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Sure, there are some age-old wedding guest dress rules (both established and unspoken) that—regardless of the location, dress code, style or even the personalities of the couple-to-be—you simply cannot break (or even bend). Yes, regardless of how rustic-relaxed or beachside-casual the wedding may seem based on the vibe you get from the invite. While most contemporary weddings certainly don’t require black-tie apparel, oftentimes, it’s better to play it safe (read: air on the conservative side) when it comes to the level of formality you opt for in your wedding guest look.
Of course, wearing white is almost always unacceptable. And “up-showing the bride,” matching the bridesmaids or under-dressing in any way are also all major no-nos. But outside of these obvious boundaries, the lines can get a little blurry. Often, no matter how sound your sartorial judgment and how strong your commitment to basic etiquette, the wedding guest protocol can be less than clear—especially when the invitation’s prescribed dress code reads something along the lines of “semi-formal,” “festive,” “cocktail” and the like.
How does one dress for a hipster backyard wedding? Or a low-key, fun-filled Vegas affair? Or anything set at a beach-y, tropical location? And that’s not even to mention the day-to-night nature of many bridal events. While a flirty printed midi may be your best bet for an afternoon wedding, it may not translate to an indoor reception at an upscale venue. Really, what are any of us to do?
Reader, I’m here to let you know I’ve spent a long, long time mulling this one over—and I’ve assembled a handful of wedding guest dresses sure to get you through even the most ambiguous of wedding dress codes. Low-key enough for daytime events and dressy enough for evening ones, these foolproof, versatile wedding guest dresses should keep you looking stylish—and anything but uncouth—at the next wedding you attend.
1. Thurley Violeta Dress, $395 at Shopbop
Stand out by playing with bold colors instead of boundary-pushing mini dresses.
2. Butterfly Dress, $278 at Reformation
This universally flattering peachy blush looks good on almost any skin tone, and the off-the-shoulder cut adds adds a touch of formalism.
3. Endless Summer Berri Cowl-Neck Slip Dress, $198 at Revolve
Satin slip dresses are not only on trend, but they’re probably the most versatile style that you can depend on day or night, with heels or sneakers…you get the picture.
4. Iris High-Low Dress, $305 at For Love & Lemons
This flirty lace midi proves that “safe” doesn’t have to be boring.
5. Special Occasion Ponte Off-the-Shoulder Dress, $118.90 at Torrid
A fitted bodice matched with an alluring off shoulder neckline shows off just the right amount of skin while still retaining some modesty.
6. Chiffon Maxi Dress, $38 at Forever 21
This mustard frock is surprisingly equally daytime friendly for afternoon ceremonies as it is for evening after parties.
7. Godshaw Goddess Gown, $218 at Show Me Your Mumu
It may be a cliche, but you really just can’t go wrong an MBD (maxi black dress).
8. Lace Midi Dress, $79.99 at H&M
This lace midi is a staple wedding guest dress for a reason: it’s dressy enough, figure flattering, and low-key.
9. Satin M-Split Dress, $29 at Forever 21
If breaking away from whites and creams is a major challenge for you, silver is a solid alternative.
10. Marilyn Neck Bandage Dress, $89.50 at Ashley Stewart
You’ll get an endless amount of wear from this dress – even post-wedding season.
11. Privacy Please Solana Maxi Dress, $238 at Revolve
Not only is this evening and afternoon appropriate, but the leg slit makes it easier to walk in heels for weddings held at remote, outdoorsy venues.
12. Lulus Vivid Chiffon Gown, $100 at Nordstrom
Just make sure the bridesmaids won’t be wearing this color on the big day, as wine is a popular choice among brides.
13. Aletta Formal Maxi Dress, $250 at Anthropologie
Clearly, we can’t get enough satin.
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