History of Cocktail Attire
Cocktail parties are rumored to have gotten their name in the 1920s during Prohibition in the United States. Drinking alcohol was illegal, and social drinking moved to houses. Where you could find alcohol and set up a bar, people were sure to congregate.
Cocktail parties soon grew into high profile events. As they became chic gatherings, people dressed up more and more, and soon surpassed traditional daywear in search of something a more formal. Beginning in the 1930s, men’s cocktail dress was a little less formal than evening wear. There was still no prescribed look, though: men could wear jackets of any pattern or color, and one could wear either a straight or bow tie.
When cocktail parties became more fashionable in the 1950s, men started to wear slim trousers in silk or rayon, and jackets were custom-made. Slender ties and ascots accessorized cotton or silk shirts. In the 1960s, men discarded with ties altogether.
Today, we see variations on all these looks in themed cocktail parties. Depending on the time of day, the guestlook, and the time of year, cocktail attire can change dramatically. To give you some ideas on how to know what to wear, keep reading! We’ve compiled Men’s Flair tips to cocktail parties just for you.
Dressing for a Cocktail Party
• Check out the invitation. Receiving your invitation by phone or email hints that the party will be much more casual. Formal invitations, especially for association parties and charities, will require slightly more dressy attire.
• Read closely. Review a formal invitation for descriptions like “semiformal” or “dressy-casual.” Semiformal dress should be a dark suit for men; “dressy-casual” gives you the option of wearing a sport coat or blazer with trousers and spread collar shirt without a tie for an elegant casual look.
• Consider the season. Dark or muted fabrics are better for fall and winter, and you can lighten up a little come spring and choose light fabrics like linen or cotton. You can also take advantage of a splash of tropical colors during spring.
• Compromise. Coming from work straight to a cocktail party? If you are wearing khaki trousers, don a button-down shirt and a blazer. You can also wear a sport coat with a dark pair of jeans and leather driving mocs. No sneakers allowed!
• Check the time. An afternoon cocktail event should be treated less formally. Try a dressy business casual outfit in the late afternoon or a suit in the evening. You can also wear a casual outfit for a slightly less formal event in the afternoon, and your business casual clothes in the evening.
• Get your accessories squared away. Don’t wear shorts and aloha shirts for a cocktail event. If you hate the heat and you want something cooler, wear lightweight pants in cool gingham or chambray.
• Bringing a date? Coordinate your outfits!