So, a question for my fashion expert: I've been invited to a wedding this August of a college friend in Newport, RI. The wedding is black tie and I'm having a hard time reconciling black tie, summer, and beachside location in my head. Any brilliant ideas? The event starts around 5 pm and goes in to evening... Feel free to use for reader mail or just to help me out puhlease. Ugh. xx. G.
As wedding season is upon us (so I hear; I won't pretend to be a wedding expert... though I have been planning mine since I was five... shhhh), and the summer is only getting more, well, summer-y, I imagine lots of people may be finding themselves in situations as similar to one above. I think a lot of us dress more casually in general during the summer, and certainly at the beach, so I can definitely see how difficult it could be to reconcile, as my reader stated, the setting and season with the dress code indicated, and find something to wear. After a bit of reading a research, I can offer the following advice:
Despite it's formal designation, Black Tie does allow for considerable variation (unlike White Tie, which is extremely regulated), especially for women. Traditionally the definition may have demanded a floor-length evening gown, but these days’ dressy separates or short formal cocktail dresses are entirely appropriate as well. I would focus less on sticking to a particular style or length, and more on the combined glamour of every aspect of your look.
Nicole Miller Dress via Nordstrom.com, Sachin + Babi necklace and Sergio Rossi slingbacks via Shopbop.com; Rachel Roy Signature dress via Shopbop.com, Hype clutch and BCBGeneration sandals via Nordstom.com
In the summer I feel much more comfortable in something that flows and is easy to move in; so I would stay away from boning and bandage dresses for this occasion. In rich, luxurious fabrics, with touch of sparkle and glamorous accessories, a dress that shape-wise might be identical to the comfortable, flowing, mini or maxi sundress you wear on the weekends is black tie.
Issa, Elie Tahari, and Shoshanna dresses via Shopbop.com
DVF, Halston Heritage, and Helmut Lang via shopbop.com; Haute Hippie and Donna Morgan via Nordstom.com
A little shine and sparkle instantly dresses up an outfit. Look for these qualities in dress, or, use your accessories, shoes and jewelry for this purpose, especially if you feel your dress is a little plain.
Sachin and Babi via Shopbop.com, Donna Morgan via Nordstom.com
DVF bag, Kenneth Jay bib necklace and earrings, and Alexis Bittar earrings via Shopbop.com
I would definitely go with a pair of strappy, heeled sandals over of a full on pump, and make sure to bring a pashmina or shawl. It is always good to have one on hand to cover bare shoulders if the ceremony is in a church or temple, and certainly to shield yourself from the cool ocean breezes that will inevitably sneak up (I'm imagine a post-party stroll on the beach with my sweetie, a pair of sparkly strappy sandals dangling from my fingertips, cashmere shawl draped over my shoulders, beautiful gown trailing behind me in the sand, shining in the moonlight...).
Nordstrom cashmere shawl; Ports 1961 shoes via Shopbop.com; Classiques Entier via Nordstom.com; Report Signature and LAMB via Shopbop.com
Strapless sweetheart necklines are really prominent this season, as are one-shoulder dresses.
BCBGMAXAZRIA gown and cocktail dress, Adriana Papell, Laundry by Shelli Segal via Nordstom.com; Rebecca Taylor via Shopbop.com
Budget is also a factor here. You need to decide whether-or-not you want to invest in something really special that you'll wear to other formal events over the years, in which case you should look for something timeless, and avoid trendier shapes and styles. If you doubt you’ll ever have reason to wear something so fancy again, and you don't have the disposable income to spend on something you'll wear only once, you may want to choose a cocktail dress that can easily be dressed up or down.
Haute Hippie via Nordstom.com; Erin Fetherston and MXMJ via Shopbop.com
Color-wise, in addition to the always-in-style black I came across a lot of really beautiful deep yellows and rich blues, which I love.
Aidan Maddox via Nordstom.com, Lela Rose, Rachel Roy, and Sunner via Shopbop.com, Aidan Maddox via Saks.com
Last but not a pretty bag or clutch. If it’s big enough throw in a pair of flip-flops for that late night walk by the shore with your sweetie.
Rebecca Merkin via Shopbop.com; Sondra Roberts and Jessica McClintock via Nordstom.com
*Shopping Note: the dress shop at Nordstrom is great for gowns, Shopbop has amazing cocktail dresses, BCBG is a good bet for both, and, if I, personally, were able to splurge on a dress it would be a DVF or Nicole Miller - both seem to make every woman's body look amazing.
I hope that was of some help! Keep the mail coming babes! xo Caitlin
p.s. speaking of bags… don’t forget you have three more days to enter my fantastic OUFI London clutch Giveaway!