Casual Cocktail: An oxymoron created by men who don’t want to be bothered to wear a dress shirt, tie or sports coat. A term, whose roots I believe, stem from right here in the Silicon Valley. Yes, California is to blame.
Silicon Valley is a place where most men are uber comfortable donning a pair of flip flops, joggers and a hoodie, just about anywhere (including cocktail parties). So, where does that leave the rest of us who want to dress up when we get the invite?
Over the years, I have seen the term “Casual Cocktail” used on invitations ranging from Reunions, Charity Events, and Holiday Parties to Work Events and School Fundraisers. The term itself is ambiguous, and open to the mind of the interpreter. And being I reside in the heart of where this term most likely originated – an East Coaster would never pull a trick like this on their guests! – I feel a responsibility to set the record straight.
So what is “Casual Cocktail” attire?
A hostess/host using this term would like you to feel festive, yet comfortable at their event; even though they themselves, may not have a clue as to what the term means. And unknowingly, in the spirit of being helpful, they may be causing anxiety to their guests – because face it, we are all a bit confused.
Yet, I think we can all agree, that after living in pandemic-inspired loungewear for 3 years, a “cocktail dress”, is no longer the most comfortable article to party in. So what’s a girl to do?
My advice; take a moment to understand the venue, and your audience and wear something that YOU feel festive and comfortable in. DONE.
So What Do I Wear?
For a simple outfit, that’s most likely already in your closet, try pairing dark wash – coated for an elevated look – denim, a fun top, sassy kitten heels or mules, a fun clutch or crossbody, and jewelry, and off you go. For a more polished look, add a blazer, “lady jacket”, kimono or topper over silk cami or even a fitted tank or tee. Not
Note: be mindful of the wash and distress of your jeans, as some washes (or too many holes) can look too casual.
If you’re unsure on the denim idea, simply opt for a pair of black dressy pants or faux leather joggers or leggings. Alternatively, a sassy, colorful, or sparkly dress or satin or pleated skirt, with a short leather jacket or blazer is always a winner in my book.
Coming straight from work? Simply throw some funky jewelry with a black dress, switch out your pumps for a pair of sassy sandals, and you’re ready to go. I like to keep a fun black dress or jumpsuit (one and done!), on hand for moments like these. Sure, you might show up to the venue wishing you were in something more colorful and fun – but an LBD, with the right accessories, will never fail you!
An Easy Outfit Formula
I broke down the elements of an outfit I wore to a party 5 years ago, to demonstrate that your can never go wrong with classic black. This look consists of a 5 simple outfit elements, each adjustable to suit anyone’s personal style and comfort level.
- Base Layer: black jumpsuit OR a black dress, black pant or skirt + a black camisole OR if black is not your jam, color is stunning, but it may require a bit more thought on the styling.
- Topper: a kimono OR blazer, jacket, cardigan (I prefer longer styles for evening), leather jacket, lightweight poncho
- Shoes: a heeled sandal OR flat to mid-height sandal, mule or bootie (have some fun with metallic or a pop of color – but black always works)
- Handbag: a fun clutch OR crossbody/belt bag for hands-free mingling.
- Accessories: go for fun and bold – it’s 2023!
Casual Cocktail Outfit Ideas
I’ve gathered up a few more casual cocktail outfit ideas for you to browse, styled by some of my favorite featured ladies from the ASB Archives
Throw on a Slip Dress
The Versatile Kimono
A Sparkly Skirt
In order to keep the “casual” in this look, I styled this J Crew sparkly skirt with a cashmere sweater. Leopard low-heel pumps added some sass, and a multi-strand vintage necklace added a bit of bling to a simple sweater. I wore this look to a lady’s lunch but would wear this out for a casual evening event as well.
From the fabulous Jennafer Grace, Paglamas are just that – glamorous pajamas! Sold as a 2 piece set, these can be worn as separates or as a matching set. The top is a short wrap kimono, the bottom a tapered pant WITH pockets! I pair mine with sparkly slide sandals or satin mules (when I’m hosting)
Shop Jennifer Grace Paglammas, including my exact set, at Wolf and Badger.
My Two Cents:
Your hostess is inviting you to “throw out the worry, of what everyone else is wearing”, and dress for you. Once I got over being angry with the term, I found the idea to be quite freeing.
So embrace it, roll with it, and just have a fabulous time!
Have you come across the Casual Cocktail dilemma?
What are your thoughts on Casual Cocktail?
What do you wear for a Casual Cocktail party?
Share your thoughts so we can learn together, and never be underdressed again!