If you're going to attend a cocktail party soon then you must know the following, who's going, who's hosting it? what are you celebrating? when is the party...day or night? where is the cocktail party taking place? Once you know the answers to those questions you will be better suited to know exactly how to dress.
What you can wear:
Cocktail party dress, skirt and dress shirt, dress pants and dress shirt.
Where you can get it:
Formal short or full-length evening dress/gown
Theme-appropriate costume, nothing too revealing
Business attire, remember this is not an off-duty event, so don't think that you can let loose.
Upscale casual is code for a little nicer than normal, you should dress up a bit more than on a normal day (no jeans!)
Daytime Versus Nighttime:
The time of day that the party takes place is also a factor in choosing the right cocktail party clothes.
Daytime cocktail parties are generally more casual and laid back. Both men and women can wear comfortable casual party clothing that is seasonally appropriate.
An evening cocktail party will probably be more upscale. Wear a dress or a suit, accessorize and get your hair and makeup professionally done.
Color choices such as red, dark violet, blue, gold, silver and other dark hues are good for official events, and make the wearer look slimmer.
Purple is for elegance and flirty looks. Ribbons and sequins are classic additions to cocktail dresses for the smaller-framed, while women with larger builds should not overly adorn their outfits.
One can also never go wrong with the classic little black dress for a hot and sexy look that can still be worn for casual events.
If you're still not 100% sure in your choice you should go for darker iterations of fancy neutrals. You could wear a sparkle jacket with a silk shirt and skinny black pants. To avoid being under dressed most women dress in skirts or frocks. A clutch is a must to complete your cocktail party look.
Photos of various cocktail dresses
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