Thursday, April 21, 2011

Here Comes the Wedding Guest, All Dressed in…?

My over 50 girlfriend wore a black sheath and sequin jacket to a recent "black tie optional wedding."

Editor's Note: This post was updated in July 2014. I've included prices with some dresses, but click on photo or text for best price now. Or check out current sales on my On Sale page. 

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.

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.

A few years ago, I bought a Banana Republic dress (below) for a summer wedding. I choose it because of its straight-forward design (no trendy elements that would look dated the following year) and because I thought the "fit and flare" dress style flattered my pear-shaped body.

If you're pear-shaped like me, you'll find lots of "fit and flare" dresses online in prints and solids. Here's a Eliza J Pintucked Waist Seamed Ponte Knit Fit & Flare Dress (Regular & Petite)($138). Dress length= 37" (Regular size).  Another benefit to wearing a dress with a fuller skirt: it's great for dancing in!

The wrap dress is another design that's always in style. Visit your favorite dress sites and chances are you'll see a wrap dress or two. The wrap is available in all sleeve lengths (sleeveless, short sleeves, 3/4 sleeves and long sleeves) as well as a huge variety of prints and solids. Depending on the print and sleeve length, the wrap dress can be a comfortable choice for day or night weddings. I love the versatility of this BCBGMAXAZRIA Engineered Print Matte Jersey Wrap Dress ($198).  I'd wear it to daytime wedding in spring, summer or early fall. Dress length= 40".

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, I consider two things: 1) fabric and 2) pattern. I look for a garment in a solid color or with an abstract or geometric design. Sheath dresses, another timeless style, are available in lots of rich colors (ie, emerald, sapphire, berry) this season. My favorite sheath right now: A lace sheath. Take, for instance, this Alex Evenings Tiered Chiffon & Lace Sheath Dress (Regular & Petite) ($135) in Electric Blue. Dress length: 38.5". Available in Regular and Petite sizes. The tiered chiffon is a great way to hide little lumps and bumps.

By the way, my friend's dress (at the top of the post) is also an Alex Evenings. I love this clothing line for dressy dresses for women over 50. For more Alex Evening dresses, scroll down.

Depending on my choice of accessories--jewelry and shoes--a draped fit and flare dress like this next Ivy & Blu Pleated Jersey Fit & Flare Dress ($149) is perfect for a day or night wedding. I love this dress style because I don't think it will ever go out of style. That's important to me because I don't wear dressy dresses often. Of course, as your arms age, you might want to wear a short sweater or jacket. Dress length= 38 3/4".

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. An over 50 girlfriend sent me a picture of herself at a recent "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. (Scroll down for other Alex Evenings designs.) Since the LBD is showing no signs of going out of style, I'm betting my girlfriend will be wearing this out to dressy affairs for years to come. Or...if you like a fuller skirt, take a peek at this gorgeous Eliza J Dot Mesh Bodice Fit & Flare Dress ($158). Dress Length: 39".

If black isn't a flattering color, navy is a sophisticated alternative. Here's a lovely Adrianna Papell Peplum Lace Sheath Dress (Regular & Petite) ($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'm loving all the lace sheaths, like this Adrianna Papell Lace Overlay Sheath Dress (Regular & Petite) ($138). Dress Length: 39".

The full skirt and over-sized dots make this Adrianna Papell Burnout Polka Dot Fit & Flare Dress (Regular & Petite) ($178) a stylish choice. Dress length: 39".

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, like my friend's outfit at the top of this post. It offers arm coverage, but still is very feminine. For example, here's a Tahari by Arthur S. Levine Metallic Jacquard Jacket & Dress ($188). Length: 38”

Here are a couple of more Alex Evening dresses, like my friend is wearing at the top of this post. By the way, she loves her dress...

Alex Evenings Lace Dress & Jacket (Plus Size) (Plus only) ($198) Length: 47”... 

Alex Evenings Embellished Mixed Media Dress and Jacket ($168.00). Length: 49”...