32 answers

How to Dress for a Cocktail Party

My husband and I are invited to a surprise 40th birthday cocktail party. I've never been to a party that is specifically called a "cocktail party" and not sure how to dress. The invitation doesn't say anything about dress code, but am I supposed to dress up or at least nicer?
I don't go to too many parties and I was hoping that some of you guys can help me.
I don't have money to buy something fancy to wear for that day or own anything fancy other than a few black dresses that barely fit me and seems too fancy.
As always, thank you all!

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Cocktail Party.

Classic Black knee length cocktail dress. Strapy High Heels.
Accessories, New Hair Cut, evening makeup and something smokin underneath for the after Birthday celebration! :) By then end of the evening -- who cares who's Birthday it is anyway. Have fun.

1 mom found this helpful

J. C~
I'd wear something slinky sexy for the party, and my husband, as it is a date! It's a 40th bday coctail party so dress up but be fun, not conservative! Ross has inexpensive, fun dresses for $30 and under.
Have fun!
L. in Collegeville
butterflylindamarie at yahoo dot com

1 mom found this helpful

Funny, Real Simple had an article about this very thing in last month's issue. Their advice was, since cocktail party can mean lots of things these days, to ask the hostess when you RSVP what the attire is or what she plans to wear. They then said, if you don't feel comfortable asking, you can't go wrong with black pants or skirt with a nice blouse or sweater, tastefully accessorized. Have fun!

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers

Dress code for a cocktail party is semi formal. Its is normal for a lady to wear a knee length to mid calf length dress. Anything longer or shorter falls out of the cocktail dress range. Mid v-neck and scoop necks are common on a cocktail dress. You want to be mildly sexy, but totally lady! Kitten heels (1 inch) to 2 inch heels are still acceptable, as are flats. Jewelry is worn, normally pearls or a signature piece.

How to keep costs down:
depends on your style
1. Shop 2nd hand/vintage stores for a great dress that looks great and is budget friendly. Go with no expectations of what to find as far as color. Be open to try a new style of dress. A great dress for all figures is a jersey wrap dress. Shirt waist dresses (think the 50's) are awesome too.
2. Don't like vintage? try H&M or other lower cost importers.
3. pearls,pearls,pearls......nuff said
4. should you decide to skip the pearls, try a chunky cocktail ring that yuo get from a fashion store or 2nd handstore
5. borrow from a friend, chances are that you have a girlfriend that bought or has a dress that suits your needs and will fit you. I know most women have several sizes in their closet- things that fit and they outgrew, but are still great!

These are just some basic ideas. I hope that you find a rockin' outfit and have a great time at your party!

2 moms found this helpful

Make Up, Hair, Heels. If you've got jewelry or skirts or dresses all the better, but with nice make up, hair and non-casual shoes, you will have done well enough. Don't worry about being too dressy, but if you wear a dress, play down the rest (less make up and hair) and you won't feel overdone. Most importantly-don't wear casual shoes, your whole posture and attitude will seem less formal. Don't wear anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or awkward (like dresses that barely fit) :). If you can, pick up a new blouse or something you will wear again-wear it with skirt or slacks, and remember, heels!

1 mom found this helpful

Funny, Real Simple had an article about this very thing in last month's issue. Their advice was, since cocktail party can mean lots of things these days, to ask the hostess when you RSVP what the attire is or what she plans to wear. They then said, if you don't feel comfortable asking, you can't go wrong with black pants or skirt with a nice blouse or sweater, tastefully accessorized. Have fun!

1 mom found this helpful

I say go for one of your black dresses. If they are a little snug, try a good pair of "all over support" pantyhose. Also, you'd be suprised what you can find in the store for even a few bucks. Wal-mart and Target even have really cute, black, cocktail dresses, some for as little as $20. For women, it's all about your accessories. Do your hair really nice, and put on nice costume jewelry with a nice shoe and you are good to go. Have fun and remember, you attitude of confidence will also dress you up!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi J.,

When I hear 'cocktail party', I think of little black dress. But with it being fall now you could always do some nice autumn colors. I would go with dressy casual, no jeans. And accessorize...a nice bag, earrings and necklace can do a world of difference to an outfit. And if you would like to buy something new but don't want to spend much money, try a consignment shop. 'Wears Like New' is a great one. I can always find really nice designer clothing for a good price. And on Fridays they have 20% off your purchase if you pay with cash. Hope this helps. Take care and God Bless. Enjoy the party.

~T.~

1 mom found this helpful

Dont stress too much, be comfortable and have a good time! :) The last wedding we attended I noticed that people just dont get as dressed up as they used to. 2 people were wearing jeans!

One of your black dresses - the one that you are the most comfortable in, or even a pair of nice pants and a dressy blouse would be fine (I think you can dress anything up with a pair of dress shoes and jewelry). ENJOY!

