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Though dress codes are no longer what they once were—what we choose to wear is more about personal style than fashion dos and don’ts—there are still times when we have to get a little fancy. For these occasions, a cocktail dress never goes out of style and is a great excuse to have fun with our outfits. If you’re over 60, you’ll want to prioritize comfort, both that of the dress itself and how confident you feel wearing it. Read on for assured dress success with advice from style experts.
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“You want the dress to complement you; you should never be an accessory to your dress,” says Liana Chaouli, a Los Angeles-based image therapist. “Cocktail dresses should be the frame, and the woman should be the artwork.”
For this reason, pay extra attention to the silhouette of your clothing. A great cocktail dress should flatter your body: fit-and-flare for hourglass figures, A-line for pear- and apple-shapes, ruching and other volume-creating details for stick-straight bods. If you’re looking for more coverage, consider one of these styles that also has a cape, cloak, or shawl.
And remember that silhouette doesn’t end with the dress. “Wear undergarments that lift and smooth as appropriate,” advises Kara Batey, personal stylist and founder of Closet by Kara Batey. “Don’t forget to do a 360-degree check for visible panty lines or straps!”
Rather than concealing your least favorite attributes, seize the chance to put your best features on dazzling display.
Elizabeth Kosich, personal stylist at Elizabeth Kosich Styling, tells Best Life, “We all know what we like about our bodies and what we don’t. Look for design details that accentuate accordingly, like ruffles that play up curves… Consider showing off your shoulders with an off-the-shoulder design (one shoulder, or both) or a cold-shoulder style neckline. Women over 60 never complain about their shoulders!”
According to Brooke Sheldon, wedding planner and owner of Lilybrooke Events, older women also tend to feel confident about their forearms and wrists, so a three-quarter-length sleeve “allows your skin to show and gives space for beautiful bracelets.”
Batey recommends thinking about more than just body parts, too. “Love your beautiful green eyes but don’t feel confident about your hips? Wear a simple dress in black or navy with jewelry that makes your eye color pop,” she says.
Likewise, “If you can’t wear heels, but don’t love the look of flats with your dresses, find a long dress so the shoes are hidden,” suggests Jodie Filogomo, founder of Jodie’s Touch of Style.
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We all know the basics of cocktail dressing—black is slimming, beware of too-high hemlines and too-low necklines, and know what you’d rather cover. But appropriate and stunning are two different matters, and the difference is in the small, nuanced design details.
“Cocktail dresses are meant to be fun and stand out. Enjoy finding ones with bling and all kinds of extras,” says Filogomo. “Just because we are older doesn’t mean we have to be invisible. Don’t automatically assume the dress needs to be black!”
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Not everyone likes to pile on the bling, and subtle is always in style. “I am a personal fan of monochromatic dressing, which lets you play with different fabrics, fun shoes, and large accessories,” says Sheldon. “Something classic and timeless, simple outlines, not too many competing patterns or colors, unless that is a style that you usually wear and is somewhat of your signature.” And remember, this is a great way to stray from all-black while maintaining a polished look.
While a jacket is always an appropriate topper for a cocktail dress, don’t feel like you have to hide behind one. Filogomo suggests layering a lacy blouse or top, or a pretty scarf, under a sleeveless dress.
Dresses aren’t for everyone, either. Kosich recommends giving the tuxedo look a whirl at a cocktail-attire event. “Try an Yves Saint Laurent-style le smoking tuxedo suit and be the chicest person in the room. The menswear-inspired classic look can be found in lots of fun fabrics these days—velvet, crushed velvet, silk—so there’s no need to play it safe with the predictable wool blend. If suiting feels too daring, try a tuxedo dress as a first step, if not too short.”