What to wear while wedding dress shopping?
February 13, 2017 7:15 PM   Subscribe

How do I look decent while still being comfortable and appropriate in wedding boutiques?

I'm the maid of honor in friend's wedding and this weekend we'll be going dress shopping around DC (appointments have been made).

While I can usually dress myself alright, this weekend is kind of throwing me through a loop. Im not concerned about undergarments- as far as I know this weekend if just for wedding gowns, not bridesmaid dresses. I'm scared to wear my dark wash jeans for fear of dye rubbing off on dresses or swanky champagne colored couches at boutiques. I'd love to just wear black leggings all weekend but that seems way too informal. It seems like it would be too cold out to wear a dress- and I'm not sure I'd have anything appropriate anyhow. I have a decent wool lands end coat (but it's bright blue.)

I got back from West Africa a little more than a year ago and I'm still really unsure of how to handle situations like these (I wear jeans and tshirts to work frequently). Saying things like "trust your instincts" does not help AT ALL here. When I try to "dress up" it often doesn't seem natural or I end up looking like I should be going in to work.

With a small budget (most all my clothes are from old navy) and a smaller wardrobe (most things from before I went abroad are too small on me now) I feel a bit paralyzed in these situations. I can pick up a couples items at the mall before I leave Thursday night but ordering online will take too long. I hate shopping sales rack because things are never in my size or fit weirdly (I'm 5ft11 and about 205 and wear a 14 in jeans). Saying "she chose you as an MOH because she loves you, it doesn't matter what you wear!" isn't helpful. I'd like to feel appropriate for whatever I walk into (including meals out between shopping etc.)

General guidance and specific items are both helpful.

Thank you!
posted by raccoon409 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Can you wear the dress over the black leggings? That way you have warmth with a bit of dressiness.

I wouldn't worry about the colour of your coat. A nice coat is a nice coat, and the colour isn't all the relevant unless you're wearing it to a funeral.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:23 PM on February 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

Seconding a dress over leggings, that was basically my winter uniform and it works pretty much everywhere that isn't super formal.

Do you wear much jewellery? Earrings and a watch (you can get nice-looking ones for pretty cheap at Target) have always made me feel, and look, much more put together.
posted by Tamanna at 7:31 PM on February 13, 2017

I got married last year. When I went to try on dresses, I wore dark wash or black jeans, a t-shirt, jeans and flip-flops, aka what I wear everywhere in October (in CA). Now granted, I was the one trying on dresses, but the other people in the store were dressed similarly. I wouldn't feel compelled to wear a dress unless you want to.

I wouldn't worry about staining the couch or dresses or anything like that, those are all pretty resilient. Would you sit down on a friends' couch on it? As long as the answer is yes, you're fine in terms of stains etc.

On preview: If dressing up a little will make you feel more comfortable, you should go for it, but again, its far from required. Be prepared to be one of the more nicely dressed people in the store.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 7:36 PM on February 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

Leggings are fine. Obtain a tunic sweater, maybe wear a long necklace with it. Black tall or ankle boots, or clogs. Coat is fine.

Un-Fancy is a useful blog for seeing acceptably put-together looks that don't take a lot of fuss. She does have nice bags but those aren't necessary.
posted by notquitemaryann at 7:38 PM on February 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I have a hair cutter, who cuts some of the wealthiest people in Utah. He told me the ultra wealthy were dressing down, and that is their style. It is almost like camouflage. The idea is they are style, they have no worries about how they appear, it is a power statement. So you must dress comfortably for you, empower yourself, and being comfortable is certainly empowering. Some stuff that makes an aesthetic statement is also comforting. Be happy with your choices. That is what powerful people do, as a fashion statement. People may think what they will, lucky for you, you are not them. Happy wedding!
posted by Oyéah at 7:56 PM on February 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

DC feels fancy because it's that kind of town, and wedding dress shopping feels fancy because the items being bought are expensive and you have to have an appointment. If you're looking to "fit in," the above recommendations of leggings with a dress or long tunic are great. Wear jewelry and a watch, makeup if you're a makeup person. You might be in a position to need to move, depending on the store, helping your bride get into and out of things, etc. What you have is probably fine; as a rule, leggings + dress + scarf + boots is a good solid outfit for what you need to fit in, in DC in February.

If you're seeking inspiration for what maids of honor wear when wedding dress shopping in fancy boutiques, you can always watch a few episodes of "Say Yes to the Dress," which does not take place in DC but does take place in a wedding dress boutique. You'll see women of all shapes and sizes and styles represented.
posted by juniperesque at 8:12 PM on February 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Dress shopping can be a long haul. Comfort first and style second. Luckily, what you have described as your preference will fit both criteria.

Black leggings, boots, and a sweater or dress will be fine. Wear a large scarf/wrap in case it's cold in the stores (putting on those dresses can be a bit sweaty and they might have the AC blasting in February).

Bring a few Kind or granola bars (without chocolate coating). You may be there for longer than you think and the bride may cross into hangry territory. Or really not at all. The last time I was a bridesmaid the bride picked her dress in under 40 minutes.
posted by 26.2 at 8:41 PM on February 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

Sweater dress and leggings with comfortable shoes and squishy socks.

