7 Types of Cocktail Dresses and When to Wear Them

7 Types of Cocktail Dresses and When to Wear Them

January 23, 2022
By Lacey Nakashima

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A variety of styles and colors of cocktail dresses is a great thing to have in your fashion arsenal. Styles translate to certain events better than others, so don’t be afraid to buy different looks, even if they are out of your comfort level. If you feel great in a new style, then that confidence will ooze out of your pores and everyone will be doing a double-take all night!

Having options in various colors can also help ensure that you are ready for any cocktail event, any time of year. Having a few neutrals is also a good idea, sometimes you need something understated and the color isn’t right. Having a few deeper shades for fall and winter and as well as pastels for spring and vibrant shades for summer is a great way to always be ready for anything.

So grab your best clutch and read along as we go over the best of what cocktail dresses have to offer and where you should wear them all.

Strapless Styles

Strapless styles are a must-have for every girl. They are an easy style that is fun and can be dressed up or down depending on the type of event. A sweetheart neckline is a perfect style to keep in your closet as a staple item that will be complementary to your body shape and can be thrown on at a moment’s notice.

If you’re looking for an easy style for a spring affair, try a babydoll cut with a cute blazer overlay. If you need something more formal, try a fitted style that has an interesting detail at the bust or even a sparkly belt. A strapless option with a flowing skirt can be great for a summer or fall wedding. For a step up in fun and flirtiness, try a 2 piece style, just be sure that the pattern of the dress is more formal if you are trying to dress it up for seriously fancy affairs.

Check out these styles below:

The One Shoulder

One shoulder cocktail dresses are a great option for fancier affairs. They offer detail and style, and are a great option for all body types as the cut of the gown elongates the neckline but emphasizes the face and draws attention away from other areas if there is a part of your body you would rather camouflage.

This is a great style for a work function or a networking event. There is enough covered that the look is appropriate for conducting business, but also has trendy and interesting details to help get you noticed. If you are looking for a cocktail dress for a friend’s birthday at your local wine bar, this is a great style.

If you need somewhere to start, these are great styles to get you going:

All Over Lace

Lace cocktail gowns are either sweet and cute or sleek and sexy; there really isn’t any in-between. We love this because you can choose blush or pastel colors in lace to have a few sweet looks for spring wedding events or garden parties. Or you can choose sheer black lace or a darker color for salsa nights or jazz clubs.

Either way, lace is a classic look that will always look great at any event. Choosing the right fit will ensure that your body type is dressed to give you the best shape and the lace will give you an eye-catching detail to wow the room. This is also a great look for all those upcoming brides out there! If you are getting ready for your bridal shower or even rehearsal dinner, a lace cocktail dress is a great way to ensure that you look bridal without having to wear a wedding gown everywhere.

Consider these options if this sounds like the right style for you:

Peplum Pop

Peplum cocktail dresses are one of the most underrated styles for cocktail attire. It is a very flattering cut, all body types will benefit from the additional layer of flare skirt at the waist, and will look great at the fanciest or more casual affairs.

If you have a museum or art gallery show coming up, this is a creatively wonderful choice to really blend in with all the artists you’ll be mingling with. It’s another great style that would be right at home at a garden party, or, one of our favorite events to dress for, the Kentucky Derby! The design is funky and fun but with traditional details, so it will pair nicely with lace gloves or a big hat.

Here are some of our favorite picks:

The Long Line

Long sleeve dresses are having a serious fashion moment right now, and we aren’t going to hold our breath on them leaving anytime soon. They are sleek and have a sophisticated silhouette that compliments many body types. If your arms aren’t your favorite part of your body, long sleeves camouflage and slim your arms enough that no one will ever know.

This is the perfect style for a networking event or wedding reception. Both events require a more serious and strict dress code, but sleeves offer up enough of your body covered up that a plunging neckline or a sheer detail won’t seem inappropriate. Here are a few great styles to choose from:

Details, Details

Cocktail dresses with elaborate designs, patterns, and embellishments are another great style that can be utilized for a variety of events. Sequined dresses look fun and flirty, so if you have a high school reunion or college homecoming to attend soon, this is a great style to give off a carefree vibe.

Cocktail dresses with embroidery like a jacquard style design have a beautiful formality to them, so if you are meeting your love interest’s parents, this would be a great time to bust out this style; it is trendy and stylish but formal so they will know that you care about how you present yourself and you look doing it!

We think these are some great styles to take a look at:


The little black dress always deserves its own category. A fashion staple, the LBD will never go out of style or become too basic for any event. Black is a great color for women of any body type and any skin complexion, so it is the most universally appealing cocktail dress on the market.

Having a black dress in a few lengths and cuts will ensure that you are always ready to go for any event, fancy or casual. The LBD is a great style that can translate to anything, literally anything, so when in doubt, bust it out!

Here are a few we are crushing on now:

Get the RSVP’s Ready

Now that you know what cocktail dresses to wear and when to wear them, we are so excited for all the parties you can confidently attend really soon. Above all, make sure that you are happy, comfortable, and confident in your look and you will rock the socks off any event you have in the future.

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