Earlier this year, I posted a guide on what to wear to summer weddings, and judging by the flood of Ask Belle’s inquiring about wedding attire, I thought I should probably post another one. So let’s dive right in, shall we?
Black Tie. When I open a wedding invite and see that it’s black tie required, I get a little too excited. Any excuse to bring my evening gowns out from under the bed is fine by me. There just aren’t enough occasions in life where black tie is required.
If you want to buy a gown, here are some guidelines you should follow. Choose a simple style with no embellishments, something that will be wearable for years. Choose a color that can be worn in multiple seasons like wine, gray, navy, green or taupe. Choose a neckline that is flattering on you.
For this look, I paired a blackberry-colored dress with a peacock clutch for contrast. I added a simple gold heel, because no one can see your feet anyway so you should be comfortable. And I chose a large necklace to complement the neckline of the dress and provide a bit of sparkle.
However, when I wear strapless, I prefer to let my collarbones breath. So I would probably wear a stack of bangles anchored by this fantastic mosaic J.Crew bracelet on a burgundy enamel field.
Cocktail. Last time, someone asked me what the difference between cocktail and semi-formal is. I believe that semi-formal is relaxed cocktail, essentially cocktail without the shimmer. No satin, no shiny silks, no metallic shoes, no bling. I think the two outfits above reflect that.
I love this one shoulder dress, because the shirring on the bodice hides a myriad of flaws while hugging the curves. Because I didn’t want to destroy the neckline with a necklace, I added an to die for bangle. Sadly, the price is also to die for. (Forever 21 has a decent substitute for $10.) And paired these pieces with a simple frame clutch and gunmetal heels to continue the all grey look.
One of the biggest mistakes women make when they wear cocktail attire in winter is wearing fancy dresses with casual outerwear. Your puffer jacket or everyday peacoat is distracting from your awesome dress. Instead, choose a longer coat like the J.Crew Lady Day Coat ($325), or save your money for the dress and pick up this Nine West Coat for $130.
Semi-Formal. When do I wear semi-formal instead of cocktail? When the wedding starts before 5:00PM. I just don’t think glitter heels and satin are appropriate at 2:30PM. If the wedding is in the afternoon and the reception is before 7:00PM, I’m semiformal all the way because it’s not too dressy for day, and dressy enough for the reception.
I chose this dress for the fantastic racerback neckline and the flouncy mini-skirt. It has a feminine style with a bit of edge. I elected to do a bold zebra clutch, but if you’re feeling basic black, add a statement piece like this metal plate belt or this one with gold insets. I also brought in one of my favorite shoes of the moment, the Zara studded sandals.
If you want to wear tights with this look, you can. Just choose a REALLY opaque tight like Commando or Kate Spade’s Very Opaque. And then choose a closed toed shoe like these booties with black paillettes or these black t-strap platforms.
Casual. While I love dressing up for a black tie wedding, I always have more fun at the casual ones. Maybe because I’m comfortable. The strapless gown may look divine but that boned corset is murder.
For this look, I chose a flattering and simple shift dress in a bold color. Just because you’re supposed to dress casually doesn’t mean you can’t stand out. I paired it with an eye-popping geometric necklace (the under-$20 version can be found here) and a simple pump. Again, you could wear tights with this if you wanted to.
Choosing a coat for this look, I’d wear something black with a cool collar and gold buttons. I like this black coat from Jessica Simpson for $150.
One final tip, if you can’t afford a new dress or you don’t want to buy a new one, focus on your hair and makeup. Go to the salon and get a blowout or an updo and spend the extra time on your makeup. This way, you’ll look amazing in the photos without a huge financial commitment.