Wedding season is in full swing, which means your dress buying expenditures are about to go through the roof.
Especially if you’re traveling for the wedding(s) in question – which many people do these days – you’re going to need more than one ensemble. There’s the rehearsal dinner, which can be anything from casual to cocktail, the wedding, and possibly a farewell brunch afterward. Between the gift for the happy couple and the travel arrangements, the last thing you have the time and money to find is a new dress or three.
Therefore, I’ve set out to make your wedding guest dress shopping a perfectly cut, teeny-tiny, frosting-impaired piece of mostly decorative cake. Here’s a handy checklist of the things your attire should be:
Affordable. If you’re lucky enough to be attending a wedding with most of your friends, odds are you’ll have a craving to buy something new. As a rule, I never spend more than $50 on a dress that I will only be wearing once in the foreseeable future, and no more than about $100 on a dress that I can wear a couple times, but has limited use.
Versatile. If you do have a few weddings on the horizon, choose a dress that you can either wear to both, or wear to the rehearsal dinner of one couple and the ceremony of the other. Assuming you’re a “real person” and these are not fancy-schmancy affairs, attire should be somewhere in the party dress range – think sundresses, printed shifts, that kind of thing. That means you can wear it with neutral flats and a printed scarf for the garden wedding, and dress it up with heels, a clutch and statement jewelry for the traditional evening church wedding. Both the drop-waist dress and the printed sheath from LOFT are good examples of pieces that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.
Unique. I write something about wedding attire yearly, as I find weddings to be, overall, one of the trickiest style situations. Last year, I mentioned that it was no longer taboo to wear black – which is true, so now everyone is wearing it, and if I see one more classic black sheath with black or metallic pumps I’m going to cry. Try for something a little bit festive, especially since bright, celebratory colors and feminine pastels are both ubiquitous in stores and perfect for weddings. The LOFT dresses accomplish this, too – a drop-waist offers a departure from the usual silhouette, and the print on the sheath dress adds a bit of interest.
Understated. While your dress should be unique and can be colorful, it shouldn’t be, say, covered with silver sequins or floor-length at a wedding that’s not black tie. One of the pillars of wedding fashion etiquette is not to upstage the bride; that’s the real rule behind the “never wear white to a wedding” rule.
Appropriate. Do your research, ladies. For example, a wedding is often a religious ceremony, and some religions are very conservative. If this is one such wedding, don’t show up with your boobs hanging out. (Never do that – see “understated,” above – but take special care when you know the wedding is going to be highly traditional.) In addition, take into account the type of couple and the location of the event. If you know the bride and groom are low-key and they’re having a small ceremony and reception in their backyard, leave your tea-length, full-skirted, 60s-inspired strapless dress and platform pumps at home.
Comfortable. Weddings are long, with a lot of sitting and a lot of waiting around involved. If, after 30 seconds in the dressing room, you’re ready to take off that beast of a dress, it is not the right thing to wear to a wedding.
Low-stress. The fact is, you probably have a few things in your closet that would be perfectly lovely for any wedding-related event. If you don’t have the time, the funding or the energy to pick up a whole new ensemble, don’t. Buy a new accessory or pair of shoes to satisfy your craving for something new, or go with tried-and-true pieces all the way.
Not jeans or shorts. I’m about to say something old-fashioned here. Unusual, I know. But the bride and groom have put a lot of effort into this affair, and the vast majority probably depleted their bank accounts in the process. In the spirit of putting a little effort in on their end, wedding guests simply should not show up in casual attire. Here’s the old-fashioned part: that even goes for the farewell brunch. Dark denim or colored skinny pants are both fine, but typically the bride is wearing a sundress or something at least business casual, so don’t show up in your pajamas.
(E-mail Kristyn Schiavone at, follow her on Twitter at @KKSchiavone or write to her c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave, Ste. 1400, Chicago, IL 60611.)

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