What To Wear Outside A Cocktail Dress?

When attending an event that calls for a cocktail dress, it is essential to carefully consider your outfit beyond just the dress itself. The right accessories, shoes, and outerwear can elevate your appearance and make a lasting impression. In this article, we will explore various options for what to wear outside a cocktail dress, ensuring you are both stylish and comfortable for any occasion. From elegant jackets to statement jewelry, you will find inspiration to complete your look with finesse.

What To Wear Outside A Cocktail Dress?

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Formal Events

Formal events require a certain level of elegance and sophistication in your attire. When attending a formal event, there are two common dress codes to consider: black tie and white tie.

Black Tie

Black tie dress code is most commonly associated with formal evening events. For men, this typically means wearing a black tuxedo with a matching bowtie, a formal white dress shirt, and black dress shoes. Women, on the other hand, have more flexibility in their attire. A floor-length gown or a formal cocktail dress in a neutral or dark color is suitable for black tie events. Accessorize with elegant jewelry and a small clutch to complete the look.

White Tie

White tie events are the epitome of formal attire. Men are expected to wear a black tailcoat, black pants, a white dress shirt with a wingtip collar, a white bowtie, and black patent leather shoes. For women, a full-length ball gown in a dark or jewel tone is appropriate. Consider adding a statement necklace or earrings to enhance the elegance of your outfit. It is important to note that white tie events are less common than black tie events and usually reserved for very formal occasions.

Semi-Formal Events

Semi-formal events allow for a slightly more relaxed dress code than formal events. Here are two common dress codes for semi-formal events: cocktail attire and business attire.

Cocktail Attire

Cocktail attire is usually required for events such as cocktail parties, wedding receptions, and upscale dinners. For men, this means wearing a tailored suit in a neutral or dark color, paired with a dress shirt, a tie, and dress shoes. Women have more options when it comes to cocktail attire. A knee-length dress or a dressy skirt paired with a blouse is appropriate. Opt for rich colors or prints for a more festive look.

Business Attire

Business attire is typically expected for work-related events or conferences. For men, a tailored suit in a neutral color, paired with a dress shirt and tie, is the standard. Brown or black leather dress shoes complete the ensemble. Women can opt for a pantsuit or a tailored dress or skirt paired with a blouse. Neutral colors such as black, navy, or gray are most appropriate for business attire. Avoid excessive patterns or bright colors to maintain a professional appearance.

What To Wear Outside A Cocktail Dress?

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Casual Events

Casual events offer more flexibility and comfort in your dressing choices. Here are two common dress codes for casual events: smart casual and casual chic.

Smart Casual

Smart casual is the perfect balance between casual and formal attire. For men, this means wearing a tailored blazer or sport coat paired with dress pants or chinos. A dress shirt or a polo shirt with dress shoes or loafers completes the look. Women can opt for a blouse or a knit top paired with dress pants, tailored jeans, or a skirt. Dressy flats, ankle boots, or low heels are appropriate footwear choices for smart casual events.

Casual Chic

Casual chic allows for a more relaxed and trendy style. For men, this can mean wearing well-fitted jeans or chinos paired with a stylish shirt or a polo shirt. Sneakers or loafers complete the casual chic look. Women have numerous options for casual chic attire, including jeans or skirts paired with a trendy top or blouse. Choose comfortable footwear such as sandals, boots, or fashionable sneakers to complement your outfit.

Seasonal Considerations

When deciding what to wear for an event, it’s essential to consider the season and the weather conditions. Different seasons call for different fabrics, colors, and layering options. Here are some considerations for each season:


Summer events often require lightweight and breathable fabrics to beat the heat. Opt for flowy dresses or skirts in vibrant colors or soft pastels. For men, linen suits or lightweight dress shirts paired with dress pants are suitable choices. Remember to choose open-toe shoes or sandals for added comfort.


Spring events are ideal for embracing delicate pastels or vibrant floral prints. Women can opt for light, airy dresses, skirts, or pants paired with soft blouses or sweaters. Men can choose dress pants or khakis in lighter colors, paired with a button-up shirt or a lightweight sweater. Layering with light jackets or blazers is recommended for cooler spring evenings.


Fall events allow for richer and earthy tones. Women can wear elegant dresses or skirts paired with cozy sweaters or blazers. Darker pants or dress trousers are suitable for men, along with warm-toned shirts and sweaters. Layering with lightweight jackets or overcoats is essential for cooler temperatures.


Winter events call for warmer fabrics and layering options. For women, a dress paired with tights or dress pants and a sweater is a stylish choice. Men can opt for tailored suits in dark colors, paired with warm dress shirts and sweaters. Coats, scarves, and gloves are essential accessories to keep you warm during winter events.

What To Wear Outside A Cocktail Dress?

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Accessories play a vital role in completing your outfit and adding a touch of personal style. Here are some considerations for shoes, handbags, and jewelry:


The right pair of shoes can elevate your entire outfit. For formal events, men should opt for polished dress shoes in black or brown. Women have more flexibility and can choose pumps, heels, or elegant flats. Consider the event’s dress code and venue when selecting the appropriate footwear.


