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Wedding season is upon us, so it’s time to celebrate love and embrace the joy of dressing up. Getting dressed should be one of the most enjoyable parts of the wedding guest experience; however, many nuances and guidelines around wedding dress codes make it tricky for even the most well-dressed to decipher. So, if your invite reads “cocktail attire,” we’ve broken down what that means and how you can find the best cocktail dress for weddings this year.

What is a cocktail attire dress, you ask? “Cocktail dresses are notorious for fun, sophisticated, and polished styles,” explains Courtney Levitt, special events stylist at Janett Mandell, personal shopper, and founder of Curated by Court. “They’re defined by styles that fall between the knees and ankles as what you should wear varies depending on the wedding venue and season.”

The best part about the cocktail attire dress code is that it’s flexible, allowing you to show off your personality and style as long as you find something that balances casual and formal. Levitt agrees, noting, “It’s one of the best wedding attires to dress and shop for because of endless styling possibilities. As long as your dress strikes the perfect balance between casual and formal and you style it with the right comfortable wedding shoes and accessories, you’ll nail your look. When my clients come to me for cocktail dresses, I help them step out of their comfort zone and trust the styling process so that they can redefine the way they dress, feel comfortable in their skin, and find joy in getting dressed up. Ultimately, they are always their most confident selves and surprised by what they can pull off!”

So whether you need a summer wedding guest dress for nuptials by the sea, a fall wedding guest dress for an al fresco celebration in the city, or a winter wedding guest dress for an indoor soiree in a mountain lodge, we’ve rounded up the best cocktail dresses for weddings that are fit for all body types, budgets, and styles. Plus, learn about what truly qualifies as a cocktail dress, the difference between a cocktail and an evening dress, and much more.

Best cocktail dresses for weddings, at a glance

Shop the best cocktail dresses for weddings

Helsa Faille Midi Dress

Best midi cocktail dress: Helsa, Faille Midi Dress — $278.00

Available sizes: XXS-XL

Elsa Hosk’s newest Helsa Faille Dress is this dress that does it all. The fit gets you as it cinches you from your chest to mid-thighs and flows out with the bubble hem design. It features a blend of cotton, nylon, and elastane that feels like a gentle hug—yes, it’s that comfortable. Plus, it has an overall versatile silhouette, allowing you to wear it in multiple ways, making your investment worthwhile. This frock is soon to be everyone’s go-to cocktail dress for fall and winter weddings, but don’t worry because the great thing about personal style is that we can all be wearing the same black dress, but we can style them differently, creating an entirely new look, explains Levitt.

Material: 69% cotton, 28% nylon, 3% elastane

Colors: 1

Length: Midi

Staud Delilah Rosette Satin Minidress

Best LBD cocktail dress: Staud, Delilah Rosette Satin Minidress — $295.00

Available sizes: XS-L

If you need a sign to add an LBD, a forever staple to your wardrobe, then this is it. Staud’s Delilah Rosette Dress is the ultimate dress to have on hand for cocktail-attire weddings and holiday parties. It’s the perfect combination of feminine, sophisticated, and sexy with its classic satin-like fabric and universally loved silhouette that’s drapey at the top with the cowl neck, fitted in the waist, and flowy toward the hem. The dress has no stretch but keeps its structure and is seamless to take on and off. The removable 3D rosette on the left shoulder strap is the cherry on top because it adds a bit of personality to an otherwise simple dress. Pair with low-heeled sandals and a mini shoulder bag.

Material:76% acetate, 24% polyester

Colors: 1

Length: Mini

Stine Goya Jodi Dress

Best floral cocktail dress: Stine Goya, Jodi Dress — $425.00

Available sizes: XXS to XL

We love a floral dress for a cocktail wedding, especially when it’s minimalistically designed and features a muted palette. Stine Goya, a Danish female designer, crafted the most perfect number—its beauty lies in its details. The frock features adjustable crisscross back straps that hang nicely on the back and deliver interest. It is made of a viscose-blend fabric that feels silky and adds to the style’s opulent appeal. The floral pattern is hand-drawn and takes inspiration from the design and art worlds. While floral dresses are notoriously considered warm-weather styles, this one can be worn year-round with sheer tights and pointed-toe slingbacks for a winter wedding and with open-toe gold or pale-pink heels for a spring wedding.

