What Is A Cocktail Style Wedding Dress?

by | Fashion Wisdom, Wisdom


Photographer: Ashley Marie Myers / Designer: d’Italia 

From short hemlines to funky patterns and bold colours, the cocktail attire is arguably one of the most commonly chosen dress codes for weddings. But what exactly does “cocktail wear” mean? Generally, a cocktail dress is the perfect balance of formal and casual (aka semi-formal). It can be anything from a classy and sophisticated power suit to a short and sweet patterned dress. In most cases, the hemline of a cocktail dress will sit just above the knees or mid-calf. However, a cocktail dress can be both long and short depending on the style. When opting for a cocktail dress code, think about colours, patterns, fabrics and unique silhouettes.

A cocktail wedding gown is often more eccentric and less traditional than most other looks, so have fun personalising your wedding attire to suit you, your wedding theme and your personality. A cocktail wedding look is whatever you feel is perfect for you, whether that’s a super fun and quirky mini dress or an elegant and relaxed floor length gown or a tailored suit. Whichever you choose, we’ve got the perfect tips and tricks and ideas to help inspire you.

The Mini Lace Dress

Image: Love Made Visible / Designer: d’Italia 

If you’re after a traditional cocktail style wedding gown, the mini lace dress is the perfect choice. This stunning dress features a flowy skirt that falls effortlessly to the knees, perfect for any bride wanting to dance the night the away. The simple silhouette and short hemline achieves a more casual and relaxed look, whilst the gorgeous lace finishing’s add a touch of formality and interest into your custom gown.

A common concern that most brides have when selecting a shorter wedding dress is whether it will still resemble a bridal gown and suit your theme. A great way to add that bridal flare and romance into your look is to select a gorgeous lace or trimming. You can utilise this all over your gown, just as a scallop edging along the skirt hemline or scattered organically throughout your top, sleeves and skirt. Lace is a beautiful way to turn this super fun and quirky mini dress into a wedding gown classic. Another great way to add a little more formality into your mini bridal dress, is to consider adding a statement sleeve, an exaggerated bridal bow or even a detachable overskirt.

A Touch of Sparkle

Image: Jonathan Ong / Designer: d’Italia 

There’s nothing quite like a stunning fabric with a beautiful sparkle and what better reason to pull out the sequins than for a cocktail themed wedding. This gorgeous fabric often comes in a wide variety of colours and showcases a beautiful shimmer and shine when it catches the light. This is one of the main reasons why this eye-catching fabric is commonly utilised for dance costumes, party outfits and as cocktail attire. However, no matter what colour you select, this gorgeous fabric is sure to make a statement. It’s a great option for brides who want a more formal and glamorous look with a unique cocktail twist.

If you would prefer to achieve a more bridal finish with a modern and sleek aesthetic, opt for a clear or ivory-coloured sequin in a lightly scattered pattern. It can also look particularly contemporary incorporating a mixture of sequins and bugle beads throughout your gown. For brides daring enough to play with colour, consider a gorgeous metallic silver or rich gold. They are fairly easy to style and look incredibly stunning in photos. This sparkly material can also come in various shapes and sizes, along with various funky patterns. Don’t be afraid to customise and experiment with different fabrics and have fun getting creative and rocking your sequin cocktail wedding gown.

A Splash of Colour

Image: It’s Beautiful Here / Designer: d’Italia

Whether you opt for a lavish long gown or a short and sweet party dress, you can’t go wrong with adding a splash of colour into your cocktail wedding attire. Cocktail dresses are often known for their bold and vibrant colours and eccentric patterns. Have fun with your wedding gown and don’t be afraid to opt for something different and a tad unconventional.

When it comes to selecting a different coloured wedding gown, you need to choose wisely as the wrong colour can easily make your dress look like an evening gown or a prom dress. Consider opting for pastel tones such as blush, nude, light champagne or subtle oyster and beiges. If these colours don’t suit your complexion, consider sticking to the metallic tones such as a gorgeous deep rich gold or a metallic silver. These colours tend to be very easy to style with and will still look extremely bridal with the correct accessories. Another great option is to select a jewel tone colour such as your emerald greens, navy and deep sapphires, maroon and burgundy and ruby reds. You can style these colours with beautiful bridal earrings, a Swarovski encrusted belt, pearl hair clips and a fresh light coloured floral bouquet. Just remember to have fun with it and pick a colour that you feel most comfortable in.

