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The 20 Best Cocktail Dresses to Wear This Summer


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Summer is a time of celebration, so it’s not unusual for a last-minute party to pop up on your calendar. Having a few easy cocktail dresses ready at the back of your closet can help to guarantee that even if a day-of invite comes your way, you’ll have an elegant cocktail dress for any party. The best summer dresses for your cocktail parties should make getting dressed easy, they can be fancy, but they should never be fussy or something you’ll need to fidget with all night. You’ll also want to pay close attention to your material of choice — since temperatures are on the rise you’ll need a dress that doesn’t hold onto heat — silk and cotton are both go-to choices.

 What makes cocktail dresses a go-to for celebratory occasions this season is that there are a wide range of options that with the right accessories can be dressed up or down. For designer Azeeza Khan, the right style needs to be able to work for day or night. “It would be very hard to find a cocktail dress that doesn’t match with a clean, white Air Force 1,” she explains for a more casual summer cocktail dress look. “It’s a no-fail pairing that I call on almost every day when I don’t have the bandwidth to think twice about my outfit.” As for times when dressing up is a must, she suggests, “a beautiful, oversized statement earring has never failed me in elevating a look, day or night.”

Ahead, find a few key trends to consider and our favorite pieces to shop.

Top Cocktail Dress Trends Of 2022

  • Cutout Cocktail Dresses: Cool cutouts were all over the summer runways, from emerging designers, like Christopher Esber and established labels, including Zimmermann, alike. It’s also a style favored by celebs across the style spectrum, like Hailey Bieber and J.Lo, to name a few. Try this trend for evenings when cocktail hour may turn into a full-on night on the town.
  • Bold Colors: If you have a friend’s impending nuptials on the calendar, you’ll want to avoid white, but fun colors are fair game. Summer cocktail dresses for weddings should be bright and playful, as seen in collections by designers Jacquemus and Blumarine. “Color can be such a mood lifter and it also allows you to stand out, regardless of how simple the silhouette is,” notes Khan.
  • Minidresses: Hemlines are shrinking this season, as evidenced by the universal popularity of Miu Miu’s teeny-tiny micro skirts. For elegant cocktail events, look for minidresses with a full skirt for a polished touch, while a body-hugging silhouette in linen or cotton is beautifully eye-catching (without being too much) for a casual summer cocktail dress.
  • Minimalism: “Effortless is always in,” notes Khan. “My baseline when designing any dress is that in order to look good, you need to feel good. Pieces that can be worn effortlessly, but at the same time stand out, will always be part of any summer wardrobe.”

Top Cocktail Dresses of 2022

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Astr The Label Midi Dress

Best Floral Cocktail Dress

  • Sizes: XS-XL
  • Colorways available: Navy, mauve, periwinkle, white, hunter green, buttercream, vivid violet, jade green, light orchid

This dress fits perfectly and is easy to dress up or down,” writes one reviewer. Having racked up hundreds of 5-star reviews, you can be assured that this lace dress will make you feel elegant the minute you put it on. The wide range of color options and sizes mean that you can find whatever iteration is best for you, especially if you’re looking for a petite summer cocktail dress. To style, consider a nude, heeled sandal and finish with a light summer sweater in case things cool off. 




Astr The Label Midi Dress


$89



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Staud Armel Dress

Best Designer Summer Cocktail Dress

  • Sizes: XS-XL
  • Colorways available: Multi

Want to make a splash the moment you walk in the room? This striped dress from LA-based line, Staud, is a playful option that can work for a daytime celebration or cocktail hour. The nylon and spandex body is stretchy, meaning you’ll be able to comfortably move around the room without worrying about it wrinkling or tugging. Throw on a simple pair of white shoes and voila. 

Staud Armel Dress




Staud Armel Dress


$325



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Paloma Wool Haya Dress

Best Ribbed Cotton Cocktail Dress

  • Sizes: XS-XL
  • Colorways available: Blue

Lightweight ribbed cotton may seem a bit casual, but the right silhouette makes it a fit for an evening hour. Paloma Wool’s figure-hugging style has a cheeky twist to it, thanks to the gradient purple stripes and back straps. Try using it as a swim coverup during the day, and dressing the look up at night with spunky jewelry.

Paloma Wool Haya Dress




Paloma Wool Haya Dress


$203



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Peter Dundas Minidress

Best Embellished Cocktail Dress

  • Sizes: 4-8
  • Colorways available: Black

If you’re a fan of adding some sparkle to your look, consider this stylish minidress. The crystal beading is perfect if you plan on doing a little dancing on your night out. The fringe hem adds an additional playful touch of texture as well. If you’re interested in this summer’s “night luxe” trend, start here. 

