A cocktail dress is a women’s party dress that is suitable for many social occasions, such as holidays and weddings. It typically falls above the knee, and can be found in a variety of designs, fabrics, colors and prints. A cocktail or party dress is a wardrobe essential, especially in its most classic form, the little black dress, or LBD.
Christian Dior coined the phrase “cocktail dress” in the late 1940s to describe the style of dress a woman would wear in the early evening—fancier than daytime wear, but more informal than an evening gown. The first semi-formal cocktail dresses were longer than dresses today, often falling just above the ankle. This style of evening dress was popularized by—you guessed it!—Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Two For the Road. And who can forget the importance of the cocktail dress for Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman?
We’re willing to bet that cocktail hour finds you in jeans and a cute top more often than in a cocktail or party dress. While past generations may have glammed it up a bit more for a martini or two, we’ve become less formal over time. Today, cocktail dresses describe they style of dress you would wear to a semi-formal occasion like a party, wedding, or other event that calls for more than say, a sundress, but less than a floor length formal gown. That being said, it’s probably a good idea to keep a cocktail dress on hand for special occasions.
A little black dress is always a good starting point—it’s versatile and makes a great canvas for accessorizing. From there, the sky is the limit! Cocktail and party dresses come in a variety of designs, like strapless, sleeveless, short sleeved, and even long sleeved. Some cocktail dresses are simple, calling for statement accessories, while others are embellished. A complete cocktail or party dress outfit calls for an elegant shoe, a clutch or evening bag, and some fun bling.