Casual Jumpsuit

Image: Charmaine Visuals / Designer: d’Italia

If a traditional wedding gown isn’t your thing, perhaps you should consider opting for a classy bridal jumpsuit. The bridal jumpsuit has become increasingly popular over the past few seasons with more brides opting for comfortability now than ever before. This stunning style showcases the perfect balance between comfort and glamorous, for brides who are planning a more relaxed style wedding. It’s also an extremely versatile style and can easily be dressed up or down depending on the formality of your special day.

For brides getting married during the warmer weather, consider opting for a playsuit rather than a jumpsuit. Often cut at the knee or mid-calf, the playsuit is perfect for brides wanting to dance the night away without any restrictions in movement. To add a touch of glam to your bridal jumpsuit or playsuit, consider adding either a beautiful intricate trim, embellished belt, a bridal lace or a beaded fabric throughout your outfit, depending on your preference. If you’re wanting to stray away from tradition with this unconventional style, consider styling it with a statement earring, pearl hair clips, an elegant pair of heels and a bridal clutch instead of a classic veil. If you’re after a modern and sleek bridal look, then this could be the perfect option for you.

Pockets and Uneven Hemlines

Image: Corinna & Dylan / Designer: d’Italia 

When it comes to a cocktail wedding dress, there are no limits of what you can and can’t do. Think about straying away from the conventional wedding dress and opting for something a little unique and different. A minor adjustment could be altering the hemline of your skirt. A slight high-low style is a simple way to turn your bridal dress into a more casual and relaxed look. It’s also a great way to show off your stunning bridal shoes and add a unique drape and fall into your dress. The front of your skirt can be altered to your desired length depending on how much drama you want to add. For a more modest and elegant finish, consider having the hemline finish just at your ankles, or for a touch of extravagance and flare, have the front of your skirt finish just at your knees or mid-calf.

Another awesome way to add a personal flare into your custom cocktail dress is to add some in-seam pockets into your skirt. That’s right, we said pockets! A part from being extremely functional and useful at times when you need to carry your phone and lippy, they can add a nice relaxed and casual touch to your wedding-day look. If you decide to add this personal touch into your custom gown, we know you definitely won’t regret it.

The Classic Tea Length Gown

Image: Hayley Munro Photography / Designer: d’Italia

If you’re after a traditional and vintage bridal gown then look no further. The tea length gown is an absolute classic and definitely ticks all the boxes for a cocktail themed wedding. A tea length gown looks especially beautiful when the skirt has a slight fullness and contrasts well with your fitted bodice. You can easily add fullness into your skirt through subtle gathering or modern box pleats. Keeping in mind that gathering tends to add a lot of bulk and puffiness around your waistline, which is something you may not want to emphasise and highlight. In this case, opt for a flared cut circle skirt or some simple box pleats. With such a classic gown, you don’t need to add a whole heap of laces, trims and other embellishments. Instead, consider selecting a gorgeous textured jacquard or delicate patterned bridal brocade to create your cocktail tea length gown. These fabrics often have a great weight and structure to them which will allow the skirt to hold its shape and drape nicely against your body.

To add a little uniqueness and quirk into your classic tea length gown, consider playing around with the hemlines and possibly modifying the front of the skirt slightly shorter than the back. Like every cocktail gown, don’t forget to style it with a stunning pair of shoes and some bridal jewellery and/or hair accessories. With such a classic style, it’s best to keep it simple and remember that less is more.

Add a Split

Image: Marie Luise Weddings / Designer: d’Italia 

Whether you’re wanting to add a casual touch to your wedding dress or a touch of playfulness, you can’t go wrong with a gorgeous side split. A split is commonly used in formal evening wear, however over the past few years, it has dominated the bridal scene and we can definitely see why. This gorgeous statement feature is the perfect way to add a touch of friskiness and interest into your bridal gown; which is particularly great if your wedding gown is quite simple in style.

