In earlier times recommendations for cocktail attire were rather uncomplicated, today however there are many interpretations depending on the time of day, your host and the location.
Being the most popular of the dress codes, it’s important to have a basic idea of what is acceptable should you find yourself preparing for such an event.
It’s suggested that a cocktail dress should fall to the knee, but just below or above the knee is also fine.
These days a pretty little party dress is almost always acceptable for cocktail parties but mind your length, if you have any doubts … a midi dress will always work.
A soft blouse with tailored pants or a flowing skirt is very much cocktail wear, jumpsuits are also invited.
Jeans, skin-tight pants or work out wear have no place at a cocktail party and floor-length gowns will have you feeling overdressed, so save them for a black-tie ball.
When it comes to accessories, let your creativity take the lead.
Often, it’s the little things that create a talking piece.
A beloved clutch handed down from nanna or a unique piece from a local designer, second-hand shop or the flea markets may be just the thing to set off your ensemble.
Your cocktail bag should be a smaller clutch style rather than a handbag, hands-free is most practical for sipping cocktails, so opt for a style with a thin over the shoulder strap.
Your shoe choice should reflect the amount time you expect to be on your feet.
Cocktail parties are usually about two hours, so for these, you can afford to raise your heel height, for other occasions always check the duration and choose your heel to suit.
Stilettos, wedges or pumps are all acceptable footwear, keeping in mind location, stilettos and boardwalks aren’t the best of friends, choose a wider heel to hinder any hobbling (or twisted ankles).
And for the host: no matter the occasion or size of guest list, you must always be clear with your expectation of dress.
A dress code gives invitees a glimpse into the world they will be entering well before arriving at the party.
Likewise, if no dress code is provided it can cause confusion and undue stress.
It’s just as important that you prepare yourself appropriately preparty.
You cannot hope to put all the pieces into place if you’re hopping around in one shoe trying to get a curl in your hair minutes before guests arrive.
As the host, you’ll be required to sashay around the room ensuring everyone is comfortable, so it will not do to have you in a fluster.
Likewise, your choice of attire needs to be consistent with your role, and while it’s crucial you have an outstanding ensemble, never disregard comfort.
You simply cannot ensure your guests are relaxed if you’re feeling uncomfortable or unprepared.
Jacinta Emms is a Sunshine Coast-based fashion stylist. Find her column here every Sunday morning. For more styling tips, visit jacintaemms.com.