Is a special occasion such as a wedding, cruise, class reunion or anniversary party on your calendar? If so, you’ll need the need the perfect cocktail dress – one that complements your personality as well as your figure. South Bay stores and boutiques have plenty of dress-up choices, from classic to trendy and vintage to sparkly new. Let’s go shopping.

New Things West
19640 Stevens Creek Blvd.
Cupertino, CA 95014
(408) 517-5700

Shop at New Things West if you like the concept of a family-owned store, one where the proprietors really care about having satisfied customers. Here you’ll find a large selection of dressy, cocktail, semi-formal and formal dresses. The store is also equipped with helpful consultants, and the bonus of a fine costume jewelry collection to complement your new finery. The friendly shop staff really listens to you, and they are willing to offer their opinions, but only if you ask them to (read: they are not pushy). If you’re in a time crunch, making an appointment is suggested, as New Things West can get quite busy.

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Time Zone Vintage
751 W. San Carlos St.
San Jose, CA 95135
(408) 289-1740

For very high quality, selective and tasteful vintage, this store has no local competition. Offering women’s and men’s clothing from the 1940s through the 1980s, the owner has created a wonderful place to browse if you don’t want to be a cookie cutter in your cocktail dress. A fan of “Mad Men?” Shop here to recreate the look for your upcoming event. This is good quality clothing: new and gently-worn designer labels and high-end resale clothing and accessories are yours to purchase at reasonable prices. On the chance that your date is also searching for a vintage “cocktail” effect, this might be your one-stop shopping store, as Time Zone Vintage has fairly-priced guys clothing, too. It’s fun to check this place out: it’s in a historical building circa 1900, and the shop hosts events such as an Outdoor Fashion Show in the open brick courtyard, a Black and White Exhibition, and Classic Car shows where everyone can dress as though they wandered into a time warp.

Town & Country Fashions
381-B First St.
Gilroy, CA 95020
(408) 842-7096

Town & Country says “Don’t just make an entrance, make an impression.” If you want a wow-‘em cocktail dress for your special occasion, this is where to go. The store even breaks out it designs by occasion, including class reunions, prom and mother of the bride. If it’s a cruise that’s in your future, you can shop here for that, too. Find classy top-name designer creations, shoes and accessories. The owner has provided caring and concerned service for more than 15 years in this South Bay boutique. We suggest it’s worth driving to Gilroy for personalized shopping. The shop carries sizes 1-20, and petite and plus ranges, too, so there’s something here that will fit all shapes and sizes.

Elegant Lace Bridal and Tuxedo
1061 Blossom Hill Road
San Jose, CA 95123
(408) 978-2230

Don’t be put off by the “bridal” in the store’s name: it has a large selection of beautiful dressy gowns of all styles, in sizes from 4-24. When it comes time to choose that special outfit for your special occasion, all are available to purchase directly from stock or to special order in the color and size of your choice. Elegant Lace is a small shop with consultants who listen to what you want, and it’s also a good place to clarify your style. The staff wants to make your shopping experience a happy and memorable one by matching the dress to the wearer.

1875 S. Bascom Ave.
Campbell, CA 95008
(408) 377-1987

For 35 years, this Silicon Valley institution has been helping ladies select cocktail, special occasion and prom dresses (as well as bridal gowns), including plus sizes. They’re good at looking at your figure and finding a dress that will not only flatter it, but have you looking absolutely fabulous. There are lots of different designers and styles to choose from, and the store is nicely mirrored, so you won’t be fighting for space to see how your dress fits. You can even find dresses from La Femme, the designer who outfits the cast of “Dancing with the Stars.” Ask about trunk and sample sales.

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Nina Holtons creative background in travel and cooking and a passion for writing empowers her to share the Bay Area scene with readers avid for information about where to go and what to do. A free-lance online journalist, she lives in Santa Clara; and her work can be found at