Wedding outfit? Difficulty level: gender neutral plus sized female
March 30, 2014 2:30 PM   Subscribe

I am actually incapable of dressing up and not feeling like a ridiculous fraud. I have to attend a relative's wedding this summer. I cannot figure out what on earth I can wear. I'm in my late 20s so I'm running out of time in the "I'm young and can only dress semi-appropriately please don't kick me out of your event" department. Snowflakes below the fold.

Pants are easy, classic black slacks. Non offensive. The top is my complication. I'm only comfortable dressing gender neutrally (not sure if there's a better term for this). Think t-shirts, crew neck sweaters, flannel button ups, polos. To add complication I need something that can accommodate a plus-sized individual. Roughly 22-26 (women's) or XXL (mens). I'm basically just looking for something I can get away with as I don't think my striped sweater will do it for this event. It's going to pretty fancy but I'm okay with being underdressed - I just want to not be noticeably underdressed. It's also a wedding in Texas, in the summer which is bound to have portions outside. So things that I am likely to not sweat to death in would be wonderful. Help me people of metafilter, I've perused the internet but all I can ever find are frilly dresses or tops with sparkles and lace. I am obviously doing something wrong. Grey and black are my favourite colours to wear but I probably can't show up in all black. Blues and greens work for me as well, pink and yellow are my nemesis. Price is not an object but you should know the most expensive thing I own by a significant margin is a Russell Wilson jersey. Anyone have advice on specifics or where I could look?
posted by neurotic narwhal to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (41 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What about a shirt. Perhaps something silk in the heat? That could read gender neutral but more formal.
posted by plonkee at 2:36 PM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

A white button-up shirt or tuxedo shirt. Altered to fit well if necessary.
posted by metasarah at 2:36 PM on March 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Since I'm a guy I may be totally off base here, but I'm thinking a gray silk-wool blend blazer (I an xxl guy have one of those and is great for summer) or a linen jacket. Maybe something like this? Women can get away with black linen better than men I think.
posted by Jahaza at 2:43 PM on March 30, 2014 [11 favorites]

What about a seersuckeer shirt? Landsend has one. Also, have you checked out the plus-size catalogues like Roaman's? They often have a wide array of what they refer to as "big shirts". Seersucker has some relatively dressy connotations; button it to the next-to-the-top button and wear some kind of necklace - a chunky silver man's style one would work fine.
posted by Frowner at 2:44 PM on March 30, 2014

Best answer: I love wide-legged black trousers with a loose, untucked blue or pale grey linen or linen-blend button-up with 3/4 sleeves. I'd avoid white tuxedo shirts, so as not to be mistaken for a caterer.

Several of these solids (non-print) from J. Jill would look lovely and appropriate.

Better to be "underdressed" and feel like yourself and enjoy the wedding than to feel stiff and weird.
posted by mochapickle at 2:44 PM on March 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

(Hmm, rereading the question, that particular jacket might not be gender neutral enough).
posted by Jahaza at 2:46 PM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Land's End has great traditional button-downs, or one like this, or if it's not too femme this 3/4 sleeve with a tunic hem (when I lived in Texas, I wore a lot of 3/4 sleeves and preferred to be untucked because I'd sweat at the waistband).

White might make you look like a waiter, so I'd suggest a lighter blue or green if you can find one you like.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:49 PM on March 30, 2014

A tailored silk shirt in blue or green would work. I have seen them in plus sizes. With the black pants that would be fine.
posted by mermayd at 2:50 PM on March 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

I dress gender-neutral too. And I have the same kind of problems dressing up.

What works for me is a silk shirt in a masculine/neutral cut, paired with a blazer or jacket of some kind. For summer, I'd pick a grey blazer in a light/cool fabric and a sea blue shirt.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:02 PM on March 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

I feel your pain. I'm a plus sized chick with a pretty fluid gender orientation and I am currently shopping for my own wedding, and I've decided to basically deal with it as if I'm wearing drag that day and so I'm going full fem (with men's dress clothes on deck if I need them), because there just are not options for gender neutral dress clothes.

Here's my advice, as a chick who leans gender neutral or masculine most days (though I swing wildly fem some days). If I were you, I'd go with a short sleeved men's button down dress shirt. Almost anything dressy from the women's section is going to feel and read as too frilly. Three-fourths sleeves read as fem, not gender neutral. Shells read as fem. Tanks read as fem. Women's dress clothes generally read as fem, no matter what you do. On the other hand, a decent short sleeved button down men's shirt (like so or so or so) reads fairly gender neutral; people with all kinds of bodies and gender orientations wear short sleeved dress shirts. Something without a breast pocket (I was having trouble finding examples quickly) will read as more gender neutral.

