Do I Wear a cocktail or long evening dress?

First and most important - check the invitation to the event you are going to. Does it specify long dress? Black tie normally means you can wear either full length evening gowns or cocktail. If it’s an event you have never been to before, you may feel happier checking first with other guests who are going so you can be one hundred per cent sure of the dress code. Military balls often have strict dress codes with regard to how much leg you can show so be sure to find out.

Evening gowns tend to come in considerably long lengths. Even in you are tall – say 5ft 7 upwards, you may need to get the dress you choose altered. Allow time and a budget for this. Most alteration services require at least two weeks and they do charge, though most are very reasonable.

Fab Frocks has the details of lots of accomplished alteration businesses in the area. You can organise an appointment directly with these people or we can arrange for you to see them at the shop. Sounds obvious but don’t forget to bring the heels you intend to wear with your dress if you’re having it shortened.

So what length is best for you? Whether you’re tall or short, a full length evening dress can work for you. The key is to make sure the proportions of the dress are right. Are you wearing it or is it wearing you? Does the way it’s shaped make you look taller?

A dress with a train will elongate the back and body shape and can be extremely slimming. (Many dresses with trains now come with a little concealed loop so you can scoop the dress up when you are dancing or getting in and out of a car).

If you’re not so tall, avoid a dress that has lots of detail at the bottom as the chances are it will need to be shortened and the balance of the pattern may look odd if you lose some of the length.

If you’re after a cocktail dress, there are four length choices.

  • Above the knee, which is really in vogue now
  • On the knee
  • Below the knee
  • Tea or Midi length - to be exact, the hem of a true tea-length dress should hit near the bottom of the calf – that is about four inches above the ankle, depending on how long your legs are!

It goes without saying that above-the-knee cocktail dresses demand good legs – and if you have got a pair, flaunt it!

Otherwise, same rules apply. The proportion of a cocktail dress must be balanced on the body. So, if you’re short-waisted – check any detail on the dress is sitting on your waist properly. This will cinch your waist in, make you look slimmer and taller – all without going on a diet!

If you still can’t decide between a long dress and a cocktail dress, how about a high-low, also known as a mullet dress! These are new from America and are short at the front and long at the back.