear anything that’s too short, or extremely low cut.
Cocktail attire can certainly be fun, but it should always be tasteful. When picking cocktail dresses to wear for the occasion, it’s helpful to use a family affair as your guideline. Would you feel comfortable wearing this to an event your grandma was attending with you? If not, you might want to think about how you can modify your look to make it a little more tasteful, perhaps by adding a blazer over a slinky dress or wearing tights underneath a skirt that’s on the shorter side.
- Jeans and sneakers are very rarely appropriate for a semi-formal event.
It’s probably best to stay away from denim when you’re dealing with a cocktail attire dress code, as it can still feel quite casual even with accessories that dress it up. Same with sneakers–they’re very hard to style in a way that works for a more formal occasion. Instead, opt for sparkly flare leg pants and a pair of mules that are dressy, but still comfortable.
- Don’t bring a big backpack or lug around your workday tote.
There’s a time and place for oversized accessories, but an event with a cocktail attire dress code really isn’t it. When you’re noshing on finger foods and chatting with friends, large bags can get in the way and possibly even knock things over. Even if you want your look to draw attention, you probably wouldn’t want it to be from a spill that stops the party.
There are many different interpretations of cocktail attire, but what they all have in common is the chance to dress up and have fun. From dresses, to shoes, to sparkly accessories, a cocktail party is a great opportunity to experiment with your personal style!