Bring a large bag that can hold water, a couple snack packets, a small notebook (for drawing what people mean when they can't adequately describe dress things), and since you are concerned about formality of dress a lovely shimmery scarf and some fancier jewelry (larger sparkly earrings or a nice bracelet, something that you are comfortable in that stow away quickly).

JCPenney of all places often has a good selection of sweater dresses, but sweater dresses in general are forgiving and can fit a wide range of sizes and proportions. Also try Talbots for good basics that will last a while and feel more timeless than trendy (so you can feel better about a slightly higher price since you can wear it for years with different accessories).

You can get leggings that seem a bit fancier in lots of department stores these days, ask a sales associate for ponte pants or refined leggings. Check the Gap, they have some more tailored leggings these days.
posted by Mizu at 9:56 PM on February 13, 2017

Avoid pointy rings or bracelets that could snag on delicate fabrics.
Avoid anything with velcro for the same reason.
That's all from me!
posted by Omnomnom at 11:37 PM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

And wear clean bra and underwear--
Just in case the bride asks you to try on a MOH dress.
posted by calgirl at 12:48 AM on February 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

Leggings (or jeggings if you're comfortable in them - Old Navy makes a pull-on style that I live in) with a long sweater or shirt + drapey cardigan, ankle or knee-length boots, and maybe a scarf or long necklace to pull it together a bit. If you do a Google image search for "leggings with long sweaters" you'll get the idea. It's sort of a generic look right now, which is a plus because you'll easily be able to find this stuff at any store, and it easily reads as pulled-together casual, which is a good level to aim for. And it's generally a super-comfy and forgiving look. Since you're in that bit of overlap between plus-size and non-plus-size, it might be quicker to scout the plus-size clearance racks first; it's safer to err on the too-big side with this stuff.

Accessories and grooming make a big difference with this look: subtle makeup, styled hair, a bag that coordinates with the outfit.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:14 AM on February 14, 2017

I came here to say exactly what Metroid Baby said above. You can absolutely wear leggings and feel dressy with the right top, accessories, and SHOES. Shoes can make all the difference. I recommend booties. Also, if you're comfortable with it, wear some jewellery - rings, necklaces, earrings - they can really dress up a simple outfit.

Some tips on the leggings: they should be free of lint/pet hair, no pilling, and thick enough that they look and feel substantial.

Here are some examples. Have fun shopping!
posted by yawper at 6:51 AM on February 14, 2017

I went to nearly all the wedding dress shops in DC last year as a bride and bridesmaid. Seriously, wear what is comfortable and easy to take off. I wore cheap leggings and a long shift shirt that I could pull over. I wore no jewelry except stud earrings and my ring. I wore flats because I could easily slip into the heels I brought to try with the dresses. I also brought a hair tie because I got hot at times after a few dresses.

Have fun! Remember you're the consumer, they're trying to please you!
posted by inevitability at 6:59 AM on February 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ideas from Old Navy:
Cocoon dress
Swing dress
Long tank

Pair any of these with leggings, a cardigan, boots and accessories, and you will be good to go.
posted by yawper at 7:00 AM on February 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Wash your jeans with a cup of white vinegar in the rinse. That will help set the dye in your jeans which is good to do anyway and you can worry about it less. I wouldn't be concerned about the dresses unless you're gonna do some real bump-n-grind with your friend. Those couches are probably scotchguarded. Not your responsibility.

THAT BEING SAID. There is nothing better than a good black jegging (JC Penney has a pair here but they are everywhere basically) and some kind of weather appropriate top. You aren't the focus of the day anyway, so be comfortable, have a mimosa, and keep the dirty dancing to a minimum.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:29 AM on February 14, 2017

My frame is similar to yours, and I would totally wear what others are recommending: leggings with dress or tunic with some jewelry and accessories. I find that a colorful scarf or pashmina instantly makes me feel more dressed up and pulled together and feminine, even in a T-shirt and jeans. I collected most of mine for $5 on New York City street corners, but you can also get them at Target, AC Moore, Michaels, Jo-Ann Fabrics, TJ Maxx, and pretty much anywhere else you look.

Your bright blue coat sounds awesome. I used to have a red wool coat, and I always got compliments on it in winter. Everybody loves to see a bit of color when everything is dark and bleak outside and most people are muffled in black and gray from head to toe.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:43 PM on February 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hi all. Thank you for all your advice. I let this event snowball into something huge I my mind and your answers helped calm me down.

The first day I wore leggings, the long tank from old navy mentioned above, a drapy cardigan and leather flats. I also wore some simple jewelry, make up and straightened my hair. I managed to catch my own bracelet on the cardigan twice pulling snags in it. This helped me realize what tends to frustrate me about these types of places where I want to "look good"- styling and details. I have a tendency towards clothes that don't fit quite right, curly wavy hair with baby hairs that seem to act up no matter what and make up that smudges or rubs off. (Or the old navy leggings that luckily my sister stopped me from wearing-turns out they were totally see through and my thong came through bright as day!). This ability to maintain the details and look "groomed" somehow seems to escape me.

Everyone in all the shops was wearing regular street clothes. The second day I wore jeans, a button down shirt (stolen from my boyfriend) and moccossains.

Thank you again for all your help- I've now got a few more things for my closet at least!
posted by raccoon409 at 11:36 AM on February 20, 2017

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