December is a festive season where the beautiful dresses really come into use. Particularly popular at this time is the cocktail dress. This year will be a different holiday with fewer parties and cozy gatherings, but therefore we think we could still bring a guide and the story of the cocktail dress. And even though the Christmas lunches are getting smaller and fewer, you can also look good in a beautiful cocktail dress, or maybe just because!
What exactly is a cocktail dress?
Here in Mondo Chaos we always have plenty of dresses, and therefore, of course, we also have plenty of vintage inspired cocktail dresses. When you say cocktail dress, you see a picture of a certain type of dress, but why do you do it, and are there rules for when something is a cocktail dress and when it is not? The expression comes from a time when you changed from the clothes you wore during the day, to the more formal 'evening wear'. So it was done, at least in certain circles.
One has to look towards America where the word cocktail appears for the first time in 1803! But it would be 100 years before women could see themselves as someone who drank cocktails in public. And it was with the end of World War I and the wild 1s of cocktails gained great popularity among the wealthy Americans. In fact, cocktails became so popular that they demanded their own garment. You typically drank cocktails from 1920-18, and it was too early for the formal evening dress, so you needed a transition dress from the casual day look and to the blue hour, and therefore this pre-dinner custom got its own garment: the cocktail dress.
The cocktail dress's journey from the United States to the rest of the world
The formal evening wear had traditionally been quite long, and when the 1920s for the first time in almost 200 years made shorter dresses popular, it was clear that the cocktail dress should be shorter, and go to between below the knee to about the middle of the calf.
Flapper girls and Speakeasy
The cocktail dress was inextricably linked with several daring things; flapper girls for example as were a few very outgoing IT-girls with a penchant for parties and scandals, speakeasy culture that arose around the banned bars in the 20s where you could get home-brewed alcohol in the US of Prohibition. It was from the United States and to escape the alcohol ban that the wealthy American elite brought the new cocktail custom with them out into the world; eg to Paris, London, Cuba and the French Riviera.
In the time after World War I, the French fashion houses were dependent on the rich Americans, and therefore gladly translated new trends in their couture and 'ready to wear'. The first named cocktail dress is mentioned in Vogue for the first time on May 1, 15, but as early as 1927, the ultimate cocktail dress and perhaps the greatest dress sensation in the last 1926 years of fashion history is created.
LBD - 'the little black' cocktail dress
In 1926, two of the greatest French designers were women: Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel! Both absorb the new spirit of the times and create fantastic couture, but in 1926 Chanel succeeds in making the ultimate cocktail dress - 'the little black dress' or 'the little black dress'. The perfect cocktail dress at this time had long sleeves, discreet neckline and was in silk or satin. Also, it could be styled with beautiful accessories and the famous little cloche, the hat of the 20s!
The stock market crash of 1929 - the glamorous cocktail dresses of the 30s
The 1920s ended with a catastrophe, the stock market crash of 1929. Thus, the happy 20s were initially over.
With the 30s came great poverty, but strangely enough at the same time a great need for glamor. The films of the 1930s were about glamor, and the fashion was glamorous, the movie stars were cultivated like never before. It also meant that the cocktail hour was allowed to stay, but when it had become tasteless to show off its wealth, the cocktail gatherings were moved into the living rooms of the rich.
The dresses became slightly longer and far more feminine than the square straight-up-and-down cut from the 1920s. The dresses were to radiate glamor and soft femininity.
There was not much time for cocktails during World War II and then no fabric for cocktail dresses at all, but after the end of the war you got something to celebrate again.
The landmark year 1947 - Dior's New Look
This was the year Dior came up with his New Look. There was full focus on the hourglass figure, the female figure and her waist became the focal point of this fashion.
The cocktail dresses became shorter again and of course followed the fashion of the time. That meant the familiar swing dresses and especially the highly figurative pencil dress.
Cocktail hour - The American Way of Life
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, cocktail parties and cocktail hour became almost institutionalized, and an industry even grew up around cocktails - think the home bar with all its equipment. Cocktails had become a symbol of 'the American way of life'.
When to wear a cocktail dress?
So what are we going to do with a cocktail dress today?
Just today, the cocktail dress is super relevant. We use the cocktail dress today exactly as we did in the 1920s. A dress that can easily be upgraded from day to early evening. A chic dress that can easily be styled up and down. The dress is even more often the same length as then: just below, or to the knees. Unlike 1920s cocktail dresses, our dresses like to be body-hugging in the style of those from the 50s and 60s and the long sleeves we can also drop or keep exactly as we wish.
Our most popular cocktail dresses
Our best recognizable cocktail dresses are the beautiful tight-fitting pencil dresses such as them from Zoe Vine, Unique Vintage og Stop Staring! The dresses reminiscent of the cut from 1950s and the early 1960s, as it wraps around the body, but which thanks to the beautiful stretch material is great to wear all day and at the same time keeps in shape, and therefore can easily be your day dress with a cardigan over to the office.
The dresses are available in several beautiful colors, red, green, purple, navy but of course also the classic the little black. You can choose from many cocktail dresses, all of which focus on different details: choose a cocktail dress with a sweetheart neckline to focus on the bust, or one with a matching belt for extra focus on the waist.
Do you want a long-sleeved cocktail dress in vintage style?
We are facing a colder time, and yes, it is also perfectly fine with a long-sleeved cocktail dress. We have long-sleeved and cocktail dresses with elbow-length sleeves, for you who prefer it.
Vintage style cocktail dresses with glitter
A typical cocktail dress may have fabric that is a little more festive, and nothing says party and fun like glitter. Choose a cocktail dress in vintage style with glitter or in a glossy finish when you really need to shine. A cocktail dress with glitter is also typically ideal for Christmas lunches or larger parties. Because the fabric is so festive, you can choose any shape, everything from swing dress to pencil dress is fine.
Cocktail dress or party dress?
So what's the difference? Today, there may not be such a big difference, and the difference in when to wear which type dress is a very individual case. But in general you can say that many of our beautiful vintage inspired pencil dresses in matte colors can be easily used during the day, and subsequently styled with festive accessories for a cocktail dress, while a more eye-catching glitter case, may not really be a case for the office, but instead a beautiful dress for both cocktails and a big party.
In the end, however, only you know what and how to use your cocktail dress, and we can always help you with input and guidance so you find the perfect cocktail dress for your needs.
The warmest Christmas greetings,
Team Mondo Kaos ❤
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