Ask Belle: Versatile Dresses for Weddings

Mar 13, 2013

Hi Belle,

A friend introduced me to your blog last year and I love it. I’m in my mid 20s so I’ve already got a couple save the dates on my fridge. Can you give some suggestions for classic dresses that can be accessorized differently for each wedding?

Breathable materials are a plus for the dreaded outdoor wedding!

Thanks,
Emily

Don’t feel pressured to buy a new dress for every wedding you attend.  Most dresses can be dressed up or down to fit into a casual, semi-formal or cocktail wedding.  Unless you’re attending more than five weddings per season or every wedding you attend has the same guest list, you should be able to get by with two dresses for the spring/summer wedding season.

Personally, I like to choose a solid dress because it’s easier to blend in.  I stick with neutrals and jewel tones because they can be worn in most seasons.  And I like to make sure the dress is perfectly tailored so that even if someone notices that I’m wearing the same dress, it’s the same great dress.

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 2.13.55 PM

From Left, Dorothy Perkins Navy Racer Flare Dress ($79) // Mango Pleated Details Dress ($55) // Misha Cotton Cady Dress ($235) // W118 Opal Chiffon Wrap Dress ($75)

Navy is a great color for summer wedding dresses.  I love this Dorothy Perkins, but I also found this cap sleeve wrap dress, this full-skirted dress with wide straps and this sleek lace shift.  Plus size?  Try this navy dress with open, drape sleeves or this 3/4 sleeve lace sheath.  Petite?  I found this flare dress with tulle detail and this simple empire shift.

You could pair this dress with everything from a neon belt to a metallic sandal.  For an outdoor wedding, try a short nude wedge, some stack bangles and a yellow clutch.  For an evening event, try a long silver earring with a faceted jewel (these are awesome, btw) , a colored shoe and a silver clutch.

Strapless dresses are a popular choice for wedding guests.  I like this sweetheart mini-dress from Mango because it’s nearly 100-percent cotton and I could also wear it to a casual brunch or dinner.  I also found this printed dress and this flirty chiffon number.  Plus size ladies should try this rouched dress, while petite readers should look into this silk georgette frock.

Just remember that with strapless the trick is finding a supportive comfortable strapless bra.  I’m small-chested so I can stick to a backless NuBra, but I’ve heard good things about this Wacoal Red Carpet bra for women who have more bust to support. (Leave other undergarment recommendations in the comments, thx.)

One shoulder dresses are a lot of fun to accessorize.  I wear mine (also grey) with a jeweled brooch on the shoulder for evening events, but you could also choose an embellished belt.  I don’t wear a necklace with mine, because I like the neckline to stand alone, but a chunky cuff would be a good choice.

Looking for a one shoulder but not in love with this J.CREW one?  I like this Grecian-style cocktail dress and this black Vera Wang dress, both under-$150.  And if you’re looking for a special size, I found this dress chic knit dress that comes in plus sizes and this slinky one shoulder for petites.

Breezy chiffon dresses are my wedding ideal.  I love how light and feminine they are and how much fun they are to dance in.  This pleated v-neck purple dress is lovely, and this citron, ruffled strapless is really a bold choice (cinch it with a gold metallic belt).  In a plus size, I found this bright frock and this fun maxi dress.

Chiffon dresses often benefit from a structured belt like this wide leather one or this skinny metallic.  They also look best, in my opinion, with open dress sandals.  (Closed toe pumps can look a bit clunky with such a flowy fabric.)

If you have a favorite wedding attire idea you want to share, feel free to leave it in the comments.  Because while we all want to look our best for these special events, we don’t want to go broke doing it.

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  1. Michelle says:

    Hi Belle –

    Love these dresses! What do you think is the best thing to wear over a dress for the ceremony in a church or synagogue? I’m not a huge fan of pashminas/wraps and cardigans sometimes feel so boring.

    Thanks!

  2. Andrea says:

    Just wanted to comment and say that I purchased they navy Dorothy Perkins dress and the purple Pheobe Couture dress you linked to in the chiffon section (it’s sold out on Couture Candy, but available in several sizes at Neiman Marcus for $120). I have a few weddings & related events this summer & early fall, so hopefully these dresses look as good in person as they do online.

    IMO you hit it out of the park with this post, Belle… thanks!!!

  3. Cheryl says:

    Quick question, Belle–What do you think about wearing black to a summer wedding? I recently purchased this dress (at a great sale price) and am dying to wear it–https://www.katespade.com/jeweled-harlow-dress/NJMU2282,default,pd.html?dwvar_NJMU2282_color=014&start=26&cgid=clothing-dresses-and-skirts

    • Em says:

      I think that the color blocking at the bottom lightens it up and is very on trend for this spring. Pair it with some light and bright accessories & I don’t think it’d be too dark for a wedding!

  4. an says:

    Mad props to the Wacoal Red Carpet strapless bra. And I have it in black and a light “nude” color. It is the *only* strapless bra I have ever worn that looks halfway normal, ie provides some support for my 38D girls without pushing them up to my chin.

  5. Em says:

    Just a note regarding that $350+ J.Crew one shoulder dress? J.Crew factory has a VERY similar one for a bazillionth of the price. I bought the navy, but the pink is only $35!! THIRTY-FIVE DOLLARS! Please pick me up from the floor. It fits sublimely and I’ll probably be ordering the pink now too.

    https://factory.jcrew.com/womens-clothing/dresses/PRDOVR~37027/37027.jsp

    Just sharing with my lovely ladies!

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