Summer Cocktail Dress Style Guide

An invitation to a cocktail party can appear more daunting than exciting when considering what to wear.

Cocktail usually refers to a knee-length party dress, but this can all vary when factoring in weather, day or night and company.

Cocktail occasions need a certain amount of refinement, so dress up cocktail pants or a pantsuit with the appropriate jewelry and accessories. Cocktail attire is less dressy than formal attire and more casual than black tie.

cocktail dress

Which Dress Should You Wear?

An appropriate cocktail dress hem sits below your fingers. Between calf-length and mini dress, lengths are appropriate when your arms are resting at your sides. Necklines can be as revealing or practical as you prefer, but ensure you balance out revealing cuts with elegant accessories or a jacket.

Refined and classic, an embellished dress is perfect for those who love sparkle. Opt for a pastel tone, lace fabric, or embellishment when taking on an A-line design.

Lace cocktail dresses err on the side of tea party attire, but with the right shoes and accessories, can easily be transformed into a modern ensemble. Avoid partnering your lace with lace accessories as this can be more drab than fab.

Long sleeve cocktail wear can be a modest take on whichever style of mini to knee-length dress you choose and a winter appropriate revival of the calf-length gown. AlamourĂ­s Margarita Ivory long-sleeve dress ($420.00) provides the illusions of a strapless, lace ensemble with a flared skirt.

A strapless dress is a classic option that can be feminized and suited for almost any body type. Whichever color you choose, strapless dresses are modern with a classic touch.

When a festive occasion arises, opt for our Burgundy Margarita long-sleeve dress ($299.00). Perfect for any winter or evening party, the floral lace makes an elegant statement.

A pantsuit is a modern look that delivers on elegance. Ensure that you are comfortable all night with a pantsuit. Wearing pants is a modest look that delivers on clean, elegant fashion looks fitting for the 21st century.

When in doubt, mid-length dresses provide modern elegance without crossing into formalwear territory or choose a little black dress and pair with venue appropriate accessories; heels and a clutch for a formal event, a denim jacket and shoulder bag for a more casual occasion.


Choose a classy clutch that suits your outfit and will fit an essential collection of essentials.

Statement shoes are the perfect way to show colour and personality in your cocktail attire. Remember whatever choices you make will stay with you all night, so keep comfort in mind; choose a classy pair of flats that carry a wow-factor.

Consider the formality of the occasion when choosing accessories and refer to one piece that will accentuate your outfit. Whether a statement necklace, pair of earrings, or chunky ring, the right accessory can set your ensemble apart and transform it from casual to formal.

Points to Consider

Venue – Some locations are not suited for your best white dress or expensive heels (think farms, often full of mud), while some locations require more than just your best summer dress.

Weather – Remember to check the weather before heading out. Try a bold, relaxed ensemble to celebrate the warmer weather while cold weather may require more coverage.

Undergarments – Consider support and coverage options for under your dress. Wearing a standard bra under your dress can throw your expensive ensemble out the window. Invest in nipple covers, an adhesive bra or a backless option. Make sure to try these on under your dress before your event.

What Not to Wear

Some benchmarks are always set for cocktail events. Shorts and t-shirts are inappropriate attire, as are denim skirts and active-wear. When adhering to modern trends, keep away from large pieces of jewelry. Instead, pair it back with a simple pendant featuring an exquisite jewel.

Avoid jeans! Instead, think denim with a jacket or dress; denim jackets are a cute way to tone down a formal outfit, and a denim dress can be a successful 90s fashion statement.

When in Doubt

When you’re not sure what to wear, just ask! Talk to other guests or the host to determine what would be suitable for the occasion. An older host may opt for a more traditional style, whereas a modern host could opt for a fresh take.

Enjoy your next cocktail party with this fuss-free approach to decision making.


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