How to Look Sexy and Appropriate in Cocktail Attire


Don’t let the name fool you – cocktail attire is not exclusive to cocktail parties. You can wear a cocktail dress on many occasions. Cocktail attire is slightly less formal than evening wear. You can wear a tea-length, knee-length, or mini dress or a formal pantsuit to any event specified as having a “cocktail” dress code.  

It’s acceptable to wear a low-cut dress or jumpsuit or show some leg, but you should exercise some caution. You can expose back, leg, or cleavage, but keep it tasteful, and don’t show all three.

Cocktail wear is suitable for events where a full-length evening dress would be too formal. These include dinner parties, office or business parties, Christmas or NYE parties, or a wedding. Even though cocktail attire should always be elegant, it is never boring. You can embrace fun cuts, embellishments, interesting colors and patterns, and cool accessories. Here are some other tips on how to look sexy and elegant in cocktail wear.

Beware of Hemlines

The best cocktail dress length is between mid-thigh and mid-calf. Anything shorter than mid-thigh would be considered too racy, while a full-length gown would seem overly formal. Ideally, the hemline should be around the knees.  

Choose Colors by Season

Spring is all about pastels and romantic hues like baby blue, periwinkle, rose gold, or lavender. In summer, opt for white or a bright, bold tone. Pick warm neutrals and rich earth tones in fall and deep tones like mahogany, merlot, or burgundy and luxury fabrics like satin or velvet in winter. As the holidays approach, cocktail dresses are glittering in gold, silver, and other metallic tones. Jump the bandwagon and check out Fashionisers’ piece to rock gold like your favorite celebs.

Dress for the Occasion

Consider donning an LBD if you’ve been invited to an event that specifies formal cocktail wear as the dress code. An LBD made from quality fabric that fits well is a great choice for these kinds of events. For something a little more elegant or festive, consider wearing a knee-length evening dress. A less formal code will be accepting of a sexy strapless mini dress or a knee-length dress with a high slit. Whatever you choose, don’t forget to pair it with simple, sleek accessories.

Festive Parties

Cocktail events are very common around the Christmas holidays. Whether you’re going to an NYE party or dressing for the company’s Christmas party, you won’t go wrong with a festive red or green party dress.

Business Events

Business events are challenging to dress for because there’s a fine line between appearing overly dressed up and looking like it’s just another day at the office. An elegant yet trendy dress is optimal middle ground. Pair it with discreet gold jewelry, a black purse, and black heels.

Casual Get-Togethers

For a casual get together or garden party, choose a sweet, feminine floral dress or a dress in green or blue tones with a leaf-inspired pattern or motif. For the best look, go for lightweight fabric and pair the dress with pretty accessories and block heels.

Summer or Winter Cocktail Parties

For a summer party, choose a cocktail dress in white or a vibrant hue. It should be comfortable and unrestrictive. In winter, opt for dark-colored attire, like navy or black. Obviously, thick material like velvet is best. Full sleeve and ¾-sleeve dresses are winter cocktail staples. In plummeting temperatures, take an elegant coat that matches your vibe.

Dress for Your Body Type

The right cocktail dress depends on body shape and preference in equal measure. If you have a small or moderate bust, wide hips, and narrow shoulders, wear a dress that draws attention to the top part of the torso, like a sleeveless or strapless dress or a bareback dress with a halter neckline. White and soft pastels will work best. If you have a narrow waist and thin legs, choose a style that attracts gazes to the waistline. A-line skirts are very flattering to this body type. Pleats will work too.

Triangle-shaped bodies should choose sweetheart necklines, cap sleeves, or spaghetti straps rather than full sleeve dresses or strapless gowns. Solid tones will be perfect.

Overwhelmed with All the Options?

Choosing classic black against the backdrop of splashes of gold, silver, red, and green will be a simple way to stand out. A black slip dress from satin or silk is easy, sophisticated, and foolproof. The best accessory is a simple, sleek hairstyle.

Not a Fan of Dresses?

If you’re feeling creative and the venue is casual, you can opt for a jumpsuit or even jeans with a flashy top and attention-grabbing heels. For an elegant and comfortable look, go with a sleek blazer and trousers combo.

Spice Up Your Look with Accessories

Clutches, small purses, and jewelry are mandatory cocktail attire. Choose a handheld purse that will hold the bare necessities, like a top-handle or clutch. Leave anything shopping bag-sized at home because these events are no-carryall!

To complete your elegant cocktail look, don’t forget the jewelry. You’ll go far with signature pieces like shoulder-sweeping crystal earrings. Choose accessories that are exciting, trendy, chic, and attention-grabbing to look ready to party without compromising on elegance. However, take care not to wear too many statement accessories. You don’t need more than one central one, be it a piece of jewelry, a sparkly clutch, or a glamorous hairstyle.

Hairstyles for Cocktail Parties

On that note, we close this piece with a list of hairstyles to add the final touch to your cocktail party look. If you’re a ponytail fan, you can choose between a sleek ponytail, a wraparound, a middle part, or a polished ponytail. Updo options include braided, sleek, or low chignon updos. Any braided hairstyle will work, as will a simple top knot.

Final Thoughts

Cocktail dresses are frequently made from luxury materials like velvet, silk, or satin rather than linen or cotton. These fabrics may be embellished with appliqué, sumptuous beadwork, rhinestones, or sequins. Cocktail outfits are extremely versatile, and it’s not hard to craft one well. Don’t forget to keep it the right length, consider the dress code and occasion, choose color according to season, and accessorize well! 

Author Bio: Jonah Levine is the Creative Director of was launched in 2018 as the go-to online source for amazing prom dresses on sale. With 10 years of experience in the industry, Jonah works daily to scour the evening wear markets to find the hottest styles and to negotiate the best prices for special occasion wear on the internet.