What to wear when the invitation says Cocktail Dress? A cute dress that hits around knee length (or shorter) with dressy details. The formal factor can be a pretty fabric (like satin or lace) or a bit of sparkle. And certain silhouettes -- like the one-shoulder dress -- are definitely ready for cocktail hour. When in doubt, a little black dress always works for this type of event.
Want to instantly create an hourglass figure? The fit 'n' flare silhouette is perfect for this. It cinches in at the waist to create the illusion of a smaller waist, but flares out at the skirt to hide a heavy lower body. Keep fabrics soft -- not stiff -- and avoid excess pleats for the most flattering look. The beauty of this silhouette is that it looks ladylike, but you can carry off flats or lower-heeled shoes with that full skirt (as well as high heels.)
The one-shoulder dress is also a very flattering after five dress because it draws the eye up to create a taller, slimmer figure. The one-shoulder silhouette also works well for women with broad shoulders because it breaks up the line. When the dress includes some softness (satin, ruching) it becomes a very flattering look that works on most women.
3. Sheath Dress
One of the most flattering -- and no-fail -- cocktail dresses you can wear is the sheath dress. This deceptively simple dress will make the most of your body's natural shape and look chic and feminine at the same time. Sheath dresses with a little something extra -- a cowl neck in the back, a pretty floral print, a lace fabric -- are ideal for cocktail dress because it's the type of dress that can pull double duty: most sheath dresses also work for the office (if you don't want to show your arms, just pop on a blazer or belt a cardigan over it.)
5. Peplum Dress
Give your girly shape the boost it needs with a pretty peplum dress. This style does wonders for an athletic figure. It also looks good with curvy girls, creating an exaggerated hourglass silhouette. Whatever your shape, you can benefit from the look of a smaller waist, which the peplum dress does. Peplums with a longer "skirt" area can also cover a tummy, which makes this a miracle silhoutte.
Need to hide a few extra pounds? Want to look tall and slim? Try a drop-waist dress as your next cocktail dress. This type of dress is ideal for figures with a wider waistline (like many women over 40 get.) It's also perfect for petite figures because it makes you look long and lean. And for women who are top heavy and short waisted, the drop-waist formal dress elongates your torso and balances you out.
One of the easiest -- and most flattering -- dress shapes is the shift dress. This easy silhouette skims over the body and suggests (but doesn't hug) your body. This slightly boxy cut is extremely forgiving since it doesn't touch your body. Go for sparkly or metallic fabrics -- either allover or with trims -- to add a dressier touch to the shift. Heels will elongate the look and make you look taller and slimmer.