Peter Dundas




Peter Dundas Minidress


$1,100



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Adriana Degreas Cutout Dress

Best Halter Cocktail Dress

  • Sizes: S-L
  • Colorways available: Chartreuse

Add a pop of color to your summer cocktail wardrobe with this bright cocktail dress from Adriana Degreas. The cotton material will keep you cool through the night. If you want an entry point into the popular cutout trend, the small, geometric one at the chest is a great option to consider. Because of the bold halter chain, keep your jewelry simple with a pair of gold hoops.  

Adriana Degreas Cutout Dress




Adriana Degreas Cutout Dress


$720



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Toteme Satin Midi Dress

Best Black Slip Cocktail Dress

  • Sizes: DK 34-40
  • Colorways available: Black

There’s no denying the universal appeal of a sleek black slip dress. But this summer, try a new, sleeker aesthetic via the Stockholm-based brand, Toteme. The sophisticated slim straps and empire waist are elevated details that set this dress apart. Pair with lace-up flat sandals for daytime, or swap for heels in the evening. Top off the look with a designer bag for a little oomph. 

Toteme Satin Midi Dress




Toteme Satin Midi Dress


$570



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Raey Lace-Trimmed Silk Satin Slip Dress

Best Lace-Trim Cocktail Dress

  • Sizes: 4-16
  • Colorways available: White

Want to take your slip dress up a notch? Try one with contrasting lace detail, like this style from Raey. The silhouette is inspired by the ‘90s, with a bias cut and waist tie. The body is made of 100% silk, so it will be soft against your skin, too. If you’re the type to prioritize comfort, this slip will surely fit the bill.

Raey Lace-Trim Dress




Raey Lace-Trim Dress


$805



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Jonathan Simkhai Romy Dress

Best Short Summer Cocktail Dress

  • Sizes: 0-10
  • Colorways available: Orange

Short hemlines are in this summer, so you’ll want to arm yourself with at least one minidress. This creamsicle-colored option from Jonathan Simkhai has subtle cutouts at the waist that cinch a little tighter, by way of stone-studded drawstrings. The swingy skirt is fab for dancing, and the additional drawstrings on the bottom allow you to adjust the dress’s height to your needs. If you love a dress you can dance in, here’s a solid option.

Jonathan Simkhai Romy Dress




Jonathan Simkhai Romy Dress


$525



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Cecilie Bahnsen Camden Dress

Best Smocked Cocktail Dress

  • Size: UK 6-13
  • Colorways available: Orange

Cecilie Bahnsen is a Copenhagen-based line beloved for its voluminous dresses and tops. This season, the label is putting a twist on their designs with skin-hugging smocking through the chest and hip. When there’s a party on the agenda that requires something a tad more formal, this dress is a great place to start. Try styling it with thick, gold jewelry for a glamorous finishing touch.

Cecilie Bahnsen Camden Dress




Cecilie Bahnsen Camden Dress


$1,250



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Jacquemus Bari Dress

Best Blazer Cocktail Dress

  • Sizes: 34-40
  • Colorways available: Green

Leave it to Parisian label Jacquemus to transform the blazer into something that commands attention. This bright green dress has a cutout across the back that offers an unexpected detail on the tailored staple. If you thought blazers were just for work, think again. Since it’s such an eye-catching number, keep your accessories simple and sleek.

Jacquemus Bari Dress




Jacquemus Bari Dress


$1,350



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The Reformation Frasier Dress

Best Slit Cocktail Dress

  • Sizes: 0-12
  • Colorways available: Black, desiree, forest, hillside, madeline, portofino, twilight

Do you love a dress that shows a little sliver of leg? Then this is the style for you. Reformation’s Frasier dress comes in a range of fun colors and prints, so you can find the option that best fits your style (and the event). Since the dress also has a high neckline and capped sleeves, it’s a thoughtful option for the shopper who doesn’t want to show too much skin. With a cocktail in hand and a designer handbag in another, you’ll look ultra sophisticated.

reformation Frasier Dress in Desiree




The Reformation Frasier Dress


$248



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Zara Tied Printed Wrap Dress

Best Floral Summer Cocktail Dress

  • Sizes: XS-XL
  • Colorways available: Multicolor

Do you constantly check Zara’s new arrivals? Then you may have already spotted this bohemian wrap dress. The front-tie closure adds a bit of a casual flair to the piece, while it still would look sophisticated with a pair of minimalist sandals. The beading details on the straps add an extra touch of playfulness that will pair well with a simple choker necklace or statement earrings.

