Look closely at the invitation, it usually specifies the formality of the event. Nothing is worse than showing up to an event inappropriately dressed. Here is what I have found is the typical school of thought when it comes to appropriate wedding guest attire for women:
Informal Daytime: Short dress or suit (business attire OK for morning weddings)
Informal Evening: Cocktail dress
Semi-Formal Daytime: Short dress or suit
Semi-formal Evening: Cocktail dress
Formal Daytime: Short dress or suit
Formal Evening or Black-Tie: Long or dressy short cocktail (beading, glam accessories, wrap)
Ultra-formal or White Tie: Long gown, extra glitz (furs, diamonds, etc.)
Do's and Don'ts:
- Don't wear white because it competes with the bride. There are plenty of other colors available.
- Don't wear black or sequins during the daytime.
- Don't worry about wearing the same colors as the bridesmaids or mothers. You can't possibly coordinate with everyone in the wedding party.
- Do wear something feminine and appropriate, out of respect for your hosts. Clubwear, overtly sexy clothing (see-through, etc) doesn't belong at a wedding. If you have to ask if it's appropriate, it probably isn't.
- Do use good judgment if the invitation doesn't specify the formality of the event. A soft floral dress for daytime or a little black dress for evening (after 6 p.m.) will take you almost anywhere.
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