I'm not one of those style writers who bemoans the fact that no one dresses up anymore. Most of the time, I'm pretty thrilled that we're not ever expected to wear pantyhose, that jeans are considered OK in most offices, and that I can wear almost anything I want to any occasion, as long as I'm not naked or covered in logos. (That last rule is mine, not the rule of the host.)
There is a downside to all this casual dressing, though, and that's that when we do need to dress up, we have no idea how to do it. Take weddings, for example. Most of us have no idea what "cocktail attire," "black tie," or "formal" even means. Conservative dressers can fake it, but what if you're not a conservative dresser? I mean, in my lifetime, I've been to three separate weddings where a guest wore workout clothes. And it wasn't a theme or anything. At one, the offender also wore a belly chain, which I think we can all agree is the kind of elegant touch that elevates any outfit to black tie levels.
We're confused, is my point. Which is why I put together this roundup to help. Here you'll find party definitions that will help you decipher even the trickiest wording on an invitation, suggestions on etiquette and attire, and, of course, about one-million cheap dresses to wear to a wedding. (Number approximate.)
Ready? Here we go.
If the invitation says "black tie," bust out the tuxedo if you're a guy. Ladies can get away with cocktail dresses or longer dresses. If it says "black tie optional," you can skip the tux, but you should still dress in your best. If the invitation says "white tie," you're probably royalty, and then you already know all of this and don't need our help.
This is a great, comprehensive roundup of what you should (and shouldn't) wear to any wedding. Our favorite part is the "shouldn't" section, but if you need to be told not to wear something torn or dirty to a wedding, you might be beyond help. (Still, see previous re: belly chains. You never get in trouble by over-clarifying this sort of thing.)
The trickiest thing about dressing up for an evening wedding, for ladies, is finding a cocktail dress that doesn't cost a million dollars. These cheap dresses are all under $70, but won't make you look cheap.
I keep a few rules in mind when I'm picking a dress to wear to a daytime wedding: Color is good. Especially in these times of vibrant hues, neon, and other brights, there's no reason to go to a daytime wedding looking like the grim reaper. White is bad, unless you're hoping the bride will stomp over and spill red wine all over you. And finally, don't spend a ton of money on your dress, because there's absolutely no need. These cute dresses are all under $50, and unlike most bridesmaid dresses, you'll actually want to wear them again.