What Is A Cocktail Dress And Why You Really Need One

what Is a cocktail dress

Every woman needs a cocktail dress (or the equivalent dressy pants outfit). But what’s a cocktail dress? The dictionary definition is “an elegant dress suitable for semi-formal social occasions, falling to just below or just above the knee.” Most of us probably think of the classic little black dress when we’re choosing cocktail or semi-formal attire. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

What Is Cocktail Party Attire?

The cocktail dress spectrum covers so much more than the little black dress, and you should always have one or two pieces of cocktail attire in your wardrobe for special occasions. What is considered proper cocktail attire for women? Here are some of our favorite options of cocktail dresses for women over 40.

Little Black Dress

Audrey Hepburn had it right in Breakfast At Tiffany’s,  a little black dress and some fabulous jewelry combined with dramatic sunglasses work for any occasion. This caped Givenchy dress is worth the splurge, but this off the shoulder Vince Camuto dress is a steal.

Pantsuit Or Jumpsuit

Just because everyone else is wearing dresses doesn’t mean that you can’t rock some pants. This Black Halo jumpsuit is just as sleek as a little black dress, or you can go for jewel tones in this emerald green MKT Studio pantsuit. Wear it over a sleek tank top or silk blouse with heels.

Bold Color Statements

Orange might seem like an unusual color for cocktail attire, but this unexpected shade will stand out, especially paired with turquoise or lapis jewelry. We love the silhouette of this Ted Baker midi dress. Teal is another interesting choice, and this Eliza J fit and flare cocktail dress is perpetually stylish. You can wear other bold colors at cocktail parties such as red, magenta, yellow or cobalt blue.

Cocktail Dresses In Prints

A little floral dress will serve you well, especially with a dark background which works in all seasons. This Jason Wu floral print long-sleeved sheath is a worthy splurge, and this WAYF chiffon midi dress is comfortable and elegant at the same time and is completely affordable.

Little White Dress

A lighter version of the little black dress works for spring, summer, and even winter depending on the accessories (just don’t wear it to someone else’s wedding). This halter-style little white dress by LIKELY is super flattering, while this Rebecca Taylor frock is the cocktail dress equivalent of the perfect white t-shirt.

Keeping a classic, proper cocktail dress or two in your wardrobe always comes in handy. What is your most memorable cocktail attire moment? Share your story in the comments below!

–Jacqueline Zenn

You may also like to read more of Jacqui’s fashion tips like Why You Should Wear Navy, Not Black This Spring and Brighten Up! How To Spring Your Wardrobe Forward Early.

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1 Comment

  • Haralee 1 year ago Reply

    Yes, having a LBD is always handy but as I get older Black is not looking as flattering as it once did. I just happen to be on the look-out for a navy or chocolate brown dress. I like the idea of a white one for summer.

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