Carole Kinoti's take on the right cocktail dress


Carole Kinoti, owner of 'The Carole Kinoti Collections'. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Business cocktails, black tie events, weddings, barbecues, holiday parties, baby and bridal showers—all have one thing in common: Dress Up. But it is always hard to figure out what to wear to these events.

What you wear to any of these occasions depends on so many factors: the venue, the formality of the invite, the weather, and often what everyone else plans to wear. But there are still some general sartorial standards to look to for guidance.

Increasingly, business cocktails are becoming a thing and making a comeback after the pandemic. So what should you wear?

Many Kenyan women always bet on a sequin dress or something that has the sequin material, because it looks like a better fit for the evening, irrespective of the event.

Carole Kinoti, one of Kenya’s top designers and a founder of Carole Kinoti brands, says sequin dresses show celebratory but depending on the hour and the day the number of sequin matters.

Body size

“I love sequins, shiny is always celebratory as long as it is matte and classic. But sequins can look cheap. Don’t overdo them. They can look overwhelming. Wear a short sequin dress, don’t go for a long dress unless it is not all shiny. Your body size and shape also matter. If you are petite, you can get away with it. If you are tall, it can be too much,” Ms Kinoti says.

As cocktails and black tie events continue to be popular in Kenya, many people are also opting for the black little dress. Ms Kinoti, who has been in the fashion industry for almost 20 years recommends adding a little splash of colour to your wardrobe. But wearing colourful clothes is a determinant of your age and body size.

“There are three colours that are perfect for an older woman; mustard, maroon, and white. Try a new colour at every event, and over time you will expose yourself and feel comfortable going bold,” she advises.

While the modern-day cocktail dress has evolved, changing silhouettes, hemlines, waistlines, and fabrics, try and stick to the dress code because it acts as a guideline on what to wear.

Are there fashion hacks that Ms Kinoti has mastered over the years on choosing a business cocktail dress?

You cannot go wrong if you wear a top with some special details and a skirt or tailored pants, plus heels or fancy flats.

“Look out for your strengths, emphasise them, and let people see more of your body strengths. Don’t highlight your weaknesses, do not look uncomfortable, if you cannot wear the heels [shoes], don’t wear them, don’t do it for everyone but you,” she says. On some basics that Ms Kinoti advises to never miss in your closet?

“You should never miss overlays, capes, off-shoulder of different lengths because you can turn them into anything, don’t miss having different types of tights.

“Have many see–through clothes, and chiffons because one thing about the chiffons is that you can have another coloured clothing underneath when the weather changes,” she said.

Ms Kinoti whose business has grown over the years by almost 400 per cent by dressing CEOs.

She also likes layering for cocktail events.

“I like layering. Wear something that if can remove one clothe item and add something else like a cape over it. Or a pull neck underneath, if you want to be warm in the evening. Also, for cocktails dresses keep it as basic as possible,” she says.

On copying trends? Something sexy.

“I have seen people copying the exact dress from a magazine. My advice is take bits and pieces of that look, and see what works for you. Be you but borrow the pieces from the exact look,” she says.

What would she wear to a business cocktail?

“I am unapologetic because I can get away with it and I will say that is the new look. I go with what I will look

comfortable in, descent,” she says, adding that while dressing down, she likes “comfort, clothes that don’t hold me, something sexy. No matter the simplicity, it is it must be sexy,” she adds.

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