How to Dress for a Cocktail Party

Dressing for a cocktail party can be a bit of a challenge. Back in the day, there were clear rules- ladies wore knee length skirts with gloves- however as society has become more causal, so has the cocktail party. Regardless, there’s still a few basic rules that will help you not only look your best, but also keep the conversation flowing.

How to Dress for a Cocktail Party

1. Comfort is Key

Blue v neck dress

The purpose of a cocktail party is to mingle and in order to truly get your “mingle” on you must be comfortable.  Wear what works for you and what makes you feel confident. Skip anything too constricting or that limits your ability to interact with others at the cocktail party

2. Work the mid game

cocktail party

The key to a dressing for a cocktail party , is work the mid game, which is to dress in a way draws people to you. For some that’s wearing something outlandish (ie fascinator hat). For others, it’s keep it simple. We suggest you take the middle road- wear something interesting enough that people are drawn to you, but basic enough that people aren’t “scared” by your outfit.

3. Color. Color. Color

Green dress with lace

Folks like the idea of the Little Black Dress. But. ladies, why not try it in any other color than black? The brighter the better  This is a little tongue in cheek, but you  might think of choosing the color of tone of one of the drinks served at cocktail parties. A blue margarita comes in a lovely turquoise.  Seriously, that would be a wonderful color to wear.

4. However, When in Doubt, Where Black.

Woman wearing black cocktail party dress

Yes black can be a bit boring, but if you’re unsure about what you should wear, then go with a basic black dress that hits right above your knee (any longer and it starts to head into formal wear territory) .  To keep it from being too basic, add a chunky statement necklace and a pair of strappy heels.

5. For the Daring, Try a Romper

Grey cocktail party jumpsuit

Rompers continue to be a big trend and, if you’re big more daring, a great outfit option for a cocktail party because Rompers can be both causal AND dressy at the same time. The “duality” of the outfit makes it for events where you’re unsure of the dress code (ie a summer outdoor cocktail party). Plus, if you’re a pants person, rompers give you the coverage of pants with the style of a dress.

Catherine Brock

Owner and Editor at The Budget Fashionista
As a Southern California transplant now living in the Midwest, Catherine has turned layering into an art form and accepted that UGGs actually do have a place in the stylish lady's wardrobe. She's been featured in Woman's World Magazine, DrLaura.com, Refinery29, Wellness.com and has made appearances on ABC7 Chicago, FOX2News St. Louis, KCAL9 Los Angeles, Fox19 Cincinnati, WGN TV Chicago and WCPO TV Cincinnati.
Catherine Brock