The Cocktail Dress

Unlike the LBD, this is the piece you should have a little more fun with. A printed version, like this Clover Canyon number ($280) is one you can wear for wedding events, on dressier date nights, and any kind of cocktail function. The key is a great, flattering fit and a wow-factor element. It doesn't have to be an all-over print, but look for a brilliant color that flatters your complexion — anything but white or black — or a hint of lace or colorblocking. Special details will help distinguish this piece from the "party dresses" you owned in college.

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