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, Holiday Parties to After Work Events and School Fundraisers. The term itself is ambiguous, open to the mind of the interpreter. And being I reside in the heart of where this term most likely originated (East Coaster’s would never pull a trick like this on their guests!), I feel a responsibility to set the record straight.
So what exactly is Casual Cocktail Attire?
A hostess/host using this term would like for 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.
I think we can all agree, after living in loungewear for 2 years, a “cocktail dress”, is not the most comfortable article to party in. So what’s a girl to do?
The easiest way I can break it down for you is, take a moment to understand the venue, your audience and wear something that YOU feel festive and comfortable in.
So What Do I Wear?
I believe you can wear dark or white jeans, a fun top and sassy sandals (I’ll leave the heel height up to you to decide, based on your own comfort level and feet situation) – but do 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, 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 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 sandals (have some fun here 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 2022!
If your are in the market for gorgeous silk staples, I love these easy to style silk pieces from Cuyana
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
Go Bold and Colorful
I’m just a little obsessed with this head-to-toe bold vintage look from Emma, a regular from our Stylish Monday monthly style group. You’ll find Emma, along with details and more images of this fab look, on her fun blog, The Style Splash.
The Versatile Kimono
Nothing is more beautiful in the spring and summer months than a kimono, and this wardrobe workhorse is a great solution for a casual cocktail event. “ALL it takes is a long dress, sleeveless might even be best, and add a KIMONO! Load on the JEWELS and YOU ARE PRONTO for a night of FUN!” says La Contessa. Read more on How Real Women Style a Kimono, featuring La Contessa (HERE) and be are to visit La Contessa and her Pig on Instagram for loads of fun style and inspiration!
Diana of Zingara Diaries and @life around my table, dresses up her Kimono for a backyard soiree in Kimono Style Part 2 (HERE)
Swipe Left to Shop Jennafer Grace Kimonos:
Browse all Jennafer Grace Kimonos, Caftans, 2-piece sets, Turbans and more at Wolf and Badger.
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 bit of bling to a simple sweater. I wore this look to a ladies lunch, but would wear this out for a casual evening event as well.
Another example of a party skirt, paired with a graphic tee and fun accessories from the ladies at Valle Road Collective.
Once again Emma shows us how to dress up a simple black jumpsuit with statement accessories, for a look that can work day or night.
Another master of the jumpsuit, you’ll find more of Bukky’s fab style at BukkyDare.com Looking Good on a Dime!
And who said jumpsuits had to be black?
Read more on how Bukky styled this elegant look in the post Holiday Elegant Look for Less.
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 Casual Cocktail?
Share your thoughts so we can learn together, and never be underdressed again!
Anna Marcus says
I love your outfit, Suzanne, it’s very stylish and versatile and i am sure you could wear it to multiple events and occasions
Hi Anna! Thank you for stopping by and for the kind compliment. I have to say, this black jumpsuit has been with me on many an occasion – it is super versatile, I can dress it up or down. The kimono should be a great piece this spring over dresses and pant looks. xx Suzanne
Thanks for linking up to the Top of the World Style party. This outfit is so chic and sophisticated, but not over the top. Great balance!
Great tips and ideas Suzanne! Love the Jennafer Gracious on you with the wrap..Is this current or from a previous post? You look fab.
Hi Kim! Thanks for stopping by! Are you referring to the paglamas in the last photo? If so, they are last year, but still available and on sale at Wolf and Badger. The other Jennafer Grace outfit is the 2 piece palazzo set in gold – also last year, but she has new prints available on her website and at Wolf and Badger. Hopefully I answered your question! xx Suzanne
La Cintessa says
What fun to go back in time!!
No casual cocktails for me ever again due to meds🙄
Oh I’m sorry to hear. But whatever you are doing these days, you sure look fabulous and I love following your journey! xx