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The Dos & Don'ts of Cocktail Dressing

02.26.24Alyssa Foster

The Dos & Don'ts of Cocktail Dressing

The Dos & Don'ts of Cocktail Dressing

Posted by Jintao Du on


So, you've scored a sweet invite to a sophisticated event, but you're wondering what the cocktail dress code means - you're not alone! So many women are asking themselves, what’s considered suitable for a white-tie event compared to a cocktail party? Is a jumpsuit too casual? Do you have to wear heels?

Dress codes can be incredibly confusing and the questions are endless, but lucky for you, we’re here to fill you in on the dos and don’ts of women's cocktail attire!

What is Cocktail Attire for Women?

As a go-to dress code for weddings and special events, the cocktail attire dress code essentially acts as the sweet spot between casual and formal. So, no ballgowns and no tracksuits. But, a big yes to elegant knee-length or slightly shorter dresses. As it falls into the category of semi formal attire, cocktail attire is less formal than black-tie attire but more dressed-up than business or casual wear. The most popular cocktail attire for women is the cocktail dress!

The Dos and Don'ts

Believe it or not, there are rules when it comes to attending a cocktail party. But don’t fret just yet because we’ve simplified it all for you! Whether you're off to weddings, work parties or glitzy cocktail parties, it’s important to find the right balance of elegance for any occasion.

Do: Wear a Midi Dress

You might be wondering: How long should cocktail dresses be? Like the goldilocks of dresses, midi length dresses boast a hem that ends between the knee and the ankle - the perfect middle-ground between mini and maxi dresses. Sometimes, minis can be seen as too casual and maxis too formal, so a midi is the elegant go-to. Opt for a satin slip dress or a classic LBD for your next soiree!

Don’t: Wear a Gown

It’s not a white-tie event ladies! Leave the floor-length gowns at home, as they are a little too formal for a cocktail event. Stick to the classy mini and midi lengths paired seamlessly with some strappy heels and ta-da! You're good to go.

Do: Opt For Elegant Necklines and Designs

When it comes to cocktail attire, there’s nothing more classy than a modest design. We’re not saying to cover up head-to-toe, but a chic halter neck or one shoulder number exudes modern elegance. We’re also loving square and sweetheart necklines right now, as they really work to flatter the figure.

Don’t: Dress Too Sexy

There’s a time and place for everything, and something that’s super revealing should probably be reserved for a night out with the girls. We’re talking plunging necklines or too many cut out details. Don’t get us wrong, they are gorgeous party wear, but cocktail parties (especially family-friendly events) call for more modest silhouettes.

Ultimately, it depends on the occasion. Consider the type of event you're attending to see where you can experiment with more fun styles and cuts.

Do: Wear Trousers

Dresses not for you? Or too cold to show off your legs? No problem! Tailored trousers can do the trick. Whether you wear a pleated pair with a chic blouse or go all out with a matching blazer, a well-tailored pants suit can offer the same level of sophistication as a dress. If you're wondering, can I wear a jumpsuit to a cocktail party? Of course! We suggest sticking to more tailored pieces and slim-fitting designs that look sharp and clean.

Don't: Wear Jeans

Although it's possible to dress up a pair of jeans, it's not worth showing up severely under-dressed. While black jeans are a wardrobe staple, they aren't quite the same effect as a little black dress. So, leave those jeans at home and switch from denim to cotton fabrics and streamlined silhouettes.

Do: Stick to Elegant and Minimal Jewellery

If you want a classy look, then you’ll want minimal jewellery such as dangly earrings, a bangle or a chain necklace. At these semi-formal events, it’s better to keep it simple. As a good rule of thumb, stick to one statement piece and don't go too crazy with your accessories; or as Coco Chanel once said:

Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take at least one thing off.

Don’t: Leave Your Apple Watch On!

We get it, you want to close your rings. But sometimes, you’re going to have to make sacrifices in the name of class. And while we're here, don't forget to swap out that spare hair tie on your wrist with a dainty bracelet!

Do: Wear Heels

Everything from pumps to sky-high stilettos are your friend when it comes to cocktail events. They add an element of sophistication to your ensemble, and together with cocktail dresses, they are a match made in heaven! For heels that go with every look, choose neutral colours like black, nude, and white. Want heels that'll last you all day? Opt for styles like chic block heels or wedges.

Don’t: Wear Sneakers

While it may be tempting to prioritise comfort over fashion, your cocktail outfit is certainly not complete with sneakers. Keep your outfit elevated (literally) with heels, even short ones like kitten heels! If you're looking forward to breaking it down on the reception dance floor, we suggest bringing ballet flats (a classier, yet still comfy alternative to sneakers) to change into.


Can I Wear a Cocktail Dress to a Wedding?

Yes! Cocktail dresses are actually the most popular choice of clothing when it comes to semi-formal events and weddings. Always remember to double-check the invitation and consider the wedding's formality and location.

Invited to a casual beach elopement? Lighter fabrics and simpler designs might be better suited. While a more modest or covered-up look would be more appropriate for traditional church nuptials. For the colder months, consider heavier fabrics like velvet, and darker, more muted colours.

What Are the Popular Styles for Cocktail Dresses in Australia?

Popular styles of cocktail dresses include mini dresses, midi dresses and high-low designs. With warmer weather in Australia, women tend to reach for sleeveless and off-the-shoulder dresses. And, one of the most popular styles is the classic little black dress, which is no surprise!

What Bag Should I Take to My Cocktail Event?

Your best bet for bags at a cocktail event are small bags and clutches. You don't want to be showing up to a cocktail party with your work tote or big handbag. So, carry your essentials like your phone, lipstick and keys in a sleek and small clutch. Luckily, mini handbags and micro bags are totally trendy right now!

Whether you're headed to a glamorous cocktail party or a romantic destination wedding, we have you covered with the dos and don'ts of cocktail attire for women! This guide isn't strict of course - Feel free to experiment with these "rules" to find your own cocktail look that suits your personal style. Whether that be a floral mini dress or a sneaky back cut-out, you're sure to stun at any event!

Shop our collection of party and cocktail dresses today!