What Does Cocktail Casual Even Mean?

I recently received an invitation to attend a social outing for an adults-only event. The focus of the evening would be all things wine. Wine tasting, wine pairings, wine history, wine-induced memory loss, followed, of course, by wine-filled regrets when your kids wake you up at the crack of dawn the next morning.


I enthusiastically replied yes because adults only is a huge selling point when you have kids. After clicking yes I didn’t give it another thought until two days before the event. In those 48 hours before go-time, I realized the invitation said “cocktail casual” which was unfortunate because I had zero clue what that meant.

Raise your hand if you know. I stand firmly on team “who the hell knows because I’ve been raising kids for the last nine years, and wearing non-elastic waistband pants is now what I consider to be fancy.”

I wasn’t even sure if my wardrobe contained anything that fell into that category. The remaining dress clothes that occupy my closet are all circa 2007 when I was not yet a mom, still kind of cool, 15 lbs lighter, and sequins were still considered fashionable.

I mean, should I wear a little black dress, LBD for those who are hip and in the know, accompanied by my cutest pair of black leggings? A harmonious marriage of the styles cocktail and casual. A business on top, party on the bottom type of vibe, if you will.

Maybe it means you’re supposed to wear cocktail attire while you casually walk around the room acting like your circulation isn’t being cut-off from the pantyhose you talked yourself into wearing?

I quickly fired off a text to my best girlfriend who is also a mom to get her thoughts and she replied with “What does that mean?” Not helpful, but I won’t hold it against her. Note to self: Find at least one friend without children who looks like she knows what the current fashion trends are.

Next, I googled my question because Google is supposed to know everything, but the results were unsatisfactory. So I headed to the mall and enlisted the help of a young sales girl who was also perplexed by the dress code and thought it was misleading and contradictory.

Guys, if the professionals can’t decode this then we’re in trouble.

I ended up wearing a short navy blue silk wrap dress paired with navy heels and gold statement jewelry because that’s what the sales girl told me to do.

Was I casual? Not by my definition. If I have to squish my mom body into a pair of Spanx then there’s nothing casual about what’s happening. I was in a dress that didn’t feel over the top dressy though, and I blended in with the crowd, which was number one on my list of priorities. I’m a big fan of blending into my surroundings.

So if you’re like me and you’re not super familiar with current fashion trends or what the different dress codes mean, here’s a quick and dirty breakdown:

Cocktail:  A mid length or shorter dress that you’d find in the evening wear section of the department store. Not a gown, though. This isn’t your senior prom, people.

Cocktail casual:  Like above, only not super fancy and definitely no black leggings or yoga pants. 

Black Tie:  Think senior prom or just don’t go because who wants to relive the senior prom? I’m kidding, it wasn’t that bad. Seriously though, black tie is code for fancy, and you’ll probably want to wear a gown.

Black Tie Optional:  This is a trick. They want you to dress like the invitation says black tie but they don’t want to feel bad about requiring it. Go fancy or don’t go.

In the future can we all just agree to be casual or cocktail for the sake of fashion deficient moms everywhere? Or, if everyone you’re inviting to your party is over thirty-five and has kids, just say the dress code is whatever isn’t stained, still fits, and makes you feel like you’re not the middle-aged version of Chunk from the Goonies.


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