Cocktail attire. It’s the two words men dread. You’ve got black tie and smart casual down to a tee. But what exactly is cocktail attire? Are smart jeans and a blazer acceptable? Is a tie required? And what about shoes, surely trainers don’t cut it… or do they? Not to worry. You can finally relax because we’re going to decode this cryptic dress code for you. So sit back and relax, you’re about to learn the most useful style lesson you’ll ever receive: how to dress for a ‘cocktail attire’ dress code.
What is cocktail attire?
During the 1920s it became fashionable to host cocktail parties occurring before dinner and after work, i.e. between one’s daytime casual attire and their formal evening wear. Therefore, a dress code soon evolved to cater to this grey area of social sartorialism: cocktail attire. Bridging the gap between the contrasting formalities, cocktail attire can be considered semi-formal, for the occasions where a little cultivation is required.
When is this dress code acceptable?
Of course, this dress code is designed for cocktail evenings and parties. However in the modern context, this could apply to special birthday dinners, anniversaries, weddings and events such as the races or Wimbledon.
So, what do I wear?
Cocktail attire will differ from occasion to occasion. However, simply put, this dress code is basically asking you to dress up, dress sharp, and look the part. Depending on the event, you have some flexibility with what you wear. For example, a wedding cocktail dress code should be elegant and classic, not drawing attention away from the couple. If you’re attending a New Year’s party with a cocktail attire dress code, you have room to infuse some personality and playfulness into your outfit. Despite the variations, a smart jacket is essential for a cocktail attire dress code, and as long as you have this key piece, you’re look is almost complete.
- Avoid jeans if you’re unsure what to wear. Jeans are inherently casual, and whilst it’s easy to dress up a smart pair of jeans, trousers are a much safer bet for a cocktail party. This rule also applies to trainers. In my opinion, a dress shoe is a necessity for a sleek cocktail look.
- Use ties, bow-ties, pocket-chiefs and jewellery to channel your personal style. There’s nothing worse than an over-the-top or eccentric suit that sticks out like a sore thumb at a formal occasion. What may be stylish to you may not be to everyone else, so keep it simple and clean with the foundations of your cocktail attire. A patterned tie or striking piece of jewellery is a much classier way to add a twist to your cocktail ensemble. So ditch the bold patterns and showcase your refined approach to fashion.
- Three things to consider: location, occasion, time. All of these variables will impact what you wear for a cocktail attire dress code.
- Don’t wear a black suit to a cocktail party. Ever.
- Sports socks are a no-go. You can wear some jazzy socks, but keep it classy and not clownish.
- A white button-up shirt is your best friend. Invest in a chic white shirt and it will see you through every cocktail attire dress code.
Why not add some refined touches of detail with a piece of jewellery?
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