After-Five Attire: What It Is & How to Rock It

Don't stress when you see "after five" on an invitation. You've probably already got most of what you need for the perfect look.

Updated November 21, 2023
Friends having fun during house party

If you're like most of us, understanding the dress code for an event can feel a little bit like translating a foreign language. Don't stress about "after five," though. Although the phrase may seem mysterious when you see it on an invitation, "after-five attire" is actually another way to say "semi-formal." You've been doing semi-formal since high school, so we guarantee you've got this.

To dress appropriately for after-five events, you'll simply take your work-day style up a notch in formality. This can mean anything from a stylish satin suit to a cute cocktail dress. The right choice for you is all about your own personal fashion preferences.

The Basics of After-Five Attire

When it comes to semi-formal dressing, we have a lot of fun choices these days. You want to be dressy, but you aren't required to wear a long or formal dress or a full-on tux. You can't go wrong with any of the following outfits or accessories:

  • Sleek evening suit
  • Simple black dress
  • Knee-length semi-formal dress
  • Black or metallic pencil skirt with a striking top
  • Cigarette pants or slacks and a silk top
  • Flowing, wide-legged pants and a sparkly top
  • Metallic accessories
  • Evening jewelry
  • Heels
Quick Tip

If you're wondering whether a look will work for after-five wear, just ask yourself whether it would be too fancy for a job interview but not formal enough for a black-tie wedding. If it's in between, that's the sweet spot.

4 Foolproof After-Five Looks

You probably already have many of the basic building blocks of these after-five looks right in your own closet. All you need to do is add a few accessories or purchase one or two key pieces.

Little Black Dress With Sparkling Accessories

In dressing for an after-five event, you're always a winner when you wear a little black dress. Keep these guidelines in mind to make sure your look is perfect:

Woman wearing black dress
  • Fancy fabric - Look for a dress made of formal fabric, such as velvet, satin, or chiffon. These fabrics ensure your dress isn't confused with basic office attire.
  • Classy cut - Choose a cut that isn't too revealing. If your dress is cut low in the neckline, make sure it isn't too short. Conversely, if you're wearing a shorter hemline, be sure the dress has a high neck or even long sleeves.
  • Heels - Pair your black dress with heels to keep it looking formal. Plain black pumps work fine, or you can glam it up with metallic shoes or a pop of color.
  • Accessories - Add a few tasteful accessories. A rhinestone headband or a sparkling bracelet can keep your look fun and light. Remember to limit yourself to just one or two statement pieces to keep from looking overdone. Carry a cute clutch in black, a bright color, or a metallic shade.

Glittering Top With Dressy Black Pants or Skirt

A little sparkle can take your look from office wear to oh-la-la. Swap out your regular button-down or shell for a stunning sparkly number and pair it with your favorite black dress pants or skirt. Keep these tips in mind to make this look work for you:

Fashionable woman wearing glittering top with black pants
  • Flattering fit - The focal point of this look is the sparkly top, so make sure you love yours. Choose something with your favorite neckline or in a color that looks great on you.
  • Pants or skirt - If you're not really a skirt kind of person, you can rock this look in a pair of wide-legged crepe dress pants or black satin cigarette pants. A black satin pencil skirt or a full chiffon skirt would also look beautiful.
  • One fitted piece - To keep this look tasteful, only one piece should be tight. If your top is slim-fitting, choose a full skirt or wide-legged pants. If you're wearing slim pants or a tight skirt, keep the top blousy and loose.
  • Simple accessories - Since your top has a lot of visual power, stick to simple accessories like chain necklaces, satin clutches, and cute black heels.

Colorful Dress With Simple Accessories

Even though black is a great choice when it comes to after-five attire, it's not the only beautiful option. You can show off your own personal style when you wear a cocktail dress in your favorite bright color. Remember these guidelines to ensure your look fits your event:

Woman wearing blue dress
  • Flattering color - Choose a color that looks beautiful on you, not just on the rack. Know your best colors, and then try on dresses that will make you shine.
  • Luxe fabric - Look for fabric that has some sheen, but stay away from too much sparkle. The color of your dress will be the focus of your look, so you don't want to detract from that with sequins and beads.
  • Perfect fit - Find a dress with details and a fit that flatters you. You know the best necklines and silhouettes for your body.
  • Simple accessories - Keep accessories simple. Stick to one or two pieces of jewelry, a black or metallic clutch, and a nice pair of heels. Don't try to match your shoes to the color of your dress, or you might risk looking like a bridesmaid.

One Great Statement Piece

Another awesome option for a personality-packed after-five look is wearing one major statement-making piece like a textured wrap or jacket. Then keep everything else simple and sophisticated. These tips can help you rock this look:

  • Black dress or pants - Black is the perfect background color for almost anything, so dress in black except for your special piece. Go for satin, velvet, or another luxe fabric to keep it formal.
  • Contrasting color - The statement piece should contrast with the black so it really shows up. We love light pink, silver, pale green, or any other fun color.
  • Interesting texture - Texture can be a huge part of standing out, so embrace it. We're talking sparkle, embroidery, plush, or bold woven designs. It just needs to feel fairly formal, and it can work well for this.

Turn Heads at Your Next Event

When it comes to after-five attire, you can't go wrong with a great dress or pair of slacks and a little sparkle. From cocktail parties and wedding receptions to gallery openings and nights at the dance club, we guarantee you'll turn heads at your after-five event.

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After-Five Attire: What It Is & How to Rock It