1 mom found this helpful

I have always found that a simple black skirt and either a blouse or sweater fits in anywhere. You can dress up the look with special jewelry instead of taking a chance on having your whole outfit be too fancy! :-) If you like to have an extra layer, you can combine a blouse with a simple sweater or jacket/blazer.

1 mom found this helpful

Check out sec hand shops or something like that. Even Goodwill has some nice dresses that are not that much. I know the feeling when it comes to dressing for an invent. I had to go to a think it was a 50th wedding anv. They where redoing there vows. I didn't find out till i got there that everyone was wearing black dresses and i had on an ivory and gold dress. Anyway. I was comfarble and is was a nice change from eveyone else. Just stop take a deep breath and wear what u think will look good on u and next to ur other half.

1 mom found this helpful

Cocktail parties are the time for the proverbial "Little Black Dress" if the ones you have don't work, a nice pair of slacks with a dressy blouse would work especially if you can match them with high heels - Also - thrift stores! amazing what you can find there and for cheap.
M.

1 mom found this helpful

J. C~
I'd wear something slinky sexy for the party, and my husband, as it is a date! It's a 40th bday coctail party so dress up but be fun, not conservative! Ross has inexpensive, fun dresses for $30 and under.
Have fun!
L. in Collegeville
butterflylindamarie at yahoo dot com

1 mom found this helpful

Any woman can rock a black dress or even black shirt and black pants! Just accessorize :-) and as one writer already mentioned H&M is a great place.

J.

1 mom found this helpful

A coctail party is a good excuse (as any) to feel sexy!!!! Definitely don't wear a dress that you feel is too tight. You'll find a dress that "has your name written on it" at (Marshalls or TJ Max) one that makes you feel like a million bucks. Remember how you used to look forward to a date in high school... how you'd pamper yourself and look forward to it all day. Sometimes I think that all we need is "intention" and the Universe conspires to make it happen. The party may be a dud, but you will have a night out with your husband! Maybe go to your favorite hang out afterwards. Have a blast! :)
N

1 mom found this helpful

I agree, black pants with a fancy top and heels is nice and easy to do. You definetly need to dress nice at a cocktail party. Have fun!!

1 mom found this helpful

Call the number for the RSVP and ask them what attire is desired for the party. I'm sure it will vary but probably a dress for a cocktail party, but it wouldn't need to be fancy. Whatever you feel comfortable in. Slacks would work as well. Just assume there's no sneakers or jeans or tees so anything besides that would be acceptable, but calling to ask if appropriate.

K. B
mom to 5 including triplets

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HarrisburgPAChat
Events, happenings and chat!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi!

The "little black dress" is the best! It's simple and elegant for any occasion! If you can swing it, maybe get some pretty silver jewelry pieces to go with it. Classic! That's all you need!

1 mom found this helpful

J.,
I have been to cocktail parties and the thing that I have worn that you just can't go wrong in is that 'lil black dress.' Nothing too fancy yet it is elegant. Simple jewelry and mid or high plain black heels.
Good luck
Christina

1 mom found this helpful

cocktail attire is usual a knee length dress for women. nothing too corporate-y, but dressy and nice. you could probably dress up one of your little black dresses with jewelry, nice heels & bag, and pretty hair and makeup.

rule of thumb: i think it's better to look over-dressed than under-dressed in situations when the dress code isn't stated, but you should definitely wear a dress to this party.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi, I haven't been to a cocktail party in awhile myself, but my opinion is to keep it simple, a nice crisp white shirt/blouse with black dress pants or a black skirt would do just fine. Keep accessories simple, and carry a clutch not a shoulder strap purse, and nice high heels. This way you will blend in with the finest dressed no matter what and won't have spent a fortune on a dress that you will never wear again. Old Navy, target or even dress barn carries nice white shirts. A striaght shift dress would work well too, in a dark color, just stay away from a lot of colors. For what its worth, thats what I would do. Hope you have fun. G

1 mom found this helpful

Hi J.,

If you are in Norristown area, check out Liberty Thrift ###-###-####, 3841 Ridge Pike, Collegevilleo near Eagleville. They have TONS of clothes, including nice dress outfits, for just a few dollars. I think a nice looking dress that fits well with some decent shoes should do. If not, find an outfit you know you look best in, and dress it up with a scarf, or necklace. Or, if you have nice black pants that fit well, buy a fancy top and wear it with heels and a coordinating necklace. There are so many fancy tops out now,there are sure to be some at the thrift shop if you don't own any. OR, you could ask to borrow something from a friend, too. Also try Impact Thrift 57 E. Germantown Pike East Norriton, ###-###-####.