Pair that with your black pants. Tuck it in and put on a belt (the plainer, the better), and wear decent lace up gender neutral shoes or loafers (again, this will be easier with men's shoes), and you should look perfectly acceptable (I assume if this were a black tie affair, you've had told us). The best you can do with gender neutral dress clothes is plain, from what I've been finding.

I'm coming at this as a chick who leans gender neutral (which I'm guessing may be appropriate advice from "but all I can ever find are frilly dresses or tops with sparkles and lace"), but if you're male bodied and leaning fem, hopefully someone can chime in from that end of things.
posted by joycehealy at 3:09 PM on March 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I can read, really. You said plus-sized female in the title. Advice stands, carry on. :)
posted by joycehealy at 3:14 PM on March 30, 2014

How about a guayabera? Appropriate for warm weather and weddings. I don't have a specific brand or retailer to recommend, but the style is very common, so I'm sure you can find some options in your size.
posted by Orinda at 3:16 PM on March 30, 2014 [12 favorites]

Is the kind of dressy, feminized menswear look too girly for you? I'm thinking something like a well-tailored (so it fits your curves correctly) men's dress shirt and maybe some suspenders or a cute (or stylish, or whatever...) tie. Also, Texas in the summer to me screams SWEAT!, so I'd be careful with silks or anything that's going to get gross if you get damp.
posted by Weeping_angel at 3:19 PM on March 30, 2014

Would a simple silk t-shirt work for you? I would think someone in pants and a silk t-shirt would be appropriately dressed at a wedding, especially if it was a non-somber color. Like this Eileen Fisher one. Bloomingdale's has a silk tank in a color they're calling "nougat"--the princess seams may bring it too close to feminine for your tastes, but a simple silk tank with nice pants would also look appropriate on a wedding guest in my opinion.

Nieman Marcus has some silk shirts in plus sizes. Here's a pewter button-down tunic. They also have a safari-style shirt in (which you said you won't wear, but it shows the details better in the picture) pink, black or white. Both outfits strike me as elegant but still skewing toward gender-neutral.

Or a tailored shirt with a French cuff? I like this silk pinstripe one at Nordstrom. Lands End has a twill one which might be too casual, despite the cuff.
posted by crush-onastick at 3:28 PM on March 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Perhaps a tunic?
posted by girlmightlive at 3:34 PM on March 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think pants and just a shirt - even a really nice silk shirt - is likely to look too casual.
What about a nice linen shirt and a blazer? That reads as pretty gender-neutral (depending on the cut of the blazer).
posted by leitmotif at 3:41 PM on March 30, 2014

Best answer: I've worn a (men's) button down, tie, and waistcoat, with or without a jacket, to things like this before.

That said, you should find out what some male relatives will be wearing, and then wear a version (maybe one step fancier) of that. If half of your male relatives are wearing a polo and khakis (and I've been to weddings like that), it's unlikely that anyone will give you shit for wearing a nicely fitting polo and khakis. If you wanted to be sure that no one would say anything, a button down and khakis would mean that you're presenting as dressier than the polo people. If they're all wearing full suits, that's the standard you need to shoot for. If you have the time and money, you could do worse than seeing a tailor who could take an off the rack men's suit and tailor it to better fit you.
posted by MeghanC at 3:43 PM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

White shirt with French cuffs?
posted by neroli at 3:54 PM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Check out Eileen Fisher. She has plus-sized stuff that would definitely apply. Not necessarily cheap, but the stuff lasts forever and depending on where you live, there are outlets to be found. Her stuff is also carried in Nordstrom, Bloomingdales*, etc.

(On preview, similar to what crush-onastick recommended.)

There are some very simple linen button down shirts on the website that would definitely work with what you're describing.

Alternatively, J. Jill as mentioned upthread.

*Bloomingdales has a 20% F&F thing going on this week.
posted by dancinglamb at 3:56 PM on March 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

It's going to pretty fancy but I'm okay with being underdressed - I just want to not be noticeably underdressed.

