50 Cocktail Dresses for Cocktail Attire Events and Parties

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Cocktail dresses are the core of any cocktail attire outfit, and it is critical to respect the dress code required at semi-formal events and swanky late afternoon parties.

However, not all cocktail dresses are made equal, and choosing the right one depends on several factors, such as the dress code, event type, weather, season, location, and more.

There are cocktail dresses designed for weddings, birthday parties, theatres, Gallas, after-work events, and even professional get-togethers.

In this article, I’ll introduce you to 50 cocktail dresses curated by our style experts by location, event type, body type, and more to ensure you respect the dress code.

Cocktail Dresses

1. Cocktail Dresses for Weddings

Bloomingdales Wedding Cocktail Dresses
Wedding Cocktail Dresses – thevou.com.

Most women think a little black dress must be the number one choice for cocktail attire.

However, a light-colored dress – like those suitable for weddings on the beach – will make you stand out from the crowd.

Materials like silky, lace, linen, or chiffon create a charming look and make you feel like a guest of honor at any event, from formal business meetings to daytime weddings.

Add a pair of flats and matching accessories to confer a stylish vibe to the overall ensemble.

Linen cocktail dress

Linen Dress With Pockets

Aqua Red One-Shoulder Long Cocktail Dress

Aqua Red One-Shoulder Dress


Ralph Lauren Ruffled Off-the-Shoulder Cocktail Dress

Ruffled Off-the-Shoulder Dress


Eliza J Asymmetric Lace Midi Cocktail Dress

Asymmetric Lace Midi Dress


Aqua Sequin Long-Sleeve Cocktail Dress

Sequin Long-Sleeve Dress

2. Dresses for Cocktail Parties

WINDSOR Cocktail Party Dresses
Cocktail Party Dresses – thevou.com.

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 60s fashion 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 complimentary.

Chanel Formal Sequin Feather Cocktail Dress

Sequin and Feathers Dress


Add Some Flair Ruffle Detail Cocktail Midi Dress

Ruffle Midi Dress


Zoey Sleeveless Chiffon Cocktail Party Dress

Sleeveless Chiffon Dress


Lola High Slit Satin Cocktail Party Dress

Slit Satin Dress

3. Long-sleeve Dresses for Evening Events

Long Sleeve Cocktail Dresses
Long Sleeve Cocktail Dresses – thevou.com.

Not all cocktail dresses have to be strappy, strapless, or with cap sleeves.

A formal-style, long-sleeved cocktail dress with a more understated look is preferred on certain occasions.

You’d also want to wear long-sleeve cocktail dresses at conservative events or on cold-weather occasions.

However, a few considerations exist when shopping for a long-sleeve cocktail dress, such as length, silhouette, material, neckline, and color.

See below a selection of the best four 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

Long Sleeve Dress


La Femme Sequins Embellished Cocktail Slip Dress

Sequins Embellished Slip Dress


Ieena Duggal Plunging V Neck Fitted Cocktail Dress

Plunging V Neck Fitted Dress


Ieena Duggal Knee Length Long Sleeve Sequin Cocktail Dress

Knee Length Long Sleeve Sequin Dress

4. Dresses for Formal Cocktail Ocassions

REVOLVE Formal Cocktail Dresses
Formal Cocktail Dresses – thevou.com.

Without a doubt, the most suitable cocktail dress for a formal event remains the ‘little black dress.’

The little black dress is safe, stylish, and an excellent choice for formal dress code events and occasions if made from high-quality materials.

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 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

Midi Cocktail Dress


NBD Monsieur Cocktail Mini Dress

Off-Shoulder Mini Dress


Hours Miquela Cocktail Mini Dress

Mini Dress


Sabina Musayev Ray Cocktail Dress

Long Dress

5. Dresses for Summer Cocktail Events

ADRIANNA PAPELL Floral Cocktail Dresses
Floral Cocktail Dresses – thevou.com.

Floral cocktail outfits are lighter than you might have worn to a winter event in fabric, color, and overall feel.

Floral cocktail dresses are highly suitable for outdoor parties and can 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 dresses are lightweight fabric with a flattering drape for a lovely look, like those of boho styles.

Match them with wooden-style block heels and similar chic accessories to complete the outfit.

3D Floral Sleeveless Sheath Cocktail Dress

Floral Sleeveless Sheath Dress


Floral Embroidered Short Sheath Cocktail Dress

Floral Embroidered Short Sheath Dress


Multi Blue Floral Faux Wrap Cocktail Dress

Floral Faux Wrap Dress


Mult Pink Floral Embroidered Flared Dress

Floral Embroidered Flared Dress

6. Dresses for Beach Events

ANTHROPOLOGIE Unique Cocktail Dresses
Unique Cocktail Dresses – thevou.com.

