Wedding Attire

By Sharon Naylor

March 4, 2011 5 min read

The arrival of spring often means lots of invitations to weddings, and you likely are thinking, "What should I wear?" The good news is that you don't need to worry about selecting a dress that might be similar to what the bridesmaids will be wearing.

"Don't worry about that at all!" says wedding planning specialist Laura Bianco. "Today's bridesmaids are choosing dresses and accessories trying to look more like wedding guests in today's fashionable styles and colors," but even if you happen to wear a similar color, it's almost impossible for you to be mistaken for a bridesmaid. There are just too many different styles out there.

The next important consideration is formality. The timing, style and formality of the wedding do dictate the basics of your wedding dress. Use this list, from's Cynthia Nellis, to guide your choices:

--Informal daytime: short dress or suit.

--Informal evening: cocktail dress.

--Semiformal daytime: short dress or suit.

--Semiformal evening: cocktail dress.

--Formal daytime: short dress or suit, perhaps a hat and gloves.

--Formal evening or black tie: long or dressy short cocktail dress with glamorous accents, such as beading, fine jewelry and a wrap.

--White tie: long gown with extra glitz, e.g., a fur and diamonds.

Those rules of etiquette are paired with the unspoken rule of not wearing anything too form-fitting or revealing out of respect for the bride. But it is OK to wear a black dress to an afternoon wedding; don't mind outdated etiquette rules about not wearing black during the daytime.

*Wedding Dress Colors and Patterns

There are many style categories you can choose from to stay super-stylish at weddings this season. Kathy Ireland -- international mogul and chief designer of the kathy ireland Weddings by 2be collection, which includes party dresses -- explains the first trend by saying, "Dress colors return to a romantic focus, with lots of iris and teal in a garden-inspired color palette. It's a blend of Victorian elegance and cool chic."

Bright candy-colored dresses are also chic for wedding wear. Fashion designers are looking to the new class of hot colors announced by color trending source Pantone. "The colors designers have chosen for the spring season present an interesting marriage of unexpected warm and cool tones," says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.

Among the hot colors for wedding-perfect dresses is Pantone's current color of the year, honeysuckle, which Pantone describes as a "feel-good hue that brings a festive sense of playfulness to this season's palette. This vibrant pinkish-red for both apparel and cosmetics makes consumers feel alive, and is a perfect post-winter pick-me-up."

Other top colors include coral, honey yellow, lavender, ocean blue, turquoise (Pantone's color of the year for 2010 but still a top dress color choice this season), sage green, jade and purple. Also popular color choices for wedding wear are the new neutral trends of slate gray and mocha.

*Little Black Dress

Bianco says you can wear your basic little black dress if you don't wish to go out and spend more than $100 on a new dress for a wedding. "Just dress it up with a pop of color, such as accessorizing it with a candy-colored scarf or brightly colored earrings." Big, bold earrings are in style this season, so a basic black dress is the perfect style for an elegant showing of oversize chunky turquoise earrings or a dramatic, colorful necklace that's coordinated with a pretty wrap.

"A basic black dress looks amazing right now in this season's hot black-and-white motif," Bianco says. Ireland agrees, citing black-and-white party dresses in her collection in bold prints or delicate patterns.

*Flirty Florals

And the best for last: floral dresses. They are the top trend in bridesmaid dresses right now. Floral patterns are diverse, coming in formal black and white or adding pizazz with candy brights, such as ocean blues and purples or reds and oranges.

Ireland advises you to shop for not only style but also function. You don't, for instance, want to wear a strapless dress and experience a wardrobe malfunction, such as having a breast become exposed.

"With every dress, we focus more on inner construction than visual details because comfort is key," Ireland says.

To provide stylish protection against "pop-outs" and avoid the all-day discomfort of tugging up a strapless dress, choose from the current styles of dresses with straps, especially the trendy one-shouldered, asymmetrical dress styles of the moment. That way, you can catch that bouquet or reach up to dance with your handsome date and not have a moment's worry.

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