I agree that pants and a shirt is going to be too casual but once you've outfitted with a jacket (and I concur with what everyone is saying: a tailored men's cut shirt and a nice blazer) accessories will make a big difference in looking "dressed for a wedding" and you can do this gender-neutral, depending a little bit about how much you are comfortable with the feminized menswear angle. So, consider

- very good, polished shoes with dress socks
- cufflinks if you have french cuffs
- a nice watch if you have one
- earrings if you have pierced ears
- a nice belt
- well-kempt hair that looks "done" even if that that means is that you got a recent haircut
- be clean, smell nice

DapperQ is a website that has a lot of photos of stylish (i.e. dressed up) women that tend towards more butch presentation that may help you brainstorm. Their store guide might be helpful.
posted by jessamyn at 4:05 PM on March 30, 2014

When I was your age, which is a million years ago, my favorite occasion-clothes was an asian-menswear-inspired set in linen. The cloth was brownish with a gold thread for fanciness. Otherwise it was completely simple: wide pants with an elastic waist and a very long (knee-length) loose shirt with sides slit to the waist for comfortable movement. The shirt could be buttoned-up or opened two buttons. I wore it with a colorful scarf if I felt the occasion demanded it of me.
I miss this set, and am convinced it would work as well today (but I wore it up to the last thread).
Maybe I should get a copy made.
It would work fine in a black silk - but then probably you'd need the happy scarf in Texas.
posted by mumimor at 4:07 PM on March 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Here's a link to the style my suit was based on. Unfortunately, this is so long ago, I can't find a link to the suit.
posted by mumimor at 4:14 PM on March 30, 2014

This article might help.

Here's the place that tailors suits for androgynous/masculine women, which might give ideas.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:38 PM on March 30, 2014

These might be too feminine, but there are some pretty androgynous options that are still graceful and plus size and airy enough for Texas in the summer.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:40 PM on March 30, 2014

I'd go with a lightweight and light colored tunic over matching pants in a linen like fabric as described above That's pretty gender neutral, I've seen men and women in that outfit. You might have to shop online to find it in your size but it's definitely an outfit that exists and is wedding and hot weather appropriate.
posted by fshgrl at 4:51 PM on March 30, 2014

Inquiry from a Texan: when you say summer in Texas, do you mean June in Dallas (hot) or August in Houston (really hot and sauna-like) or Austin (hello baking)? Also are we talking day or evening? Because it may make a difference in recommendations. I can't recommend a suit/jacket for anything outdoors in August, particularly by day, unless absolutely necessary.

Also, if you're thinking of a guyabera or Hawaiian shirt, which will be definitely underdressed for a formal wedding, consider Tommy Bahama. My husband is very large and these are his go-to cool summer shirts when he has to step up from polo-type shirts. The first one he got was for a college roommate's wedding here in Austin.
posted by immlass at 5:17 PM on March 30, 2014

How about a waistcoat over a dress shirt? The photographer at a friends wedding wore (from memory) a shiny grey one, and she looked very good.
posted by kjs4 at 5:18 PM on March 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you don't want to read as femme, don't get most of the silk shirts listed above. They almost all read as way too feminine. Also - silk shirts in Texas summer screams gross-sweaty-mess to me, so I'd steer clear of those rayon and silky shirts unless you love giant sweat marks everywhere.

Buy a very pale grey button-up shirt that fits your SHOULDERS. Linen would also work. The seam at the arm hole should hit right at the edge of your shoulder. Then take it to the tailor and get them to slim down the arms and back as needed. Roll up the sleeves.

Alternate: vest over button-up shirt looks super sexy on women.

Shoes are harder but really depend on the pant opening and style.
posted by barnone at 5:34 PM on March 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Have you thought about wearing a waist coat. Either over a long sleeved button up shirt, or in the hot weather a smart short sleeved top would look nice, something like this, though this photo isn't plus sized. I'm plus sized too, though don't usually dress too gender neutrally but I like to wear a waist coat when dressing up because if you get one that's cut well (or get a tailor to alter it for you, which costs less than you think) it is very flattering to a plus sized figure and with a smart pair of trousers it will immediately look dressy because hey it's a waist coat.

You can go all sorts of styles with them anything from femme to steampunk.

You can always make it more masculine if you want with a tie or with your choice of shirt. I'd avoid black with a white shirt though because you can slip into looking like a waiter territory there.
posted by wwax at 6:20 PM on March 30, 2014

I looked at some of the more affordable online plus-sized women's clothing stores, Avenue and Lane Bryant. I don't know if this stuff will read as too feminine, but these options are pretty affordable (check for online coupons like at and wouldn't call attention to themselves.

Is this cotton tunic too feminine? It's not super formal, but it's simply and lightweight.

This shirt in beige, white, or green is also feminine but still pretty simple.

Here's a simple blue cotton oxford from Lane Bryant that's only $30.

This darker beige tunic isn't in one of your preferred colors, but it's pretty simple as far as women's tops go.

