So, you’ve received a cocktail party invitation and now you’re puzzled with what to wear: we’ve all been there. What does “cocktail chic”, “black-tie” and “formal attire” even mean? Finding a balance between the not-too-fussy-formal and not-too-casual look can be a tough one. There are three things you should take into consideration before dressing up: the season, the venue and the host.
Here are the cocktail party dress codes – decoded.
Leave your fashion comfort zone
Depending on the level of formality, cocktail parties can be an ideal opportunity for you to experiment with new looks. The balanced mixture of the playfulness and formality gives you freedom to wear pieces you don’t normally have a chance to try out. According to the celebrity stylist Kate Young, it’s good to wear a more invading dress colour or add a bit of a spark to your outfit, if the occasion allows it. Don’t be shy and ask the host/hostess of the party about these details.
Men can opt for the bolder patterns when choosing a jacket (e.g. a checkered one), or try a colour that’s not a typical neutral one: burgundy or olive green make nice choices. Tuxedos should be worn only if specified: otherwise, you risk looking over-dressed. If you don’t feel like spending too much time thinking about what to wear, stick with the classics: well-fitted tailored suit will do the trick; lose the tie for a more casual look.
Minding the venue
There are different types of cocktail parties, depending on the venue and occasion. They can take place in someone’s home or garden, but they can also be organized as a formal reception at the popular restaurant. Taking this into consideration is half of your dress-success.
For men, it is useful to know how to dress smart casual since this style implies an effortless, casual charm, but with a dash of elegance. It’s all about creating a look that’s on the point, but also relaxed and not too “matchy”. The basics of smart casual are crucial for making men’s outfit more vivid, along with picking the right accessories such as cufflinks, pocket squares, belts and watches.
Women, on the other hand, have more dressing options.
Timeless LBD and other simplified solutions
Emerged from the twenties and credited to the famous Coco Chanel, little black dress is one of the everlasting pieces that you can’t go wrong with. The original cut was a short-length black dress that was universal and could form different looks, depending on the choice of accessories.
To make your LBD party-ready, have your eyes open for details. Strategically put belt can enhance your waistline, pearl earrings can add a bit of class to your look, black patent leather stilettos – a dash of mystery and femininity. The black-white combo is perfect for the more formal venues, but you can also add a dash of colour (e.g. fiery red). Put on a red lipstick and opt for a red clutch purse – and you’re done! Another simple solution includes a silky slip-on dress: for a classy look – style your hair into a sleek chignon, instead of messy waves.
Think beyond traditional femininity
Who says it has to be a classic cut dress or a dress at all? Consider wearing formal jumpsuits. Many celebrities embraced this trend: from Jessica Alba and Miranda Kerr to Kate Hudson and Diane Kruger! A lot of jumpsuits have a fitted dress-like upper part (e.g. a heart-shaped one), which makes it a fashion piece that lies somewhere between a maxi dress and a suit – a perfect choice for a cocktail party!
Other less conventional options include wearing a women’s suit or a blazer-dress. These can be extremely chic and eye-catching. For a glamorous look, style your hair in big waves or into a straight sleek ponytail.
Make sure to have a clear idea of the level of formality. The key is adjusting your look to the occasion so you blend in with the guests, but also incorporate details that will make you stand out in a tasteful manner.