10 Best Womens Cocktail Dresses For The Over 40s

We, women can look glamorous at any age, especially when the occasion calls for dressing up. While women over 40 were once relegated to frumpy, modest, or granny-style outfits, the fabulous forties are when women are in their prime.

We can choose to wear cocktail dresses in just about any style. I have let aside my obsession with making dresses out of old t-shirts for my lovely daughter today.

I have a cocktail party coming up that I am excited about. So I have been doing a bit (lot) of research lately. I have narrowed down the choices for me and for you. What are the best cocktail dresses for the over-40s?

The best cocktail dresses for women over 40 are a classic LBD, a flattering A-line, an elegant tiered, or a sexy asymmetrical style in stretchy, lace, or embellished fabric. Sheaths suit petites, while wrap dresses flatter fuller figures. Show off in a strapless dress or be modest in long sleeves. 

cocktail party

While floor-length gowns are suitable for formal occasions, cocktail dresses are popular for formal parties, elegant dinners, summer weddings, and holiday dances. These shorter, dressy items come in various colors, lengths, styles, neck and sleeve shapes, and fabrics. Let’s look at the 10 best cocktail dresses for women in their 40s.

What Is A Cocktail Dress (2023)?

While cocktail parties are not the ubiquitous social event they once were, the cocktail dress has remained a staple of women’s fashion. 

When the dress code for an event is “Cocktail wear,” ladies should wear a semi-formal dress that finishes just above, on, or below the knees. Cocktail wear is suitable for elegant dinners, parties, and weddings, being more festive than day wear, but less elaborate than evening wear or black tie.

Beyond the length requirement, the fabric of a cocktail dress will also make it stand out. Velvet, satin, chiffon, lace, and shantung are all appropriate, along with sequins, embroidery, and other embellishments. 

Otherwise, there are few rules defining a cocktail dress. In terms of cut, they can have sleeves, be sleeveless, strapless, or one-shouldered. They can be form-fitting or loose, simple or intricate, contemporary or vintage. Color-wise, anything goes, so you can have fun choosing a dress.

What Are The 10 Best Cocktail Dresses For Over-40s?

These 10 cocktail dresses are ideal for women over 40, whose bodies may have changed over the years and who might want to keep some bits hidden but still want to look gorgeous and elegant.

1. The Best Little Black Dress

Calvin Klein Women’s One-Shoulder Solid Sheath Dress

The LBD, or little black dress, has a hallowed place in women’s fashion. Black is always chic and formal, and a well-cut dress is worth purchasing.

For women over 40, a classically elegant, well-cut black cocktail dress is a valuable and beautiful addition to the wardrobe. You can dress an LBD up or down, depending on the event, and will never look over or underdressed.

This sheath dress by Calvin Klein will stand out from the crowd with its gorgeous neckline, drawing attention to pretty shoulders. (Even if you’re less firm everywhere else, your shoulders will still be slender.) The open shoulders also allow you to show some skin without being too revealing, differentiating a cocktail dress from the one you’d wear to a nightclub.

The fitted sleeves hide flabby upper arms, one of middle-aged women’s most hated body parts. The charming bell-shaped sleeves add a feminine touch to this simply cut dress, and draw attention to glittering bracelets and rings.

With its flattering fit (with a bit of spandex stretch) and elegant length, this LBD is an ideal choice. (If you’re not a lover of black, the dress does come in 16 other jewel tones.)

2. The Best A-line Cocktail Dress

MISSMAY Women’s Vintage Floral Lace Long Sleeve V Neck Dress

One of the most flattering cuts for women of all ages and body types is the A-line dress. These classically cut dresses accentuate women’s curves, whether they’ve got lots or need some assistance. 

The MISSMAY cocktail dress is beautifully shaped, with a flirty vintage swing to the skirt that drapes but doesn’t cling to the hips. Women over 40 should go for fabrics with a bit of stretch, like spandex, and adequate lining.  

Other charming features are the long lace sleeves and neckline, offering coverage but revealing a little skin for sexiness. A v-neck flatters most body shapes, whether you have narrow or broad shoulders or a smaller or larger bust. 

This dress comes in black, navy blue, red, and green.

