Summer Cocktail Dress Style Guide

The summer is almost upon us, which means a lot of afternoons laying out by the pool, al fresco brunches with friends, and a general whirlwind of good times! Perhaps it’s because everyone’s just so excited to shed their winter layers for bare legs and crisp cotton sundresses, but the summer season is definitely one of the busiest times for social events. If you’re finding yourself with several party invitations that all state cocktail attire, we’re all on the same boat. From impromptu beach days to sunset yacht parties, there’s just a restless energy about summer that results in cocktail parties night after night. That means one good thing: shopping for outfits to show off that new golden tan!

There seems to be more options of what to wear too, as summer’s more laid back nature definitely allows for more experimentation and can blur the lines of what’s appropriate to wear or not. For example, you could wear your favourite black one-piece swimsuit over a printed maxi skirt, whereas you won’t even think of doing that during winter! Yet with cocktail attire being a pretty broad concept that each of us might interpret differently, it can be downright confusing sometimes to figure out what to wear. Luckily, we’ve put together this handy guide so that no matter how many cocktail parties you attend this summer, rest assured that you’ll always look your best!

Cocktail party setting

Before you ponder about which dresses to consider trying on, it’s important to know the basic details of the party first, such as the time and place. These will indicate whether you should opt for a smart casual or more formal look, with the general rule being that cocktail parties at night will tend to be dressier. Other equally important factors to also consider are the host and the environment. For example, a plunging silk dress might be ideal for a friend’s birthday at a cool rooftop hotel, but if the party is being thrown by your parents’ friends at a nice restaurant or country club, you might want to opt for something more conservative.

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Switch up from your go-to LBD

We love our trusty Little Black Dresses and we’ll probably never stop wearing them, but chances are that you’ve been reaching for them all year! There’s no better time to break out of your neutral wardrobe rut than during summer, as it’s the season to play with standout prints and bright colours. Not only do these fun and playful shades look amazing against tanned skin, but they’re the easiest way to incorporate a bold style statement as the temperatures heat up. After all, when else would you want to wear that yellow cold-shoulder midi dress or the floral print chiffon mini that’s been at the back of your closet since winter?

Go beyond the cocktail dress

While a great dress is the obvious choice of attire for cocktail parties, you can always go for something different and opt for a jumpsuit or a pantsuit. For daytime events, a chic play-suit can be a good option, but again it’s always best to gauge whether it will be appropriate or dressy enough for the occasion. A pantsuit is always perfect for times when you have a work function then a cocktail party taking place right after, as you could always just change or remove your blouse for an instant party-ready look. Jumpsuits are equally as versatile and can easily be dressed up to take your look from day to night. A satin jumpsuit with a cropped wide leg will look fitting for an afternoon event, and with some statement earrings and an embellished clutch, could look as fresh for a party at night!

When in doubt, keep it simple

Sometimes it can be so difficult to decide whether you look overdressed or under-dressed! We’ve all been there, and the best thing to do in those situations is to keep your dress style minimal and to dress it up with accessories. A silk slip dress or a classic wrap dress are both effortlessly elegant and strike the perfect balance between formal and informal. Always remember that your accessories can make or break your outfit: a pair of statement earrings will instantly dress up your look, but an oversized clutch will make your outfit look more appropriate for daytime. An important rule to follow is that smaller bags are definitely the way to go for cocktail parties, and with plenty of choices from sequin fold-over clutches to rose gold box pods with detachable shoulder straps, it’s never been easier to find the perfect clutch!

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Don’t overthink it and just have fun!

At the end of the day, cocktail parties are thrown so that people can get together and enjoy each other’s company. One of the greatest things about summer is that rules are almost always broken, so the attire for summer soirées usually tend to be more flexible. Of course, some obvious things like wearing white trainers for a cocktail party just shouldn’t be done regardless of the season. The most important thing to remember is that while it can be stressful to decide what to wear and overthink your outfit, the best thing is to always be at ease with what you’re wearing and to just have fun!

Now that we’ve gone over the general rules and basic guidelines on how to dress for cocktail parties during the summer, check out our blog post for hairstyle ideas to try with cocktail dresses!

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