Material: 54% tencel lyocell, 46% viscose

Colors: 1

Length: Midi

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Prettygarden Shoulder Bodycon Dress

Best bodycon cocktail dress: Prettygarden, Shoulder Bodycon Dress — $51.00

Available sizes: S-XL

Prettygarden, a famous womenswear label, knows a thing or two about wardrobe heroes that are anything but basic. Its bodycon dress speaks to what the brand does best with its skin-tight construction that hits the body in all the right places, non-irritating fabric, and off-the-shoulder straps that drape elegantly on the arms. It is a favorite on Amazon, with over 500 five-star reviews and over 100 shoppers buying it in the past month alone. “The dress was elegant, formal yet classy, and comfortable,” wrote one Amazon reviewer. The material is so soft; it’s form-fitted but stretches great. I danced all night with no issues!” Since the silhouette is flattering, comfortable, and affordable, we recommend picking one in a bright color for a summer wedding and one in a neutral or warm tone for a winter or fall wedding.

Material: 90% Polyamide, 10% Elastane

Colors: 20

Length: Midi

More to Come Yarina Dress

Best embellished cocktail dress: More to Come, Yarina Dress — $94.00

Available sizes: XXS-XL

Lean into sparkle with an embellished frock like the Yarin Dress from More to Come. This mini dress is more playful than a traditional elegant cocktail dress, but it works for many cocktail attire weddings, especially ones that are located in casual settings like at a trendy restaurant or in the backyard of someone’s home. We love how the dress has dainty straps for a refined appeal and a full lining, ensuring you stay comfortable all night. Style the frock with black or silver pointed, closed-toe pumps and diamond stud earrings to prevent the dress from looking sultry.

Material: Polyester blend

Colors: 1

Length: Mini

Norma Kamali Diana Pickleball Dress

Best mini cocktail dress: Norma Kamali, Diana Pickleball Dress — $235.00

Available sizes: XXS-XL

Norma Kamali’s Diana Dress is an iconic wedding guest dress. We’ve seen the number repeatedly on our social media feeds on all types of women—and it catches our attention every time. Between the different colors and lengths offered and the flattering all-over ruching, we’re not surprised that the silhouette has been sold for over 40 years. However, we have yet to see this style with the single-shoulder design—and we’re obsessed. The long sleeve with its asymmetrical hem screams d-r-a-m-a but isn’t too much because of the simple mini-fitted structure. It’s a surefire way to get some attention yet not take it all off the bride.

Material: 95% polyester, 5% spandex

Colors: 1

Length: Mini

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J. Crew Gwyneth Slip Dress

Best slip cocktail dress: J. Crew, Gwyneth Slip Dress — $65.00

Available sizes: 00-24

When in doubt, opt for a slip dress for a cocktail-dress wedding. It’s one of the most versatile silhouettes, as it can be worn alone with playful jewelry or styled with a belt to create volume on the top and raise the hemline. So, if a slip dress is something you’ve had in mind for your next cocktail attire wedding, go for J’Crew’s Gwyneth dress. This best-selling slip dress has taken the internet by storm for good reasons. It has a stylish ease because it sits effortlessly on all body shapes. Between the solid shades like gold and black and the patterns like polka dots and stripes, this is the ultimate glamorous choice you’ll have in your rotation for years. “This was a lovely addition to my wardrobe this season because of its versatility,” says one reviewer. “Plus, it’s very luxurious but easy to care for.”