3. The Best Tiered Cocktail Dress

BCBGMAXAZRIA Long Sleeve Fit and Flare Tiered Ruffle Evening Dress

Another style that flatters most shapes is the tiered dress with overlapping ruffles. This style is slightly Bohemian and romantic and will appeal to women who shy away from crisp tailoring and harsh lines.

This cocktail dress remains soft with its fit-and-flare ruffled tiers in a dramatic metallic fabric. It gently drapes over the stomach and hips, leaving the wearer comfortable and unselfconscious. The plunging neckline is framed in two ruched bands and balanced by modest sleeves.

4. The Best Asymmetric Cocktail Dress

Norma Kamali Women’s Diana Gown

Most women over 40 have made peace with their body shape and settled into a style that suits them. Part of this understanding is drawing attention away from less favored areas and highlighting your assets. 

Norma Kamali’s gowns are perfect for glamorous divas – the sexy one-shoulder cut, the dramatic asymmetrical hem, and the luscious ruching are the stuff of Hollywood. And it is these characteristics that make it a fabulous dress for the over-40s. 

The eye-catching neckline and hem draw attention to a beautiful face and slim arms and legs. The ruching disguises any tummy, so you can relax as the dress highlights only the curves you want others to see. And the fabulous pink is flattering on most complexions.

Made of the softest, stretchiest, most breathable micro-jersey and lined in the crucial areas, this is a comfortable pull-on dress that you’ll be able to wear all evening. Pop on some dangly earrings and heels, and you’re ready for any event.

5. The Best Strapless Cocktail Dress

Dress the Population Women’s Rosalie Strapless Fit & Flare Pleated Party Dress

There is no reason why older women should shy away from daring strapless dresses. If you’ve got gorgeously toned arms and a fuller chest, show them off. If you’re a little self-conscious, pair the dress with a butter-soft pashmina or elegant bolero.

This magnificent dress has a deceptively simple cut, with a double v-neckline, front and back, and a wide pleated skirt that falls elegantly over the hips and to the knees. Cocktail dresses will typically either have the neckline or the legs on show, never both.

The fabulous metallic fabric means you’ll need very few accessories to show it off, with the shimmer making it ideal for a wedding or evening party. The material is also well-lined to remain comfortable next to the skin.

6. The Best Cocktail Dress With Sleeves

Floerns Women's Lantern Long Sleeve V Neck Mesh Cocktail Party Short Dress Without Belt

Floerns Women’s Lantern Long Sleeve V Neck Mesh Cocktail Party Short Dress Without Belt

One of the most requested features of dresses for women over 40 is a long sleeve, hiding less-than-perfect arms. While it is always sophisticated, a long sleeve does not mean a dress can’t be sexy or enticing.

This glam cocktail dress has romantic lantern sleeves made of translucent mesh for those not confident to show bare arms. The long sleeves are balanced by a cheeky v-neckline to show off a full top and a shorter, leg-revealing length. The fun fabric has a glittery, plaint-splash pattern. 

While the fabric isn’t stretchy, the dress is a simple pull-on style that comes in five colors.

7. The Best Lace Cocktail Dress

MSLG Women’s Elegant Floral Lace Business Bateau 

Women with a romantic style love the feminity of lace. So long as the fabric isn’t skimpy or see-through, lace is ideal for mature women. Whether a dress has lace accents or is entirely made of lace, it softens the figure and adds elegance. 

This stunning cocktail dress combines the charm of floral lace with the sexiness of a bodycon dress. The elegant bateau neckline and sleeves are camouflaged by sheer, scalloped lace, hinting at the skin beneath. 

Made of stretchable lace, the dress hugs the body, accentuating a shapely figure and falling modestly to the knee. So long as you go up a size from your standard, this dress will be comfortable to wear all evening, even if you have a hearty meal. Choose from six appealing shades.

8. The Best Embellished Cocktail Dress

Alex Evenings Women’s Petite Embellished Women’s Capelet Dress 

The joy of cocktail attire is that you can express yourself and have some fun. If you have the personality, choose a dress with an element that makes it stand out, whether beading, feathers, ruffles, or, in this case, sequins.

Because cheap sequinned garments can look tacky, choosing a perfectly cut, understated style of dress is best to carry off the glitz. This gorgeous sheath dress is a simple shape, with a crew neck and cape sleeves as a vintage touch, a nod to the Gatsby era.

