Got an invite to a cocktail party but no idea what to wear? Cocktail party attire usually falls somewhere in between work-do casual and black tie formal wear. More dressed-down wedding than glammed-up fundraiser. For this reason, it can be challenging working out what style to go with. Well look no further! Here is a run down of what to expect and what is expected when it comes to dressing to impress for a cocktail party.

Things to Consider

Cocktail attire will usually be expected for evening events with a celebratory twist like engagement parties, fundraisers, reunions and graduation parties. 

You will want to consider the setting, whether it is indoor or outdoor, grass or wood flooring, and because they take place in the evening, you will want to check the temperature as well. 

These elements will help you decide on footwear and also any layers you need to take with you such as a shawl, shrug or jacket. 

You may be invited to a daytime event, and in this case, you will want to consider something less formal, in lighter colours and more comfortable than an evening outfit. For men, a daytime event means you may be able to leave your suit jacket at home.

Cocktail Dresses and Party Styles for Women

So, what are the defining features of cocktail dresses as opposed to a full-formal event? A cocktail dress tends to be knee length, colourful, patterned or embellished. Of course, the classic LBD still rules the roost here. So if you have one of those in your closet, you’re ready for your cocktail party! 

You want to stay away from mini or maxi dresses, and opt for 2-3 inch heels as opposed to 4-5. Cocktail parties are usually stand up events with no sit down dinner, so you want to be comfortable enough in your outfit and footwear.  

You don’t just have to consider cocktail dresses though. Us ladies have so many great options, such as the jumpsuit, pant suit and skirt and blouse. Jazz any outfit up with flashy jewellery and accessories if you’re worried about feeling too dressed down. 

Not a fan of heels or worried about walking around on grass? Cocktail parties are great events to opt for flashy flats and small box heels as you can expect standing and dancing. But you probably want to avoid kittens and killer heels unless you want to sit for the whole thing or be carried!

Cocktail Party Attire for Men

It’s no secret that men have an easier time when It comes to dressing for a cocktail party. The usual dress code will involve a casual suit and dress shirt. Unless specified, you can probably leave the tie at home. 

The cocktail party may be before or after a more formal event and for that you can opt for a tie or bow tie with a jacket, and then remove those bits for the after party.

For a cocktail party think fun and funky not formal and fancy. Opt for patterned or block colour shirts and grey or blue suit pants instead of your business black. You can also go for a sports jacket instead of a suit jacket for these kinds of events.

Worried about being too hot for a day time cocktail party in the sunshine? Go for a lighter fabric like linen in a lighter colour for both your pants and shirt.

When it comes to footwear, you can choose a less formal laced option like slip on loafers or boots, but avoid sneaker-style footwear unless you know the hosts see them as an acceptable option.