Posted on May 23 2017
While the little black dress is by far the most common cocktail dress for women, it’s by no means the definitive answer to this semi-formal attire. Today, many cocktail dresses are short, though you can also find them in traditional styles, like the ankle length ballerina dress or the tea length dress, which falls a few inches below the knee. Straps or strapless, halter or off-the-shoulder - the sky’s the limit.
So which style is right for you?
The good news is you have a lot of room to play here, and with a little know-how, you’ll have no problem picking the perfect dress to match your personality and style.
Here are three easy tips to help you narrow the field.
1) Know Your Body Type
You've got to start with structure. Your cocktail dress should flatter your figure, so select a silhouette that compliments your body type.
Pear shaped. If your lower body is bigger than your upper body, then you're ideally suited to a style that showcases your slimmer shoulders, chest and face. Halters are perfect for this, as are dresses with deep necklines. The skirt of the dress should be loose. Think A-line or even tutu skirts that cinch in around your waist.
Hourglass. Perhaps the most coveted of body types, the hourglass figure is distinguished by an equal shoulder and hip ratio. Fitted dresses are an ideal choice, so enjoy pencil skirts, strapless tops and avoid loosely fitting and baggy styles.
Rectangle. This shape is characterised by a lack of emphatic curves. Many athletic types will have this figure, and you can have a tonne of fun dressing it! Sweetheart necklines can add curvature to your upper body, while dresses with pleats and off-centre embellishments can add visual contrast to your frame.
Inverted Triangle. Opposite of the pear shaped figure, women with inverted triangle body types have slimmer hips and wider shoulders and/or more substantial chests. Opt for V necks to draw the eye away from your shoulders. Cap sleeves and spaghetti straps are also a great option but avoid off-the-shoulder and strapless dresses. Have fun below the waist with details and embellishments in the skirt area - especially if you are going to choose a slimmer skirt. Pick a dress that emphasises your waist and shoes that balance out your heftier upper body assets.
Apple. If you have some extra weight around the middle and a more ample bust, then you're probably an apple shape. Your cocktail dress should streamline your figure, so avoid the impulse to disguise your curves with a shapeless garment. Play up them up with wrap dresses and fuller skirts to add balance to your top-heavy figure - and by all means, show off your cleavage with a plunging neckline.
2) Know Your Colour
As much as you love pale pink or buttercup yellow, it may not be made for your skin tone. Same with rich and vibrant jewel tones: they can look great on darker skin tones, but can wash-out paler complexions. Don't know your colours? Then just take this quick quiz. The answer may surprise you!
3) Determine Your Budget
It probably goes without saying that the higher the quality, the better, but we don't always have extra money to throw around. This said, you can invest in a quality piece with complete peace of mind if you select a dress you can wear often. This means you should avoid edgy trends (like a mustard yellow dress or a dress with shredded sleeves), and opt for a look with more timeless elegance. When you can wear a dress often, your cost per wear is actually quite minimal.
They key to finding the perfect cocktail dress is selecting a dress that reflects your personality and style, while also allowing you to feel comfortable and confident. Happy shopping!