The category of beach cocktail dresses stands out from the rest by being designed to leave plenty of room for fun.

Designed as eye-catching ensembles, beach 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

Open-Back Sequin Mini Dress


Farm Rio One-Shoulder Fringe Cocktail Midi Dress

One-Shoulder Fringe Midi Dress


Embroidered Lace Cutout Cocktail Maxi Dress

Embroidered Lace Cutout Maxi Dress


Hutch Slim Lace Corset Cocktail Midi Dress

Lace Corset Midi Dress

7. Designer Cocktail Dresses

SAKS FIFTH AVENUE Designer Cocktail Dresses
Designer Cocktail Dresses – thevou.com.

There are designer cocktail dresses in all styles and types, made to navigate the most challenging events.

I love designer cocktail dresses; most 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, 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

Removable Bubble-Sleeve Minidress


Christian Cowan Hoodie Sequin Cocktail Mini-Dress

Sequin Mini-Dress


Balmain Plunging V-Neck Cocktail Cocktail Midi-Dress

Plunging V-Neck Midi-Dress

Herve Leger Semi-Sheer Ribbed Cutout Minidress

Semi-Sheer Cutout Minidress

8. Sexy Cocktail Dresses

SHEIN Cheap Cocktail Dresses
Sexy Cocktail Dresses – thevou.com

Choosing the right cocktail dress style to ensure sufficient sexiness 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 isn’t 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, wear stylish cocktail shoes, a posh handbag, a statement pearl necklace, and matching earrings.

Sexy Cocktail Attire

One Shoulder Black Dress


ADYCE Red Solid Bandage Slip Cocktail Dress

Red Solid Bandage Slip Dress


ADYCE One Shoulder Long Cocktail Dress

One Shoulder Dress


Dobby Mesh Sleeve Square Neck Cocktail Dress

Mesh Sleeve Square Neck Dress

9. Cocktail Dresses for Plus Size Bodies

MACY'S Plus Size Cocktail Dresses
Plus Size Cocktail Dresses – thevou.com

Choosing the correct plus-size clothing measure for a 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 suit 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.

Wear a colorful silk headband instead of heavy rings and jewelry for a fun touch.

Plus Size Tulip Velvet Sheath Cocktail Dress

Tulip Velvet Sheath Dress


Trendy Plus Size Ruched Cocktail Mini Dress

Ruched Mini Dress


Trendy Plus Size Side-Tie Cocktail Midi Dress

Side-Tie Midi Dress


Plus Size Embroidered Lace Cocktail Dress

Embroidered Lace Dress

10. Cocktail Dresses for Petites

ASOS Petite Cocktail Dresses
Petite Cocktail Dresses – thevou.com

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; try them!

While the overall aesthetic matters, as most petite cocktail dresses are cute naturally, pay attention to the material type and the body proportions.

Below is a curation of some of the trendiest cocktail dresses from ASOS’s petite clothing collection.

ASOS DESIGN Petite Structured Cocktail Mini Dress

Structured Mini Dress

ASOS DESIGN Petite Sleeve Corset Cocktail Mini Dress

Sleeve Corset Mini Dress


Collective the Label Petite Ruched Cocktail Mini Dress

Cut Out Satin Mini Slip Dress


Topshop Petite Cut Out Satin Cocktail Mini Slip Dress

Petite Ruched Mini Dress


What is Considered a Cocktail Dress?

Any semi-formal dress designed in the late afternoon or early evening at 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 Attire Mean Short Dress?

No, a cocktail dress is designed for afternoon-evening semi-formal events and occasions.

As such, it is a blend of casual and sophisticated. 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 balance elegance and comfort.

The typical cocktail dress is more formal than a day wedding but more casual than a night celebration.


There you have it: 10 main types of cocktail dresses by season, location, style, and body type.

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 dress must be dressier than the daytime outfits and 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.

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Keep up with the latest in fashion, beauty and style!

With an AA from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles and over five years of experience in the fashion industry, Susan Kim is the founder of Sum+Style Co. - a Seattle-based personal styling company turned online marketplace focused on innovative K-Fashion (Korean Fashion) styles. Kim's expertise in men's and women's styling for the most demanding occasions has her editorial pieces covered by top fashion and style magazines worldwide.

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