Got an invite to a summer soiree that calls for “cocktail attire” and not sure what exactly that means. Don’t fret—cocktail attire is one dress code that’s not hard to master. Summer cocktail attire calls for stylish outfits that are in between casual and formal. Dressing appropriately in cocktail attire ensures you’ll be dressed to impress for the event.
Cocktail attire can be thought of as semi-formal—more casual than formal wear, but not so casual as jeans and a top.1
Just make sure your outfit includes a few glam details like luxe fabrics, a flirty silhouette, and a sparkly accessory or two, and you’re sure to nail the look. Now, if you’re ready to cook up the perfect summer cocktail outfit, keep reading. We’ve put together 5 killer looks sure to inspire, along with tips for choosing the right outfit for any summer gathering.
What Is Summer Cocktail Attire?
Summer cocktail attire is a dress code for events or occasions that are somewhat formal but not black-tie formal. It’s an ideal dress code for warmer weather since it allows for more relaxed and breezy textiles.
- For men – Nailing the men’s cocktail dress code usually involves a lightweight and well-tailored suit in a light color or a linen blazer with dress pants. They can pair it with a complementing dress shirt, tie or bowtie, folded pocket square, and leather dress shoes or loafers to elevate the look.
- For women – Outfit options include summer cocktail dresses (of course!), a skirt or dressy pants with a blouse, or a jumpsuit in lighter fabrics like cotton, chiffon, or silk. For most summer events, you can also ramp up the color and go for alluring details like peekaboo cutouts and shorter hemlines. Accessorize with jewelry, a clutch or shoulder bag, and heels or dressy sandals.
In general, the idea is to look put-together and polished while also being comfortable in warm weather. Aim for casual cocktail attire that’s light, breathable, and colorful, with a touch of sophistication and elegance.
When Should You Wear Summer Cocktail Attire?
Summer cocktail attire is appropriate for a wide range of events, from weddings to charity galas to garden parties. If the event specifies “summer cocktail attire” or “cocktail attire,” of course, you’ll want to dress accordingly. If the dress code is unspecified, cocktail attire is typically a safe middle ground.
It’s always better to err on the side of dressier rather than too casual, so don’t be afraid to amp up your look with a show-stopping summer cocktail dress and your best accessories.
5 Gorgeous Summer Cocktail Outfits
Whether the dress code is cocktail wedding attire or for a summer cocktail occasion, you know what summer cocktail attire is and when to wear it, here are a few outfit ideas to help you put together a stunning look for your next summer cocktail party.
#1 The Modern Maxi Dress
A flowy maxi is a tried-and-true favorite for any summer garden party, wedding attire, or beachside get-together, but why not try a more modern take on the classic sundress?
The Phoebe Detail Long Dress in Off-White updates the flowing lines of your favorite maxi with a more curve-hugging fit. The hand-embroidered bodice and keyhole cutout under the bust add some edge to the clean-lined silhouette. Pair it with:
- Minimalist jewelry like a simple metal collar-style necklace and pendant earrings
- A low-heeled sandal or pump
- A clutch or shoulder bag in a neutral tone
#2 The Updated LBD
When it comes to cocktail attire, the little black dress is a timeless party dress choice that’s never out of place, and it’s more beloved than ever. 2 If you’re in doubt as to how dressy the cocktail event will be, you can’t go wrong with this classic look.
To ensure that your LBD looks fresh and modern for 2023, stylists suggest choosing a dress with unique details like:
- Tuxedo-inspired styling
- Cutouts and keyholes
- Metallic or hardware accents
The Iara Detail Short Dress in Black is sure to meet all your LBD needs with its unique sequined neckline, keyhole bodice, and flowy sleeves. To style it:
- Dress it down for the day with simple sandals and a straw bag
- Add heels and a sparkly clutch in a contrasting color for a bolder look
#3 The Mega-Statement Mini
For summer cocktail parties, don’t be afraid to turn up the heat with a minidress in a bright and splashy bold color. Opt for a dress that embraces the vibrant spirit of the summer season. But do remember, when you go for a leg-baring hemline, you can keep the look tasteful by balancing it with a higher neckline or longer sleeves.
To get this look, we recommend the Carina Detail Short Dress in Red Pepper. This sassy silhouette pairs racy side cutouts with a demure round neckline and long-belled sleeves. Finish the look with:
- A neutral, delicate shoe to create an elongated leg
- Understated gold jewelry accents—think pendant or hoop earrings
- A clutch in shiny black patent leather adds polish
#4 The Faux Separates
For a fun twist on the skirt-and-top look, why not try a dress that mimics the look of separates? The Gracie Detail Short Dress in Black gives you the ease of a dress with the effect of a crop top and pencil skirt, thanks to clever front and side cutouts at the midriff. It’s a versatile option that can be dressed up or down, depending on the occasion.
