Elizabeth Fragala
Thursday, 02 August 2018

Wedding Season Attire: How to Dress Well with or without Royal Connections

By Dressing Well Stylist Elizabeth Fragala

This year the kickoff to wedding season could not have been more exciting when American actress Meghan Markle wed Great Britain’s Prince Harry at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. From the moment Meghan stepped out of her limousine, fans were obsessed with every detail of her outfit, including her tiara and finely detailed veil. Also in the spotlight were the close family and friends of the couple, who dressed elegantly in designer dresses, shoes, and of course, hats. Following on the heels of this exciting moment, we consider how to dress well as a bride or a wedding guest even without royal connections.

#1 Brides, Focus on Silhouette First
There is a dress for every body type - the key is finding the perfect match. Before you are dazzled by pearls, beads, and trains, look at the overall outline of the dress and how it will enhance your figure. A curved or v-neckline highlights a full bust, while a strapless dress accentuates a toned upper body. Capped or flutter sleeves soften the look and provide arm coverage for those who desire it. An A-line skirt looks great on every body type and is elegant in all fabrics, whether a crisp taffeta, frothy tulle or silk georgette

#2 Classic Style Endures
Take a page out of the British royals’ handbook and look to the past for inspiration. Meghan’s couture Givenchy dress was reminiscent of the style of American actress Audrey Hepburn, who used the French house almost exclusively. The bateau neckline and ¾ sleeve silhouette was appropriate for a formal church wedding yet did not come across as prim or uptight. Kate Middleton’s 2011 wedding gown was reminiscent of Hollywood legend Grace Kelly 1950’s dress. The fitted lace neckline was demure without being overly conservative and highlighted her slim figure. Take a memo from classic fashion by looking at photos of brides from a previous decade. Wedding attire that reflects current fashion yet is classic in line will never go out of style.

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#3 Pay Homage to Your Heritage
Is your mother’s or grandmother’s dress too dated or is the size off? A designer can incorporate parts of the dress into a brand new version made specifically for you. Portions of lace or bead work can be cleaned and reused or a style can be reworked to fit a modern figure. A high-neck bodice can be remade into a strapless version or long sleeves can be removed to update a silhouette. No heirloom handed down? You can find gowns and dresses from any era sold online.

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#4 Second Time Around
Bridal wear is not only for the young. Many women marry for the first time or remarry later in life, and want a beautiful dress to mark the occasion. If you feel limited by the options at a bridal boutique, venture into the dress department of your local department store in person or online. If you shy away from white, look for luxurious colors like champagne, silver or rose gold; they will keep you the center of attention in a non-traditional way.

#5 Cracking the Dress Code for Guests
The best place to start is with the invitation itself as it will give you many clues about the formality (or lack thereof) for the wedding at hand. Honoring the type of attire requested by the bride and groom is appreciated more than you may realize as it helps set the tone and mood they desire. A client recently reached out to us after receiving a black tie invite to a July evening wedding in Boston. She was concerned about wearing black as it is not her best color choice, especially in the summer months. We assured her that black tie does not mean only wearing black, or even dark colors for that matter. Jewel tones and pastels work well for day and night this time of year and also into fall. These days, fabric makes the most difference in dressiness, with taffetas, lace and silk leading the way for evening attire. For daytime and more casual affairs, look to the wide range of florals in lighter, more relaxed fabrics. Fall florals have become a popular choice for September, October and beyond with no sign they will be going out of style anytime soon, so don’t dismiss them once Labor Day arrives.

terri cropEditor’s Note: The client mentioned above (and pictured here to the right!) ended up using our virtual styling program for help getting her summer black tie outfit just right. We shopped online and sent her five dresses to consider. Since we consider navy blue the black of summer, 3 of the 5 dresses were navy. It offers a cooler and often more chic version of a classic black-tie look for both men and women. She was thrilled at how easy it was to get the perfect dress by limiting the color choices and ordering only a few different styles. Once she chose the dress (yes, it's navy!), we ordered two styles of shoes in three different sizes so she could finish the look without having to go to the store. She quickly returned the things she did not want and was off to the wedding without having to enter a store. She already owned jewelry and bag that perfectly finished the outfit.

Last Word
Finally, whether you are a bride or a guest, don’t let accessories be an afterthought. Bring the gown, dress or suit with you when shopping for shoes and accessories, if possible, or buy a few narrowed-down options to try on at home. You may be surprised at the necklace and earrings that best suit your dress. Clear crystals may seem to disappear against a light dress, while darker beads or gemstones may overwhelm delicate patterns. The devil is in the details when accessorizing any special occasion outfit. Upfront planning ensures good results and beautiful photos, often as important as the day itself considering the importance of these keepsakes for years to come.

Do you have a favorite look from the May royal wedding? Let us know in the comments below.

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About the Author

Elizabeth Fragala

Elizabeth Fragala joined the Dressing Well team as a stylist in 2004 after living abroad in such fashion-rich cities as London and Tokyo. Following in the steps of her two grandmothers (and a grandfather!), Elizabeth learned to sew as a child. She honed her fashion sense while working at the renowned Issey Miyake boutique and Liberty of London. Elizabeth gained an insider’s knowledge of the industry as an assistant designer at the womenswear manufacturer, Briggs NY.

Learn more about Elizabeth »

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