What Is Cocktail Attire

Cocktail attire dictates the clothing men and women wear to events like birthday parties, fundraisers and work functions. If cocktail attire is recommended in an event's announcement or invitation, it is important to keep this in mind while dressing or shopping for an event. You want to strike a style balance: more dressed up than  you would be for work, but not too formal.

Women
For women, cocktail attire often translates into wearing a short dress that is dark in color. If you wear a brightly-colored cocktail dress, make sure it is simple in design. Similarly, be sure to consider the length of dress. Cocktail attire doesn't mean busting out a floor-length gown. Instead, it means going for a simple yet elegant look. Dresses that fall just above, at or below the knee are considered cocktail attire.

Women may opt to wear slacks and a blouse to cocktail-type events. If this is the case, try wearing a nice pair of trousers with a silk or satin blouse. Women may dress up such a look by adding a fitted blazer and jewelry like pearls.

Men
For men, cocktail attire means wearing a dark suit. Though you may be dressed up for an event, you are not expected to wear a tuxedo. Black and navy blue suits are the most common choices for cocktail attire. Another option is to go with light or dark-colored khakis and to pair it with a dark blazer. Ties are generally optional.

The Final Touches
Shoes for both men and women should be subtle. Women can wear heels, but they should not be too high in height nor should they be too flashy. Similarly, jewelry should also be kept on the subtle side. You can't go wrong with a classic pair of cufflinks or a nice pearl necklace. 

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