For people who identify as women, it’s often difficult to escape the pressure to wear a dress to a formal social occasion—but luckily, that expectation is slowly changing.
After all, let’s face the truth: not everyone wants to wear a dress to a wedding, even if social pressures and expectations often tell us that we should. Some people don’t feel comfortable wearing dresses because they don’t comfortably fit their body types, while others are uncomfortable with the dress as a symbol of what women should look like.
Whatever your reasons for not wanting to wear a dress to a formal event like a wedding, you’re not alone. But what can you wear instead? Here are a few options to consider:
The vest and slacks look: If you’re attending a wedding where the attire is semi-formal or even more casual, you can easily pull off a stylish and breezy look with a classic button-down shirt, a vest in a neutral color, and a nice pair of slacks. This is a particularly good look for weddings that ask for “cocktail” or “beach” attire but where you still want to look appropriately dressed up for the special occasion. Vests are also handy because they dress up a standard look with some flair without being as constricting or hot as a suit jacket while making moves on the dance floor or waiting for the couple in a receiving line.
The pantsuit look: For many years, the pantsuit was often considered more at home in the conference room than the wedding reception. Luckily, with new, more fashion-forward cuts, that reputation is starting to change. A pantsuit is a great alternative to a dress if you’re attending a wedding with recommended attire like “formal” or “black tie optional,” where you’ll be expected to dress up but not wear a full tuxedo or evening gown. It’s not the best option for a formal black tie wedding, where there’s an expected attire, or a more casual wedding, where you might feel overdressed. Also keep in mind the wedding date: if it’s hot outside, look for a pantsuit made of lighter, more breathable fabrics like linen and cotton, or even a linen-cotton blend. For cooler months, look for suits made with wool or wool blends.
The tuxedo look: Sometimes there’s no other option but to embrace black tie. If you’ve been invited to a wedding with “black tie” or “formal” on the invitation, your hosts are likely expecting you to show up in either a tuxedo or an evening gown. If dresses aren’t your thing, a tuxedo is a great option. Luckily, more manufacturers are understanding the appeal of tuxedos to a non-male audience and are designing cuts and fits that flatter the female form. And remember that just because the invitation says “black tie” doesn’t mean your tuxedo needs to be black. Many designers offer alternate colors that still fit the formal aesthetic, including white.