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What to Wear to a Cocktail Party

What to Wear to a Cocktail Party

Four rules of thumb for dressing appropriately for your next social gathering

I received an invite to an evening cocktail party earlier this month. Now the old me would worry and worry about what to wear, wondering what in the heck to wear. However, the new me doesn’t have that problem because I’ve decided with events like these that it’s always better to be a little overdressed than it is to show up casual when every other woman in the room is wearing a little black dress.

So now, when I get an invite such as this where the invite vaguely states “cocktail”, I dress up as if I were going to dinner or drinks with my girlfriends. You know the staples for a swanky yet casual event…like a skirt and shiny tank, heels and a LBD, a few statement-making accessories such as heels or sparkly ballet flats and a dressy pashmina.…so that I look nice, but not floor-length gown nice!

Here are four rules of thumb that I use when deciding what to wear to a cocktail party…

  1. Choose casual clothes in shiny fabrics. I don’t like to overdo it too much when attending a cocktail party so I like to make a basic black skirt or pants and pair this with an otherwise casual piece—like a blouse, sweater, tank, or tailored blazer—but in a classy fabric. For instance, you can imagine how much dressy a silk blouse looks than a regular cotton blouse. The sheen in the silk fabric really takes the luxury up a notch. You can also choose quite pieces that are embellished with sequins, leather, ribbon, lace, or bejeweled to really dress up an outfit to go from work to an evening cocktail event.
  2. The must have little black dress. My advice is that it’s always a wise investment to buy a classic little black dress (LBD) that you can top with a blazer, cashmere cardigan, or pashmina to take from office to evening out. Speaking of which, I just had this conversation with my daughter when she choose her dress from prom. I said, better to select from a line of prom dresses in a shape that flatters your body type, and then to pick a quality beautiful fabric that you can wear over and over again to events, making it look new again with different accessories, belts, and shoes.
  3. Make a statement with accessories or shoes. Taking the previous point one step further…one can always make an outfit look trendier by pairing it with statement-making accessories—i.e., a chunky necklace and earrings, or an animal print clutch and matching shoes. I’d much rather spend my money on classic pieces (i.e., a great pant suit, sheath dress, or black skirt) and use trendy accessories to achieve the style of the moment.
  4. Pops of skin-flattering color. There are several ways to bring a little color into your cocktail dress. Try pairing a classy pant or dress suit in a neutral color (i.e., black, cream, grey, or blue) with colors that set off your eyes, your hair color, and your skin tone. And don’t go overboard with color. Instead; choose a bold jewel tone (i.e., like fuchsia, cobalt blue, aqua, burnt orange, cherry red, or gold) to really make an otherwise classic, well put together outfit pop!
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