Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Dos and Don'ts of Cocktail Attire, According to Fashion Editors

Dress codes are something people don’t talk about enough. From white-tie to cocktail attire, the gray area regarding what’s acceptable to wear to these formal events is sizable. Today, we are here to talk about all things cocktail party attire. Believe it or not, there are “rules” for dressing for this occasion.

Ahead, we’re bringing you the dos and don’ts of cocktail attire. Some of these tips might be obvious, but others might surprise you. In addition to our cocktail attire commandments, we’re showing you where to shop the pieces that will ensure you’re always dressed appropriately. Keep scrolling to discover how to look your chicest at your next cocktail soirée.

Cocktail attire is like the sweet spot between casual and formal. It’s a dress code that allows you to break the black-tie rules while still looking put-together. When you see “cocktail attire” on the dress code, remember that this is your signal to keep it classy and avoid anything too casual or revealing. 

We usually look for ways to combine elegance and flair, whether that’s a compliment-worthy dress or a power pantsuit. A cocktail dress code offers the opportunity to play around with different fabrics, colors, and prints to showcase your personal style. 

Think of semiformal and cocktail attire as cousins who share similar DNA but have their own distinct vibes. Cocktail attire is a bit dressed up but allows you to let loose and have fun. You’re likely to find yourself in a chic midi-length dress or cool suit.

Semiformal attire, on the other hand, takes it up a notch in terms of formality. It’s a smidge more dressed up and typically involves wearing a more sophisticated dress.

Cocktail attire has been a very popular dress code request for weddings in recent years. Since many people have different interpretations of cocktail attire, it can be confusing. We see cocktail attire as the perfect opportunity to show off your personal style since black tie is so much more restricting. You get to strike that perfect balance between looking your best and feeling comfortable. 

As you begin to brainstorm what you’ll wear for your friend or family member’s special day, the best place to start is with a midi dress. Floor-length gowns are known for black tie, and a lot of minidresses are too casual. If dresses aren’t your thing, now is the time to wear your favorite pantsuit or jumpsuit. Play around with different colors and prints to find something that screams “you.”  And don’t forget to pair your look with some fun accessories!

A great rule of thumb here is to not wear something you wouldn’t want your boss to see you in. In case you needed a reminder, a cocktail party is different than a night out.

Even if you aim to dress up a pair of jeans (yes, it’s possible), risking being underdressed is never worth it. However, you don’t have to wear a dress to be dressy. Polished trousers are just as effective.

So what bags are best for cocktail attire? Alongside a nice dress, a clutch or a mini bag always reads as elegant and refined.

Regardless of the color or material of your clothing, wrinkles are always noticeable and unprofessional. Using a steamer is one of the best (and quickest) ways to get rid of wrinkles.

Even Coco Chanel recommended taking off one accessory before you leave the house. Your best bet is to wear one standout accessory that you really love.

There is such a thing as going too formal. The time to wear a floor-sweeping gown is not at a cocktail party. Opt for anything between a mini- and midi-length dress or skirt.

Whether it be stilettos, kitten heels, or block heels, a little extra lift is helpful when it comes to a formal event. If notable enough, a pair of flats might work, but sneakers are a no-go.

Going the extra mile to make sure that your bra straps or shapewear aren’t visible is almost as important as not wearing sneakers. Once you’ve picked out your outfit, be sure you have the right undergarments on hand. An off-the-shoulder dress, for instance, will mean wearing the right strapless bra that will get you through the night. If you’re wearing a formfitting dress or skirt, consider investing in no-show underwear or seamless shapewear.

This one should be obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people keep rubber bands on their wrists—even at nice events. Before stepping out of the house, swap your hair tie for a sleek bracelet.

This post was originally posted at an earlier date and has since been updated. Up Next: I’d Scream If Someone Wore These Things to My Wedding

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