What Is Cocktail Casual Attire?

Cocktail casual attire allows for party-friendly little black dresses for women, and dark-colored suits with a tie for men. For a slightly less casual look, women can add jewelry.

Traditional cocktail attire usually consists of knee length dresses for women, dark suits with a tie for men and fancy shoes for both. Cocktail casual, however, is a bit more cryptic. It is a newer designation on the dress code spectrum and has not yet been concretely defined. It means different things to different people, so partygoers who know the host well should feel free to ask for more specific instructions.

A safe bet, however, is to aim for slightly overdressed. It is a good idea to dress in layers or include accessories that can be removed after arrival. Jackets and bold jewelry can be easily left in the car if it becomes apparent they are not necessary. The location and time of the party will also give some clues. A party at the host’s home will be more informal than at a restaurant or reception. Bright colors and lighter fabrics work for afternoon or summertime get-togethers.

Jeans are most likely too informal for men and women. Instead, men should go for khakis or dark pants. If the weather is warm, rolled up shirt sleeves give a casual feel to traditional cocktail attire. In cold weather, a sweater is a good all-purpose garment that fits many occasions. Women should focus on tasteful party dresses, blouses and skirt separates, or sleek dress pants paired with a shimmery top.