Perfectly modest, the sleeves hide the upper arms, and the skirt grazes the knee. The sequinned tulle is fully lined for comfort and drape. Toned-down accessories are ideal for a shiny dress.

9. The Best Cocktail Dress For Petite Women

Alex Evenings Women’s Short Shift Knee Length Scoop Neck Dress (Petite & Regular)

Simple shift-style dresses flatter petite body shapes, creating a 1/3-2/3 look. Choose monochrome shades with embellishments to add interest, giving the illusion of height.

This gorgeous shift dress with embroidery and sequinned details is ideal for a petite woman. The fully lined fabric flatters an older decolletage with the scoop neck and cap sleeves. The all-over stretch enhances the form-fitting silhouette, making you look even taller.

Petite women need to get the length of their dresses just right, so take time to tailor the skirt to your height.

Add a glittering pair of earrings and elegant heels for a party-ready look.

10. The Best Cocktail Dress For Plus-Size Women

Kiyonna Women’s Plus Size Sweetheart Knit Wrap Dress

Plus-sized women look fabulous in wrap dresses, which drape their curves and highlight their waists.

With its charming sweetheart neckline, this comfortable wrap dress will enhance a heavier bust. A statement necklace will add a beautifully feminine touch to a simple outfit. The three-quarter fitted sleeves draw attention to slender wrists, which will look beautiful with sparkly accessories.

The stretchable, breathable fabric will glide over the body, and there are no uncomfortable zips in this pull-on style. Chic and sophisticated, this dress is available in navy and black.


Can You Wear Chunky Heels With A Cocktail Dress?

You can wear chunky, block, platform, or wedge heels with a cocktail dress if you’re uncomfortable in stilettos. While heels are recommended for cocktail wear, a pair of gorgeous mules or cute flats is also appropriate.

What Colour Should A Cocktail Dress Be?

A cocktail dress can be any color that suits you. Follow the dress code for the event you’re attending. For example, don’t choose a white dress if you’re going to a wedding. If you’re unsure, choose a classic black or navy dress.

Should A Cocktail Dress Be Long Or Short?

Cocktail dresses should fall just above, on, or below the knee. If you feel comfortable, you can wear a mini-dress. Check how short the dress becomes once you put on heels, as cocktail attire is semi-formal. A floor-length gown is appropriate for black-tie events.

What Type Of Coat Do You Wear With A Cocktail Dress?

Choose a dress coat that is mid-thigh length to keep you warm in your cocktail dress. While you can wear your usual winter coat, a sleek, attractive wool coat in a matching or neutral shade will flatter your outfit.

Consider a cape, or purchase a jacket that matches your dress if you know the event will be chilly. Shawls, wraps, shrugs, and pashminas are attractive options if it’s not too cold.

What Type Of Handbag Do You Carry With A Cocktail Dress?

A clutch or mini-bag is ideal for cocktail attire. Avoid carrying oversize or slouchy handbags, as these detract from the elegant silhouette and overwhelm your outfit.

What Not To Wear To A Cocktail Party

While dress codes for cocktail functions are fluid, there are some handy guidelines to keep you looking fabulous.

  • Don’t wear anything too revealing. This guideline is crucial for women over 40, who should either choose to reveal the neckline or legs, not both.
  • Don’t wear jeans. Even if you have designer jeans and you dress them up, you will be underdressed. Choose tailored trousers or an elegant jumpsuit if you don’t like dresses.
  • Don’t wear sweatpants, leggings, or athleisure wear.
  • Don’t wear sneakers. Choose a pair of mules, dressy flat sandals, or ballet pumps if you don’t like heels.
  • Don’t wear a T-shirt. Pair a silky blouse or sexy one-shoulder top with trousers or a skirt.
  • Don’t leave your underwear on show. Choose the correct underpinnings to keep bra straps, seamlines, and shapewear out of sight.
  • Don’t wear too many accessories. One statement accessory is enough to make you stand out and look polished.
  • Don’t forget to have your outfit cleaned and pressed. No matter how fabulous an item is, it will look unappealing if wrinkled and grubby.


Women over 40 have a wide range of options to choose from for cocktail wear. Choose dresses that flatter your shape, don’t show too much skin, and are comfortable enough to relax. You can’t go wrong with stretchy fabrics and classic cuts, like an LBD, A-line, tiered, and asymmetrical dresses. 


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