Defined: Classic Cocktail Dress

Nowadays, any dress that isn’t full length and satin can be considered a “cocktail dress”, but once upon a time, this wasn’t so…

“The thought nof a cocktail dress instantly brings  to mind a certain type of glass, a cherry or skewered olive, and a very specific social setting – and, from today’s point of view, a very middle-class situation.” –Gerda Buxbaum

When the cocktail dress first arrived on the fashion scene around 1947, a very structured dress with a fitted top that hit just below the knee retained the title. It was a fancy dress – lace, chiffon – that boasted names such as “Shady Lady” or “Fallen Angel”… The “edgy” of the 1940’s. Often worn with full length gloves, unique hats, and always a heel, they defined an era of confident woman, with a twist of sex.

As good fashion should, the dress morphed and changed as the decades passed and now, real cocktail dresses  embody their own new flavor which still oozes confidence whenever worn, wherever seen.

Some Magical (Affordable) Cocktail Dress Designers:

  • Tadashi
  • Nanette Lepore
  • Nicole Miller
  • Kay Unger
  • Vera Wang

More Expensive Cocktail Dress Designers:

  • Abaete
  • Diane Von Furstenberg
  • Carmen Marc Valvo

Please take note that, since the 1940’s and 1950’s, when cocktail dresses were at their popular peak, we’ve discovered that the a-line, below the knee hemline is not as… flattering as we edgy, classy ladies would like, so the hemline on today’s dresses is just a bit lighter at the top of the kneecap.


Diane von Furstenberg Ravine Dress
Diane von Furstenberg Ravine Dress

Abaete Ysabel Dress
Abaete Ysabel Dress

Vera Wang deep coral sateen double bow dress
$495 $279

Kay Unger light grey watercolor square silk dress
Kay Unger Watercolor Square Silk Dress
$374 $224


Nicole Miller black faille strapless sweetheart dress
Nicole Miller Strapless Sweetheart Dress
$275 $165


Free People Silk Charmeuse Suzys Slip Dress
Free People Silk Charmeuse Suzys Slip Dress

Ben Sherman Pearl Dress
from Urban Outfitters
$129 $79

Try one out – there’s no way that this shape could ever be unflattering. Go for the actually classic look at your next get-together.