Fashion & Style

What is cocktail attire?

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cocktail dress Renoir painting of two ladies
A bit of forethought is all that's needed to arrive at a decision about cocktail attire that fits well and flatters.
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Put on some sparkle if the cocktail party calls for fancy attire

The clink of frosty goblets and toasts to good health signal the opening of many a festive occasion. Friends meet for cocktails and dancing. Business associates host elegant gatherings designed to grow the company's network of potential clients. The good old American cocktail party is a glory to behold when those attending are sporting cocktail attire that is stylish and appropriate for the occasion.

But what makes a cocktail party a cocktail party? Traditionally, a cocktail party is a party at which guests are served various cocktails—icy drinks made of combinations of flavorings and liquors. Fruit juices and vegetable juices may be used as the flavorings for these potent elixirs. Cocktail parties usually are held in the early evening or in the afternoon.

A Bloody Mary made of tomato juice and vodka is a popular cocktail. The Daiquiri and the Marguerita are cocktails that blend taste and impact. Cocktail parties encourage the sharing of libation and conversation but generally they are not events at which folks get inebriated. They are amiable assemblies. And they are occasions that call for cocktail attire—apparel that's more dressy than demure.

What are the hottest trends in cocktail attire?

Men find appeal in knowing that today's fashions enable them to dress a bit more casually than was demanded in years passed. Fabrics rich in hue and texture are popular. Tailoring is clean and without fussy details. A well groomed look is preferred by many well dressed males.

The scruffy bad-boy look seems to be receding into the background of the fashion scene. However, comfort is important. Shirts with cuffs that feature button-hole closures are a welcome respite from the days when a pair of gilded cufflinks was mandatory for cocktail parties and other special occasions.

Women can go all out in dressing for a cocktail party. Gold and silver accents on a black, navy blue or vivid purple garment is appropriate for a touch of sparkle without glare. The celebratory theme goes on in other styles of ladies evening wear whose silhouettes are fluid and graceful.

What is out of fashion when it comes to evening wear?

Women's wear at cocktail parties is a reflection of the trend toward sophistication. Gone is plunging cleavage although strapless styles remain popular. Gone are thigh-high hemlines in favor of knee-length—or longer—styles of dress. Today's cocktail parties are attended by ladies whose looks convey a sense of confidence rather than slutty nonchalance.

Men too have a few fashion glitches to watch out for in their selection of an appropriate cocktail-party look. A man who wears too much jewelry, a shirt collar that is turned up is not at his fashion best. Likewise, boots beneath the trousers of a dressy suit usually are a fashion abomination.

Nonetheless, some men can pull it off. Those men who wear boots and still retain their fashion flair tend to opt for smooth, leather footwear that caresses the toes and instep. Generally, slim leather boots look best on a man with a tall, lean frame. Anything clunky is a fashion no-no for men attending cocktail parties this season. Another no-no is showing up without a gift for the party's host or hostess. Candy, flowers and big tins of nuts always are welcome.

What accessories contribute appeal to cocktail attire?

The balance between apparel and accessories sometimes is difficult to maintain when choosing cocktail attire. A lady who likes to flaunt a three-tiered diamond necklace will find herself looking top-heavy if the baubles outshine her overall appearance.On the other hand, a cocktail dress that is of a solid color makes a beautiful coordinate for a sparkling necklace or some gemstone earrings. Bracelets and beaded hair clips can add pizzazz to an outfit.

Men too can indulge in some adornment when selecting accessories for their choice of cocktail attire. Bring out that expensive watch. See if a signet ring or a well placed fraternity pin doesn't generate some conversation.

How can cocktail attire benefit networking efforts?

Cocktail parties sometimes make wonderful opportunities for networking and socializing. Friendships are easy to make in an environment where people are having fun. New business contacts are likely to blossom when conversations broach topics ranging from entrepreneurship to innovations in technology.

One who is well dressed can put bashfulness on hold. A cocktail party is a place where people are free to mingle, converse and move on to meet other guests. Say hello. Give a person a compliment on something they are wearing. Ask a question. Breaking the ice is an easy thing to do. And it's even easier when the ice is broken into a crystal glass filled with excitement and liquor.

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