Have you received an invitation which says “cocktail attire” this season? Or do you just need a fabulously versatile dress for any occasion?
Well the cocktail dress is your answer. It’s one of the most versatile, stylish dresses you can have in your closet. But it’s more than that. The best cocktail dresses can take you from semi-formal to more formal occasions.
What exactly is a cocktail dress?
Put simply, it’s a knee-length dress you can wear for everything from dinner to parties.
To help you in your quest for the perfect dress, you’ll find below some of the best cocktail dresses in stores right now, as well as how to wear them.
A classic cocktail dress can take you anywhere.
The most important thing when choosing a cocktail dress is – do you feel good in it?
Cocktail dresses as a dress code
If you’re invited to an event where the dress code says “cocktail attire” you can’t go wrong with a dress with finishes either just above, or on the knees, worn with heels.
However, just because a cocktail dress tends to be a certain length, that doesn’t mean you can’t choose a dress which suits your individual body type and style.
You can opt for a dress with sleeves, a sleeveless gown, one-shouldered or strapless.
Cocktail attire for women when you don’t want to wear a dress
What if you simply aren’t a dress kind of person? Or you don’t fancy wearing a dress that night?
Don’t worry, the cocktail attire dress code is not quite as formal as it once was.
You could always channel your inner Marlene Dietrich, Josephine Baker or Katharine Hepburn and choose a tuxedo jacket and pants instead.
Or how about opting for a jumpsuit?
The best cocktail dresses in stores now
But if you are looking for a beautiful, classic cocktail dress which will take you to everything from dinner to a party, here are some of the best options for women over 40 in stores now.
1. Black cocktail dress
You can’t go wrong with a little black dress.
You can always stand out from the crowd by looking for one with interesting details such as an embellished neckline or flared hem.
2. White cocktail dress
While you will definitely find plenty of black dresses at any cocktail party, how about wearing white?
You can make your white dress winter ready by pairing with black accessories and a black shrug for a stylish, monochrome look.
3. Red cocktail dress
Asymmetric detailing is always on-trend. If you aren’t keen on showing off certain parts of your body, such as your tummy, then maybe you could opt to show off a bit of shoulder instead.
4. Sexy cocktail dresses
What is sexy is definitely a matter of opinion. Personally, I don’t think a sexy dress has to be one that is overly revealing.
While there are some dresses with sheer paneling which I would be wary of wearing, a dress like this manages to be both demure and sexy at the same time.
Plus, there’s a bit of arm coverage if you aren’t too happy with your upper arms.
5. Long sleeve cocktail dresses
If you aren’t keen on showing your upper arms, or you opt for a hemline which is a little shorter and you want to balance that out, there are lots of long-sleeve options in stores at the moment.
For more inspiration, take a look at the best dresses with sleeves.
6. Cocktail dresses with sleeves
Here is another stylish, yet simple option for you if you are looking for dresses with some arm coverage.
Velvet is one of those fabrics that really comes into its own during the cooler months, adding a luxe look to any outfit.
You could add a touch of velvet on your cocktail dress, or maybe try a velvet blazer or pair of velvet boots.
7. Green cocktail dress
The little black dress is definitely a stylish woman’s best friend.
But, I love all of the lovely jewel colors that are in stores now for fall and winter events, like this Vince Camuto popover dress.
8. Long cocktail dresses
While a cocktail dress is usually classed as being on or just above the knee, you should be able to get away with wearing a longer gown to a cocktail party.
I love the uniqueness of this dress, which is actually part pants, part dress. There’s a pair of slim pants underneath with a dress worn over the top.
It definitely appeals to my fondness for wearing dresses with pants.
9. Pink cocktail dress
Just as red will help you stand out from the crowd, pink could be another option to consider.
I’d opt for a deep shade rather than pastels if you are attending a winter event, although if you do have a paler pink dress, you could always wear with a black jacket or bolero and black accessories to make it more seasonally-appropriate.
10. Gold cocktail dress
For a luxe look, how about gold? It was one of the major color trends seen on the winter and fall catwalks for this year.
