Ask Belle: Summer Church Attire

Apr 20, 2011

Hi Belle,

I love your blog. I have been a reader for a few months now and I always appreciate your fashion insights. Right now I have a fashion dilemma- what to wear to a christening in Puerto Rico in June. It’s going to be hotter than hell, but I still want to my outfit to be respectful and modest.

Any advice you have would be much appreciated.

Thank you!

Lauren

Polyvore Set Here.

Boy, that does sound scorching.  Yesterday, I posted some advice on how to make a vodka solution that will keep your clothes from taking on a smell and a list of deodorant products that you should purchase.  Beyond that, if you’re looking for a modest summer dress that is still fun, you need to consider a few different elements.

Sleeves.  If you are going to a church event, like a christening or a Catholic wedding, you need to wear a dress with sleeves.  And since warm weather events make the thought of a cardigan overwhelming, you need to choose a dress with at least a cap-sleeve if not more.  The middle dress above has flutter sleeves which allow for coverage but also give you a little breeze to help stay cool.

Neckline.  I would never consider a v-neck drastic, but if you’re going for a modest-look, a mid-depth v-neck is as dramatic as you should go.  And if you’re busty, forget it.  Choose a neckline that is a little more generous than a crew neck, but not as low as a scoop neck.  Or, like the middle dress, you can find a dress with cut-outs to show a little bit of skin.

Length.  This should go without saying, but a dress for a church or  family occasion should never be more than four inches above your knee.  No mini-skirts.  If you’re not sure, do a sit test.  If when you sit down, the dress is showing more thigh than you would want your Nana or your Priest to see, it’s too short.

Fit.  A christening, a wedding or a family reunion is not the time to put on a body-conscious dress that fits like a sausage casing.  Not only is it inappropriate, but a snug-fitting dress necessitates certain undergarments.  Undergarments (Spanx) that are not breathable and will not be kind to the skin in the hot summer weather (can you say chafing?).  So you need to choose a dress that fits you and gives you some room to move and breathe.

A flirty, pleated skirt would be adorable.  A loose-fitting A-line is acceptable.  A swingy skirt is great.  And a tulip style will give you the look of a pencil without the tight fit.

Fabric.  No wool, it’s too hot.  No mostly-acrylic blends, they don’t breathe.  Wear silk and satin sparingly. If you’ll be indoors most of the time, these can be a good choice.  Choose cotton or (deep breath) linen for a tropical climate or if you’re going to be outside the whole time.  

Photos.  If you’re going to a wedding or a christening or an outdoor event where you’ll be in someone else’s keepsake photos, be cognizant of that.  Last year, a friend’s sister wore a strapless dress with a huge tropical print to her wedding.  Yes, it was in Hawai’i, but she stood out like neon palm tree in Yellowstone Park.  It was very distracting.

Don’t show up in a brightly-colored, garishly-printed dress that will draw the eye in every photo.  Solids and small prints are your friends.  Choose jewelry strategically and avoid dramatic makeup or tall hairdos.  Just take a step back and let someone else shine.  

Accessories.  Use your accessories to keep you cool.  A sun hat is great for keep the temperature down at an outdoor wedding.  And if you want to be a little bold, bring a fan.  This vintage wooden fan from Etsy will allow you bring your own air conditioning wherever you go.  People may give you an odd look or two, but that’s just because they’re sorry they didn’t think of it.  

And brides, if you’re having an outdoor wedding, print your programs on a paper fan.  Your guests get a durable keepsake and a way to stave off the sweat.  You get to look generous and thoughtful.  Everybody wins.

Ask The Edit, Style

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  1. Belle says:

    MC-The reader specifically asked for something modest. I gave her modest.

  2. Belle says:

    MC-The reader specifically asked for something modest. I gave her modest.

  3. KLo says:

    I have a dress like the white one, and it's incredibly versatile. I absolutely adore the navy.

  4. becca says:

    I'd also like to add to be aware of your undergarments, not only for chafing/comfort purposes, but also for photos. The use of a flash (especially a professional one) could make your dress appear more sheer than it is in person, and the last thing you want is to be in photos with your bra or underwear showing, so wear a lightweight slip if there is any doubt.

  5. I LOVE the idea of wedding programs printed on fans. I sure wish my cousin & his wife had thought of that when they got married in the middle of a shadeless Virginia hill in July. My sunburn still hurts to think about.

  6. Marie-Christine says:

    I don't think either of you have really been to Puerto Rico :-). Catholic or not, short, bare and tight are de rigueur. That said, looser is cooler indeed, and if you can find some sort of crepey or textured cotton, silk or rayon all the better to keep you cool. DC is just as hot and humid to the rest of us.
    And I'd definitely consider a cardigan in case the reception is in an air-conditioned haven, which will tend to be freezing. Lacy, light-colored cardigan? A silk chiffon scarf to go with it perhaps? Plan on temperature extremes.

  7. Belle says:

    MC-The reader specifically asked for something modest. I gave her modest.

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