Cocktail Dress Code


When you go to a cocktail party, you get to wear fun, semiformal attire that’s alluring without being stuffy.

For the ladies

Cocktail dresses are many girls’ favorite kind of dress: short, flirty, and beautiful.  They’re made of nice, thick fabric, such as silk or satin, in black or jewel tones, often with design details such as a nipped waist or asymmetrical neckline.  You can wear one of these or an elegant little black dress (no cotton or jersey).  This is the time for fun jewelry and accessories: colorful heels, a cute clutch, a cocktail ring — whatever you’re in the mood for.  Even your makeup can be colorful, within reason (don’t go too eighties on us, now). Cocktail Dress Code

For the guys

Guys can wear a suit or a jacket with nice pants.  Avoid jeans (or — shudder — cords), unless you happen to know for sure that this is a very informal version of a cocktail party.  Whether or not to wear a tie depends on the formality — when in doubt, bring one in case and ditch it if you don’t end up needing it.  If it’s not too formal, this could be the perfect place to bust out that sexiest of menswear outfits, the black jacket – white shirt – no tie combo.

Rules of Thumb

  • Men, match your shoes to your outfit, formality-wise: black dress shoes for a suit, or brown loafers or similar semiformal shoes for a jacket and pants.
  • Ladies, you want a short dress — probably nothing below the knee.  But no more than a few inches above the knee unless you’re under 25.  Under no circumstances wear a tunic as a dress, or anything else that hits higher than mid-thigh.
  • If you’re attending a cocktail party at work, or in another professional setting, wear a more conservative office-style suit.
  • As always, dress your outfit up for evening and fancy settings, and down for afternoon or outdoor events.
  • If the invitation indicates a dress code (e.g., Black Tie or Jacket Preferred), refer instead to those guidelines.