No 520: the Well-Heeled Guest

Monday, May 17, 2010

"Breck" from Thread.

"Connect Four Reina Dress" from Kate Spade.

"Be on time, wear appropriate clothing and be respectful during the marriage ceremony. Pay your respects to the hosts, the wedding party and other guests at the reception. And remember: the good guest is almost invisible, enjoying him or herself, communing with fellow guests, and, most of all, enjoying the generous hospitality of the hosts."-E. Post

Emily post always has so much to say about the correct use of forks, and is so unnervingly vague about the things that seem to matter most-in this case, what to wear as a guest to a wedding. I received a delightful request from a dear friend on just this very matter- advice and suggestions regarding her attire for a wedding on Martha's Vineyard this summer. Since I had planned to spend some time talking about personal style, this seemed like the ideal way to kick off the topic. Thank you, Fannie, for both the compliment and the fabulous lead-in!

Fannie is smart enough to be looking for a dress she can wear not only to this wedding, but to the number of future weddings she will attend. With this in mind, I'm going to make a bold statement: avoid prints. Prints, the exceptions being stripes, polka dots and some abstracts, are wildly seasonal. A spring print will look cloying at a November wedding, and the muted gray and blue abstract that was perfect in March will look dull in July.

So now that I've ruled out most prints, what's left?


I love solid dresses because they're an easier palette: a print dictates a small window of options for cardigan sweaters, darling shoes and little clutches. But the adaptable solid poses no such problem! Pair a navy shift with a wheat-colored sweater and neutral espadrille for a beach wedding, add gumball-sized pearls and a patent red high heel for a stylish city fete

"But which solid?" you ask. Reader, Do Not Buy A White Dress. I don't care if the Knot is wavering or Martha Stewart Weddings featured bridesmaids all in white. Even if the bride isn't flustered by your territorial color selection, someone else (it might be me) will. The newlywed wears white, and you get to drink too much and fool around with your date. Consider it a gift; eat and drink with gusto!

Some guests shy away from black, but I don't think there's any need to avoid it. The LBD didn't win an acronym for nothing, and with the right styling, a little black dress can be endlessly appropriate. If you feel black is too stuffy, or the wedding is more light-hearted, though, trust your instincts.

Finally, things to avoid.

Avoid colors that don't flatter you; don't wear pastels if you look near-death in them because you think you'll look more appropriate. The bride would hate it more if you looked terrible in her expensive wedding photos than if you wore red. Don't wear red with a lot of cleavage and black patent leather fetish heels, of course, but wear red!

Avoid fussy or asymmetrical necklines-they won't be as easy to transition into different seasons.

Avoid a sleeve, unless it's a simple cap, again for its transformative properties.

Avoid high heels for outdoor weddings. Instead, buy a single dress and two pairs of shoes: a dressy sandal or embellished flat, and a pretty heel to match.

Armed with the do's and don'ts of guest dressing, I've presented some of my favorite picks. I pilfered the usual suspects- J.Crew, Anthropologie, Kate Spade, Bluefly, Nordstrom's and eDressMe. I also snooped in places a guest would never think to look-bridesmaid retailers! I adore Thread, based in San Francisco (and sadly, a little more expensive), but nearly any imaginable bridesmaid's dress would be a perfect choice for a guest, as well. Many, many more colors are available than at a traditional store, and prices are often cheaper.
byCorpus polka dot dress from Urban Outfitters.

"Most memorable dress" from Mod Cloth.

"Emilia" Swiss dot dress from Thread.


  1. Very good guidelines! I absolutely hate when people wear white to a wedding. It is just so unnecessary, you can wear any other color on that one day, and I may be an old-fashioned fuddy duddy but I totally judge those people when I spot them.

  2. Judging people who wear white to a wedding is your right, nay, your duty! I understand that white is a lovely dress color, but show a little restraint.

    But I never realized how difficult it is to find an appropriate dress-something chic without the seemingly ever-presented cheap!

  3. Gah, what good advice, the good guest is almost invisible. I love the two polka dot and swiss dot dresses...great choices!

  4. thank you Lena!! This post is awesome and very helpful. I got a simple silk dress from J. Crew (the Marlie in navy) and a smart black patent leather belt (though I'm still wondering if I should have gotten the dusty pink one..) and will wear some great shoes or something with it all to dress it up. It felt weird to go with a more casual and less structured dress after visiting the special occasions store on Madison Ave. and trying on a zillion structured bridesmaid dresses, but I think it will be good... Thanks for all of your help!



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