Wedding wear (for when you're NOT the bride)

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If you've ever been a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding, there's a decent chance you spent a lot of money on a dress you'll never wear again. But, there's one good thing about that -- you don't have to worry about what to wear. When you're not a member of the bridal party, choosing the right dress for a wedding gets a lot trickier.

There are a few issues to navigate. First, consider the weather. Then, think about the location and time of day, which should give you a clue as to how formal you need to go (or, maybe you're lucky and the invitation specifically says what the dress code is). Finally, if you're anything like me, you'll think about who's going to be there -- strangers won't recognize that amazing dress that you've worn to three other weddings and a graduation, but close friends and family might.

Okay, so let's talk weather. From this weekend's experience, I can attest that, if it's going to be really hot and humid (and the wedding is outdoors), a silk dress in a solid color is not a great choice (the sweat marks eventually dried, but I spent the cocktail hour hiding my back). Otherwise, for spring and summer weddings where you expect sun, think light and bright. Floral prints and bright colors are hot hot HOT right now, so take advantage!

For an informal, daytime wedding, a sweet little sundress or linen pants and a silky top could work. A light-colored suit with a bright pop of color beneath could be great, too. For a more formal event in the evening (not black or white tie, but something that's more than "Sunday best"), think about fabric and length. Taffeta has gotten a bad rap, but it's actually beautiful and can be incredibly flattering. Silk and beaded dresses, particularly in longer lengths, will be appropriately formal. And of course, don't forget to accessorize -- this is your chance to bust out the bling!

Now, the crowd is the toughest part for me. If you won't be attending multiple weddings with the same people, I would spend a little money and get a dress you'll wear for years (I recommend checking out Nordstrom's "guest of wedding" section -- use it for inspiration if nothing else). But if you're in a bunch of weddings and need something different for each one, don't break the bank! Check out the dresses at inexpensive stores like H&M, Forever 21, and Target (yes, Target!). I have three dresses that take me through everything:

  • a feminine and ruffled blue silk shirtdress that's short and a little sexy, appropriate for daytime or slightly less formal evening event;
  • a brightly printed dress with longer flutter sleeves -- very bright and memorable, and long enough to work for everything from cocktail to formal events;
  • a black satin one-shoulder gown that is DRESSY, but simple and easy to accessorize.

Finally, let's talk quickly about some of the "rules" we've all heard for years and years and years. For one thing, unless the bride has a problem with it, black dresses are fine. What you don't want to wear is white or ivory -- that really is for the bride. Second, it's always a good idea to bring a sweater or wrap, particularly if the wedding is in any sort of religious setting. Some churches strongly discourage bare shoulders (plus, it might be cold!).

Got a wedding fashion pet peeve or question? Let me know and I'll do my best to help you out!

Top right photo, Nordstrom. Bottom left photo, Target.


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