1 mom found this helpful

The best advice I can give is to keep the dress UN-fussy but punch it up with a few nice (but simple) accessories. I would go with black or a jeweltone (wine, teal, emerald green). Cute heels and maybe a pair of elegant dangly earrings. Small bag. Remember: less is more!
Have fun!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi J.,

By stating on the invitation that it is a cocktail party, I believe the host is implying "cocktail dress"! Something fun and flirty. If you don't have anything like that you can dress up one of your little black dresses with some fun jewelry and some heels. Nordstroms.com and Bluefly.com have sale sections where you can get a nice cocktail dress for $50.00 if you're not picky about last seasons colors. Thrift stores sometimes have great finds. I've given lots of twice/three times worn dresses to my local thrift shop. I hope you enjoy your party.. L

1 mom found this helpful

Hi i went to a cocktail party that was hosted at someones house a few months back and i followed the Knee length black dress rule....and my husband wore a shirt & tie. Needless to say we were completly overdressed and i felt awkard. Although i don't think i noticed any blue jeans, but there were lots of people in black dress pants and nice shirts, alot of the men had on khaki pants and button down shirts. DON'T STRESS about it (but i know how you feel i am the same way :-) ) People don't follow the "party rules" anymore.
Just go and enjoy yourself i am sure you will pull something off, just keep it simple.

1 mom found this helpful

If it says "coctail party" they are probably expecting "cocktail dresses" which sounds like a little black dresss that everybody is recommending. Do you have any friends or relatives you live near you could borrow a dress from? I would also check good will and Salvation army. Sometimes there is nothing in these stores and sometimes you can hit the jack pot. Best of luck. If you get desperate, e-mail me haha you can raid my closet. :-)

1 mom found this helpful

It depends on where the party is...in someone's home? I'd wear something that is more dressy (no jeans). You can probably get away with dress pants and a fun dressy shirt...just jazz it up with jewelry and some make-up. I'm sure you'll see a gamut of different dress. However, if it's at a flashy location...I'd go with one of the black dresses.

1 mom found this helpful

A little black dress will go a long long way whether you're twenty or fourty even fifty no less. You can dress it up or dress it down with just a few assessories such as a silver bangle or bracelet. A nice simple chain around your neck if your black dress is scooped low enough to see. But more importantly, where is the event held? If it's at a resturant than I would strongly suggest a "little black dress"(design) in the color of your choice or even basic black. No glitter, something simple and age appropriate for you. If it's at a house then you could get away with some nice slacks (NO JEANS) and a dress up shirt. Cocktail meaning -they'll normally serve wine/beer.liquor along with some hor d'oevres. Not a meal, just simple little "fancy snacks". I say this so you have a better idea of what you'd wear---no a ball gown and certainly not what you drop your kids off to school kind of outfit. so yes, a bit fancy will be okay as long as it's in a nice resturant.
Hope this helps.

Mom of 4.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi,

I know exactly how you feel. Cocktail usually means that you should be wearing a knee length dress. Simple will do. Youcan be a bit more fancy though and totally get away with it. You wont stand out. I usually do a simple black dress to the knees with some fancier accessories to dress it up. You really cant go wrong with the "plain black dress", its so timeless. Go look at a Marshalls/TJ Max/Ross/Nordstrom Rack if you have one near your house. They always have tings like that at cheap prices and you can wear it again and again.
Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi. I'm not sure if this is at someone's house or a banquet room, but here's my two cents. I had a "cocktail party" at my house a couple of years ago, and called it that because I was finally having a party without kids here and wanted something a little different/nicer than the usual "come as you are" party. I was kind of going for not everyone showing up in jeans, etc. Everyone asked what to wear, some wore dresses, some pants, put mostly the women liked having the opportunity to dress up a little. I agree, don't worry too much about it...any nice pants and top you own would be fine and accessorize. Good luck and most importantly, HAVE FUN!

1 mom found this helpful

Cocktail Party.

Classic Black knee length cocktail dress. Strapy High Heels.
Accessories, New Hair Cut, evening makeup and something smokin underneath for the after Birthday celebration! :) By then end of the evening -- who cares who's Birthday it is anyway. Have fun.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi J., if you have a nice, street length black dress then you have nothing to worry about. A classic "little black dress" with hose and a nice pair of heels with a matching bag with a little bit of jewerly and your golden. Cocktail parties are "dressy" but not gown formal. Have fun!

1 mom found this helpful

I agree with the others, you can't go wrong with the little black dress. I would also check out stores like Target or Sears because they may have something dressy that's not expensive. Have fun with jewelry to dress it up and just plain have fun that night!!

1 mom found this helpful

black dress would be perfect. Black slacks nice top?

guys have it so much easier, pants shirt tie jacket when more formal

1 mom found this helpful

Below is the link to a great article in Real Simple that may help. Good luck, and have fun!

http://www.realsimple.com/realsimple/content/0,21770,###-...

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