Material: 100% polyester

Colors: 8

Length: Midi

Andrea Iyamah Ratu Mesh Dress

Best modest cocktail dress: Andrea Iyamah, Ratu Mesh Dress — $353.00

Available sizes: XS-XL

Andrea Iyamah is a Nigerian-owned clothing line inspired by ethnic cultures and nature. It’s typically known for its unique swimwear silhouettes, but it also has many wedding dresses that are great for all dressers, even modest ones. The Ratu Dress is a maxi-style dress that covers the body from the neck to the ankles. It has a large drape-like upper that conceals the chest and shoulders. Unlike other modest dresses, this one is tight-fitting from the ribcage to the hem, which we love because it lets the wearer show off their figure while remaining unostentatious. We can’t forget to mention the ruched detailing that adds elements of interest and the adjustable ties on the sides and shoulders, so you can make it as tight or loose as you prefer.

Material: Polyamide, spandex

Colors: 1

Length: Midi

George Trochopoulos Fringe Dress

Best statement cocktail dress: George Trochopoulos, Fringe Dress, $600 — $600.00

Available sizes: XS-XL

When we tell you that this George Trochopolous Fringe Dress has been living rent-free in our minds, we’re not lying. This London-based eponymous label, loved by celebrities like Dua Lipa and Emma Chamberlain, is beloved for its uniquely crafted knit garments that aim to make women feel empowered in their clothes. The fuchsia number speaks to that with its semi-sheer striped design that gives a sliver of one’s skin and a string tie in the back to cinch the waist. There’s no denying this is the frock for someone looking to make a statement at a spring or summer destination wedding. Let the dress do all the talking, and style it with simple black or beige heels, chunky silver earrings, and a slim clutch.

Material: 47% acrylic, 42% viscose, 4% nylon, 4% polyester, 1% elastane

Colors: 1

Length: Midi

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Bec and Bridge Elzette Dress

Best strapless cocktail dress: Bec and Bridge, Elzette Dress — $380.00

Available sizes: 2-12

There’s something about a strapless dress. Whether it’s the usual form-fitting design or the way it beautifully shows off your chest, we more frequently than not find ourselves looking for strapless dresses when heading to special events. Bec and Bridge’s Elzette Dress is one of the most stunning numbers we’ve seen. It has an effortless appeal with the fitted bodice and loose skirt, effortlessly rolled hem, and sheer overlay fabric. Plus, the baby blue shade is calming but joyful. Thanks to the delicate material, this number is best for outdoor weddings on the beach—style with a gold or silver satin bag and sparkly earrings.

Material: 95% nylon, 5% spandex

Colors: 1

Length: Midi

Ser.o.ya Imogen Dress

Best long-sleeve cocktail dress: Ser.o.ya, Imogen Dress — $295.00

Available sizes: XXS-XL

Whether you want to cover your arms because of brisk temperatures or because you don’t like showing them off, a long-sleeve dress is an excellent option for a cocktail attire wedding. Seroya, the emerging, gender-neutral contemporary brand grounded on social purpose, has many great options, like its Imogen Dress. This dress has an understated design with its body-hugging silhouette. Still, it is elevated and statement-making with its high-shine sparkly fabric in a barbie-pink hue and foldover off-the-shoulder neckline that’s sexy and lets you show off your decolletage. It’s a winner for winter and spring weddings because of its midi-length hem and long sleeves. To embrace your Barbie girl dreams, team it with light pink shoes and a matching evening purse.

Material: 94% polyester, 6% spandex

Colors: 1

Length: Midi

Chloefairy Ruffle Hem Dress

Best budget cocktail dress: Chloefairy, Ruffle Hem Dress — $35.00

Available sizes: XS-L

Being on a budget doesn’t mean sacrificing style for price. Chloefairy’s dress is the perfect example with its ruffle asymmetrical hem that allows you to show off your legs modestly, stylish open-back design, and slightly ruched detailing on the bodice, which adds to its flattering fit. This dress has an Amazon Choice badge, meaning it’s highly rated, well-priced, and available to ship immediately. “I wore this for my cousin’s cocktail wedding, and I got so many compliments,” says one Amazon reviewer. “I am petite, but I don’t have a flat stomach, and I did have to wear Spanx to feel comfortable, but the ruching and the mesh material on the dress were very forgiving. I also had a drink spilled on me, and it didn’t stain or leave any watermarks.”

