How to dress for a cocktail party: a step by step guide

A step by step guide on how to dress appropriately for a cocktail party.


Step one: dress code

In theory cocktail parties are a formal kind of event, but they can still vary from incredibly lavish to simply elegant or downright smart and casual. If the dress code is not stated in the invitation or you are unsure, the absolute first step to take is to enquire about it by contacting the organizers of the event and ask them about the exact the degree of formality of their cocktail party.

Step two: what is expected

In all cases, a dress is the most expected style for a woman to wear at any cocktail party. A flirty dress with length varying from mid-thigh to the knee is assumed to be the archetype cocktail frock. Formal fabrics such as velvet, satin and silk, chiffon, organza and taffeta offer the official version, perfect for the more sumptuous events, while a more versatile fabric such as woven linen, wool, cotton and denim, also combined with any of the above, can make offer a simpler smart and casual dress that will work great for more relaxed events. However, if you are heading to the event straight from the office, an untold rule allows and greets a well tailored suit, perfect to work in, matched with something glamorous like a sleeveless chiffon shirt or a sequin tank top. In any case: choose your outfit according to the weather and location. This means picking items in fabrics that suit the season, and wearing tights and ankle boots if necessary, as well as a suitable overcoat.

Step three: what to buy and how to match it

If you think nothing in your wardrobe quite fit the event, or just fancy something brand new, perhaps your are better off choosing a dress in a dark colour and versatile fabric. This will probably never be out of trend and you are most likely to wear it in more occasions. Lastly, choose accessories to match the style and please leave at home your enormous handbag: a tiny tot or hand purse will do a great job instead.

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