The perennial standard of wedding guest fashion is cocktail attire—though certain weddings do call for something a little different. While receiving a black tie invitation can sometimes induce anxiety about what to wear, dressing for the occasion doesn't need to be a stressful decision.
Here's our guide to decoding the dress code for every type of wedding this season.
You're invited to: black tie
Black tie weddings—which technically begin after 6 p.m.—are the Grand Prix of nuptial celebrations. If you have been invited to a black tie event, the expectation is that you will show up donning a tuxedo or a formal gown. But this isn't something to be afraid of. Just as there are tuxedo rentals, there are formal gown rentals as well. And if you decide to buy your gown it can be a fun excuse to hire a personal shopper for the day to make sure this extra investment is going to be the right one.
It's important to note the difference between black tie and black tie optional. While the first may come with expectations of tuxedos and floor length gowns, the second allows for more flexibility and slightly shorter hemlines.
With myriad styles to choose from, don't feel that as a female guest, you're limited to dresses. For example, a well-crafted silk jumpsuit in a sophisticated silhouette is a great alternative for some formal affairs, or pairing two chic pieces in dressier fabrics like satin or silk works, too.
For the gents, if a bespoke tux is too much of an investment, consider taking a ready-to-wear black suit to the tailor's for a customized fit. Remember that if you're opting out of the tuxedo, a formal suit is definitely the expectation and you should make sure it's as polished as possible. Also, you can add another layer, such as a vest, which can elevate a basic two-piece suit into a black tie–appropriate outfit.
Care tip: Remember that silk and water don't mix. Keep it clean by absorbing as much of the stain as possible if you encounter a little spill on your silk dress or tie. Also, gentlemen should keep in mind the following tuxedo tips: unbutton your jacket when you sit down to avoid strain on the buttons (also pull it up at the knees to avoid stretching), and be careful what you keep in your pockets to help the tux maintain its shape.
The invitation reads: cocktail attire
Keep in mind that ivory or cream are off limits—that's the bride's color palette it is therefore not appropriate for any wedding dress code. Instead, consider branching out to jewel tones such as navy, emerald or even ruby hues, which can look stunning for the dinner reception and a night of dancing. You're also free to break out your favorite black dress. Though it used to be a taboo color choice for a wedding, it's now perfectly acceptable.
For the dapper gentlemen, switch up your 9 to 5 suit with a few choice accessories for a touch of personal style. Cuff links, pocket squares or a bow tie are simple ways to update a basic suit. Try switching from a black bow tie to a colorful one for a fun accent. (Note that for cocktail attire receptions, a jacket is still required.) Also remember: the navy suit is the "new tux".
Care tip: If your cocktail attire uses a bolder palette, keep in mind that these pieces require special care. Consider hand washing garments separately with a gentle detergent to prevent color transference. You can also go to a professional dry cleaner who's experienced in formal wear. For gents, consult our complete guide to caring for your suit.
What to wear: casual is the new cocktail
Whether the wedding takes place in the backyard, at the beach or in the park, some newlyweds prefer a more laid-back approach to their special day. This can make things easier for the guests, but don't forget there's a fine line between casual and sloppy. While a suit jacket may not be required, you'll want to sport something more sophisticated than a polo shirt. Make an effort to stay stylish even though the invite suggests a pared-down dress code.
For the ladies, don't rule out long hemlines even though the dress code is informal. Maxi dresses are a great way to play with length while keeping is casual. The key to making dressier silhouettes work for casual events is to choose lightweight fabrics or whimsical prints (and accessories go a long way). Alternatively, consider pairing a flowing skirt with a lighter top for a two piece that will look great when you're toasting the happy couple.
A note for the men: this is the only time you won't be expected to wear a suit jacket, so have fun with it. A tailored shirt can be key, or try playing around with a fun sport coat.
Care tip: To keep your casual pieces in tiptop shape, handle them with extra care. Place them in a laundry bag before washing them—on the gentle cycle—in the machine. Hang or flat dry to maintain the shape and fit.
Outfitting yourself for an upcoming wedding should be a rewarding experience. Whether black tie or casual, weddings are a time when you can justify buying that dress or suit that really makes you stand out from the crowd. So read up, get shopping and remember to have fun.
Made a slip with that red wine? Don't worry, no one saw that. Check out our guide to on-the-go stain removal for wedding guests..
Photos: Sweet Ice Cream Photography, Mélanie Villeneuve, Andreas Rønningen, Suhyeon Choi
The start of fall signals an end to summer’s laid back vibe and the return to routine. On the wardrobe front, it’s time to re-evaluate your clothes and ensure you have the right pieces to look your best. Here are a few fashion investments that you can depend on for many falls to come.
Sleek dresses, tweed jackets and ankle boots for women
While a flattering little black dress can be a classic look, change things up and opt for a sleek silhouette in any dark neutral shade. Cashmere and rayon are two popular fabrics, and it’s worth splurging on a timeless, quality piece that’s flexible throughout the fall season. You can use your dress as a canvas for simple statement accessories that will take you from desk to drinks. When the weather cools, tights can make for a stylish pairing with your outfit.