Material: Polyester

Colors: 3

Length: Midi

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Eloquii Draped Asym Dress

Best plus-size cocktail dress: Eloquii, Draped Asym Dress — $110.00

Available sizes: 14 to 28

If you’re unfamiliar, Eloquii is a wardrobe staple brand for plus-size girlies. They offer cute, flattering, and high-quality pieces that are guaranteed to fit in all the right places and serve style. The Draped Asym Dress is a favorite for weddings because of the intricate details like the draped asymmetrical high neckline, asymmetrical sleeves that cut the arms in a favorable wide, and the figure-skimming ruched sides that nod to the early aughts. Reviewers also note they love the stretchy polyester fabric because it moves seamlessly with them and the brown and white pattern because it’s a fresh take on a typical floral number.

Material: 100% polyester

Colors: 1

Length: Midi

What qualifies as a cocktail dress?

“Traditionally, cocktail dresses are categorized as short or midi-length frocks that fall between the knee and ankle,” says Levitt. However, nowadays, pretty much all-length dresses are appropriate. And generally speaking, you can’t go wrong with silhouettes like A-line, sheath, wrap, empire, and slips. “Of course, no one wants to dress too casually or too fancy for the occasion, but it’s okay to step outside of these bounds as long as you consider the crowd, the setting, your comfort level, and your part in the event,” adds Levitt.

Are cocktail dresses short or long?

“Cocktail dresses are a happy medium between mini dresses and gowns, meaning they fall between really short and long lengths,” explains Levitt. “However, I believe the length doesn’t necessarily matter. Ultimately, it comes down to choosing the right fabrics, colors, and silhouette and ensuring you style it appropriately.” For example, suppose you’re choosing a short, above-the-knee option. In that case, you want to ensure it’s tasteful, so you’ll want to look for a style in a dressy fabric such as satin, silk, lace, or sequins and pair the number with polished and elegant accessories such as a hard-shell clutch and fine jewelry.

What is the difference between a cocktail dress and an evening dress?

“The length, fabrics, colors, choice of pattern, and overall aesthetic differentiate a ‘cocktail dress’ from a ‘casual dress,’ ‘a semi-formal dress,’ and a ‘black-tie dress,’” notes Levitt. “A cocktail dress is one step up from your sweater dress and two steps below your evening gown.” This means a cocktail dress can be anything from a mini silk slip dress and a strapless lace midi dress to a more modest long-sleeve viscose frock that hits right at the ankles. Additionally, cocktail dresses can be worn for cocktail events and semi-formal gatherings, whereas evening dresses are typically only worn for formal occasions such as black-tie events.

“As a fashion stylist and personal shopper, I like to branch out of the typical cocktail dress standards and introduce my clients to new forms of cocktail attire, whether it is a long silk dress paired with proper shoes and accessories to elevate it or an embellished mini dress to make it more fun for a cocktail party,” adds Levitt. “I also like to redefine what is deemed ‘cocktail attire’ when styling my clients by inviting jumpsuits, pants sets, blazers, midi skirts, and more into the equation.”

Cocktail dress trends for 2024

If you still need help narrowing down your search for the best cocktail dresses for weddings, consider the style and color trends of 2024. Between the runways, red carpets, and the streets, “we’re seeing lots of whites this year,” says Levitt. “Yes, wearing white is typically a faux pas for weddings, but if the invite calls for it, we love the look because you can share the special moment with the bride and channel the elegance of old Hollywood glamor. Red and burgundy have also been popular hues this year, along with new neutrals and darker tones, which are always safe, refined options. Heading into spring, pastels like blush pinks, lilacs, power blues, and hues of buttery lemons will lead the charge, lending a breath of fresh air into our wardrobes.” When it comes to fabric and style trends, you can expect a little more playfulness this year than in past years. “There’s a lot to be excited about this season, especially when it comes to dresses that emphasize unique fabrics such as sheer, lace, and tulle,” notes Levitt. “We also see sophisticated silhouettes and impactful elements like drop-waists, trains, and draping. These statement designs are no surprise as everyone is looking to dress to impress post-pandemic.”

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