What to Wear to A Cocktail Party: On-trend and Up to Date

Invite in hand, you’re scouring your mind for ideas on what to wear to a cocktail party. Can you wear a mini dress, or is that a fashion faux pas? Should you opt for something colourful or stick to neutral tones? There’s a lot to navigate when it comes to a cocktail dress code. Below, we look at the top four cocktail party silhouettes that will have you RSVP ready, no matter your style.  

Table of Contents

What Is Cocktail Attire?
- The Midi Dress
- The Suit
- The Mini Dress
- The Jumpsuit

What Is Cocktail Attire?

Cocktail attire, which may also be referred to as semi-formal attire, is the dress code you’ll often come across for weddings, evening functions, and parties. When you’re deciding what to wear to a cocktail party, it’s important to remember a few things.

Firstly, length matters. So, what length should cocktail dresses be? They’re generally midi in length, meaning they shouldn’t fall above the knee or below the ankle. Floor-length gowns are usually reserved for black-tie or formal dress codes. While it’s long been suggested that mini dresses are best left for more casual events, they can also be worn as cocktail dresses in some settings — but more on that in a bit.

Secondly, keep necklines in mind. For cocktail events, you’ll want to avoid anything with a plunging neckline or too many cut-outs. It can be helpful to ask yourself: would I comfortably wear this in front of my boss or my grandparents? If the answer is no, then steer in a different direction.

Below, we take a closer look at four cocktail party silhouettes and share the styling tips that will have you feeling as great as you look. 

The Midi Dress

The fool-proof cocktail party silhouette is the midi dress. The degree of freedom you have in terms of design will depend on the event you’re heading to.

If you’re off to a wedding or birthday party with a cocktail dress code, you could look to a midi dress with trending features such as tasteful cut-outs and side-split hems. Bright colours are best suited for weddings that start during the day, or for birthday parties in the evening.

If your cocktail party is work-related, it’s best to stick to a more structured silhouette. A chic off-shoulder design will work well, as will styles that are slightly more fitted in the body. Opt for styles in neutral hues for a polished and sophisticated look. 

For special cocktail events such as functions or fundraisers, you could look to a style with a statement feature such as an oversized bow or draped skirt. These unexpected features can help to keep your outfit feeling fun and fresh while remaining respectful of the dress code.

PASDUCHAS Marquise Midi Dress (Pine Green)
REBECCA VALLANCE Calla One Shoulder Dress Midi (Yellow)
PASDUCHAS Composure Midi Dress (Charcoal)
AJE Caliente Tiered Cut Out Dress (Daisy Yellow)

The Suit

If cocktail dresses aren’t your thing, or if you’re after a modem take on formal styling, a blazer and pants combo is a great alternative. Not only are suits chic and sophisticated, they also provide a comfort factor that is — let’s face it — missing with cocktail dresses.

We love double-breasted blazers paired with either wide-leg pants or cropped trousers. Fitted suits generally deliver a more polished look, but you could also dress up an oversized suit with strappy heels, a low bun, and dangling earrings.  

As for colour palettes, a vibrant colour such as red, emerald green, or baby blue should be styled back with black or nude heels and delicate jewellery. If you’re opting for a suit in a neutral tone, you can play around with colourful accessories. Think white suit teamed with a tangerine coloured clutch and matching heels.

PASDUCHAS Checker Suit (Blazer + Pants)
ELIYA THE LABEL Suzie Blazer and Pants Suit

The Mini Dress

As we mentioned earlier, mini dresses have traditionally been thought of as a no-go at cocktail events. However, we respectfully disagree - in some cases. If you’re heading to a work event, business function, or evening wedding, it’s best to stick to the ‘below the knee but above the ankle’ rule. However, if you’re off to a birthday party or daytime wedding, a mini dress can work perfectly.

We suggest looking at styles that hit anywhere from the mid-thigh to just above the knee. Styles that cut away at the upper thigh are best left for a girl’s night out. If you’re opting for a mini dress, avoid form-fitting designs. Instead, opt for floaty or ruffled hems for a more cocktail-appropriate look. For an on-trend finish, we love exaggerated puff sleeves and high necklines.

Mini dresses in dynamic prints and bright colours are best styled with understated makeup and accessories.

ZIMMERMANN Glassy Long-Sleeve Mini Dress
AJE Riviera Smock Dress
AJE Imprint Mini Dress

The Jumpsuit

For a contemporary look, slip into a jumpsuit. Jumpsuits usually offer full coverage, making most styles appropriate for a cocktail event. Comfort is second only to style when it comes to jumpsuits, so you’ll be dancing the night away with ease.

A sleek sequinned style is ideal for birthday parties, weddings, and functions with friends, while a printed boilersuit is best suited to work or late-afternoon events. A jumpsuit will pair effortlessly with mules and a clutch. To elevate the look further, opt for a neat ponytail or slicked-back hairstyle and add a bold lip colour.

NOOKIE Treasure Jumpsuit (Black)
ZIMMERMANN Glassy Boilersuit (Washed Floral)

Why Hire?

Whether you’re heading to a wedding or work function, it’s important that you feel good in your outfit. The tricky thing about cocktail dresses? They can carry a hefty price tag, and, let’s be honest, are more often than not worn once before being shoved to the back of the wardrobe. Why not save your dollars and maximise wardrobe space by hiring an outfit? If you choose to hire instead of buy, you’re also shopping in a way that’s better for the environment. So, the benefits are threefold. Need more convincing? Our article on the top 5 reasons to hire instead of buy can help.

Now that you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to start shopping. You can explore our beautiful cocktail items available for hire here, or discover our full range of dresses and formalwear here.

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