From Formal Cocktail Dresses For Weddings To Sexy Cocktail Minis For Any Parties
The cocktail dress code is a semi-formal style for women and men, designed for late-afternoon to early-evening events, social gatherings, and similar occasions.
First introduced in the 1940s, cocktail dresses evolved – in terms of style and function – to match people’s current needs and the changing fashion trends.
With new cuts, hemlines, waistlines, and fabrics, cocktail dresses have undergone several changes in style, aesthetic, and functionality over the last century.
Whereas in the past, cocktail dresses were reserved for swanky late-afternoon drinking, nowadays, this dress code is required at most semi-formal social events.
IN THIS ARTICLE
Best Cocktail Dresses In 2022
You can see cocktail dresses at evening festivities, theatre, birthday parties, after-work events, get-together occasions, and even professional settings.
There are cocktail dresses according to the occasion, location, time, and type of cocktail event you will attend.
In this article, I’ll break down the main types of cocktail dresses and explain the ideal ones for each event, from formal occasions to the beach and back.
Best Wedding Cocktail Dresses
I find it interesting that most women think a little black dress must be the number one choice for a wedding cocktail dress attire.
If you want to stand out from the crowd, opt-in for a super-feminine dress in a light color – highly suitable at any wedding event.
The best materials are silky fabric, lace, or chiffon, made to add an extra charming look and make you feel like a guest of honor at any events, from formal business meetings to daytime weddings.
To finish the look, add a pair of flats and matching accessories for a super stylish vibe apart from the general crowd.
Aqua Red One-Shoulder Long Cocktail Dress
Ralph Lauren Ruffled Off-the-Shoulder Cocktail Dress
Eliza J Asymmetric Lace Midi Cocktail Dress
Aqua Sequin Long-Sleeve Cocktail Dress
Best Plus Size Cocktail Dresses
Choosing the right plus-size clothing for your plus-size cocktail dress is trickier as it requires understanding angles, colors, and lighting.
While black is always fashionable, shades like navy, burgundy, and emerald green are suitable for curvy bodies.
Select cocktail dresses in flowy, relaxed fabric and unique details to ensure your cocktail dress isn’t too casual or plain.
Complete the look with mid-heeled sandals and a small shoulder bag.
Instead of heavy jewelry, consider wearing a colorful silk headband for a fun touch.
Plus Size Tulip Velvet Sheath Cocktail Dress
Trendy Plus Size Ruched Cocktail Mini Dress
Trendy Plus Size Side-Tie Cocktail Midi Dress
Plus Size Embroidered Lace Cocktail Dress
Best Cocktail Party Dresses
Party cocktail dresses stand out from the overall dress code for a good reason, and here’s why.
Party means a relaxed environment where you can play with your style and showcase your unique touch.
Instead of velvet, wool, and cashmere, the best party dresses are made of silk and satin adorned with sequins and feathers.
Consider lighter hues like baby blues, vibrant greens, deep shiny charcoal, and even variations of yellow when choosing the right color.
The same applies to shoes and accessories; the colors must be fresh, young, and complementary.
Chanel Formal Sequin Feather Cocktail Dress
Add Some Flair Ruffle Detail Cocktail Midi Dress
Zoey Sleeveless Chiffon Cocktail Party Dress
Lola High Slit Satin Cocktail Party Dress
Best Long Sleeve Cocktail Dresses
Not all cocktail dresses have to be strappy, strapless or have cap sleeves.
On certain occasions, where a more understated look is required, a formal-style, long sleeve cocktail dress is preferred.
You’d also want to wear long-sleeve cocktail dresses at conservative events or on cold-weather occasions.
However, there are a few considerations when shopping for a long-sleeve cocktail dress, such as length, silhouette, material, neckline, and color.
See below a selection of the best 4 cocktail dresses with sleeves, designed to create an elegant party look and perfect for fall-winter weather.
La Femme Long Sleeve Fitted Short Cocktail Dress
La Femme Sequins Embellished Cocktail Slip Dress
Ieena Duggal Plunging V Neck Fitted Cocktail Dress
Ieena Duggal Knee Length Long Sleeve Sequin Cocktail Dress
Best Formal Cocktail Dresses
Without a doubt, the most suitable cocktail dress for a formal event remains the “little black dress.”
