Editor's Note: This post was updated in July 2015. I've included prices with some dresses, but click on photo or text for best price now. For more dress ideas, visit Shop Over 50.
There’s a part of me that hesitates to write about wedding guest attire. There are so many factors to consider when choosing an outfit. How can I cover them all? The ones that spring to mind immediately are 1) time of the wedding—day or evening, 2) type of event—very formal affair (ie, groom and groom’s men in morning coats, a high-end reception) or a relatively low-key affair (ie, a small gathering in a backyard, at a restaurant, by a waterfall), and 3) ethnic and regional considerations. It goes without saying that there are different expectations among the various cultural groups. And I think where you live in the world, even which part of the United States, will dictate what is appropriate dress.
All that said, I intend to forge on, sharing my thoughts on wedding guest attire for women over 50. I’ll leave it to you to pick and choose what you think will apply to your upcoming affair. Click on any of the photos for dress details, additional sizes, or to shop other dresses.
BEST GUEST ATTIRE: SHOPPING STRATEGY
A wedding is a huge event in a family’s history and very often involves a year’s worth of planning. I believe guests should show their appreciation for the momentous occasion by wearing something more than what they'd wear to a neighborhood cocktail party. This doesn’t mean, however, that you have to buy a dress you’ll never have occasion to wear again. Or even that you have to buy a dress. To get the most use out of a wedding outfit, pick one that’s…
Not Too Trendy. If you're on a budget or just hate to spend money on a dress that can't be worn everyday, look for dresses in the classic styles that flatter over 50 women. A good quality dress in a classic style--such as V-necks, simple sheaths, A-lines and wraps--that is well cared for will last for years. For example, I'm wearing a Lauren by Ralph Lauren draped sheath at the top of this post. What makes this dress a good choice for a mid-day wedding is the dress quality. It's made well of a nice material and is lined. You'll find a nice selection of Lauren by Ralph Lauren dresses online at Lord + Taylor.
Like polka dots? This Adrianna Papell Burnout Polka Dot Fit & Flare Dress (Regular & Petite) ($178) is a stylish choice. Dress length: 39".
The sheath is a great style for a variety of body shapes. It's a dress that is always in style (though the fashion world is giving the dress style special attention in fall 2015 collections). Here's one with the longer short sleeves, which I love. I also love the way a simple dress style gives a woman so many options for accessorizing. My choices: A pretty statement necklace and a smashing pair of pumps or flats.
Good for Day and Evening. It's not always possible, but I love when I find a great dress that can be worn to both day and evening events. When I want to buy a dress that works for either side of sunset, fabric is a big consideration. The rich indigo blue fabric of this lovely Talbots Women's Peony Matelasse Seamed Sheath (Dress length= 38 1/2") is a perfect example.
Here's another example of a classic sheath in a texture fabric...
Good for Dressy Affairs. There's no question in my mind: If you want a dress that looks smashing at both a nice gathering and a grand affair, choose something in a rich pattern and fabric. In the metropolitan New York area, you can't go wrong with a well-made black sheath for evening weddings. I love the batwing sleeve trend, like this Adrianna Papell Asymmetrical Overlay Dress. Avoiding black these days? This dress also comes in night blue or pansy.
Here's another lovely Adrianna Papell Peplum Lace Sheath Dress (Regular & Petite) dress ($178). Length: 38 1/2".
Fabulous for Your Figure. I've listed this strategy last because I figure it really goes without saying. If you feel like a million bucks in a dress that flatters your body shape, you'll look like a million bucks. And that's the way you should look at a wedding. There are dresses to flatter every body shape this season.
I'll admit it: I flaunt my mid-section whenever possible. Everyone's got a great feature and that's mine. So dresses that fit and flare, like the one below are my "go to" dress style. Another advantage to the dress with a fuller skirt: It's great for dancing in!
Draped dresses are trendy and flattering to a variety of body shapes.
I'm loving all the lace sheaths, like this Women's Tadashi Shoji Embroidered Lace Sheath Dress, Size 12 - Blue/green. This particular dress is available in 14 different colors and prints.
Twenty-five years ago, when my friends and I were getting married, the only suits you'd see on women at weddings were matching jacket-and-skirt sets. Today, suits and pants suits are starting to turn up at weddings, even on the mother of the bride or groom. I have yet to see a woman in a pant suit at a wedding, but I don't see anything wrong with it.
My favorite suits are the jacket and dress sets. An over 50 girlfriend sent me a picture of herself at a "black tie optional" wedding (photo above). Instead of choosing an evening gown that she might never have a chance to wear again, she chose a simple, sleeveless Alex Evenings sheath with a bolero jacket with a spray of black sequins. It offers arm coverage, but still is very feminine.
Here's another example of a dress with a matching jacket...