Zara Wrap Dress




Zara Tied Printed Wrap Dress


$59



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Isabel Marant Albi Dress

Best Summer Cocktail Dress with Sleeves

  • Sizes: 2-12
  • Colorways available: Multicolor

For nights when long sleeves are your preferred option, give Isabel Marant’s dress a spin. The delightful print is bright, but doesn’t give off over the top vibes. Plus, the puffed shoulders and nipped waist are a nod to the ‘80s, without the style ever feeling too nostalgic. Additionally, the silk fabric will help keep you cool should it be a hotter day out than you planned for.

Isabel Marant Albi Dress




Isabel Marant Albi Dress


$976



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Three Graces London Isa Dress

Best One-Shoulder Cocktail Dress

  • Sizes: 6-16
  • Colorways available: Yellow

Not only is linen a breathable fabric choice, it’s a versatile option for a look that needs to take you from day to night. This one-shoulder smocked dress could easily be thrown on over a swimsuit, but with the addition of the right accessories, it can also be dressy. The light, buttery yellow color is great for those with a more minimalist aesthetic, but are looking to add a touch of color to their look. Try a raffia or straw bag to complete the transitional outfit.

Three Graces London Isa Dress




Three Graces London Isa Dress


$863



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Azeeza Alcott Raw Silk White Dress

Best Trapeze Cocktail Dress

  • Sizes: XS-XL
  • Colorways available: White

Sometimes during summer, you don’t want a dress that clings too tightly to the body. Not only will it show sweat marks, but it doesn’t allow your body any room to breathe. Azeeza Alcott’s swingy trapeze dress will keep you cool and comfortable. The pleated ruffles add a bit of movement, and pockets are a practical touch you’ll appreciate.

Azeeza Alcott Raw Silk White Dress




Azeeza Alcott Raw Silk White Dress


$895



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Daily Paper Masara Dress

Best Bodycon Cocktail Dress

  • Sizes: XS-XXL
  • Colorways available: Black

Black doesn’t have to be boring. A strappy dress like this one is the starting point for a night-out look. The stretchy jersey fabric will hug your curves comfortably. If black is your favorite color to wear, this is a streamlined piece that you’ll reach for over and over again.

Daily Paper Masara Dress




Daily Paper Masara Dress


$121



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Dôen Lupine Dress

Best Prairie Cocktail Dress

  • Sizes: XS-XL
  • Colorways available: Oregano, dilys posy, park lane plaid

The prairie dress isn’t going anywhere this summer. Romantic, fluttery dresses will easily work at both a summer picnic as well as a fancier occasion on your calendar. The cotton fabric is breathable and the long breezy skirt won’t leave you overheated. Try a simple flat sandal to let the dress shine.

DÔEN Lupine Dress




Dôen Lupine Dress


$438



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& Other Stories Printed Strappy Midi Dress

Best Printed Slip Cocktail Dress

  • Sizes: 0-12
  • Colorways available: Pink florals

Miss the sleek slip styles of the ‘90s and early ‘00s? This is your chance to test the trend out again. The & Other Stories Printed Strappy Midi Dress features a cheerful floral print with a slight tropical bent, making it a solid option to take with you on an upcoming vacation. The V-cut neckline is also a welcome alternative to the more typical square iteration.

& Other Stories Printed Strappy Midi Dress




& Other Stories Printed Strappy Midi Dress


$99



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Mara Hoffman Sloan Dress

Best Plus Size Summer Cocktail Dress

  • Sizes: XS-3X
  • Colorways available: Red

Don’t be afraid to embrace a little bit of quirkiness with your dress of choice. The popcorn texture of this smocked dress adds a touch of the unexpected while the fitted silhouette offers a sleek elegance to balance out the bold color. Plus, the birla modal fabric will keep you cool through the evening. 

Mara Hoffman Sloan Dress




Mara Hoffman Sloan Dress


$495



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Johanna Ortiz Vivo Midi Dress

Best Beach Cocktail Dress

  • Sizes: 0-6
  • Colorways available: Green

Not all cocktail hours call for the same wardrobe. If you’re planning on heading to the beach for an evening soiree, you need a dress that has a more tropical feel to it. The palm print on this Johanna Ortiz sarong-inspired dress fits a tropical destination. Plus, with the additional fringe on the bottom and beaded neckline, there’s just enough visually to make this dress one of your forever favorites. 

Johanna Ortiz dress




Johanna Ortiz Ritmo Vivo Fringe Midi Dress


$1450



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Meet the Experts

Azeeza Khan is a Chicago-based fashion designer. She founded her eponymous label, Azeeza, in 2013.

Meet the Author

Aemilia Madden is a writer, editor, and brand consultant who has worked in the fashion industry for over eight years. She’s an Oakland, California native and Brooklyn resident. When she’s not writing about the latest trends, including for summer pants,  Aemilia is running in prospect park, testing new recipes on her friends, and trying to keep up with her New Yorker subscription.



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