You can also invest in a tailored tweed jacket that you’ll likely keep for life. The gorgeous texture will add instant visual interest to your outfit and a neutral color will go with just about anything. Pair with a v-neck or button-down shirt for a dressy and enduring look.
For footwear, black leather ankle boots go well with several styles. Boots with minimal embellishments will add a touch of sophistication to your ensemble. You’ll likely be wearing them on a regular basis, so choose a high quality design that can stand the test of time.
Sports jackets and leather brogues for men
An unstructured sports jacket is the worthy investment to make this fall. Look for unlined versions that are tailored to the body but still give the jacket a comfortable and flexible fit. Wear it over a button-down shirt as a business-casual option or over a cotton shirt during a laissez-faire weekend. This particular piece will be in your wardrobe for the long haul.
When it comes to shoes, seek out a pair of dependable leather brogues. This classic men’s footwear works well with suits or jeans (there’s a reason they’re in your dad and granddad’s closets). For today’s modern man, socks are optional, although pairing classic shoes with a brightly patterned pair is a fun way to add a splash of personality.
Leather jackets and dark denim for both
A leather jacket in smooth luxe lambskin can look like a dream with work pants or jeans. You’ll likely have only one of these staple pieces in your closet, so take the time to choose something that will last—and that you will love.
As for denim, there might be several pairs circulating in your wardrobe, but we all have that one go-to pair that feels priceless. High quality, tailored dark jeans are a must-have staple. Ladies, dress your denim up with a blazer and heels or down with a T-shirt and ballet flats. Guys, kick your denim game up a notch by layering on a sports jacket.
Caring for your investment pieces
- To maintain a fresh look for your tweed jacket, a steamer will do the trick. In many cases, tweed will get distorted when wet—defer to a professional cleaning service if you get a stain on your jacket.
- The same treatment goes for your sports jacket if it gets dirty, but you can air dry it outdoors to remove any odors.
- A clothes brush also works wonders in removing dirt or small specks from your investment pieces.
- If your dress is made of a blend like cashmere, you can wash it by hand in cold water with a gentle detergent. Then air dry, but keep it out of the sunlight to avoid color damage.
- When it comes to expensive denim, it’s better to avoid cleaning it too often. Instead, soak your jeans in cold water and a bit of mild detergent; then rinse with cold water. Some high-end brands suggest freezing the dirt away. That’s right—place your favorite raw denim in a sealed bag in your freezer. The cold temperature will help to kill bacteria, leaving your jeans smelling and feeling fresh.
- Keep leather shoes looking like new by using a soft damp cloth and a drop of mild soap to wipe off any dirt. Follow up with shoe polish to make them shine again, and apply some conditioner in between wears to keep the leather soft. Check out our leather guide for more details.
- Garments that wrinkle easily like dresses or jackets should be hung on non-slip hangers or ones with clips. To help your leather jacket maintain its shape, opt for a sturdy wooden hanger.
- You can fold knitwear and durable pieces like dresses or jeans.
- For more info, our guide to clothes storage has got you covered. Quality clothing can be a big investment upfront, but choosing key timeless pieces and taking good care of them will ensure their longevity in style and value.
Photos: Margot Pandone, Ramon Carretero / Shutterstock.com, FXQuadro / Shutterstock.com, Brandon Couch, Jason Briscoe
It's no surprise that modern weddings are often multi-day affairs. From the ceremony and the reception to more intimate celebrations such as the rehearsal dinner or wedding party brunch, each event requires its own closet cues. Whichever wedding occasion you're prepping for as a guest, make sure you show up in style this summer. With our guide, you'll be sure to attend each wedding event looking tasteful, well-groomed and ready to toast to the happy couple.
When it comes to an engagement party, you can take a lot of the necessary dressing cues from the invitation. Not only will it tell you the where and when, but the style of the invitation itself can reveal a lot about expectations for the event. Engagement parties can range from a backyard barbecue to a banquet hall celebration, so tailor your outfit accordingly.
If the event is being hosted at the happy couple's home, casual dress is a safe assumption, but resist the urge to go too casual (favor some tailored khakis and a polo shirt or a fun skirt and sandal combo over jeans and a T-shirt). If the couple has rented a hall for their event, it shows increased effort and the expectation for semi-formal attire. Gents should sport a shirt and tie (jacket optional, depending on the venue cues) and women should wear a cocktail dress.
Prep tip: Try scoping out the venue before the event itself so you know if it's inside or outside and get a sense of its style. This can help you dress accordingly—think layers for outdoor venues—and prepare for the evening ahead of time.
Although the focus of the rehearsal dinner is on making sure things go smoothly for the big day, you still want to make sure you show up looking well-dressed as a member of the wedding party.
