How To Dress For A Cocktail Party

Knowing how to dress for a cocktail party can mean the difference between making a connection or losing one. While the term "cocktail party" is used loosely these days, it's still important to dress correctly. Look at the invitation for preferred attire or hints. Did you receive a formal invitation via mail? If the invitation is fancy or elegant, the attire will normally be nothing less than a suit. If you're still unsure, politely ask the host what the preferred attire is.

To dress for a cocktail party, you will need:

  • Tux
  • Suit
  • Dress slacks
  • Dress shirt
  • Dress socks
  • Dress shoes
  • Tie
  1. Formal attire or "black tie" requires the tux. Rent one if you don't have one, but don't show up without it.
  2. Wear a nice suit for a business cocktail party. Bring out the nice cuff links; business cocktail parties are venues for impressing current or potential employers and clients. 
  3. Put on a pair of nice dress slacks and a button-down shirt with a tie for a casual party. Wear your dress shoes as well. Never wear jeans if it's a cocktail party—it's not that kind of casual. Pair this combination with a sweater vest or sport coat if it's chilly outside.

No matter what kind of cocktail party you're attending, it will certainly be a venue for building relationships and making connections. If you know it's not formal but aren't sure about the suit, remember you can take off the suit jacket. Under-dressing can mean the difference between impressing a boss or the girl in the corner. Dress for the weather as well. Wear heavier suits in cooler temperatures and lighter materials when it's warm. For most cocktail parties, the suit is sufficient.

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