Redhaired woman in blue dress holding martini glass in front of her face, as she sits on a white chair in front of a white background

Look the Best Dressed Guest with these Glamorous Summer Cocktail Dresses

Fashion /


Dresses to take you through the summer social season

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Ready to get your glam on this summer? Make your mark as the best dressed guest with our edit of the best summer cocktail dresses, with picks from Reformation and The Vampire’s Wife, as well as plenty of rental options.

What is a Cocktail Dress?

While not as strict as the black tie dress code, cocktail dress events are still a semi-formal occasion. An invite for such an event will often say ‘cocktail attire required’, but this is about as helpful as paper shoes on a rainy day. The term is vague, but in most cases the host will expect you to wear a dress – and not just any dress, a cocktail dress. Cocktail dresses are typically worn to late afternoon and early evening social gatherings, meaning they straddle the line between daywear and fancy evening wear. But where did the cocktail dress come from?

The cocktail dress itself dates back to the 19th century, when dinner dresses became popular amongst ladies in the Victorian era. High necks, long sleeves and narrow skirts were popular, but were quickly swept away by the evening gown of the early 20th century. This is when cocktail parties took off in popularity, led by the United States. Designers began to fashion dresses specifically for these parties, creating the early cocktail dress and by the 1920s, the free-flowing, knee-length dress was all the rage.

The modern cocktail dress we recognise today didn’t come about until after the Second World War, with the help of French luxury fashion house Dior. Titled the ‘New Look’, this cocktail dress featured a tight waistline, long hemline and fuller skirt.

Today’s cocktail dresses don’t look too dissimilar. They’re typically a shorter style that rests above the knee (but can also run slightly longer in a midi skirt style), and generally look sophisticated as well as party-ready.

Still looking for some inspiration? Check our edit of the best summer cocktail dresses below. As always, before you buy, check at home to see if you have something that fits the bill. Re-wearing old clothes is the best way to be sustainable, but if you can’t avoid it then try to shop consciously at responsible retailers, as well as rental and resale sites.

Look the Best Dressed Guest with these Glamorous Summer Cocktail Dresses

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Blue and white floral embroidered midi dress

Chi Chi London

Floral-Embroidered Woven Midi Dress, £132, selfridges.com

Model stood in white dress with floral pattern

Reformation

Juliette Dress, £248, thereformation.com

Red lace mini dress with ruffles

Self-Portrait

Star Lace Mini Cocktail Dress (UK8), rent from £46, hurrcollective.com

Pink floral mini dress with long puff sleeves and ruffles

Needle & Thread

Darling Meadow Ruffle Mini Dress, £305, needleandthread.com

Pink flowy mini dress with V neckline and puff sleeves

Maria Lucia Hohan

Sandra Silk Mini Dress, £532, brownsfashion.com

Purple midi bodycon dress with corset top

House of CB

Teia Sky Draped Corset Midi Dress, £179, houseofcb.com

Pink metallic mini dress with long puff sleeves and a large ribbon at the neck

The Vampire’s Wife

Metallic Dress (UK10), rent from £97, byrotation.com

Silver metallic mini dress with puff sleeves

ROTATE Birger Christensen

Rudy Dress in Silver, rent from £35, rotaro.co.uk

Yellow on-shoulder midi dress

Lavish Alice

Asymmetric Woven Midi Dress in Yellow, £98, selfridges.com

Pink puff sleeve midi dress

Carolina Herrera

Puff-Sleeved Midi Dress, £2,050, harrods.com

Featured image: Laura Chouette, Unsplash

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