If made from high-quality materials, the little black dress is safe, stylish, and an excellent choice for formal dress code events and occasions.
However, if you’re very comfortable with the event and want to stand out from the crowd, you can wear a formal cocktail dress with a twist, such as a side cut.
Or, if you’re really bold, break the cocktail dress code and wear a short dress paired nicely with sleek accessories for a unique appearance.
NBD Thom Black Midi Cocktail Dress
NBD Monsieur Black Cocktail Mini Dress
Hours Miquela Emerald Cocktail Mini Dress
Sabina Musayev Ray Long Cocktail Dress
Best Petite Cocktail Dresses
Finding stunning cocktail dresses for those with different body types, sizes, and shapes has always been a big problem – not anymore.
In this section, I’ve curated four unique body-inclusive cocktail dresses from the best stores out there; give them a try!
While the overall aesthetic matters, as most petite cocktail dresses are cute naturally, pay attention to the material type and the body proportions.
From the ASOS petite clothing collection, below is a curation of some of the trendiest petite cocktail dresses right now in 2022.
ASOS DESIGN Petite Structured Cocktail Mini Dress
ASOS DESIGN Petite Sleeve Corset Cocktail Mini Dress
Topshop Petite Cut Out Satin Cocktail Mini Slip Dress
Collective the Label Petite Ruched Cocktail Mini Dress
Best Floral Cocktail Dresses
Floral cocktail outfits are lighter than what you might have worn to a winter event; lighter in terms of fabric, color, and the overall feel.
Highly suitable for outdoor parties, floral cocktail dresses are able to meet the dress code requirements while keeping you stylish and trendy.
Floral cocktail dresses symbolize new beginnings, the first flower buds popping up again after a long, cold winter, feeling fresh and rejuvenated.
Just make sure your floral cocktail dresses are made of lightweight fabric with a flattering drape for a lovely look, like those of boho styles.
To complete the outfit, match them with wooden-style block heels and similar chic accessories.
3D Floral Sleeveless Sheath Cocktail Dress
Floral Embroidered Short Sheath Cocktail Dress
Multi Blue Floral Faux Wrap Cocktail Dress
Mult Pink Floral Embroidered Flared Dress
Most Unique Cocktail Dresses
There are cocktail dresses and cocktail dresses – if you know what I mean.
For example, the category of unique cocktail dresses stands out from the rest by being designed to leave plenty of room for fun.
Designed as eye-catching ensembles, most unique cocktail dresses sport bold patterns, cuts, and materials, as the dresses selected below.
Complete the look with playful earrings and color-matching – comfortable – shoes for a bold and chic look, perfect for swanky vacation events and beach parties.
Ronny Kobo Open-Back Sequin Cocktail Mini Dress
Farm Rio One-Shoulder Fringe Cocktail Midi Dress
Embroidered Lace Cutout Cocktail Maxi Dress
Hutch Slim Lace Corset Cocktail Midi Dress
Best Designer Cocktail Dresses
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There are designer cocktail dresses in all styles and types, made to navigate the most challenging events.
Personally, I love designer cocktail dresses as most of them are cut to appear event-appropriate without making you look like you’re heading to the office.
Below I’ve curated four of the most wanted designer cocktail dress styles right now, showcasing a sweet blend of trendy and timeless sophistication.
Finalize the look with a pair of black patent shoes, golden jewelry, bracelets, earrings, and a shoes-matching baguette designer bag.
Carolina Herrera Removable Bubble-Sleeve Minidress
Christian Cowan Hoodie Sequin Cocktail Mini-Dress
Balmain Plunging V-Neck Cocktail Cocktail Midi-Dress
Herve Leger Semi-Sheer Ribbed Cutout Minidress
Best Sexy Cocktail Dresses
Choosing the right cocktail dress style to ensure sufficient sexiness but without looking like you’re heading to the nightclub can be more complicated than you think.
Some sexy cocktail dresses are more suitable for a “beach dress contest,” while others are too office-like.
What you want in a sexy cocktail dress is the perfect blend of relaxed with precise cuts, complemented by vibrant hues.
Sexy doesn’t mean too revealing, but comfortable, unrestrictive, and well accompanied by shoes and accessories, as the cocktail dresses curated below.
And, to balance the sexiness out of these dresses a bit, wear stylish cocktail shoes, a posh handbag, a statement pearl necklace, and matching earrings.
