Close this search box.

The do’s & don’ts of the cocktail dress code

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 20: Actress Elle Fanning attends "The Neon Demon" Photocall during the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival at the Palais des Festivals on May 20, 2016 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Alex B. Huckle/Getty Images)

Dress code 101

Different types of events can be some what difficult to plan for. Formal, semi-formal, black tie, casual… What do they all actually mean?

The most perplexing of all, in fact, is cocktail. What are the specifics of such a request? How do we know that we are not going to turn up sticking out like a sore thumb, feeling extremely uncomfortable for the duration of the evening? (FYI, I’ve been there and it sucks – as this has been a regular occurrence for me, some might say I’m an expert, having learnt the hard way).

Here is a carefully curated a list of dos and don’ts to help navigate you in the right direction so you can feel confident and #posh all night long.

Lets start with the basics:

DON’T: Let it all hang out

No one likes to see too much skin showing at a respectable event. Keep your hem length 2 inches lower than your club dress and your neckline a little higher than your town tank. Just keep extremes like thigh splits and plunging necklines to a minimum, ‘k? Don’t worry, you can still do sexy without being overt.

DO: Keep hem lines appropriate & waists cinched in

Just because your length is to the knee doesn’t mean we can’t be sexy in other ways, right? Right! Cocktail is the perfect dress code to try a mid-length, or a body con – or at least a fitted dress that’s tailored to your shape.

Try: Liam wrap dress, $249

Liam $249

DON’T: Wear daytime attire

TBH cocktail is defo not an event where you can transition your day outfit to night time. Make an effort ladies; jeans are off the cards for this one.

DO: Wear a chic AF pair of trousers

Good news is yes, you can wear trousers – trade in your Levis 501’s for a pair of sleek satin widelegs or a high-waisted straight leg.

Try: Glassons trousers, $49.99 

Glassons pants, $49.99

DON’T: Carry a big AF shoulder bag

This is not a rule as such, more of a tip, if you will. Although a shoulder bag has many benefits when it comes to practicality, it can seriously ruin the charm of an outfit. Don’t forfeit your effort on the rest of your ensemble because a shoulder bag is more sensible.

DO: Bring a clutch or evening bag

A glitzy little clutch is always a great choice. I would suggest opting for one with a detachable strap in case you would like to go (as I call it) ‘hands-free‘ for the evening. There is nothing more annoying then trying to juggle a glass of Champagne, a clutch and still be able to shake someone’s hand gracefully. My clutch essentials include: lipstick, lip liner, face powder, a small perfume bottle (Chanel Mademoiselle works a treat) and breath mints.

Try: Seed Heritage clutch, $89Seed Heritage clutch, $89


DON’T: Go OTT with the accessories

It’s tempting to be coaxed into the sparkling charm of multiple accessories, but my advice is, don’t do it! Multiple accessories can end up looking tacky and totally distracting. Haven’t you heard the rule of removing one thing before you leave the house? Do that once and then do it again.

DO: Choose one incredible piece of statement jewellery

My personal pick is a fabulous pair of statement earrings. They can do absolute wonders to an outfit, especially one where you have bare shoulders and exposed decolletage. If earrings aren’t quite your thing, a high strung necklace or choker is great, or even a statement cuff.

Try: Christie Nicolaides earrings, $257CHRISTIE NICOLAIDES, $257

DON’T: Wear a floor length gown

FYI it’s not the Met Gala and you’re defo not Rihanna. As stated above in the ‘don’t’ category regarding casual dressing, the same rule applies here for over-dressing. Standing out is great but there is a big difference between that and stealing the show. Totes inappropes IMO…

DO: Wear a midi dress

A mid-length dress is the definition of perfection for a cocktail event. You can really play with different neck lines for this particular style. Off the shoulder, one shoulder, strapless, high neck – the world, or party, is your oyster!

Try: Topshop dress, $422

Topshop $422

DON’T: Wear flats

A faux pas indeed. For such an event you will need to elevate yourself, metaphorically and physically, if you get what I mean. It is most definitely the occasion to pull out and dust off the amazing pair of high heels you bought on a whim that one time. It’s only one night and sore feet are simply part and parcel of looking phenomenal.

DO: Wear heels

This does not necessarily mean sky-scraper stilettos (please refer to my fantastic selection of non-nana kitten heels here) but heels indeed are the way forward in this case.

Try: Pura Lopez heels, $374 from The Iconic

Pura Lopez heels, $XXX from the Iconic

DON’T: Be boring

Cocktail is most definitely your time to shine when it comes to colour and pattern. Jewel tones are not overrated!

DO: Be bold!

A bold colour can be truly striking. Try yellow for olive toned skin, green for pale skin and red hair, blue for dark skin tones, and pink or red for blondes.

Try: Topshop Unique dress, $550

Topshop, $551

Words and styling: Jess Thomson
Photos: Supplied


Most Popular

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts