What To Wear To: Summer Cocktail Parties

This is another new feature: “What to Wear To…” — we plan to tackle attire for office events that are outside the office.
It’s the summer. Your office is flush with interns, either from law school or MBA school. In order to impress, the company holds numerous summer events, including <dun dun dunnnh> the cocktail party. Maybe at a restaurant, maybe at a partner or executive’s house/mansion. The question looms: What do you wear?

Honestly, the answer here is usually “a suit.” You simply don’t want to run the risk of looking like someone’s date. Still, there are times when a cocktail dress is appropriate — and when that happens you should strive to be as conservative and as ladylike as possible. In general, this means your dress should not be:

  • shiny
  • satin (it wrinkles anyway)
  • strapless
  • low-cut
  • mini-skirted
  • relying on a safety-pin in any regard
  • appropriate for any of the following activities: being a contestant in a pageant, sleeping, or being a dominatrix

That said, here are some appropriate dresses:

summer cocktail party attire for work parties


  1. I’ve got a red shift with short sleeves that is actually a more colourful version of my favorite work dress. It’s my default for when I have something work related but don’t have to work. I like it because it is very easy to imagine me dressed appropriately for 9-6, but also cheerful and not drab. With a grey jacket, and the bag and shoes I’d normally wear at work it looks pretty serious, but it can also be worn with a fun shoe and a pretty scarf or sparkly brooch.
    For something more formal, I’d get a goody two shoes cocktail dress that would also work for conservative weddings.

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