SHEIN One Shoulder Black Cocktail Dress
ADYCE Red Solid Bandage Slip Cocktail Dress
ADYCE One Shoulder Long Cocktail Dress
Dobby Mesh Sleeve Square Neck Cocktail Dress
Best Maternity Cocktail Dresses
Some of the best maternity cocktail dresses pay extra attention to the material type, the level of formality, and not just the style.
Maternity blends the level of formality a bit; thus, you can choose a cocktail dress that doesn’t impede body movement.
If you are unsure what maternity cocktail dresses are trendy in 2022, see my curation below, ideal for formal to festive events and beyond.
Coolmee Green Maternity Cocktail Dress
Everly Grey Maternity Cocktail Dress
Sparkly Glitter Maternity Cocktail Dress
Maternal America Maternity Cocktail Dress
Complete Your Cocktail Dress
While cocktail dresses for women are not strictly conservative, they must be reserved and sophisticated.
Falling between business casual and black-tie formal, the cocktail attire for women comprises not only cocktail dresses but also shoes and accessories.
The entire cocktail attire, from the dress to the bag, must showcase a nice blend of formal with smart casual and elegance with comfort.
The Cocktail Shoes
Like everything else in the overall cocktail attire, cocktail shoes should be a nice balance of fancy and casual.
Leave your boots and sneakers at home and wear a little dressier and formal shoes.
This being said, wearing tall stilettos would be overkill, so a simple pair of heels or mules are ideal for bestowing your look with a sophisticated finish.
Choose cocktail shoes in neutral colors such as black, nude, or navy.
Sandals or pump-style heels are equally subtle, stylish, and perfect accompaniments to any cocktail dress.
Jessica Simpson Wanita Black Pump
Kate Spade Happy Hour Heels
Rhinestone Decor Point Toe Slingback Pumps
The Cocktail Accessories
Accessories that match your cocktail attire are an excellent way to showcase your personality but try without going over the top.
Avoid too much jewelry or too many statement pieces that could detract from your overall ensemble. After all, a cocktail party is not Cinderella’s ball.
Try to match two statement pieces of jewelry, such as a necklace with a hair accessory, or earrings with a couple of ultra-thin bracelets, to catch people’s attention without taking away from the rest of your outfit.
Finally, choose a clutch or small purse that color matches your shoes rather than your dress, and no matter what you do, don’t bring along your work bag.
Carlita Carnivale Clutch
Dianna Soft Crystal Clutch
Cocktail Dresses FAQs
What is Considered a Cocktail Dress?
Any semi-formal dress designed to be worn at late-afternoon or early-evening social gatherings, events, or occasions can be considered a cocktail dress.
The style of a cocktail dress must answer to the transitory space between casual daytime wear and fancy evening wear.
Is Cocktail Attire Short or Long Dress?
The cocktail attire dress code requires cocktail dresses to be knee-length and designed to be worn at late-afternoon or early-evening social gatherings, events, or occasions.
Does Cocktail Mean Short Dress?
No, a cocktail dress is an outfit designed for afternoon-evening semi-formal events and occasions.
As such, it is a blend of casual and sophistication. The ideal length of a cocktail dress is knee-length.
What is Cocktail Casual Wear?
A small step above semi-formal, though not as formal as the dresses for a black-tie event, cocktail dresses confer a balance between elegant and comfortable.
The typical cocktail dress is more formal than a day wedding but more casual than a night celebration.
There you have it, all types of cocktail dresses, by season, location, and style.
But, regardless of the event type, season, or location, remember that there are strict rules for the cocktail dress code, as you’ve seen in the article above.
These rules come from the origin of the cocktail dress, designed in the late 1940s by Christian Dior, as attire intended to fill the space between casual daytime and fancy evening wear.
Aimed as a cocktail hour outfit, the cocktail dress must be dressier than the daytime outfits and a bit more casual than any formal diner black-tie ensemble.
Compared to the black and white tie dress, the cocktail dress code allows room for a personal style, with bold accessories, airy fabrics, and dressy flats.
Now it’s your turn…
Which one of these cocktail dresses is your favorite and why?
Which cocktail dresses do you think we’ve missed and should include in our next article update?
Please leave your comments below; we always appreciate your comments and use them to learn, improve, and update these articles.