Style 911: All Your Wedding Fashion Questions, Answered!

Wedding traditions have changed a lot over the years, and many of the hard and fast dos and don’ts of wedding style have fallen by the wayside. It’s great that brides, grooms, and guests have more freedom over what they wear these days, but in a way, all these updated rules and non-rules have also made things more confusing. After the jump, we answer all your pressing questions about cleavage, pantyhose, the definition of “black tie,” and what color shoes to pair with those pesky navy blue bridesmaid dresses…

Can I wear white to a wedding? If the wedding is very casual, your dress is decidedly un-bridal (say, a knee-length sun dress), and you are absolutely sure the bride won’t mind, then yes, but in general I think it’s best to err on the side of caution and skip white. The bottom line? There are a million other colors to wear, and most of them are more flattering than white anyway. Let the bride have it.

How much cleavage is too much? When in doubt, cover up a bit more.

How short is too short? See above.

What color shoes go with a navy bridesmaid dress? You can go matchy-matchy with navy shoes, but metallics are much more fun–try silver, gold, or pewter. Nude pumps or nude sandals are also a gorgeous and flattering option.

Are flip-flops OK for a summer wedding? Depends on the wedding, but simple flat sandals are appropriate for most daytime summer weddings. However, skip the plastic Old Navy flip-flops unless the bride requests them.

What does “black tie” mean? For an evening wedding, it’s a floor length dress for her and a tux for him. In the daytime, you can do a cocktail length dress but make sure it’s a conservative style in a formal fabric.

What about “semi-formal”? Cocktail dress or knee-length skirt and blouse.

And “casual”? Dress comfortably but still make an effort to look put together. For summer weddings, a bright sun dress and sandals are a great choice.

I’m planning to lose weight. Should I buy my wedding dress in a smaller size? Planning a wedding is stressful enough without adding an ill-fitting dress and a daunting weight loss goal. Remember that your partner loves you just the way you are right now. Buy a dress that fits, and if you do end up losing weight before your big day, just get it altered to fit your smaller frame.

My bridesmaids are all completely different sizes. Can you suggest a wedding dress style that looks good on most people? The easiest way to deal with this issue is asking the brides to stick with a color theme rather than a cut. J. Crew, for example, has different cut dresses in all the same colors, so you could easily direct your bridesmaids to pick the style they want, so long as it comes in, say, “peony pink.” But if you do want all your bridesmaids to be in the exact same dress, a simple tailored sheath dress with cap sleeves is flattering on all body types. And definitely don’t do strapless!

I have a bridesmaids dress I absolutely hate. I spent heaps of money on. I’m never going to wear it again. What should I do with it? First, find something redeeming about it. Is the color flattering on your skin tone? Do you like the shape of the neckline? Etc. If you can find aspects of it that you actually like, you can take it to a tailor and have it turned into something that you would wear. Even an awful dress can sometimes be turned into a cute blouse in the hands of an expert tailor. If the dress is literally the worst thing you’ve ever had in your closet, donate it — one woman’s trash might just be another woman’s treasure.