Can You Wear a Cocktail Dress to Work?


When I was in Mississippi at the Hattiesburg American, I had three older friends in the newsroom, and they kind of took me under their wing. One day, one of them took me aside, and was so, so kind, and said, “You know Kelly, you always look really beautiful at work, and this is a beautiful dress. But it is a little bit of a cocktail dress.” And so that was the day I learned, just because you look great in a dress does not mean it’s a work dress.

Portland Monthly has an interview with Kelly Williams Brown, who recently penned a book titled Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps, and will be doing a book launch at Housing Works on Thursday (Billfold pal Lindsey Weber will also be there). I’d also like to propose “formal Fridays” where we all wear cocktail attire to work.

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18 Comments / Post A Comment

Formal Fridays is a thing we do up at my grad school. But we all just trade in our jeans and tee shirts uniform for business casual.

honey cowl (#1,510)

I’m sitting at work wearing running tights so……..

kellyography (#250)

My favorite thing to wear to work is the thing that fits.

I would love to go to the Housing Works event but I am going to be on a plane to an island so I think I’m getting an okay deal.

OllyOlly (#669)

Can I just say that really women should be allowed to wear cocktail attire to work since men are allowed to wear what they would wear to a cocktail party to work. It is just that dang patriarchy that tells us ‘business’ clothes are things reminiscent of men’s clothing. Or is this apples to oranges since women have a much wider range of clothing to wear?

Either way, I vote for a wider socially acceptable array of clothing for all people!

@OllyOlly There are definitely blazers, collared shirts, and other items of “dressy” men’s attire that are not strictly business-formal and would be inappropriate in a very conservative office setting. In this case it sounds like the dress was actually *too* formal and not not formal enough, though.

Casual Friday at my work means I don’t have to wear a tie, so.

Runawaytwin (#2,693)

I work in the fashion industry. i have seen some very out of place things at 10am meetings that sadly were likely not carry overs from the night before….

chic noir (#713)

@Runawaytwin – do tell

I do it all the time, with a cardigan on top. And if someone in the office (unless they happen to be in the HR department) has nothing better to do with their time than to monitor what I wear, that’s their problem, not mine. Ain’t we here to work?

blair (#1,962)

Wearing a dress at work RIGHT NOW. FREAKING OUT because I don’t even know what “cocktail dress” means???

(To be fair, we’re having a work party this PM *with cocktails,* so maybe it doesn’t matter???? Babby’s first business-casual dilemma!)

PrettyNicola (#692)

@blair Me too. But also it’s now 5pm, and my coworkers wear flip flops. So whatever I guess.

BananaPeel (#1,555)

@blair I think it has to do with the kind of fabric? And less about the cut. You know, black wool vs black satin. I mean I would definitely know a cocktail/non-work dress when I saw it but the rules are hard to pin down.

@blair I would define a cocktail dress as a dress featuring one or more of the following:
– a fancy fabric (sequins, tulle, satin)
– a sexy cut (short, super tight or cleavage-y or cut-outs or backless for example)

But, if you were having a work party at the end of the day I think something in a fancier fabric with like a cardigan or blazer over it is probably fine, assuming your workplace isn’t super duper formal or you’re not meeting with wicked formal clients.

I’ve worn some short dresses to work before, but as I age I find myself getting more conservative on that front.

Whiteflash93 (#2,276)

One of my coworkers has started a Tie Wednesday. It’s pretty cool to see guys actually dressed up; however that doesn’t mean I’m giving up my jeans and flats.

nutmeg (#1,383)

We were told to dress professionally to present at my school’s health fair but then my group had matching birth control t-shirts and one lady was dressed as a pirate so you just can’t trust nursing students to know what that means

RocketSurgeon (#747)

A former colleague of mine used to do a one-man “Tie Friday”. It’s a pretty casual workplace, and everyone else would be in jeans, but he’d be in a collared shirt and tie.

cryptolect (#1,135)

Ha! This whole post is amusing to me because my boss LOVES it when I dress up. I’m currently eight months pregnant, so most of my wardrobe at this point consists of maternity dresses given to me by a friend. Yesterday I went long and flowy, today I’m wearing a bump-displaying stretch minidress. I walked in and my boss said, “Ooh là là, que vous êtes belle aujourd’hui!” and told me she hated what I had on yesterday. My work environment is… unique.

mishaps (#65)

I have worked two very informal jobs that had staff-led “Fancy Fridays.”

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