LL Bean has a couple of options too: a seersucker shirt in solid that would be nice and cool and a linen shirt that comes in a few colors as well.
posted by bluedaisy at 6:27 PM on March 30, 2014

Try Indian or Pakistani salwar kameez, they're designed for hot weather and a formal men's outfit should be just fine for the occasion.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:04 PM on March 30, 2014 [6 favorites]

Suspenders/braces or a waistcoat fancies an outfit up without feminising it a huge amount. I mean, I love the suspenders look on anyone, so I'm biased, but a summer wedding is a vile proposition for any masculine formal wear. A short sleeved shirt is fairly masculine looking too.

Fit is an ass as well. There's not a goddamn button up in my life that fits my shoulders and has enough room for my chest, so sewing down the placket may be in your future. Nice belt, shined oxfords, maybe a patterned sock?

My mother wore something like a salwar kameez to my wedding, it looked lovely but reads very feminine on a lady body.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:16 PM on March 30, 2014

You know, I've been thinking more about your question. I suggested J.Jill before (and thought that dark grey linen shirt might be a match), but if that's too feminine for your personal style, I agree that a vest or suspenders or even a tie can be worn with a lot of style and will fit right in.

My friend H wears only menswear, so she'll go to weddings in a button-up and a vest. She loves browns and greens and grays that look striking on her. She rolls the sleeves up. Sometimes she loses the vest and does a tie, loose, in the same tone as her shirt.

Accessories make menswear look so smart: suspenders or tie or vest or even a hat. And shined shoes.
posted by mochapickle at 7:40 PM on March 30, 2014

Fit For a Femme is the style blog of a couple- one quite feminine, one a self-described tomboy. I wonder if the tomboy's style might give you ideas?
Ellen DeGeneres also rocks gender-neutral clothing really well; might get some ideas there. I think the trick is fun shoes.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:43 PM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Came in to say the key to this is the shoes and fit. Since you say price is not a problem, this is the time to invest in your one pair of really fancy, interesting, comfortable shoes. I think a white linen button down shirt tailored to fit you (not make you have curves, but to fit your body so you're comfortable in it) and a similarly good fitting pair of grey pants (white shirt + black pants = waitstaff), with all the attendant shinies like nice tie, belt, and cufflinks, plus very cool party shoes would be comfortable as well as express "I am here to celebrate your day!" I see no problem in just getting a full matching grey suit in a medium weight fabric, either. You'll leave the jacket on the back of your chair and you're back to linen shirt and trousers again, but you'll be just as fancy as all the other guests who came in suits. Again the shoes are important. They will flip you over from "she's just dressing in boy clothes" to "she knows what she's doing."

Cool shoes (imo): [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]
posted by Mizu at 10:43 PM on March 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I reckon a Nehru collar shirt in cotton or silk is the answer.

Just one example Googled.
posted by taff at 3:14 AM on March 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

Linen big shirt, maybe in blue? That's what a guy friend of mine who hates to dress up wears to weddings. Linen is comfortable ion the heat, and you can roll sleeves up.

Also, shoes. Fisherman sandals might be neutral and comfortable.
posted by theora55 at 6:24 AM on March 31, 2014

Similar to the guyabera idea, perhaps consider the Filipino barong -- also appropriate for hot weather
posted by NikitaNikita at 6:48 AM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I totally agree with the waistcoat idea. Pair it with a short sleeved tailored shirt and you are golden. Doctor Marten has a whole line of great unisexed dress shoes that would work well also.
posted by moonphases at 6:54 PM on April 1, 2014

Also waistcoat/vest. Maybe go gray or black cotton or linen dress shirt underneath, but see if you can find a waistcoat/vest in colors you like? Try vintage stores.
posted by sarahkeebs at 9:54 PM on April 1, 2014

Response by poster: Wow, thank you everyone! I am totally overwhelmed by the amount of responses I got and they've all given me so many ideas. Not just for this wedding but for the future. I think I might actually have options which is totally new for me.

Jahaza - I actually think that jacket is phenomenal, I'm thinking I might invest in that.

Mochapickle - I think in that dark grey shirt is actually fantastic, I think doing that shirt in the right colour would work for me.

MeghanC - The asking my male relatives about what they're wearing is actually just really great advice for the future. It's so difficult to gauge how I should dress for events because I always ask female relatives and it's difficult to compare what I want to wear to "a nice dress". I'm going to reach out to a few and see what kind of things they're wearing.

Also a huge thanks to everyone who mentioned shoes, that was something I hadn't even thought about.

You guys are all the best.
posted by neurotic narwhal at 12:32 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

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