What to Wear When… the invite says ‘cocktail’

I am now at the age where wedding invites are far more common place on my fridge than 21st invites. While that’s great, who doesn’t love weddings,  I fear I get a little flushed when deciding what’s appropriate to wear. Most wedding invites these days will offer a dress code (smart casual/ cocktail/ semi-formal) but what do these dress codes really mean..?

In this post I’m looking at what’s appropriate for a cocktail dress wedding or event, mainly because I have a cocktail wedding this weekend – I promise to get to the others another time!

Fashion Editor Kelly Hush, describes it best when she says, “Guests too often read cocktail as a menu tip — in other words, that there won’t be much to eat apart from bits of raw tuna on dry crackers. But it is, in fact, a dress code your host is asking you to adhere to.”

Basically, for women “cocktail dress”  mean’s an elegant dress appropriate for afternoon and/or evening, but not a ball gown. In fact similar style tips to race wear apply. Traditionally it was a formal dress that was knee-length or just above. However, with today’s maxi dress trends longer styles are now accepted as the norm.

Here’s some basic guidelines:

  • Length can be from just above the knee to maxi, nothing too short.
  • Nothing too formal, a formal taffeta gown or prom dress is not appropriate for a cocktail function.
  • As far as fabrics go; think lace, silk or chiffon – cotton can appear too casual.
  • Feel free to play with colours and patterns.
  • Avoid “officey” looking dresses or anything you would see on the dance floor of a tacky night club.
  • Heels are generally required, however if it’s a wedding talk about it with the bride… If she or her bridesmaids are wearing dress flats, then it’s appropriate for you to do so as well.
  • Avoid white if it’s a wedding – you don’t want to be competing with the bride, it is her day after all.
  • Be comfortable and if the weather is going to be cold take a cape or nice evening jacket.

Here are some of my favorites that are around at the moment:

Read Kellie Hush’s full article for The Age here


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