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.

Ming Wang asymmetrical dress | 40plusstyle.com

Ming Wang asymmetrical dress

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.

black cocktail dresses for women over 40 | 40plusstyle.com

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.

Gala (above) chooses a little black dress with embellishments.

Check out these black cocktail dress options from Love by Theia and Xscape and match with this similar pair of black pumps.

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.

Urban Coco blazer | 40pusstyle.com

Urban Coco blazer

Or how about opting for a jumpsuit?

Julia Jordan wide leg halter jumpsuit | 40pusstyle.com

Julia Jordan wide leg halter 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.

Halston Heritage embellished flare hem midi dress | 40pusstyle.com

Halston Heritage embellished flare hem midi dress

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.

Eliza J button shoulder dress | 40pusstyle.com

Eliza J button shoulder dress

3. Red cocktail dress

The best cocktail dresses and cocktail attire in stores now | 40plusstyle.com

Monika (above) looks stunning in a red dress with Gucci bag

Steal her look with this similar dress, coat and pumps.

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.

Dress the Population one-shoulder midi dress | 40pusstyle.com

Dress the Population one-shoulder midi dress

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.

Eliza J mesh cocktail dress | 40pusstyle.com

Eliza J mesh cocktail dress

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.

Leota sequin faux wrap dress

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.

Eliza J velvet sheath dress | 40pusstyle.com

Eliza J velvet sheath dress

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.

Vince Camuto popover dress | 40pusstyle.com

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.

Kay Ungar embroidered mesh overlay maxi romper | 40pusstyle.com

Kay Ungar embroidered mesh overlay maxi romper

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.

1.State pleated dress | 40pusstyle.com

1.State pleated dress

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.

Julia Jordan metallic snakeskin dress | 40pusstyle.com

Julia Jordan metallic snakeskin dress

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.

Harlyn colorblock drape cocktail dress | 40pusstyle.com

Harlyn colorblock drape cocktail dress

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.

Vince Camuto off the shoulder sheath dress | 40pusstyle.com

Vince Camuto off the shoulder sheath 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.

Pisarro Nights beaded mesh dress | 40pusstyle.com

Pisarro Nights beaded mesh dress

14. Sequin cocktail dresses

For some festive sparkle, you could choose a sequin dress.

Here is how to wear sequins after 40 in a chic way.

French Connection sequin sheath dress | 40pusstyle.com

French Connection sequin sheath 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.

Chi Chi London asymmetrical dress | 40plusstyle.com

Chi Chi London asymmetrical dress

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.

Eliza J fit & flare lace dress | 40pusstyle.com

Eliza J fit & flare lace dress

17. Navy blue cocktail dress

Another lovely navy blue option for you; this time with lace and a slight flare.

Ali & Jay wrap lace midi dress | 40pusstyle.com

Ali & Jay wrap lace midi dress

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.

Row A rib midi dress | 40pusstyle.com

Row A rib midi dress

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.

Harper Rose ruched waist jersey dress | 40pusstyle.com

Harper Rose ruched waist jersey 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.

Tadashi Shoji beaded dress | 40pusstyle.com

Tadashi Shoji beaded dress

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.

velvet cocktail dress | 40plusstyle.com

Madeline (above) looks lovely in a flattering velvet wrap dress.

Recreate her look with this similar velvet dress and ankle strap heels.

Plus size cocktail dresses | 40plusstyle.com

Tahari velvet dressRachel Roy wrap dressKiyonna lace dressJS Collections embroidered 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.

Petite size cocktail dresses and jumpsuit | 40plusstyle.com

Eliza J jacquard dressEliza J square neck sheath dressEliza J velvet jumpsuitEliza J fit & flare dress

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.

how to accessorize your dress | 40plusstyle.com

Katie (above) matches her shoes to her dress and makes her dress cold-weather ready with opaque tights and a moto jacket.

Get this similar printed cocktail dress, tights, beret and shoes to get her look.

accessories to go with your cocktail attire | 40plusstyle.com

Nina crystal minaudièreMichael Kors envelope clutchNordstrom crystal clutchGas Bijoux linear chain earringsJenny Bird cuffPanacea beaded triangle earringsBaubleBar crystal collar necklaceNordstrom 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.

shoes to go with your cocktail attire | 40plusstyle.com

J. Reneé pleated pumpEvolve half d’Orsay pump1901 bow pumpNina ankle strap pump

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.

winter cocktail dress ideas | 40plusstyle.com

Eliza J faux fur capeletHalogen fax fur capeletHalogen faux fur pull through scarfRachel Parcell faux fur scarf

Read our article on how to style your shrugs and boleros for evening dresses.

A capsule wardrobe of cocktail formal dresses | 40plusstyle.com

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?

Continue reading:

  1. The Best Dress Styles For Your Body Shape
  2. How To Choose The Perfect Little Black Dress For Your Body Type
  3. How To Dress For A Christmas Party: 11 Outfit Ideas!

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The best cocktail dresses in stores now | 40plusstyle.com

Feature image by Monika

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