Cocktail Attire is one of the more confusing dress codes. And, when the invite states that event would be cocktail formal or cocktail casual it can get even more daunting. Many people don’t know exactly what is required from them, dress code-wise when they get an invite for a cocktail function.

I say it can be confusing because there are several things you need to take into consideration. These include the event itself, the country you’ll be in at the time and the cultural history of the person or company hosting the event. Then you also need to think of the weather on the day and the venue.

Here are my sure-fire pointers for absolutely nailing Cocktail Attire:


Every country and in fact every city has a different definition for cocktail attire. Take, for instance, South Africa. You’d dress differently for a cocktail function at the beachside in Cape Town than you would for a cocktail event in buzzing Joburg. In South Africa, with its warmer climate, you’d be able to don a Little Black Dress whereas cocktail events in fashion capitals such as Paris and New York might call for something a little more formal.


The venue at which the party will take place will play a huge role in how you dress for the occasion. Always be sure to hop online and check out the venue before the time. If the cocktail event is being held at a posh inner-city art gallery, you’re going to have to dress up a little more than if the event was being held at a local fancy restaurant. Similarly, events held on the beach or at themed venues will require a slightly different dress approach to those happening indoors.


Warmer weather calls for cocktail events which are a little more relaxed. This can be seen in countries such as South Africa, Spain, and even Greece. If you’re going to a cocktail function is cooler weather always make sure you take a shawl or light jacket with. Cooler weather may also call for you to wear longer dresses.

Your Host

Cocktail events will mean different things to different people and even different companies. It is very important that you know and understand your host before RSVP’ing to the event. People from different cultures have different ideals when it comes to hosting a cocktail party. In South Africa, cocktail parties are a fairly relaxed affair. But, if your host comes from the UAE you might have to dress a little more conservatively.

So, there you have it, the absolute basics of decoding cocktail attire. Don’t miss my next segment on the essentials of dressing for a Cocktail Party. I’ll unpack a little more on the dress code and how you can pull it off perfectly. Do you have a cocktail event coming up? Let me help you find the perfect outfit for the event in a personalised one-on-one consultation.