Ask Belle: Prints for Weddings

May 28, 2013

Hi Belle,

I know it’s a total “No” to wear white to a wedding, but when you’re talking about a printed dress or top, is there an acceptable amount of white?

Thanks, Liz

I have seen a few women wear patterns that are white and a color to weddings.  Typically, I see black and white patterns, which are on-trend right now.  So let’s talk about those.

Screen Shot 2013-05-27 at 11.51.35 PM

From Left, London Times Lace-Print Dress ($35) // Limited Floral Print Dress ($49) // BCBG Block Print Dress ($208)

Two of these dresses are wedding-appopriate and one is not.  Can you guess which one is not?

It’s the first one.  Why?

Because while the middle part of the dress is mostly black, the top is white.  So in photos, it will look like you are wearing white.  Thus, if you’re looking for a good barometer of whether your dress is okay to wear to a wedding, ask yourself, “What will this dress look like in pictures?”

The other two dresses, in my opinion, would be fine to wear to a wedding because the middle dress is black with just a bit of white, and the third dress mixes in another color which vastly overpowers the white.

Now, if you like the idea of a lace print, like on the first dress, DKNY has one that is mostly black.  And if you’d like some color, Kay Unger offers one that is navy and white, however, it may be too much white.

Just looking for black and white print?  This sheath is nice and simple.  And I love the neckline on this dress, it’s a flirty, high-neck halter.

Prefer some color with your black and white print?  The yellow trim on this dress is nice.  The blue band on the bottom of this casual-wedding dress is lovely.

If you’re going to wear a white-based print that isn’t black and white, I recommend choosing a bright shade or a bold shade.  No pale pastels, no blush tones, no light browns or beiges.  You need real contrast to pull this look off.

Plus-size?  This faux-wrap is really nice.  Petite?  This cap-sleeve dress is pretty, and the BCBG dress above also comes in petite sizes.

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  1. Christy says:

    I really don’t like prints for weddings, I think it’s way too casual. Obviously some weddings are more casual than others and prints are fine, but I’ve been to weddings where the dress code was cocktail attire and people wearing prints looked like they dressed down. Just my 2 cents!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Really? I always thought that a subtle tonal print was a great way to elevate what otherwise might be a plain dress. But that’s just my two cents as well.

      • Dindi says:

        I’d consider none of the above to be appropriate. Just as white is off-limits for guests’ dresses, so is black. But I’m a traditionalist, so your mileage may vary.

        • Belle says:

          We’ve had this debate before. Nearly every wedding I’ve been to, even formal ones in the deep south have women wearing black. I try not to wear it in the summer, but this seems to be one of those rules that’s fallen by the wayside.

  2. Paisley says:

    I was actually planning on wearing the RL paisley dress that you had posted a few weeks ago for a summer wedding coming up: https://www.ralphlauren.com/product/index.jsp?productId=19608396. Is that ‘blue’ enough to off-set the white?

    • Belle says:

      I think it’s blue enough, but I might add a colored belt just to emphasize that you’re wearing color. Maybe coral or aqua or yellow.

  3. raq says:

    Belle you could not be more right on this question! A few summers ago I picked up a gorgeous cotton Jcrew dress on sale in what I thought was a gorgeous lavender for a late spring wedding. IT LOOKED WHITE IN EVERY PICTURE and on the dark dance floor was light enough for the sister of the groom to make a rude comment to me about wearing white to someone else’s wedding. Whoa it was a mistake- now if I wear a pattern or light color I always take a picture in a dark room first. Crazy? yes but you don’t want an awkward scene.

  4. Emily says:

    Wow – I always knew the “no white” rule, but I really only applied that to dresses that were 70% white or more. Is that really an accepted thing that a noticeable white accent is enough to make a dress wedding-offensive?

  5. Erin says:

    Belle! I just bought that BCBG dress on the right and wore it to a DC wedding two weeks ago! It’s on sale now. Hoping to throw a sleek black blazer over it and wear it to work with black pumps…

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