Cocktail Dress Code: What is a Cocktail Dress?

So, you’ve been invited to a function and the dress code is ‘cocktail’, but you’re not sure what that really means. Let’s look at what that means in today’s terms.

Cocktail dresses for women

In a nutshell, a cocktail dress is a semi-formal, elegant dress suitable for late afternoon/evening. Traditionally, a cocktail dress has been described as a short dress (ie knee length), however with the maxi-dress trend, this doesn’t necessarily apply. So really, a cocktail dress is more about how dressy the dress is, rather than the length. Although, we’re not talking ball gown here. And save the super-short dresses for clubbing.

A cocktail dress:

  • is elegant
  • may be any length from just above the knee to the ankle
  • can be any colour (not necessarily black)
  • is suitable for late afternoon/evening
  • is generally worn with high heels
  • can be made from any type of fabric (lace and sequins are entirely appropriate, but not absolutely necessary)
  • may be strapless, off the shoulder, have one shoulder strap, or have sleeves
  • may actually be a skirt or pants and dressy top.

A cocktail dress is not:

  • a full length ball gown
  • a clubbing dress
  • a beach dress
  • an office/work dress.

Some cocktail dress examples:

Find cocktail dresses online

Check out the latest cocktail dresses in our store where we pull together all the best dresses from various online retailers – updated daily!

Store categories

About Lisa Edwards

Lisa loves a fab frock. In fact she spends many hours pouring over the latest styles from around the globe. For inspiring cocktail dress images, you might like to follow her on Pinterest. Or alternatively, like her page on Facebook or connect on Google+ if that's your thing.