September 26, 2022

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44 Best Cocktail Dresses Worth Celebrating

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Bar none, the best cocktail dresses check off all the boxes for a festive wardrobe investment. And because spring’s fresh blooms and warmer temperatures are within arm’s reach, it feels timely to survey the season’s most celebratory dress options for any upcoming parties, weddings, or formal gatherings you may have on the calendar.

What to shop? Unsurprisingly, floral prints will be a major player, with standouts from print masters like Erdem and Markarian in the mix. Off-the-shoulder necklines and puff sleeves will also dominate, as will whimsical design details such as ruching, sequins, and 3D embellishments from buzzy names like Alejandra Alonso Rojas, LaQuan Smith, and Bernadette. Also be on the lookout for fun-loving fabrics (tulle, satin, taffeta) crafted in punchy and powdery brights. There’s a lot to take in, so get a head start and continue below for 44 of the season’s best cocktail dresses.

The Bright Blooms

Florals and spring will forever be intrinsically linked, and this time around the pattern feels like a breath of fresh air. Maybe it’s to wear to an upcoming wedding or simply for a friend’s birthday gathering; the bloom motif always feels right.

Reformation Juliette midi dress

Erdem Garnet floral-embroidered maxi dress

Markarian Tricia midi dress

Ulla Johnson Faiza floral midi dress

The Refreshed Ruching

Gathered fabric is a design detail that’s equal parts romantic and alluring. For spring, you’ll have your pick from sultry minidresses all the way to formal, ankle-grazing slip dresses.

Khaite Spence ruched midi dress

Alejandra Alonso Rojas silk bustier maxi dress

Magda Butrym silk mini dress

Jacquemus Saudade draped mini dress

The Pops of Pink

Nod to spring romance with an all-pink palette. Silhouettes go from on-the-town mainstays like ruched slip dresses and strapless minis to dinner-party-ready midis crafted in soft satin and ribbed knit.

Nanushka Zina strapless mini dress

Emilia Wickstead Wynda printed faille midi dress

Veronica Beard Gabriella halter neck dress

Cinq a Sept Eastwood dress

The Bow Bedecked

Opt for a cocktail dress with an unabashedly festive bow up front—it’s an embellishment that never fails to surprise and delight.

Self-Portrait off-the-shoulder mini dress

Miu Miu Gazar embroidered midi dress

Saloni Camille velvet mini dress

Caroline Herrera bow-detailed midi dress

The Puff Sleeves

Turn the volume up with puff sleeves. This trend leans toward cottagecore when crafted in casual fabrics, but when it emerges in the form of a cocktail dress, the result can read a bit more party ready.

Cult Gaia Timea ruched puff sleeve dress

J.Crew Collection cutout dress

Autumn Adeigbo Jovie dress

Reformation Cyprus short-sleeve dress

The Sheer Delight

Sheer fabrics are a perennial favorite, but in spring translate the look to a cocktail dress in a powdery hue to give it a seasonal refresh.

A.L.C. Jackie tulle midi dress

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Oscar de la Renta crystal-embellished mini halter dress

Red Valentino layered tulle dress

Maison Margiela netted maxi dress

The Twilight Tulle

On the other side of the coin, spring doesn’t always equate to florals and bright colors—a deep navy or black palette can still feel well suited for the season.

Khaite Carmen ruffle satin mini dress

Baum und Predrdgarten Acayla lace dress

Hill House Home Collector’s Edition Ellie nap dress

Rebecca Taylor tulle A-line dress

The Slim Straps

Barely there straps feel like ’90s nostalgia at its finest, and when worn on a cocktail dress, the whole look can feel particularly appealing.

Bernadette Birgit gathered taffeta dress

Bottega Veneta ribbed-knit mini dress

Rebecca Taylor silk and ostrich feather dress

Cinq a Sept Mariah cutout slit dress

The All That Glitters

It’s not just for New Year’s Eve—there’s always an excuse to leave the house in a glittery cocktail dress. For the season, consider a shorter hemline to keep it light.

Dodo Bar Or Luka embellished midi dress

Sachin and Babi Delaney sequinned mini dress

The Cold Shoulder

Designers are constantly reimagining the off-the-shoulder silhouette—spring’s inventions are varied, with sultry sweaterdresses in the mix as well as drapey slips and architectural minis.

Cecilie Bahnsen Joel satin-jacquard dress

Thebe Magugu fringed mini dress

Markarian Yvette floral midi dress

The Slinky Knit

During spring, temperatures begin to thaw, yes, but there’s still a chill in the air. Transition to the new season with a long-sleeve cocktail dress made in a body-hugging rib-knit fabric.

Galvan Thalia ribbed-knit midi dress

Remain Birger Christensen Gunilla knit bodycon dress

Staud Shoko buttoned ribbed-knit dress