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The cocktail dress has seen an evolution over the last few hundred years; what was once a trend reserved for the elite and rich of the world is now a staple in most wardrobes. A cocktail dress is truly versatile because it can be worn to an after-work party, a wedding, a school reunion and a birthday celebration, and still be appropriate!

The kind of dress you choose can say a lot about you, so here 6 steps to help you choose the perfect dress from all the cocktail dresses available, as soon as possible.

Step 1: Choose Your Budget

Have a rough budget in mind, and don’t look at anything too cheap or too expensive, as this will just lead to wasted time. Keep in mind that you’ll likely want to buy new shoes and accessories to pair with your dress, so have a budget in mind for those, too.

Step 2: Know Your Body Type

There’s a dress silhouette to suit every kind of body shape, and it’s worth doing a little investigating before you buy your perfect cocktail dress. Different dresses suit different shapes, sizes, and heights, so learn which body shape you are and which styles you should stay away from. For example, if you’re an hourglass, you may know that dresses look best on you when tight or cinched at the waist, and so you can look past the cocktail dresses that don’t meet that criteria.

Step 3: Consider What Material You Need

Do you typically get hot and dance at parties? If so, it’s probably best to stay away from velvet and other heavy fabrics. If you live in the South, that goes double. The material for your cocktail dress should be comfortable and also season-appropriate.

Step 4: What Color/Patterns Are a No-No?

If you know you have just a few colors you want to consider, that’s great, but otherwise, it’s a good idea to make a list of the shades and patterns you need to avoid while browsing cocktail dresses so you can filter your search results and not waste time considering them.

Step 5: Start Shortlisting

Now you’ve got a good idea of what you’re looking for (or not looking for), start browsing cocktail dresses and make a wishlist or shortlist of the ones you’re interested in. Try to keep this to a minimum if you can, as you may find you get too overwhelmed with choice!

Step 6: Watch That Hemline!

Once you’ve got your shortlist, take a look at any that are short and consider if you’ll be happy with the hemline, especially if you’re tall. The last thing you want is to get a dress you love but be too nervous to move around freely in case you flash someone! While a cocktail dress is typically above the knee, you can pick whatever length you feel most comfortable in.

Step 7: Choose Your Dress!

By now, you’ve hopefully narrowed it down to just a few choices, so it’s time to pull the trigger and pick your dress. (Or, let’s be honest, buy the ones you like most and keep them for another event!)

Step 8: Select Your Accessories Carefully

That goes for your underwear, as well as your jewelry, shoes, and bag. The last thing you want is to find all your underwear leaves a visible line 5 minutes before you have to leave, so try your dress on when it arrives for fit and with the underwear you’ll wear on the day. This will help you feel the most confident and give you time to buy dress-appropriate underwear if you have an open back or decide you want to wear shapewear with your dress. 

Your shoes are the next most important piece of the perfect cocktail dress outfit, so pick what looks best and is at least relatively easy to move around in. Tottering around in stilettos is no good if you look like Bambi on ice, no matter how good you look standing still!