If the location's more formal, consider a dressy silhouette, paired with subtle accessories to accent your ensemble, while making sure you fit in with the overall aesthetic. Bridesmaids can layer delicate rose gold jewelry or pearls, which work well for a summer wedding look (try to avoid statement pieces for this occasion). Dapper gentlemen can stick to the classic suit and tie, with some cuff links for a nice touch. For a more casual dinner, you can loosen up a bit; ladies can go with either sundresses or breezy blouses and culottes while fellows will look sharp in a dress shirt/blazer combo.
Prep tip: If you're traveling to a destination wedding, pack your clothing with care; place them in a garment bag to keep them in mint condition. Also, while you are busy toasting the couple in your rehearsal outfit, don't forget to make arrangements to have your wedding outfit steamed or pressed before the main event. Entrusting a dry cleaning service with this task means you can relax and enjoy the pre-wedding celebrations.
Similar to reinventing casual pieces for a black tie affair, you can update formal ensembles for more laid-back events. Consider dressy separates for the post-wedding brunch, where you can take advantage of the opportunity to play with textures. Lightweight materials that are also luxe—think lace, eyelet details or chiffon in pastel or neutral palettes—work well on a skirt/blouse combo for women. Men, dress up your chinos with an oxford shirt, blazer optional.
Prep tip: Be prepared for anything from champagne spills to an accident with the amuse-bouche. Keep a travel-sized stain remover in your purse or clutch for immediate treatment, but after the brunch, head to your dry cleaner to avoid any permanent damage.
As a wedding guest, you'll attend many events. Show your support for the happy couple by dressing your best—and that includes keeping your clothes spotless.
Our cheat sheet makes dressing for wedding-related events a simpler process. For more style tips, consult our guide to deciphering the wedding dress code.
Photos: Sweet Ice Cream Photography, Clem Onojeghuo, Thomas Martinsen, Brooke Larke
While looking our best and staying warm may be our top priorities as the weather gets chillier, we also want to make sure that we're well prepared to take care of our wardrobes in the coming months. Stay effortlessly layered with these comfortable fabrics for a season of changing colors and cooling temperatures.
Few things say fall quite like curling up with a big cup of coffee in your favorite oversized knit. To keep your favorite cuddle buddy in great shape, place your knitwear item into a mesh laundry bag before cleaning, and use the delicate cycle. If you're washing by hand, use warm water mixed with a gentle detergent. Press or squeeze to remove excess water—wringing will stretch the material—and lay flat or hang to dry, depending on specific instructions, to maintain its shape so you can keep wearing that cozy top all season long.
This sleek, durable material works well for a lot of looks. Dress it up with a pencil skirt for work, or keep it casual with ripped jeans on the weekend. To keep your leather apparel in top condition, entrust it to a specialty cleaner—they can maintain the natural oils in the fabric, while protecting against color changes or cracks. In between professional washings, there are a few things you can do to prolong the lifespan of your leather:
- Ask your cleaner for advice on an appropriate leather conditioner.
- Hang leather pieces on wide wooden, plastic or padded hangers, in order to maintain shape.
- Keep leather out of hot or damp areas.
- Avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, and don’t cover it in plastic—all of these factors can cause your leather to dry out.
- If stains do arise, blot them out with a wet cloth.
Jeans are an uncomplicated style staple that look good on almost everyone, but consider a distressed jacket for a different twist on denim—and an on-trend ode to the 90s. On that note, take a cue from street style bloggers and pair denim on denim in different shades. While this is a sturdy fabric, you should avoid machine washing because denim can shrink and fade. Most denim can be washed in cold water with mild detergent and hung to dry, but some brands would benefit from dry cleaning, and raw denim is better left unwashed.
For occasions when you want to give your leather jacket a break, reach for a corduroy coat to channel a style that's equal parts polished and preppy. Look for quality details such as brass buttons, which can elevate the look of standard corduroy clothing. This versatile fabric is easy to care for. It can be machine washed in warm water (for lighter hues) or cold water (for darker hues). Remember to turn it inside out before tossing the item in the machine to avoid collecting lint on the material. A quick spin on the normal cycle—tumble dry low between wears—and you're good to go.
A fall classic, flannel is perfect for scarves, shirts, outerwear, or even a poncho—a comfortable transitional piece when the outside temperature doesn't quite call for a winter coat. Check the clothing label for the most optimal cleaning options. Most basic flannel pieces can be hand washed with a gentle laundry soap and hung to dry, while other items (such as scarves or coats) may require dry cleaning.
When the fall season gets especially chilly, you can don a wool coat, hat or sweater to stay warm. Most wool can be hand washed, but follow the label's instructions for specific guidelines. Sweaters should be swished and soaked inside-out in lukewarm water for at least ten minutes. When drying, squeeze out excess water before laying the garment flat on a mesh rack. Don’t wring out or hang your wool as it stretches easily.
With these clothing care tips, you can stay stylish all season long in the cozy textures of fall.
Photos: Maria Shanina, Llywelyn Nys, John Mark Arnold, Priscilla Westra, Luke Pamer, Benjamin Combs, Ben Blennerhassett