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Welcome to wedding season: where the hangovers are real, the dress codes are confusing, and we’re all sweating. As if the uptick in vaguely specific dress code attire hasn’t made finding a wedding guest outfit hard enough, summer weddings also require finding something that’s dress code appropriate while also seasonally appropriate. There’s a lot of “vibe interpreting” required for all these confusing wedding dress codes that, frankly, most of us just aren’t cut out for. So to help guide you on your seemingly treacherous wedding guest outfit search, here are some options based on the different dress codes.
Clearly I need to reevaluate my entire circle of friends because I’ve never attended nor have I even been invited to a white-tie wedding. White-tie dress code is the most formal of them all, requiring floor-length gowns, no exceptions. Your gown should be paired with your most elegant clutch and accessories and, if I were you, I’d take full advantage of the occasion and even add some trendy elbow-length gloves. You can make your gown more seasonally appropriate by choosing summery colors and fabrics.
Personally, this is my favorite wedding dress code out of the ones I’ve attended because I love an excuse to dress up. Black-tie dress code means you can wear a formal gown or elevated jumpsuit, either of which paired back to elegant accessories. Basically, think prom-adjacent attire minus the over-the-top tackiness and vodka-filled water bottles. Similarly as with white-tie, you can make your black-tie ensemble more summer- appropriate with light and bright colors, airy fabrics, and more breathable silhouettes.
Formal or Black-Tie Optional
This dress code can be confusing and definitely requires some of that “vibe interpreting” that I mentioned earlier. Black-tie optional is pretty much equivalent to formal and just means slightly less formal than black-tie. The biggest difference for women’s attire is that a full-length gown isn’t required, but something of the same dressiness “vibe” is still recommended. Basically, if you want to get wild and show your ankles then you have permission to do so but I’d avoid going above the knee for your hemline. Add a summer-feel to your formal look with vibrant summer colors or a lightweight mesh fabric.
Cocktail attire means that women can wear shorter hemlines but still need to look dressy. Long story short, it would be inappropriate to wear a gown but also inappropriate to wear a sundress. I realize that leaves quite a large gamut, but basically just think a specialty mini dress, elevated midi dress, or eloquent jumpsuit. Overall, this dress code does imply a bit more of a flirty and playful vibe, so have fun with it but still look classy. Keep it summer appropriate with shorter hemlines, seasonal colors, or even an elevated floral print.
Semi-Formal or Dressy Casual
Semi-formal or dressy casual might be the most vague of all the dress codes because there are no “hard lines” beyond no sweatpants. Rather, you really have to feel into the vibe of the wedding, so maybe just grab a crystal and the invitation and mediate on it? On second thought, maybe just text a fellow wedding attendee to see what they’re wearing and go from there. At the end of the day, err on the side of being over-dressed rather than under-dressed. Remember, it’s about special event elegance without crossing the line of “fancy.” Vague, I know, so best of luck.
As someone who recently attended a beach formal wedding, my biggest piece of advice is DO NOT underestimate the heat. As someone who also attended said wedding in a long sleeve bridesmaid dress, I’m going to suggest you steer clear of sleeves and any material that could potentially show sweat. Instead, opt for lightweight summery fabrics like linen or gauze. And, if you’re really someone who sweats easily, go for an airy printed maxi to help disguise any possible sweat stains. Oh, and bring a handheld fan, you’ll thank me later.
Daytime or Casual
Covid has made the backyard wedding quite a trend, and given how expensive weddings can get, I definitely see the appeal. Backyard or daytime weddings are usually more casual which means they’re perfect for a breezy sundress, pretty mini dress, or sophisticated set. The only “don’t” here is going too casual or too dressy. Just avoid dressier fabrics, overly casual fabrics, stiletto heels, sneakers…and you should be good to go from there.
It’s summer, which means everyone you know is getting married or having babies. Seriously, what is in the water? Stop procreating and settling down, people. It’s like Noah’s Ark on my social media. And I don’t know who anyone is anymore since they all have different last names. On that note, summer is a tricky time for wedding fashion, since you want to look chic and appropriate, but also not have ass sweat. Depending on the dress code, I’ve found some cute af options to wear for any wedding event that will keep you cool while you dance and get drunk off the open bar. Side note: if you’re having a wedding and I have to sit through it, an open bar is NOT OPTIONAL.
Casual weddings are a totally rarity, but I guess they do still sometimes happen. Even though it says casual, that doesn’t mean jeans and T-shirt. You still want to look presentable but also not accidentally flash your vag to Grandma. I like this cute summery dress, paired with dressy sandals or wedges. It’s not too dressed up, but you’ll still look hot in photos, and most importantly, you’ll stay cool.
AFRM Favor Ruched Midi Dress
If you need a summer cocktail dress, try something light like lace with a trendy cut, like off-the-shoulder. I really like things that you can dress up or down, and this one from ASTR THE LABEL is super versatile so you’ll definitely get to wear it again. I actually bought this dress online last year for a summer wedding at full-price and it immediately sold out. Then I got it in the mail, only to discover that the small would perfectly fit a 9-year-old boy. I couldn’t even put the ends of the zipper near each other, much less close it. Now it’s back and on sale, and I am buying a large because it is sooo pretty but has no stretch whatsoever. Anyway. It’s gorgeous and you should buy it and then we will match. But definitely size up.
ASTR THE LABEL Off The Shoulder Lace Minidress
3. Beach Formal
Beach formal is super popular out here in Socal, but it’s also a weird dress code since beachy sh*t is, by definition, not formal. Basically, it means wear a chic maxi dress and wedges, lest you fall and die in the sand. I love this dress from Leith, as you can dress it up or down, but mostly you’ll definitely be able to wear it after the wedding. Plus, the fabric is light and the skirt has a slit so you’ll get some air.
Leith Floral Maxi Dress
4. Formal/Black Tie Optional
Black tie optional basically means “wear jeans and die”. You need be fancy af, but the dress doesn’t have to be floor-length. Because it’s still summer, you need to find a balance between looking nice but also not piling on heavy fabrics. This lace dress is gorgeous, but as you can see, it has very fine cutouts and holes so it’ll be airy. Plus, it’s midi-length, but since the bottom is sheer, it will feel like you’re wearing a mini, yet it’s totally appropriate.
Bardot Sienna Lace Trumpet Dress
5. Black Tie
Black Tie means you wear the fanciest sh*t you can afford, and you better wear a tux or floor-length gown. It’s summer’s worst nightmare. Avoid sweating off your super expensive makeup by finding a cut that is appropriate but exposes as much skin as you can get away with. This mermaid gown is off the shoulder and has a slit, so you won’t feel suffocated. The slit also makes it so you can walk normally—and as someone that once walked several blocks in a skin-tight leather pencil skirt where my legs could only move an inch at a time, this is super important. Plus it’s so beautiful, it’s like the dream outfit to accidentally run into your ex in. Also, it’s incredibly affordable—most gowns like this are soooo expensive and let’s be real, they’re pretty much one-use every 5 years. This one is UNDER $100. That’s right.
Lulus Off The Shoulder Mermaid Gown
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