How to Find the Perfect Cocktail Dress for Your Next Party

An invitation has just arrived for you in the mail — or, you know, through email, social media or the group chat. You’ve been cordially invited to… a cocktail party!

After some quick internet searches along the lines of, “What is cocktail wear?” you have a slightly better idea of what the dress code may be. But you still have to find a dress capable of wowing your friends and other party goers alike when you step through the door.

Here's a quick guide to finding the perfect cocktail dress for your next event.

Think About Silhouette

Cocktail dresses for women come in just about every shape and material you can imagine nowadays — they’re an exciting twist on more classical party attire of decades past. 

Here are just a few of the options you’ll have when picking out your next dress:

  • Length: Above, at or below the knee
  • Sleeves: Sleeveless, short sleeves, long sleeves or asymmetric design
  • Neckline: Square, V-neck, one-shouldered, strapless, sweetheart, halter, etc.
  • Fit: Fitted, shift, asymmetrical, flowy
  • Hem: Straight or asymmetrical

As you can see, the general umbrella of “cocktail attire for women” can encompass anything from a floor-length maxi dress with a one-shoulder neckline to a fitted, strapless midi-length dress — and everything in between. This gives you tons of freedom to showcase your personal style.

So, start by thinking in terms of the silhouettes you find most flattering on your body.

Dig into the Dress Code

Another factor you’ll want to consider is the implied dress code of the event. Although many types of events can take place at cocktail hour, you’ll probably notice a difference in how people are dressed based on the exact nature of the party.

Your friend’s wedding asking guests show up in cocktail attire is likely to look a bit more formal than an early evening date night — the former may call for a design like the maxi-length Kimberly Dress while the latter may be an ideal occasion for a piece like midi-length Knitted Francesca Dress.

Not exactly sure what the hosts will be expecting from you? Take a close look at the design and language used on the invitation. You can also consult with other attendees beforehand, or politely reach out to the hosts inquiring about what would be most appropriate.

Consider Color and Material

You’ve thought about the shape of your dress and the dress code. Now it’s time to consider what colors and materials would suit you best.
Choosing a dress in a classic neutral color — especially black or off-white — will give you the most freedom to get creative with accessories and match shoes you already own.

As for material, you want something that looks just as stunning three hours into the party as it does when you leave home. Pro tip: Soft, stretchy materials like Jersey and Ponte fabrics allow plenty of wiggle room for dancing, enjoying hors d’oeuvres, sitting and much more.

The answer to the age-old question, “What do you wear to a cocktail party?” is basically… It depends on the dress code, your body and your personal sense of fashion. Only you can decide which garment will make you feel most confident, composed and comfortable.

Planning ahead for your next party? Explore Marcella’s full lineup of cocktail dresses for women today!


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