Whether you’re headed off to a wedding or a formal affair, you’re going to need a cocktail dress. And while more popular cocktail dress styles tend to be strapless, strappy, or cap sleeves, if it’s cold or if you’re attending an event where a more understated look is preferred, you’re going to want a long-sleeve option. So, when the fete calls for it, these are the best long-sleeve cocktail dresses to add to your formal attire collection.
Why buy a long-sleeve cocktail dress?
If you’re shopping for a cocktail dress, you’re more likely to come across sleeveless, strappy, or capped sleeve styles. However, there are times when longer sleeves would make more sense. In particular, if you’re attending an event in the cold months, you might appreciate that extra fabric on your arms. Additionally, some events are more conservative, and a dress with bare arms might seem out of place.
What should you look for in a long-sleeve cocktail dress?
- Length: Shopping for a cocktail dress isn’t that different than shopping for a wedding dress. That means that you’ll need to think about the length you prefer. The typical lengths you’ll find include micro-mini, mini, knee-length, tea-length, and floor-length. If you’re considering a micro-mini or mini dress, the long sleeves can help to balance the style and add a little more coverage.
- Silhouette: Once you decide on the length, your next step is to consider the silhouette. Cocktail dresses can often double as bridesmaids’ dresses. So, don’t be surprised if you see them listed by silhouette: mermaid, fit and flare, sheath, A-line, and ballgown. Mermaid, fit and flare, and sheath dresses are all body-hugging styles. However, both mermaid and fit and flare styles feature a widening hem that usually begins below the hips for fit and flares and below the knees for mermaid styles. Both A-line and ballgown styles feature a fitted waist and then shift into a fuller skirt below the waist.
- Material: More than likely, if you’re rocking a cocktail dress, you’re going to be in it for a while, as most formal events tend to be more than a few hours. So, you’ll want to look for comfortable fabric. Many cocktail dresses are made of stretch fabric, which can add to their wearability. But also consider the embellishments. Many cocktail dresses will feature lace trim or overlays and other appliqués like crystals, pearls, and beading, which can add visual interest to your dress.
- Neckline: As we mentioned earlier, sometimes long sleeves can work to balance a cocktail dress when the rest of the design might otherwise look too revealing with short sleeves. This is also true regarding the neckline as well. As with bridal attire, you’ll find that the most common necklines are crew neck, boat neck, v-neck, and sweetheart. Both crew and boat neck styles have a higher neckline, making them great options if you prefer a more modest look. V-neck and sweetheart styles, especially depending on the structure of the gown, can be more revealing. These styles can benefit significantly from the balance that long sleeves can provide.
What’s the best color to choose for a long-sleeve cocktail dress?
The answer to this question is going to depend on your preference. Of course, you can’t go wrong with black. It’s a classic color that works for virtually any occasion. However, also think about which colors complement your skin tone or if there’s a theme for the event where a certain color might make more sense.
UGuest Women's Long Sleeve V-Neck Dress
A versatile cocktail dress that can be dressed up or down for less formal events.
Pros: If the first thought that comes to mind when you envision a cocktail dress is something that belongs at a prom or spring formal, then you’ll appreciate that the UGuest iteration isn’t that stuffy. The dramatic plunging v-neck is balanced out by bell sleeves and a flirty tiered skirt that adds a bit of playfulness to this dress. And you’ll appreciate that you’ll get 22 different print patterns to select from.
Cons: For a truly formal affair, this dress might be too relaxed in style. Others may be concerned by the plunging neckline.
Bottom Line: If you’re tired of “traditional” cocktail dresses, you might like the bohemian vibes this one offers. The sexy neckline is balanced with the looser long sleeves and ruffled skirt.
MissMay Women's Vintage Floral Lace Boat Neck Cocktail Dress
A classic long sleeve A-line cocktail dress that works in virtually any setting.
Pros: A-lines, a lace overlay, and a sweet boat neck make this cocktail dress a good staple option for formal attire. The MissMay dress offers a safe solution if you’re not sure what kind of event you’re attending, as it can work in both formal and more casual settings. The dress is fully lined and made from stretch material for added comfort. Choose from eight different colorways.
Cons: The lace can snag on things. The fit might not be right for everyone.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a classic option that will work for most events, this lace A-line dress is a safe and classy choice. And with eight color options, you can find the right one for you.
Guberry Wrap V-Neck Long-Sleeve Velvet Cocktail Dress
A sleek cocktail dress with ruching that's ideal for most body types.
Pros: Shopping for cocktail dresses can feel a lot like swimsuit shopping since both articles of clothing can make you feel like problem areas are magnified. The Guberry cocktail dress leverages the power of velvet, draping, and ruching to help hide one of the most common areas of concern— the stomach. A sexy v-shaped neckline and hemline are balanced with the long sleeves. And you’ll like that all seven colors are jewel tones, making this a great way to upgrade your little black dress collection.
Cons: Don’t be surprised if you find yourself adjusting the hem to keep it down. And while it’s not a total deal-breaker, keep in mind that velvet usually isn’t a fabric that’s ideal for wash and wear upkeep. To get more wear out of this dress, be prepared to drop by your dry cleaners.
Bottom Line: This dress features a classic body-hugging silhouette and takes advantage of velvet and ruching to create a nice design that will flatter a wide range of figures. The dual v-shape created by the neck and hemline is a unique twist.
Grace Karin Retro Long-Sleeve Ruched Pencil Dress
A smartly designed dress that flatters almost every figure.
Pros: We all deserve to have a dress that makes us feel great. This Grace Karin little black dress could be that for many! With strategic ruching both in the bodice and across the midsection, this gown is designed to boost women’s confidence. The ruching on the bodice is flattering for fuller and flatter busts. Meanwhile, the ruching throughout the hips minimizes fuller figures and adds curves for straighter bodies.
Cons: One of the biggest complaints about this dress is that the thinner material can encourage visible panty lines.
Bottom Line: If you’re feeling a bit self-conscious and have any areas of your body that you’d like to camouflage, this ruched dress from Grace Karin is an excellent option. However, keep in mind that the thin material means you’ll need to consider your undergarments.
SheIn Elegant Mesh Contrast Bishop Sleeve Pencil Dress
An elevated twist for a classic pencil dress.
Pros: For those who prefer a dress with more structure, this SheIn pencil dress is a great option. It’s available in 26 colors and has a fitted bodice and skirt contrasted against the sheer bishop sleeves. A tie belt helps to draw the eye towards the waist, and lace appliqués along the sleeves provide visual interest.
Cons: Many shoppers noted that the dress runs quite small, meaning that you might need to order up by one or two sizes for it to fit comfortably. Also, the material is thin.
Bottom Line: Fashionistas looking for something a bit different from standard cocktail dress fare will appreciate the combination of a body-hugging bodice and flirty sleeves. With 26 color options, it offers quite a bit of versatility.
Finding the perfect cocktail dress can require trial and error, especially when shopping for a long-sleeve version. But this subcategory offers more versatility as you can rock a long-sleeve cocktail dress year-round.