11. Blue cocktail dress
Rather than a little black dress, how about a little navy blue dress?
Navy can be more flattering against your face than black. You could add even more drama by opting for a color-block style.
There are more ideas here on how to color block.
12. Off the shoulder cocktail dress
Everyone has certain areas of their body that they are happy to show off, and other areas that they prefer to cover.
If you have great shoulders, you can draw attention to them with an-off-the-shoulder dress.
13. Purple cocktail dresses
For something a little different to the usual black or navy, how about opting for a deep purple or plum?
More ideas here on how to wear purple.
14. Sequin cocktail dresses
For some festive sparkle, you could choose a sequin dress.
15. Yellow cocktail dress
Do you love to wear yellow? I know it’s one of those colors which is a bit like Marmite – you either love it or you hate it.
But you can almost guarantee no one else will be wearing a yellow cocktail dress, so you’re sure to stand out from the crowd.
You could team with black or gold accessories.
16. Lace cocktail dress
Choosing a cocktail dress can be a great way to play around with textures such as sequins and lace.
For an extra luxe look, you could team with a faux fur bolero.
17. Navy blue cocktail dress
Another lovely navy blue option for you; this time with lace and a slight flare.
18. Silver cocktail dress
Do you prefer gold or silver? If you’re more drawn to silver, you could opt for a silver dress for your dinner or event.
A wrap dress with some ruching or draping will be particularly flattering.
19. Burgundy cocktail dress
There are some colors which tend to look particularly good during winter and fall, and burgundy is one of them.
A deep burgundy is another good option if you want to wear a deeper color but you would like something different from your usual little black dress.
20. Black and white cocktail dress
What could go better with black, than white? A monochrome look always looks very stylish and classy.
You could always add a pop of red with your shoes and accessories if you want some additional color in your outfit.
Plus size cocktail dresses
Are you looking for a plus size cocktail dress this year? Thankfully, there are plenty of beautiful options in stores now, for all shapes and sizes.
Madeline (above) looks lovely in a flattering velvet wrap dress.
Petite cocktail dress
If you’re petite, it can be tricky to find a dress which falls at knee-length rather than being too long for you.
Look out for brands which have petite ranges to get the right fit. A jumpsuit would also look great on you.
There’s more inspiration in how to dress if you are petite.
accessories to go with your cocktail attire
Of course, if you have chosen a beautiful cocktail dress, you will need equally beautiful accessories to go with it.
Here are some of the best shoes, wraps and jewelry to wear with your cocktail attire.
Katie (above) matches her shoes to her dress and makes her dress cold-weather ready with opaque tights and a moto jacket.
Nina crystal minaudière – Michael Kors envelope clutch – Nordstrom crystal clutch – Gas Bijoux linear chain earrings – Jenny Bird cuff – Panacea beaded triangle earrings – BaubleBar crystal collar necklace – Nordstrom shimmer wrap
shoes to go with your cocktail attire
I’ve stuck to a palette of black, gold and silver here as they will go with any cocktail dress, as well as adding a pop of red.
I would opt for classic pumps or sandals to go with your cocktail dress.
If you don’t want to wear very high heels, you could look at kitten heels or block heels, which will be more comfortable.
Also take a look at the these stylish heels that are comfortable to wear.
winter cocktail dress ideas
If you are wearing your cocktail dress for a winter dinner or party, you will definitely need to stay warm on your way to the event and, depending on the temperature inside, you may wish to keep a wrap over your shoulders.
Faux fur adds a glamorous touch.
Read our article on how to style your shrugs and boleros for evening dresses.
cocktail dresses for weddings
A cocktail dress can be a beautiful option for a wedding. Any of these dresses would be a good option for you if you are a wedding guest, although you may want to avoid wearing white.
Take a look at what to wear to a wedding.
Do you already have a lot of cocktail dresses in your closet? What events will you be wearing yours to this fall and winter?
- The Best Dress Styles For Your Body Shape
- How To Choose The Perfect Little Black Dress For Your Body Type
- How To Dress For A Christmas Party: 11 Outfit Ideas!
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Feature image by Monika
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