Cocktail Party Attire

Don’t know what to wear to a cocktail party? You’re not alone! Cocktail party attire isn't easy to figure out and can vary depending on the theme, time and type of cocktail party you're attending. To ease the confusion, here are some tips on how to dress for a cocktail party:

  • Follow the Theme: Cocktail party themes range from casual barbeque to an elegant evening of dancing. In many cases, the theme is indicated on the invitation and you can base what you wear from there. For example, if it is a casual afternoon cocktail party outdoors, dress comfortably and anticipate the weather. However, if it's at a restaurant, try something like a sundress or skirt for women and dress pants and shirt for men.
  • Decoding the Dress Code: Hosts will often note the dress code on the invitation. Instead of trying to interpret cocktail party clothes on your own, we have defined each one to make it easier.
  • Cocktail
    • Women: cocktail party dress, skirt and dress shirt, dress pants and dress shirt
    • Men: dress pants, button-down dress shirt, suit coat (optional)
  • Formal Cocktail
    • Women: formal short or full-length evening dress/gown
    • Men: tuxedo or full suit
  • Costume
    • Men & women: theme-appropriate costume, nothing too revealing
  • Corporate
    • Men & women: business attire
  • Upscale Casual
    • Upscale casual is code for a little nicer than normal, so men and woman should dress up a bit more than on a normal day (no jeans!)
  • Daytime Versus Nighttime: The time of day that the party takes place is also a factor in choosing the right cocktail party clothes.
    • Daytime: Daytime cocktail parties are generally more casual and laid back. Both men and women can wear comfortable casual party clothing that is seasonally appropriate.
    • Nighttime: An evening cocktail party will probably be more upscale. Wear a dress or a suit, accessorize and get your hair and makeup professionally done.

If you are still unsure about what to wear to a cocktail party, have no fear! A general rule to follow when attending any cocktail party is to dress a little fancier than you would on a normal day. It is always better to be slightly overdressed then underdressed. Finally, make sure that whatever you choose to wear is not restrictive - cocktail parties are all about mingling, eating and drinking, so feeling comfortable is important. 


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