How To, Style

How to Wear Cocktail Attire at Any Age

We have a number of events coming up, so I’m reviewing my wardrobe for cocktail attire! After the pandemic, most of our events have been black tie, so it’s fun to revisit and refresh what I have for the spring and summer. While we’re out of the phase of our lives where everyone is getting married over the summer, we have a number of school functions, cocktail parties, and other events coming up quickly. That being said, these suggestions also work for cocktail attire weddings! I hope you find this guide helpful, and please let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below. And if you’re attending a black tie event this year, don’t forget to check out my black tie guide here!

Reminders When Dressing

My goal for dressing for a cocktail attire event is always comfort and elegance. As these events generally involve a lot of standing, shoes that won’t kill your feet are crucial, and a dress that makes you feel good is just as important! I find it so important to choose an outfit that makes you feel confident. It’s hard to shine at an event if you’re constantly adjusting your dress! Be sure your dress isn’t translucent (you never know where the light will be shining), or too short (what if you drop something?), or too revealing (especially if you’re at an event when you’re trying to make a good impression!) When you’re trying on your dress, whether at a store or at home, be sure to practice moving, holding a drink, and–crucially–eating!

What to Wear

Dress: Self-explanatory! Make sure your dress fits you, that you can move in it (walking, lifting your glass to your lips, and eating), that you feel comfortable in it!

Jewelry: If you are married, wear your wedding and engagement rings, even if you usually only wear your wedding band (as I do, in daily life.) Wear special jewelry you don’t often have the chance to wear–the rule according to Miss Manners is, unless tastefully set in a wedding or engagement ring, the following should never be seen in daylight: diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds.

Shoes: Comfort and elegance, always! This is especially crucial for a cocktail attire event, when you’ll likely be standing and circulating. I love my Ferragamos, which are elegant and extremely comfortable

Clutch: If you have the option of a clutch with a shoulder or wrist strap, that is ideal so that you can juggle your drink a little bit easier!

Hair and makeup: You may have a signature style, or you may enjoy switching things up now and again. Whatever you choose, make sure that you feel like you!

Where to Shop

Beyond the Big-B department stores, Rent the Runway, and similar shops, here are some of my favorite places to find cocktail dresses and accessories.

Ann Mashburn

CK Bradley

Molly Moorkamp*



Shopbop* (I love their collection of Ferragamos*)

Saks Fifth Avenue*


The SIL Shop

And your local opportunity shops! I’ve found stunning clothing at some of ours for a fraction of the cost.

2 thoughts on “How to Wear Cocktail Attire at Any Age

  1. And practice sitting in your dress! It can be crucial to make sure the dress isn’t too short, buttons/fasteners don’t gap, etc. A lesson learned from experience 🙂

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