10 February 2020
What style dress to wear to a wedding

Weddings offer a wonderful opportunity to get dolled up and celebrate love with a happy couple. 

If you don’t attend them often, it is difficult to figure out what style dress to wear to a wedding. Read on for absolutely everything you need to know! 

The dos and don’ts of wedding fashion 

Weddings are a complicated affair. For the bride, it is probably the biggest day of life so far. She dreams of a perfect day and you are playing a part in that. 

It turns out, weddings bring a lot of pressure for everyone involved, even guests. A small misstep can have dire consequences and the last thing you want is a ruined friendship. 

There are guidelines to follow to ensure you play the right part in the hosts’ perfect day. This set of unofficial rules has been created over centuries. Play it safe, stick within them and you won’t stand out for the wrong reasons. 

Here is a quick breakdown of the most important don’ts of wedding attire:

  • Remember, it is not about you: Of course, you know everyone will be dressed in their best and you want to stand out. That’s well and good, but a wedding is about the couple getting married. You are just along for the ride. 

This applies to everyone’s behaviour on the day as well as their outfits. Don’t be that person at the wedding who obviously wants to steal the show.

  • Don’t wear anything too low cut or revealing: Not only does this fall into the ‘upstaging the bride’ category, it can be interpreted as disrespectful, especially to the older generation. 

Wearing something modest is particularly important if the wedding is strongly religious. In this case, it’s best to even avoid sleeveless or strapless looks.

  • DON’T WEAR WHITE!: This should go without saying but it bears repeating. In our culture, wedding dresses are white. From its traditional connotations of the bride’s virginity, this has evolved to help the bride stand out. 

Wedding etiquette rules as old as time

Remember, not everyone at the wedding will be totally familiar with the couple. You run the risk of being mistaken for the bride should you wear a gown in the same shade. You will also draw the eye in any wedding photos where the bride should be the focus. 

Wear white to a wedding and the bride will be reminded of your bold actions every time she sees the photos. If you really can’t avoid it, a white dress with strong coloured highlights or a coloured floral pattern is ok. You can also accessorise with a coloured sash, a large brooch, a jacket or a belt which will distinguish you from the bride. 

  • Don’t wear black(most of the time): In our culture, black is traditionally the colour of mourning. It is de rigueur at funerals. For a long time, because of the associations with death, it has been considered bad luck to wear black to a wedding. You are as good as putting a curse on the newlyweds future together in some people’s eyes. 

With times becoming less superstitious, black is finding its way to modern weddings. As a general rule, it should still be avoided at daytime weddings. If you know the couple well and are confident that they won’t mind, take the risk. Otherwise, seek out another colour.

  • Don’t go overboard with your makeup: Again, this comes down to upstaging the bride. Stick with subtle styles that flatter you without being too bold. Outrageous, bright or over the top styles will just look like you are trying to be more important than the bride.

Of course, these are all generic tips. If you are going as somebody’s plus one, it is best to stick with them. If you are close to the couple, you can always communicate with them and see what they do or don’t want on their big day.

Blonde retro model wears red cocktail dress by Australian clothes company Retrospecd.
Model wears dress ‘Elizabeth Red Shantung’ – SHOP HERE

Different dresses for different weddings

Now you know the biggest don’ts of wedding fashion, it’s time to break things down a little further. 

These days, happy couples have a plethora of options open to them when it comes to the big day. Each of these means something a little different for what you will want to wear. Let’s look at the most common styles of wedding you may be invited to:

  • Formal: This will be the most traditional wedding you might attend. This means formal attire. Feel free to play with colour but check on the bridal parties’ colour scheme first if you can. Long dresses and conservative attire is the name of the game. Simple and stylish is always best. Remember, this isn’t the school ball. Avoid anything too frou-frou or crazy.
  • Semi-Formal: Semi-formal gives you a little more breathing room to relax. While you still want to be well dressed, you needn’t wear a full gown. You can wear less dressy shoes as well, even a stylish sandal or chunkier heels.
  • Cocktail: You might consider a cocktail wedding to be one tier down from the formal wedding. It is a little more relaxed than a formal wedding and gives you a little more freedom. 

‘Cocktail’ has connotations of more of a social and party atmosphere, meaning you can be more playful with how you dress. A retro or vintage frock can suit a theme like this and transition from day to night. 

  • Garden: Certainly a more casual affair than other wedding styles, a garden wedding lends itself to floral patterns and chunky heels. Pick a brightly coloured 1950s style dress and you’ll be perfectly dressed.
  • Beach: Generally this is the most relaxed of wedding styles but still make sure to check your invitation for dress codes. Linens and more flowing gowns can go well at the beach, or you can channel a 1950s vibe with some cool cat-eye sunglasses and a full skirt. Hats can be a great option too but be prepared for wind. Don’t forget the sunscreen and consider a pair of flat shoes to wear out on the sand. 

