It’s considered the most essential piece of a woman’s wardrobe, but still, many ladies over 50 don’t have a cocktail dress in their closet. Why?
Maybe it’s because they don’t often attend parties and fancy occasions like they used to do or perhaps, after the pandemic, they have preferred investing in everyday clothes and loungewear only to discover – too late – that they don’t have anything elegant to wear when the opportunity arises to get dressed up and feel glamorous.
Actually, having a great cocktail dress on hand is always a good idea: it bridges the gap between day and night. If you are ready to rock your style with grace, here are some tips to choose the right outfit for your classy evenings out.
Why do they call them cocktail dresses?
Cocktail dresses typically fall around the knee and come in a variety of colours and styles.
Christian Dior was the first to name the early evening frock a “cocktail” dress in the late 1940s, and in doing so allowed magazines, department stores, and rival Parisian and American designers to promote fashion with cocktail-specific terminology.
Vogue defined it as “a short dress that is suitable for formal occasions“. something sophisticated that you can also let loose in. Of course, it has evolved since then and today you can choose from the classic little black dress that’s become a staple in any wardrobe to the lace dress for those extra-special occasions when you want to look your best.
Which style would suit me best?
If you are over 50 and curvy, forget cocktail dresses that are short, skimpy and sleeveless: thankfully, this season, it’s all about lovely, flowy, sexy and sophisticated printed dresses which are great for a long afternoon catching up with friends as well as formal gatherings, striking the balance between fancy and casual, and comfortable yet elegant.
“Choosing a cocktail outfit depends on the time of the event you’ve been invited to, as well as the location or venue and the season -explain stylists at luxury brand Adrianna Papel-. For daytime events or less formal venues, neutral colours and knee-length dress are good options, while for evening and more swanky locations, darker hues and pieces embellished with sequins, feathers or finished with embroidery are excellent cocktail styles“.
As a rule of thumb, unless you are a Hollywood star and super fit, in midlife it’s better to avoid those dresses that will reveal too much. Ideally, you should invest in a midi dress that offers a more streamlined look with its length but is not too over the top.
A wrap or a fit and flare model made of luxurious fabrics such as silk and satin are usually great allies if you want to disguise unwanted bumps: both styles will be able to cinch your waist gently without constricting it, giving the illusion of an hourglass shape.
Depending on the occasion, add interest to your outfit by playing with different textures and accessories. Try a sequinned dress with sleek satin heels, or some sparkling embellished flats with an understated crepe shift.
Top designers for cocktail dresses
Having a few easy cocktail dresses ready at the back of your closet can help to guarantee that even if a day-of invite comes your way, you’ll have an elegant cocktail dress for any party or ceremony (wedding included).
Here, we have listed some of our favourite fashion brands from which you can take inspiration.
- Ted Baker offers a range of both statement-making and pared-back designs. Discover bodycon silhouettes with lace panels alongside pleated mini dresses adorned with floral patterns.
- The Phase Eight range has something for every occasion – from floor-length fringed gowns to sequinned cocktail dresses.
- Perfect for black tie events, Adrianna Papell dresses exude elegance with their quality craftsmanship and flowing silhouettes. We love the range of metallic hues and full-bodied skirts.
- If you are looking for dresses that fit, flare and sculpt for amazing entrances, stunning pictures, and fun too, then Betsy & Adam is the way forward. All of their dresses are designed in New York City inspired by its vibrant nightlife, social galas, and fashion runway shows.
- Azeeza Khan collections explore bold colour, voluminous silhouettes, and intricate hand embroidery to express effortless femininity. Each garment is handmade with in-house dyed silk fabrics, traditional embellishment techniques, and expert craftsmanship.
- Karen Millen’s design philosophy is articulated through a collection of versatile items that can be slipped into your existing wardrobe with ease. Think elegant occasionwear and tailoring that fits like a glove.
From classic frocks to on-trend occasion dresses, you’ll be ready to RSVP in style.