If the movie is a comedy, of course, the bridesmaid dress will be impossible wedding guest attire for any future occasion. But in real life, many brides select a bridesmaid look based in part on giving their friends a chance to buy a nice formal or semi-formal dress they can wear again. “You’ll be able to wear it again,” movie brides reassure their friends when bridesmaid-dress costs climb.
11 Ways to Re-Wear Bridesmaid Dresses as Wedding Guest Attire
That choice certainly makes it easier to know what to wear to a wedding when the setting is a formal evening – and in more casual venues, it’s part of the reason that short bridesmaid dresses, mix-and-match frocks, and two-piece dress sets have become so popular. (The other reason is the pure drive of fashion.)
Of course, when you wear your bridesmaid dress as a bridesmaid, every eye is on you when you lead the way down the aisle, and you’re part of the look of the day. Wedding-guest styles should be both more individual and less eye-catching. Fortunately, that’s easy to do!
Want to know how to re-style and re-think your bridesmaid dress so you look effortlessly put together – without looking like you’re trying to join the wedding party? Read on!
But First: Know the Rules
1.Remember your wedding-guest color etiquette.
Never, never wear white … or ivory, or very light blush, or – with metallic shades becoming more popular in wedding dresses – very light gold. Everyone knows who the bride is (hopefully), but while these pale and neutral colors might be selected by the bride for her attendants, they’re not ideal wedding guest attire.
If the couple or their families are particularly traditional, you might want to give black a miss, too – but black is also growing more popular as a tasteful, not-too-distracting color to wear as a wedding guest. If in doubt, skip the black frock for a morning wedding, but for anything after 3:00 PM, you can probably make that cocktail-style black bridesmaid dress happen again.
2. Do your homework.
What are this wedding’s colors? (The invitation or the wedding website will often give you a hint if you’re not close enough to the couple to call them up and ask.) If your previous bridesmaid dress shares a hue with this event’s chosen palette, it might be best to pick another dress for this day.
3. Follow the dress code.
A formal evening wedding (especially if the words “black tie” appear anywhere on the invitation) probably calls for a long dress, but it might be inappropriate to wear your full-length bridesmaid gown as a guest as a casual backyard wedding.
When in doubt, lean toward more conservative wedding guest attire – it’s a good rule of thumb for a special event that brings together people of different ages and backgrounds, sometimes in a church. Adding a structured jacket or opaque hose is a good step toward making a wilder bridesmaid dress into a more toned-down look to wear to a wedding where all eyes aren’t on you.
4. Do you care if you’re wearing the same dress as someone else?
Then check with the other ‘maids who own that style to make sure you won’t both be rocking the same look as guests. (If it happens despite your best efforts … time for reception-line twin selfies!)
Ideas for Accessorizing
So, you’re confident your old bridesmaid dress is suitable! The color looks great on you and won’t match the floral arrangements! Now it’s time to make a plan for re-styling and re-accessorizing your bridesmaid look so you can wear it to another wedding in superbly tasteful style.
5. Split up separates.
Kennedy Blue has great examples of bridesmaid separates that can be mixed up to wear to a wedding. Imagine a sweetheart lace top re-worn with appropriate slacks and a matching necklace: so suave! Or turn an ivory lace top like Kennedy Blue’s Blake into an accessory by pulling it over a snug, dark day dress: instantly more conservative, instantly appropriate in color.
You’ll usually get more use out of tops as wedding guest attire, since a ballgown skirt can be too much. The exception: formal ballroom receptions, where pairing a long, airy skirt like Kennedy Blue’s Madison with something understated but unexpected – a menswear-inspired jacket or waistcoat, for instance, or a curve-hugging cowl-neck jersey top – can be stunning without being standout.
6. Add a pattern.
While florals are on trend, most bridesmaid dresses are still solid or subtly patterned. Adding something more graphic in your accessories – picture something like Dessy MJ-Twist1 with a plaid crop jacket – visually distinguishes you from the unbroken chiffon and satin of the current wedding party.
7. Cover your shoulders – creatively.
Your decision on what to wear to a wedding will be partly influenced by the venue – honestly, a light cardigan you can always wear to old-fashioned church weddings is a smart wardrobe investment. If you wore an off-the-shoulder bridesmaid dress style, playing it safe skin-wise is a great chance to make the silhouette your own!
Short, drapey dresses like Bari Jay 1559 look amazing with a blazer. Something crisper, like Mori Lee 31073, would be fabulous with a vintage silk scarf gathered around the neck and knotted at the bustline (a great way to add more color or feature a retro brooch). A longer, more dazzling style like Bari Jay 1617 would look great with a simple contrasting shrug or a sharp designer vest layered over it – which also brings the formality down to guest level.
8. Color-block your heart out.
Seriously, what better to play up a tasteful solid dress without going too wild for wedding-guest wear? Shoes, a belt, a clutch, a necklace, or a hair adornment (pick any three) in the same complementary color make a statement without feeling bridal-party. Picture Kennedy Blue’s Harper in mint – and now picture it with an orange patent leather belt layered over the sash and a bold orange bangle on the wrist. Elegant but not overdone – just right!
9. Take it to the tailor.
When you’re trying to get a uniform look from a host of ladies with different heights and proportions, long dresses are ideal – but after the day, you might find yours looks better hitting just below the knee. Look to a local alterations shop for advice on which length actually looks best with your unique build.
Tailors might also be able to change the color – or you can add a DIY ombré effect! Most synthetic fabrics won’t take the full strength of dye, but it might be worth a try to get a unique color of your own. Just be prepared to sacrifice the idea if the dye job doesn’t work out. Wedding guests in tie-dye are pretty visually loud in the background of pictures.
10. Layer up.
One of our best tips for getting a put-together, timeless look with a bridesmaid dress: outerwear. We’re talking genuine winterwear, not just shrugs, because light dresses look phenomenal with heavier capes and coats. If the ceremony and reception are outdoors in the fall, what could be more heart-stoppingly chic (yet appropriately understated) than a polished taupe trench over Kennedy Blue’s Chloe dress? No one will guess your wedding guest attire is repurposed from your spring stint as a maid of honor.
11. Seek structure.
If you’re still looking in the mirror and seeing a bridesmaid, seek out boxier lines and bolder angles. You might prefer a belt rather than a sash, or a blazer rather than a cardigan. Flowing, romantic fabrics say “wedding party,” while crisp, conservative pieces say “honored guest.”
Have you ever re-styled a bridesmaid dress into a fabulous look for another event? What features make a bridesmaid dress easier to wear again? Give us your opinion and help another lovely lady re-think her outfit!
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