A long-sleeve dress with unique cuffs and a high neckline.
Knee-length dress available in navy blue and white colors and sizes 2 through 16. Has long sleeves with button closures above flowy draped cuffs. Offers a boat neckline. Has a gold zipper down the back.
Dry clean only.
This knee-length crew-neck dress is simple yet elegant and can be worn for any occasion.
This design is high quality and has a full-zippered back that creates a slimming style. The lace eyelets give the dress a bit of flare, but it's still classic enough to wear over and over again.
The underskirt is a bit short, especially if you have long legs.
Unique spin on a sheer caplet design given its embellished edges and poncho-inspired cut.
Caplet covers arms down to the upper elbow. Available in 8 colors. Simple pullover design. Made with polyester. Doesn't wrinkle as much as other material blends. Versatile dress that can be worn to semi-formal and formal events.
Dress is cut on the shorter side, and taller wearers noted it comes up short.
This cut-out strappy style is seductive and fun and sure to turn heads.
The material is lightweight and stretchy. The bodycon style has a vintage appeal to it. The knee-length hemline allows you to pair it with a blazer for work events or on its own for parties.
Material is thin, best to wear a slip underneath.
A dress with a unique neckline and sparkly bodice with a different style than the skirt.
Available in navy blue or plum colors and 3 sizes. Has a scalloped crew neckline and scalloped-edge 3/4-length sleeves. Bodice is made with lace and sequins. The A-line skirt portion is loose-fitting and knee-length.
Not available in many sizes.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Have you ever been invited to a wedding, work function, or party with a dress code that specifies cocktail attire? It’s important to know what qualifies as cocktail attire in order to dress appropriately.
A cocktail dress is a semi-formal dress that, in its formative days, was intended for early evening events. It’s an outfit that bridges the gap between a day look and an evening look. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this style of dress emerged in the 1920s. The well-known designer Christian Dior coined the term “cocktail dress” in the 1940s, giving credence to this type of attire.
A cocktail dress is a staple item you can wear in a variety of situations. This type of dress has a polished look without being over the top. When choosing a cocktail dress, it’s important to think about style, length, and fabric. You’ll also want to ponder which details — shoes, jewelry, a handbag — would best complete your ensemble.
The cut of a cocktail dress may be one of many forms. Some of the most common cuts include A-line dresses, sheath dresses, and bodycon dresses.
A-line dress: The skirt of an A-line dress is wider than its waistline, and the bodice may be fitted or loose. It's similar to a fit and flare dress, which is designed to highlight the waist and is noticeably more tailored than a full skirt. An A-line silhouette is a classic choice that is considered to be universally flattering.
Sheath dress: The sophisticated look of a sheath dress comes from its fitted (yet non-constricting) style. It has a straight cut throughout, with some options cinching slightly at the waist. Professional and chic, a sheath dress — with the right accessories — easily transitions from a day at work to an evening party.
Bodycon dress: If you’re looking for a dress to show off your figure, consider a bodycon dress, which conforms to your shape. While the material will vary, a bodycon made of stretchy material promotes more comfortable movement. These versatile dresses can be found in multiple lengths, from midi to mini.
The neckline of a cocktail dress varies as well. It may be strapless or off the shoulder, or it may have another type of neckline shape.
Strapless: With its reliance on a structured and supportive bodice, the strapless dress is a popular choice for special events. These dresses showcase your shoulders and jewelry selections.
Off the shoulder: Not quite a strapless neckline, this style has sleeves that typically fall at or beneath the collar bone. While still highlighting the shoulders, the sleeves provide coverage for the arms. The sleeves of an off-the-shoulder dress come in various lengths and may feature additional details, such as ruffles, lace, or beading.
Neckline shapes: Neckline shapes vary. The most common choices are round necklines, V-necklines, and “straight across” necklines. Here are a few other options:
A few other familiar choices include cowl necks, boat necks, and plunging necklines.
Sleeve length is another element to consider. The preferred sleeve length for a cocktail dress often depends on the season.
Common cocktail dress fabrics include the following:
A dress made of finer material such as velvet or chiffon will produce a more formal look. A detailed fabric-like lace is also common.
Plenty of variety exists in terms of dress color. Neutral shades work for virtually any season or event — including the versatile little black dress — but a bold color like red or purple can also be a fun choice.
The cocktail dress was initially designed as a shortened version of the long evening dress. As such, a knee-length hemline was standard. That said, the length of a cocktail dress could be just about anything now, from fingertip length to ankle length.
A dress with added embellishments, such as glitter or sequins, is an especially fun choice for a festive event like a New Year's Eve party.
With the assortment of necklines and silhouettes available for cocktail dresses, choosing the right undergarment is another consideration. The straps or other parts of a typical bra may be visible and appear bulky in certain cocktail dresses. And while many dresses may have a built-in bra in the bodice, additional coverage and support may be desired. There are a few ways to achieve this.
It is possible to find an on-trend cocktail dress for $100 or less. In some instances, you can find them for less than $50. However, these options will likely be made with a fabric such as polyester or rayon, the durability of which may not be as long-lasting as other materials.
If you’re willing to spend between $100 and $200, you will find dresses made of higher-quality fabric (as opposed to polyester). Often, these dresses include embellishments that make them even more special, such as beading, trim, or other details.
A cocktail dress that costs over $200 may not be the most budget-friendly choice, but it’s likely to be a well-made and stylish one. In this higher price range, you are more likely to find unique designer pieces.
The cocktail dress was historically worn in the late afternoon and early evening. However, these rules are not as strict as they once were. Many events call for cocktail attire at other times of day, from midday holiday parties to late-afternoon weddings.
Although not a requirement, cocktail dresses are usually paired with high heels. The height of the heel and style of the shoes can dress your look up or down, so shop accordingly.
Jewelry adds a finishing touch and can help elevate your outfit to the next level. Many people prefer to keep jewelry minimal and to select pieces that don’t detract from their cocktail dress.
A small clutch or handbag is a suitable choice for a cocktail dress. Avoid anything too bulky that might dress the outfit down.
A. Although heels are the standard and would likely go best with a semi-formal dress, boots or flats can be fitting. A pointed toe and quality fabric will help to dress it up more.
A. While this depends upon the season, there are several ways to add a layer, whether for the purpose of accessorizing or staying warm. If needed, a matching bolero, jacket, or wrap could work with the dress. If the temperature is cold, an overcoat would be suitable. In warm weather, there isn’t a need to add anything; the cocktail dress can stand on its own.
A. Depending on the material, the dress may need to be dry-cleaned. Check the tag on the inside to see if it’s machine washable or not. Store your dress in a cool, dry area, preferably in a garment bag for added protection.
Get emails you’ll love.
Learn about the products you’re wondering if you should buy and get advice on using your latest purchases.