I would say nine times out of ten, when a customer comes in looking for an outfit to wear to a wedding, she comes in looking for a dress. While I love a great dress, there are so many other ways to look dressy enough for a wedding without limiting yourself to only a dress. As our society gets more and more casual, pants, skirts and leggings are getting more and more accepted within the realm of business professional and also for special occasions. Honestly, the rules for getting all dressed up have changed.
The difficulty with a dress is you have to deal with the nylon issue. It is not fashionable right now to wear nylons, and while tights are making a come back, women of a certain age don’t often feel confident enough to go bear legged. Let’s face it, when you are fifty and over, your legs just don’t look the way they did in your twenties. And even if you have great legs, you might now have unsightly veins and discolorations that you don’t really want to leave uncovered. So what is a girl to do? It is a real problem. Do you look unfashionable by wearing nylons or do you feel exposed and uncomfortable having to show off your legs. Certainly there are options to get around this…you can wear a maxi dress that comes to the floor, or maybe cowboy boots that cover your legs, but both of those options add new wrinkles like creating a style that can work with the wedding and cowboy boots, as an example.
This is why it always surprises me when women are dead set on wearing a dress to a wedding rather than branching out to the much more convenient and easy to wear related separates option. I just dated myself there a bit. The term “related separates” is an old fashioned retail term used by manufactures to describe an outfit that is designed to go together and looks paired but includes two to three different items. The down side to this option is it usually costs a bit more because you are buying three items instead of one. The up side, however, is that if you are smart, you can get two to three great pieces that can stand on their own and be worn with other things in your closet. To me, this is a BIG win. Dresses can only be worn with themselves, and in this way, they are limiting.
Oftentimes, when I have a customer that is in this dress or die mindset, I have to move her, carefully, through all of her options. We start by looking at the dresses, and inevitably, all the problems with dresses surface. This one is too long. This one is too short. This one needs a cover up because she doesn’t want to show her arms. If we do make it to the dressing room, then other problems arise. If we get it to fit her bust, it is too big everywhere else. Or, vice versa, if it fits her hips and rear, it is too big in the shoulders and neck. You see, by their nature, dresses are designed for a woman who is the same size top to bottom. But really, who do you know that actually can say they wear an 8 or small on the top and an 8 or small on the bottom? It is rare that we are proportioned that evenly. If you have ever struggled to find a dress, even though you really wanted to find one, this is probably the reason.
So after some pain in the dressing room, I will usually, tentatively say, “What do you think about a skirt and top? Or what about a dressy pant and top?” We then have the obligatory, “Is it okay to wear pants to a wedding?” conversation, to which I assure her that it is totally okay. Honestly, in my twenty plus years of getting women dressed for the most swank special occasions like Governor’s Ball or weddings on the East coast, my favorite looks were never dresses. That is not to say that I didn’t have some women who looked amazing in the dresses that they purchased. I’m just saying that my favorites were…well….not the dresses.
I write all of this to perhaps open your mind to this idea of showing up to your special event in an elegant pant or skirt outfit and not a dress. At the end of the day, you will be more comfortable, and you are way more likely to wear those pieces again with other items in your closet.
It is okay that rules of getting all dressed up have changed. We just have to accept that they have.