Cocktail attire for a wedding typically means a chic dress and heels for ladies and tie-optional-suit for gents. A pretty blouse and skirt can work, too, but I find that wearing a dress is so much simpler. Look for something knee length or even slightly shorter. I'd start my search by hitting the sale racks at a store like J. Crew or your favorite department store. You could even try The Limited, they have an amazing selection of dresses under $100 (it goes without saying but just make sure you don't buy the exact same style/color as the bridesmaids!) One of my secret weapons is Talbots Outlet - yes, Talbots will surprise you with classic pieces you can personalize with your favorite jewelry and fun shoes. If you're comfortable shopping online, you'll find dozens more options everywhere from Target.com to ModCloth.com.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so here are some perfect cocktail dress options under $100.
1. With it's clean, graceful lines and rich gemstone hue, J. Crew's "Avedine" dress is quintessential cocktail chic. Pair it with slingback heels, a pretty necklace and a clutch for a pulled together ladylike look. ($69.99, down from $225)