Share fashion photos or styling tips.

Decoding What a Cocktail Dress Code Means for Men and Women

What is a Cocktail Dress Code
Knowing the cocktail dress code is important to ensure that you are dressed well for the next time you need to attend an evening party.
Tulika Nair
Last Updated: Jul 22, 2017
When you want to pick out clothes for a cocktail party, the first thing that will give you a clue as to what to wear is the invitation that you have received. If the mode or manner in which the invitation was sent out was casual, that is, it was given over the phone or sent out as an email, then chances are that the dress code is going to be relaxed and casual.
On the other hand, if you have received a formal invitation with an R.S.V.P, you are looking at a formal event. In the latter scenario, more often than not, the host will specify some form of dress code. There will be options mentioned like semi formal, black tie optional, casual, etc. According to these details, pick out a suitable attire for the party.
Another important tip that will help you pick out the right attire for the outing would be to choose the right fabric. This is important. Wearing a wool blend or knitted dress to a cocktail party in the summer is definitely avoidable. The color of the fabric should also preferably depend on the season.
In winters, it is advisable to pick clothes in dark colors, while in spring and summer, pick out lighter colored fabrics. Another hint regarding what to wear to a cocktail party can come from the time of the party. If you are attending a cocktail party, in the middle of the afternoon, then chances are that the occasion will be a semi-formal one. With evening parties, the attire will need to be more formal. If you are attending the party with a date, then it is advisable to coordinate your outfits.
Cocktail Party Attire for Women
For a long time, cocktail attire was just one of the many different types of evening wears. But it was in the 1940s that the famous designer, Christian Dior, used the term to specifically refer to those dresses that were worn to early evening parties.
While the length of cocktail dresses can vary greatly depending on what local fashion dictates, in most cultures, cocktail attire for women consists of dresses that fall above or just below the knee. While there can be cocktail dresses that are ankle length, these are generally categorized under gowns or evening wear.
The best example is the Little Black Dress or the LBD that was popularized by Coco Chanel. If you have an LBD in your wardrobe, then with the right accessories, it can be the perfect dress to wear. Other than the perfect LBD, you can choose cocktail dresses for women in a variety of colors and silhouettes.
While till a few years ago, dresses were the only acceptable clothing attire for women attending a cocktail party, today it is not so. A skirt with a dressy top, jumpsuits, or even dressy pant suits are all acceptable clothing. Ensure that your clothes enhance your appearance. If you are opting for trousers and a top combination, ensure that the top is extra feminine, and cut well to accentuate your curves. Pick clothes in colors that suit you and always pay attention to the footwear you are wearing.
Cocktail Party Attire for Men
Cocktail attire for men, generally translates into wearing suits in dark colors like blue, gray, black, and brown. Avoid wearing tuxedos unless specified as these are generally the dress code for black tie events and extremely formal parties.
A well-tailored pair of khaki pants with a classically cut jacket or a blazer is also acceptable for semi-formal events. You may choose to wear a tie but this is not mandatory. It is important to ensure that you wear a good pair of polished shoes and match it with your belt. Do not wear denims or t-shirts teamed with jackets for a cocktail party. A pair of well cut trousers with a good jacket and a fitted shirt is the best clothing option that you can wear.