My niece was getting married, and I decided it was an important family celebration that justified my having a new wedding guest dress.
What to wear to a wedding can be a fun shopping project. It also takes thought and planning to be able to choose the right dress to wear as a guest:
- What season is the wedding taking place?
- How formal or casual is it?
- What’s the location and venue?
In addition to the criteria above, my personal “rule” is that I need to be able to use the dress for other occasions. I have a pretty casual lifestyle and opportunities I have to dress fancy are infrequent. If I can find a dress that works for the specific occasion and also works for more casual times, it’s a win.
I’d been shopping for a wedding guest dress for a few weeks before my niece’s wedding (the wedding was last weekend, and it was beautiful!). The wedding was “semi-formal,” so I was looking for a somewhat dressy dress. The transitional summer-fall season presented me with a small challenge to find something festive that wasn’t too summery but that would work for the warm weather we are still enjoying, and take me into the evening celebration (the start time was 4:30 pm).
Another challenge for me is my personal taste. I like a bit of “edge” in my style. Certainly, I want to be age appropriate, but I am always attracted to and feel my best when what I’m wearing is just a bit different. I knew I wasn’t looking for a classic style.
The first step to finding that just-right “what to wear to a wedding” dress or outfit, is to know your own style. That’s not too difficult. You know what you are comfortable wearing. You know what length dress works best for you. You know what kind of sleeve you feel best in. The colors you are drawn to are informed by the season and what colors look best on you. Price range is, of course, also an important factor when you shop for a dress to wear to a wedding.
BUT . . . keep an open mind! You may find the perfect dress for you that is completely outside of your starting parameters.
And make use of the sales person or store stylist. It’s her job to know the store’s inventory – how things fit, what styles work on certain body types, what’s seasonal, what’s on trend.
Now to my dress
I knew I was looking for something a little bit different. And I needed to consider the weather transitional season, which was likely to begin warm and become cool in the evening. The search was on!
The first step for me was to shop in stores that I knew carried the type of clothes I like to wear. It was most convenient for me to shop during my lunch break, so I began to visit the boutique stores in downtown Petaluma, near my workplace. Petaluma offers a fun variety of boutiques. Shopping boutique stores can give you a selection that is more unique and specially curated than large department stores. (If you live near Petaluma, California, I highly recommend a shopping expedition. There are quite a number of special boutiques – all with different personalities and offering a range of clothing prices. Great restaurants in Petaluma too – so make a day out of it!)
I ended up finding several styles that I loved in one of my favorite boutiques, Shunzi (they also have stores in San Rafael and Los Altos, California). This shop focuses on comfort and great style. The dress I chose definitely featured some the criteria that I set out to satisfy, but also, because I had an open mind, I ended up with a color I would never have thought to look for. This dress is also one of those that must be worn in order to appreciate its features. That’s a reason to work with a store stylist. They have seen the clothes on people, not just on hangers.
Simple and not so simple design
What I love about this dress by Porto (a San Francisco designer): It’s simple and intricate at the same time. The bodice is a very basic style with a crew neck (not usually my favorite neckline – more about that below). And I really love the geometric detailing of the hem (called “godet” – who knew?!). It’s also stretchy and super comfortable. The style allows for flexibility – I know I will wear this dress in the spring and summer with casual flat sandals or wedges.
How I Wore it
This dress is so simple that I wanted to fancy it up for the wedding. The shop stylist suggested pairing the dress with this sheer bolero jacket. This really created some dimension to the whole look with the combination of the smooth fabric of the dress and sheer texture of the jacket. I also love the shape of the jacket, cut high in the back with the longer waterfall style in front, and the puddling of the sleeves at the wrist.
I had two dilemmas: Arms uncovered or covered and bare legs or stockings.
I’m sort of okay baring my arms. Sort of. My arms are slender, which is good . . . in some cases. The other side to that is that my skin sadly is losing elasticity and there is definitely some sagging happening (I work out my arms to attempt to combat this). The jacket gave me the option of covering up, but I also like the tank style of the dress, so I did go bare armed some of the time. I think as we age, we have to accept some of what comes with that and try (emphasis on try) not to focus on it too much (easier said that done!).
The stockings or no stockings issue was kind of decided for me. I’d planned on going bare legged, which, as we all know, is the style these days for a wide range of ages. What helped me make that decision was this great leg makeup, Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs, that I’d been hearing about and finally tried. It’s easy to use: just spray the liquid foundation into your hand and distribute on your leg. It dries fast and lasts until you wash it off.
However, ten days before the wedding, I had a varicose vein procedure on both legs, and my legs weren’t healed enough to go bare. I’d considered wearing a long dress to cover them, but in the end opted for black sheer stockings with a simple black kitten heel pump to complete my look.
To dress up the complete look and camouflage the simple crew neckline, I decided to go big with my neck jewelry. It was so much fun! I am wearing two necklaces: Stella & Dot’s Sutton necklace with mixed metals (one of my favorites – you can wear it five ways!) paired with my silver diamond link necklace by Uno de 50. With the statement necklaces, I kept my earrings simple. I also added my favorite, go-to Liquid Metal bracelet. And I matched my nail color to the bolero jacket – it was perfect!
It’s always good when accessorizing to make sure you don’t have too much going on. Think of your complete look in terms of an art piece. Where will the eye focus or rest? You don’t want to end up looking like a frenetic abstract! In this outfit, the focus pieces were the necklace, the bracelet, and the dress hemline. The rest of the look was simple and restful to the eye.
The look was fun, a little bit different (which I love), and something I can wear again for a variety of different occasions. It’s good to remember that keeping your main piece simple often allows a lot of flexibility in accessory styling options.