The split is also extremely functional and practical as it allows extra movement with your legs and can also allow air to circulate in your skirt. This elegant addition can often be modified to your desired length, depending on your height and personal preference. A great tip to elongate the body is to have the split finish just above your knees or mid-thigh. If you’re feeling daring, consider adding two side splits (one on each side). This looks especially gorgeous in a soft and flowy gown and can achieve a more bohemian and casual look.

Modern Two-Piece Gown

Image: I Got You Babe / Designer: d’Italia 

Whether you select a beaded or lace crop top with a gorgeous cigarette style pantsuit or a soft and romantic flowy skirt, you definitely won’t be disappointed. The two-piece outfit is a super versatile look and the pieces can be easily interchangeable with other fun outfit additions. For example, you can opt for a plain crop top and flowy skirt for your ceremony and then later on add a bridal cape for drama, or change into a lace top or beaded shawl for a little more glam.

When opting for a two-piece outfit it’s important to be aware of proportion and lengths. A non-lace mini skirt or a short crop top can immediately make your outfit look more casual and less bridal. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to add a train to your outfit; instead consider altering the lengths slightly and focus on selecting the perfect fabrics to bring your vision to life. You can easily glam up your bridal look with a touch of lace, hail spot tulle, beading, trims or embellishments. Play around with the length of your top, ensuring that it’s not too short or too long, depending on what bottoms you select. There is no right or wrong, so just have fun with it.

The High-Low Style Gown

Image: Luke Simon Photography / Designer: d’Italia

Opting for a short gown for your wedding may seem very daunting to a lot of brides and that’s completely understandable. For many centuries, brides have been wearing floor length gowns with extravagant trains and delicate veils. But it’s important to not put too much pressure on yourself to meet certain expectations. For brides opting for a cocktail dress code but aren’t so keen on the short look, that’s okay, because we have the perfect gown for you.

The high-low dress can come in various styles and is particularly suitable for any bride in search of a comfortable and practical wedding gown. The high-low style is also known as the mullet style dress as it often features a short front hemline with the back of the skirt extending much longer. But for brides not wanting to show off their legs with a traditional high-low gown, consider opting for this modern variation. A fitted short length dress with a transparent skirt overlay is the perfect balance between classy and formal with a touch of simplicity and fun. The skirt overlay is made from a sheer fabric such as a tulle or organza (for added volume and drama). If you opt for this option, consider making the skirt overlay detachable so you can change up your look throughout the day.

The Wrap Dress

Image: Wild Romantic Photography / Designer: d’Italia

For some, cocktail wear might mean quirky and fun, while for others it may mean comfortability and simplicity. If you’re not a fan of the sparkly sequins, bold colours and eccentric patterns, then a modest and elegant wrap style gown might be the perfect alternative for you.

A wrap dress features a front closure which is formed by wrapping one side across the other where it can then be pinned or tied in place. It’s a beautiful silhouette that hugs the curves whilst still allowing for a great amount of movement and freedom in your skirt. It’s an exceptionally flattering style for almost every body shape and is perfect for any bride opting for a cocktail or semi-formal dress code.

To add a touch of regality and to achieve a more contemporary, sleek look, you can always opt for a gorgeous sequin or beaded fabric overlay. If that’s not your thing, consider styling your cocktail wrap gown with a statement earring and a beautiful pair of shoes. After all, cocktail attire wouldn’t be quite complete without some complementary accessories. It’s the perfect balance between casual and relaxed, yet formal and classy.

Ms Floral Says: I love that there are so many beautiful ways to wear a cocktail style wedding dress. Thanks for all the inspo and tips, d’Italia!

About d’Italia: Bridal couture and custom made wedding dresses are a specialty of d’Italia. Whether you are looking for a vintage wedding dress stores in Melbourne, a lace wedding dress or any style at all – you are assured the exact bridal style you want, with custom-built corsetry to fit you perfectly, at a fraction of the cost of bridal-boutique gowns.

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