Differences Between Formal Dresses and Cocktail Dresses

Formal Dresses and Cocktail Dresses
Formal Dresses and Cocktail Dresses

​We women are lucky. We have so many different options to choose from when it comes to getting dolled up that sometimes it can get a little confusing. Beautiful cocktail dresses and formal dresses might seem fairly similar, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, mixing and matching these dresses can often lead to a dress code faux pas, which isn’t what anyone wants. Read on to find out exactly how to tell these two types of dresses apart, so that you’re always the belle of the ball.

1. Occasion
The biggest difference between formal and cocktail dresses is when you can (and should) wear them. Cocktail dresses are generally more casual than formal dresses; they’re designed for cocktail parties, business events, and basically anything that’s not black tie. Formal gowns should be reserved for the most special occasions, like weddings, balls, and black or white-tie events. A good rule of thumb is to follow the dress code closely to avoid looking out of place or under/over-dressed. If you’re not sure of the code, don’t be afraid to ask the organizer; you’ll save yourself a ton of stress and maybe even save yourself the cost of a new outfit.
 
 
2. Length
At first glance, the length of the dress is usually the clincher. Cocktail dresses are pretty much anything above the ankle; they can range from short and sweet to tea length and still be appropriate for the same events. Formal gowns are almost always down to the ground, so beware of short formal gowns—they might come across as too casual even if they are labelled formal.
 
 
3. Colour
Surprisingly enough, the colour of the dress can help you figure out if it’s formal or not. Cocktail dresses are generally more subdued, with hues like black (we’re looking at you, LBD) nude, navy, and grey. Formal dresses are often much more flamboyant, since they’re generally worn for special (and celebratory) occasions. Think jewel tones, bright reds, pastels and silvers. While these hues are a lot more fun to wear, they can definitely be tougher to pull off so make sure you find one that works with your skin tone.
 

4. Cost
Formal dresses tend to cost you a pretty penny since they can be quite detailed and extravagant (sequins and tulle sure don’t come cheap), but it’s actually smarter to invest in a cocktail dress that will last you. Cocktail dresses are much more versatile, meaning you’ll get more bang for your buck, and you can actually wear them over and over without worrying about being spotted in the same dress twice. Since cocktail dresses are much more subdued than formal dresses, it’s easier to wear them to various events—as opposed to a showy, floor-length turquoise off-the-shoulder number that people will instantly recognize. Splurging on a fabulous cocktail dress that will see you through any number of functions, parties and socials is not only being money smart, but practical too (who wants to stress about finding something new to wear every other month?).