How to be best dressed at any wedding
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Style news every morning.
The guest-of wardrobe can be a particularly tricky style conundrum: you don’t know many people, you want to make a good impression, and you don’t want to ruffle feathers. “People appreciate you making an effort for a wedding,” says stylist Julia Brenard, whose own celebration last summer saw her inundated with requests from style-conscious guests. “Don’t be afraid to go for a big puff sleeve, feathers or a bit of sparkle – but ideally not something that the bridesmaids are going to start scowling at you for wearing.”
Command attention – subtly, mind – with coloured prints and florals from brands such as Galvan, Nanushka and The Vampire’s Wife. The latter makes a statement with high necklines, ruffled sleeves and diaphanous silk-georgette. A slouchy satin handbag will keep the look on the right side of casual.
Brazilian designer Raquel Diniz recommends long, romantic silhouettes – see her Bali and Giovanna styles – which leave more room for slits, cut-outs and backless features. “It’s sexy, but not in-your-face,” says Diniz. “Sensual, but not obvious.” And when working with busy prints, it’s best to keep jewellery simple; consider layering delicate gold pieces for added warmth.
Most importantly, be yourself – now isn’t the time for reckless style choices. “What do you feel great in?” asks Brenard. “Don’t suddenly wear a strapless dress if you would never go braless usually – work out what flatters you. You want to be able to dance!” Rosanna Dodds
The serial attendee
For any man approaching a season of weddings, a good suit is worth the investment. “For me, it would always be a lightweight navy-blue suit ‘to travel in’,” says Paul Smith, who has a single-breasted navy wool suit designed for this very purpose. “From the start of the wedding to the end of the reception you still look fresh because you’re wearing fabric that doesn’t crease.” Canali’s relaxed-fit wool, silk and linen blend Kei suit will similarly go the distance.
But you don’t have to play it safe – even with multiple invitations. Tailoring in bolder colours such as cream or green can be worn across several events, says Smith, “if you divide the jacket and trousers. A colourful trouser with a navy cashmere sweater or a bright jacket played down with a chino can really work.”
For shirting, which can be switched from wedding to wedding, look for softly striped or chequered cotton Oxfords. And for formal affairs requiring coat-tails, waistcoats can lift the styling. Take a tip from gallerist Lucas Zwirner, who attended a friend’s wedding in a black penguin jacket, charcoal suit trousers and a waistcoat in jaunty gingham. Baya Simons
“A great MOTB outfit is all about understated elegance,” says stylist Holly White, who dresses actors Vanessa Kirby and Sophie Okonedo. “It should be memorable but without overshadowing the bride.” It was the Duchess of Sussex’s mother, Doria Ragland, dressed in a pale pistachio Oscar de la Renta dress and coat, nude stilettos and a neat cocktail hat – with a hint of irreverence from her twinkling nose piercing – who set today’s mother-of-the-bride standard. White, who is currently styling her mother for her own wedding in July, favours boxy-cut jackets and fitted dresses in sherbet colours, and the pastel summer dress jackets in check tweeds. “Comfort is key,” she says. “It can be a long day so you want to feel as if you could stay in the look for days.”
For headwear, London-based milliner Noel Stewart, whose opulent styles have graced the heads of the Duchess of Sussex and FKA Twigs, suggests a muted colour. “For many years I’ve felt like silver or platinum grey are great colours for the MOTB,” he says. “There’s a regal feel to silver tones, and in this Jubilee year these colours are super-appropriate.” BS
For men who like to peacock, look to European suiting. Jeanne Yang, stylist to Jamie Dornan and Colin Farrell, suggests distinguishing yourself with a little sparkle – such as Brioni’s signature Abruzzo tailoring, which executive design director Norbert Stumpfl updated this season with a gold and silver brocade. “Embroidery is perfect for a wedding,” says Yang. “It’s nice to have one piece that becomes a statement – it makes you shine.” Attention should, however, be given to the setting: cocktail parties call for extravagance, but a daytime reception is best approached with more caution. Smaller flashes can be achieved with accessories – think colourful pocket squares and twinkling tie-pins.
Of course, no look is complete for a peacock without appropriately snappy footwear. Manolo Blahnik, who offers a fine selection of brogues and loafers, recommends that “a colourful shoe such as the Witney is key to dressing up an already wonderful outfit”. RD
The second wedding
From Lauren Bacall’s camel skirt suit and Bianca Jagger’s Yves Saint Laurent tailored two-piece to the caped jumpsuit in which Solange Knowles cycled to her wedding, some of the most iconic brides have eschewed frothy dresses. Whether it’s your second time around or you’re simply looking for something more understated, the bridal suit is becoming increasingly popular.
“It’s an updated, alternative approach to the traditional dress and more in line with how women are dressing currently,” says Jeannie Lee, head of womenswear buying at Selfridges, who recommends Alexander McQueen, Magda Butrym and Galvan. When choosing a suit, Lee advises to “start by finding one that’s really well cut and having it tailored to your measurements – hemlines and arm lengths in particular need to be exactly right in order to photograph well.”
Those wanting to forgo traditional codes altogether might look to a suit in an unexpected hue, such as Joseph’s double-breasted ecru two-piece or Roksanda’s powder-pink satin, cut for a languid silhouette. “I love the idea of brides wearing tailoring,” says Roksanda Ilincic. “There is something timeless and chic about it but it still feels unexpected. A subtle pink in romantic satin adds a joyfulness that is traditional and modern at the same time.”
But if you’re not quite ready to part with tradition then consider a suit for the rehearsal dinner. “That’s a fabulous moment to wear a really skinny white tux,” says sustainable fashion consultancy founder and stylist Mary Fellowes, whose clients have included Olivia Colman and Phoebe Waller-Bridge. “It’s sort of bridal but you could make it really sexy and glamorous – kind of Studio 54.” Sara Semic
Get alerts on Style when a new story is published