Handbags are not only practical but also a fashion statement. For formal events, opt for small clutches or evening bags in neutral or metallic tones. Casual events allow for a wider range of handbag options, including crossbody bags, totes, or fashionable backpacks. Choose a style that complements your outfit and fits the occasion.


Jewelry adds sparkle and personality to your ensemble. For formal events, select elegant pieces such as diamond or pearl earrings, necklaces, or bracelets. Keep the jewelry minimal and let it enhance your attire rather than overpower it. Casual events provide more freedom for fun and trendy jewelry choices, such as statement earrings or layered necklaces.

Hair and Makeup

Your hair and makeup choices are essential in completing your overall look. Here are some ideas for hairstyles and makeup looks:


For formal events, consider classic hairstyles such as sleek updos, polished buns, or voluminous curls. These hairstyles exude elegance and sophistication. Casual events allow for more relaxed and effortless hairstyles, such as loose waves, braids, or messy buns. Choose a hairstyle that complements your outfit and highlights your features.

Makeup Looks

When it comes to makeup, keep it polished and appropriate for the occasion. For formal events, opt for a classic and timeless makeup look with a neutral or smoky eye, paired with a bold lip or a subtle nude shade. Natural or dewy looks work well for casual events, focusing on enhancing your features with light foundation, soft eye makeup, and a hint of blush or lip gloss.

Color Choices

The colors you choose for your outfit can make a significant impact on your overall look. Here are some considerations for neutral tones, bold colors, and prints/patterns:

Neutral Tones

Neutral tones such as black, white, gray, beige, or navy are versatile and timeless. They can be easily paired with other colors or used as a base for your outfit. Neutral tones are suitable for formal events, business attire, and smart casual occasions. Experiment with different shades and textures to add depth to your ensemble.

Bold Colors

Bold colors can make a statement and add vibrancy to your outfit. Red, royal blue, emerald green, or fuschia are popular choices for formal events or cocktail attire. When incorporating bold colors into your outfit, consider the event’s theme, your skin tone, and personal preferences. Remember to keep the accessories and makeup relatively neutral to allow the bold color to shine.

Prints and Patterns

Prints and patterns can add interest and personality to your ensemble. Florals, stripes, polka dots, or animal prints are common choices for casual events or cocktail attire. When wearing prints or patterns, ensure they are proportionate to your body type and choose complementary colors. Pairing a printed piece with solid-colored accessories can help create a balanced and cohesive look.

Dressing for Your Body Type

Understanding your body type can guide you in choosing the most flattering silhouettes and styles. Here are some suggestions for dressing various body types:


If you have an hourglass figure with balanced proportions, emphasize your curves with fitted clothing. Look for dresses or tops that cinch at the waist and flatter your bust and hips. Wrap dresses, tailored blazers, and high-waisted bottoms are excellent choices for hourglass body types.


For apple-shaped bodies, focus on creating balance and elongating your torso. Choose empire-waist dresses or tops that flow away from the midsection. A-line skirts, bootcut or wide-leg pants, and jackets that hit at the hip are favorable choices. Avoid clingy or tight-fitting garments around the midsection.


Pear-shaped bodies have a narrower upper body and wider hips and thighs. Emphasize your upper body with tops that draw attention to your waist and shoulders. A-line or fit-and-flare dresses, wide-neck or off-the-shoulder tops, and tailored pants in dark hues are ideal for pear-shaped figures. Avoid bottom-heavy silhouettes and excessive detailing on the hips.


Rectangle body types have a balanced shape without many defined curves. Create the illusion of curves by adding volume or definition to certain areas. Opt for fitted tops or dresses with details such as ruffles or peplum to create a waist. Wide-legged or flared pants, belted dresses, and layered outfits can add dimension and shape to a rectangle figure.

Wearing Pants or Skirts

The choice between pants and skirts mainly depends on personal preference, body shape, and the event’s dress code. Here are some considerations:


Pants are versatile and suitable for various occasions and dress codes. For formal events or business attire, opt for well-tailored dress pants or trousers in neutral colors or subtle patterns. Pair them with a dress shirt, blazer, and appropriate accessories. For more casual events, choose tailored jeans, chinos, or culottes, paired with a stylish top and comfortable shoes.


Skirts offer a feminine and elegant option for various events. For formal or business attire, choose a knee-length pencil skirt or an A-line skirt paired with a blouse or a tailored top. Complete the look with pumps or heels. For casual events, opt for maxi skirts, midi skirts, or flowy mini skirts, paired with a casual top and flats or sandals. Consider the event’s theme and your comfort level when selecting skirt styles and lengths.


When attending an event, choosing the appropriate attire is crucial to make a lasting impression. Understanding the dress codes and considering the event’s formality, season, and your body type can guide you in selecting the perfect outfit. Remember to pay attention to details such as accessories, hair, and makeup to complete your look. By following these guidelines, you can confidently navigate any social or professional occasion with style and grace.