- Accessories – This dress calls for gold jewelry pieces to harmonize with the gold-plated pendant detail at the center of the plunging neckline. Try a pair of hoop earrings for a less formal occasion, or go for eye-catching drop earrings for a dressier look.
- Footwear options – Wear it with block heels or wedges for a comfortable, more low-key option. Take it more formal with heels in a metallic finish like gold or bronze.
#5 The Bodycon
Bodycon dresses (meaning “body contour” “body conscious,” or “body confidence,” depending on who you ask) hold a strong place in the fashion limelight, and they’re a sure bet for foolproof cocktail attire. 3 If you’re ready to let out all the stops for an upscale evening event, we suggest slipping into the Zalia Long Dress in Black. This midi dress has a one-shoulder corded neckline and sexy series of three front cut-outs, that is a guaranteed stunner.
- Wrap it up – For the perfect finishing touch, add a slinky off-the-shoulder wrap in a sheer material like chiffon, organza, or silk. Your choice of color or pattern will be key to how casual or formal the outfit looks. A floral print gives a feminine, slightly more casual touch, while a black wrap will make this outfit appropriate even for a formal event.
- Accessorize – Don’t distract from the intricate bodice detailing with a long necklace. Opt for a choker style, or leave your neck bare. Add sparkling diamond earrings or glittery gold drops to draw the eye toward your face. Dress it down with a strappy sandal, or dress it up with a high heel in black or a contrasting color.
6 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Summer Cocktail Attire
We get it—you’re torn between several adorable dresses after seeing this lineup. To help make your final decision on your cocktail hour outfit, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
#1 Consider the Venue
Depending on where the cocktail party is taking place, you may want to dress more or less formally. For sunset drinks at a beachside bar, a flowy maxi dress and strappy sandals will be just right. A night of dancing at a rooftop bar is the ideal setting to trot out a dressier look. Check with your host for details if the invite isn’t clear.
#2 Choose Light, Summery Fabrics
Summer cocktail parties can get hot, so choose fabrics that are breathable and lightweight, such as:
#3 Opt for Bright Colors or Prints
Summer is a time for fun and vibrant colors, so don't be afraid to choose an outfit with bold colors or eye-catching prints.
#4 Go for Comfortable Footwear
Summer cocktail parties often involve a lot of standing and mingling, so make sure your shoes are comfortable and easy to walk in. Dress shoes like sandals, wedges, espadrilles, or low-heeled pumps are great options. For outdoor events, it’s best to leave the sky-high stilettos at home—you don’t want to spend the whole party with your heels sinking into the lawn.
#5 Dress in Layers
While it may be hot outside, some indoor venues can be positively arctic with air conditioning. Plan your outfit to include a lightweight, stylish jacket, shirt, or shawl to layer over your outfit when needed.
#6 Try the Unexpected
The Cocktail attire dress code leaves room for you to experiment with unexpected looks, as long as they’re not overly casual. Don’t be afraid to break out of the dress-and-heels mold. Some different looks to consider include:
- Suiting pieces, such as a tailored pair of trousers and a fitted blazer
- A sleek jumpsuit
- Two-piece sets can also work: try a crop top and high-waisted skirt or shorts paired with strappy sandals and statement earrings
Make Your Summer Bright and Beautiful with ViX
Summer cocktail attire is a dress code that lets you look polished and put-together without being too formal. So go ahead and have fun with your outfit, and don’t be afraid to experiment with bold prints, bright colors, and unique accessories.
By following these guidelines and outfit ideas, you can make sure you’re dressed appropriately and stylishly for any occasion.
Whether you’re headed to a swanky night of dancing and drinks, a festive garden party, or a dressy evening wedding, ViX has the perfect party-ready outfit for the occasion. Looking for summer wedding outfits or swimsuit cover up ideas? Shop our resort wear collection today for designer-quality, figure-flattering pieces that will have you turning heads wherever the summer takes you.
- Vogue. What to wear to all your summer cocktail parties. https://www.vogue.co.uk/fashion/article/summer-cocktail-dress-code
- Marie Claire. The 11 best little black dresses to wear on rotation. https://www.marieclaire.com/fashion/best-little-black-dresses/
- Vogue. Nobody loves bodycon dresses as much as kim kardashian does. https://www.vogue.com/article/kim-kardashian-bodycon-dresses-milan-fashion-week