How to dress to impress if you're going to a wedding

Bridal party at a wedding

Ladies, as fun as it was to kick it around in sweatpants this past year, we can’t wait to get back to the parties, shindigs, gatherings, and other events that require a little dressing up — and we’re betting you feel the same way! Since May through October is prime wedding season, we thought it might be helpful for a little refresher on how to dress for such occasions. 

We know how hard it can be to find modest dresses for women, particularly for formal events, so we’ve also rounded up a few of our SexyModest favorites to help you dress to impress. (Of course, these days weddings aren’t always formal celebrations, so don’t be surprised if you see a few casual options on our list.)

To make sure you fit the dress code, check out our guide below on how to dress for every type of wedding!

White Tie

Woman in sparkling evening dress - Image by Galina Krupoderova from Pixabay

We’ll start with the fanciest and most formal type of gathering because hey — you never know when a special wax-sealed invitation might arrive in the mail. You’ve probably heard of a black tie event, but fewer people are familiar with white tie, which is the tip-top when it comes to formal events. (Think: A night at the Oscars or a White House dinner party.)

While you may not attend many white tie weddings, here’s what you need to know if the opportunity comes your way:

  • Women should wear a formal, floor-length gown. (This is when you pull out all the stops and shoot for the most elegant ball gown you can find.)
  • Compliment your dress with some nice jewelry.
  • Glam up your hair and makeup.
  • Heels are the preferred footwear.
Manhattan Dress in Black

This is one you might want to rent a dress for, but the Manhattan Dress or Splendor Dress will work if you’re in a pinch!

Black Tie

Women in formal dresses

Next we have the popular and oh-so-classy black tie wedding. Black tie usually signals an evening event, and while it traditionally involved dressing in black attire, it’s evolved through the years to include more festive colors. The best way to make sure you’re dressed appropriately? Check with the host.

According to Vogue, “Simply put, ‘black tie’ for women best translates as ‘long’, and in an evening-appropriate fabric, such as velvet, chiffon, silk or lace. A cocktail dress – shorter, possibly ritzier – might cut it if your host is of a relaxed nature … but it’s best to assume that a floor-sweeping number (or a tuxedo situation) is expected.”

Here are your black tie dressing tips in a nutshell:

  • Wear a longer, floor-length dress if the event is more formal.
  • If it’s not as formal, you can get away with a nice cocktail dress, which typically falls at or above the knees.
  • Bling things up with jeweled clutches and accessories.
  • Heels are still a good idea.
Black Tie Event Dress in Burgundy

SexyModest carries an aptly-named Black Tie Event Dress, which conveniently comes in seven different colors if you want to mix things up. Of course, the Little Black Dress is also a classic if things are a little less formal.

Formal or Black Tie Optional

Woman in long red evening gown

Dress codes can get a little confusing once the rules start to overlap. When you’re going to a formal or black tie optional event, you might fret over whether or not that “optional” part really means optional, or if you’ll be the only one there not wearing black tie. (Oy — decisions, decisions!)

Well, this one’s easier than it seems. Basically, you could easily follow the same rules listed above in black tie, or you could opt for more of a cocktail look. It’s up to you! (But if you’re worried about fitting in, simply call your bestie or someone else who’s also headed to the wedding and ask what they’re wearing.)

Here are the tips for Formal or Black Tie Optional weddings and events:

  • You can follow the black tie rules (floor-length, formal gown or nice cocktail dress) if you want.
  • Chic dresses that fall above the ankles are equally acceptable.
  • Don’t be afraid to show a little more personality with your clothing and accessories. 
  • You can ditch the heels for this one (woot!).
Regal Dress in Baby Blue

We love the options we mentioned above, but add the Regal Dress to the mix here and you’ve got yourself a stunner!

Cocktail or Semi-Formal

Black cocktail dress

The farther down we go on the formality spectrum, the easier things get! Things really start to loosen up for cocktail or semi-formal occasions, and we’re willing to bet these are most likely the types of weddings you’ll attend. You should still try to look classy and polished, but you can mix things up with playful styles.

Here are the guidelines for cocktail or semi-formal weddings:

  • Skip floor-length gowns and anything that might distract from the wedding party attire.
  • Wear darker colors for evening events and lighter colors for day events.
  • Choose a knee-length dress (or just above) or do dressy separates (a fancy blouse with a knee-length skirt).
  • Fun accessories and bold prints are great.
  • Wear heels if you want, but you can also get away with wedges or formal flats.
Paris Dress in Navy

Something with a unique silhouette or voluminous sleeves, like the Paris Dress, works great. Or you can always opt for two SexyModest faves: The V-Neck Gala Dress or the classic Swing Dress

Casual

Girl in floral summer dress

Got a beach or low-key backyard wedding to go to? That might call for a more casual dress code. But before you jump back in those sweatpants, keep in mind that “casual” doesn’t mean to let loose and wear whatever you want. Remember, you’re still going to a wedding and it’s still a nice event! You should still try to look nice, but you can relax on the formality a bit. 

Here are your trips for casual (but classy) wedding attire:

  • Opt for a shorter, knee or midi-length dress with fabric that’s not overly formal. (A sundress works great if the weather is nice.)
  • No dresses? Pair some classy separates together. A nice blouse with a skirt or slacks works.
  • Dressy sandals or flats are appropriate for footwear.
V-Neck Maxi Dress in Navy

The V-Neck Maxi Dress is a comfortable and gorgeous option here.

General guidelines

Peplum Dress in Hunter Green

Truthfully, there are many different types of wedding dress codes, so we can’t cover all of them. But this list should give you a good starting point. For any wedding, here are some general guidelines everyone should follow:

  • Don’t wear white. That’s the bride’s job.
  • Don’t dress like the bridesmaids. Unless, of course, you’ve been asked to be a bridesmaid. (We’ve got some great bridesmaid dress ideas, if that’s the case.)
  • Keep it classy. You’re going to a wedding, not a nightclub. Try to look your best!
  • No jeans. Unless you’ve got a denim-themed wedding to go to.
  • Dress modestly. Sure, you’d expect us to say this, but what we really mean is don’t call too much attention to yourself. You’re there as a guest, so save the double-takes for the bride!

Need more dress ideas? We’ve got you, girl!

There’s plenty more where that came from when it comes to modest, classy, tasteful dresses that are fit for any occasion. With new styles dropping all the time, you can find the perfect look at SexyModest.com

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