What to wear as mother of the bride

As the mother of the bride, you have a particularly hard task ahead of you when it comes to what style of dress to wear. 

You are an integral part of the proceedings, usually without being in the actual wedding party. The most important thing to do is to stay in communication with your daughter. Some MOTBs will wear colours to match the bridesmaids while others will not. It will usually come down to what the bride is happy with. If you aren’t matching the bridesmaids, it is best to stick to more subdued colours like pastels or subtle florals. 

A retro dress with a matching bolero, shrug or cardigan is a lovely look for a mother of the bride. 

Blonde lady wearing a retro blue floral dress standing in front of yellow fence with house behind and holding a basket of f
lowers.
Model wears ‘Stella Springtime’ SHOP HERE

Check your feet

Your choice of shoes at a wedding can be tempered by a number of factors. For instance, it may not be wise to wear six-inch heels to a beach or garden wedding. 

Take into account the venue and how you intend to enjoy the event. If you want to dance the night away, you will want shoes that aren’t going to destroy your feet by the end of the night. At the very least a spare pair of flats may come in handy.

In general, aim for classic and elegant styles. Heels will always look great but be aware of your limits. If you are an experienced wearer of heels you know what to do but don’t make this your first trial. 

To hat or not to hat? (To Hat!!)

If the slew of recent royal weddings has taught us anything it’s that hats are in! 

When it comes to hats, not only are they in but bigger is better! This is about the best option to go grand. Other than the races, weddings are your best opportunity to sport a really great hat so why not go all out? 

Big brims are on trend right now, which means you can make a statement without any of the risks associated with everything discussed earlier. Just remember a few simple rules:

  • Make sure your hat looks good from all angles: These days wedding photos are more likely to be journalistic than posed. You want to make sure that when the back of your hat appears in pics it looks as good as it does from the front.
  • Practice ‘hat kissing’: Especially if you have a large brim! The hat will get in your way when you kiss peoples cheeks. Spend some time with your hat on getting the head tilt just right to save yourself awkwardness on the day.
  • Pin it on: Wind is the enemy when you’re wearing a hat. A few hat pins will do the job, especially if it is an outdoor wedding.

Wondering what style dress to wear to a wedding? Choose retro! 

Choices for wedding attire can be overwhelming. Now you know what type of wedding you’ll be at and have an idea about the style you might be after why not think a little out of the box? 

Vintage or retro dresses are an excellent option. Stunning and different, they’ll make you stand out from the crowd without upstaging the bride.  

There are many reasons to go for vintage. Firstly, it eliminates the risk of someone else turning up in the same outfit. If everyone has gone to Myer or David Jones, there is a chance someone else saw the same nice frock that you chose. With a vintage piece that’s far less likely to happen. 

A well-chosen vintage or retro dress can also stand the test of time. It can be worn again at other occasions including Christmas parties, race days and any time you might need a fancy frock.

How to choose a dress that suits you

Keep your body shape in mind when you are buying a dress to wear to a wedding. Certain styles suit certain body shapes better. Here are some tips for the five major body types:

  • Apple: Avoid form-fitting and go for looks that accentuate your legs. A-line or empire cuts and prints will work well for you.
  • Pear: Draw focus away from your hips with frilly or ruffled tops. A-lines also work well for pear-shaped silhouettes.
  • Hourglass: Anything that cinches in the waist will accentuate your figure and flatter your shape. Hourglass figures love a 1950s style frock with a full skirt
  • Inverted Triangle: Let the focus be on your legs and don’t accentuate your chest or shoulders. A dress shaped in an inverted V to match your body will work well on you.
  • Rectangle: You shape will work well with sleeveless or strapless, should the occasion allow. A blazer or long jacket will also help your shape to pop.

Remember, rules were made to be broken. If you love a dress and the style is appropriate, go for it!

Other accessories and must-haves in your handbag

Once your outfit is finalised, you will need a few more things to make your day complete. Make sure you have your phone (on silent!) but take note if the couple requests you stay off social media. Include some ID in your purse just in case. 

A little cash is advisable for unexpected situations. Some tissues and any medication you might need (especially if it’s outdoors and you have allergies) will not go astray. Band-aids could also come in handy if blisters strike. 

Finally, pack all those little bits and pieces to keep yourself looking and feeling confident. Powder, concealer, bobby pins, include anything for those quick bathroom beauty touch-ups.

Wondering what style dress to wear to a wedding? Retrospec’d will have the retro vintage frock for you.

For a unique but appropriate wedding guest dress, head to Restrospec’d

Sharing all stock to gals and guys around the world via our website, there is no better place for a vintage find. 

From floral to fun, full-skirt to straight skirt, Retrospec’d has vintage dresses in almost every print you could imagine. There are sleeveless, capped sleeve and sleeved options which you can choose depending on the time of year. 

Shop our range to find a unique dress to show off at your next wedding.