Differences Between Cocktail Dresses and Evening Dresses

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We know that both cocktail and evening dresses are beautiful, sexy, and formal. However, did you ever wonder what is the difference between these two dresses? You are about to find out.

Let’s start with some basics. Then, you will see the difference between a cocktail and evening dress.

What is Cocktail Dress

A cocktail dress is an item that is semi-formal, perfect for the afternoon and late-night parties. The idea of a cocktail dress first appeared in Vogue back in 1927. It was then described as a “short dress that is suitable for formal occasions.”

You can add sparkly jewellery, clutches, and other accessories to make your cocktail attire even more eye-catching. Cocktail dresses are feminine even short or bold.

What is Evening Dress

An evening dress is as the word itself says a dress for the evening occasions. It is purely formal, elegant, and very sophisticated. They vary from ballerina to full length.

In the past, it was known as a court dress. It originates from the 15 centuries, with the Burgundian court rise. Women were wearing these dresses for special occasions, often adding a train to their kirtle.

The evening dress certainly has more history than the cocktail one, since it has changed a lot over the years.


The Differences Between Cocktail and Evening Dresses

We all wondered if something is not too elegant for a cocktail party. That is an eternal dilemma of party girls. On the other hand, evening parties are definitely not the places for something semi-formal or casual. That is why we have listed all the differences between cocktail and evening dresses.



Cocktail dresses are semi-formal ones, that don’t necessarily need to be super-elegant or made of shiny satin. Cocktail parties are not places where people are looking over-the-line. Instead, it is a place where you can see shiny, short or midi cocktail dresses – nothing too fancy. A-line dress is perfect for describing how formal a cocktail dress should be.

On the other hand, evening dresses and gowns are super-glamorous. They are absolutely formal, so they require full makeup on, high heels, and shiny jewellery. You can wear an evening dress at your best friends’ wedding day and at other kinds of formal celebrations.


This navy-blue evening dress has it all – sequins, full length, and chiffon train. It is perfect for traditional and formal summer weddings.


Skirt Length

Cocktail dresses vary from super short to midi lengths. It is normal to wear short lengths to a cocktail party, while it might not be appropriate for evening occasions. This short cocktail dress is made of lace, and it is great for summer rooftop cocktail parties.

That is why, unlike cocktail dresses, formal evening dresses are usually long or below the knee. You can choose full-length velvet dress for winter celebrations.

Colour and Pattern

Cocktail dresses can be found in varieties of colours and patterns. From sequined pink lace to animal print satin. You can’t be wrong with any colour you pick since cocktail parties don’t have any specific rules about it. This layered midi dress in this interesting pattern is perfect for a semi-formal cocktail party.

When it comes to evening dresses, it is better to stay neutral, pick darker shades, like grey, navy, or jewel tones. The trumpet V-neck jewel-toned dress looks simply gorgeous.


When it comes to fabric, both cocktail and evening dresses are made of diverse materials. From lace to silk and satin – all materials are fine. Unlike cocktail dresses, evening ones might be just a bit more elegant, so they are usually made of chiffon, tulle, and lace. You won’t find many cocktail dresses made of chiffon, but you will find ones made of silk, satin, lace, and even cotton.


Cocktail dresses are made in different designs – from A-line to bodycon and asymmetric. These are the most popular designs, so women like to wear them to cocktail parties.

evening dresses are usually long, with A-line, sheath, trumpet, mermaid, and princess cut. These designs are more elegant, so they are reserved for formal events.

Sleeve types

Short sleeves, off-the-shoulder, and sleeveless evening dresses are the most popular. These sleeve types are not only elegant, but they are also sophisticated and appropriate for elegant occasions.

Long-sleeved dress with a lace bodice and the full-length skirt is great for fall and winter celebrations.

Cocktail dresses can also have off-the-shoulders sleeves, as well as long, short, and cold sleeves. Some of these looks less elegant, which is why they can’t be seen on evening dresses.

Pick off-the-shoulder sleeve type dress if you want to have a head-turner attire. This red colour will certainly attract views.

Neckline Type

Formal occasions might require a bit more traditional and appropriate neckline on your dress. You can opt for many of these classy necklines – round, square, scoop, V-neck, and many others that look sophisticated and classy.

Unlike formal dresses, cocktail dresses are more likely to be found with all sorts of necklines. Plunging V-neck, off-the-shoulder neckline and many others will make you look sexy and glamorous, wherever you go.


Cocktail attire doesn’t usually require many accessories. However, it depends on you that you will choose to wear – jewellery and clutches are the must-have. To get your cocktail dress fashionable accessory, pick this sequin clutch. Its size and shape are perfect for a night out.

When it comes to evening dresses, there are a lot of ways you can accessorize them to look even more formal. Try adding wraps in a similar colour as the dress, hats, and even gloves. All these accessories will add a fairy tale vibe to your evening dress.


As you can see, there are certain differences between cocktail and evening dresses. You can be sure that both of these dresses are elegant and great for all types of formal events.

We hope you get inspiration from our suggestions, and that you now know the difference between cocktail attire and evening one.

Which one would you rather wear? Cocktail or evening dress?

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