Help me dress myself: wedding edition
September 23, 2018 10:00 AM   Subscribe

I'm getting married in 2 months. I have no clue what to wear. I'm really quite bad about finding clothes at the best of times. It's my second wedding and I'm 42 so the easy option of just buying an actual wedding dress is out, and frankly that whole process was stressful as hell last time. Help me?

I am really indecisive and now the field is wide open I'm panicking slightly. I know I can wear a shorter length, colour, a fancy evening dress, separates, or just go for a full-on meringue because I can wear what the hell I want, but that's what's making it hard to narrow anything down. This is my criteria:

- I don't actually want anything too "wedding-dress"y. It's a short civil ceremony in a hotel, followed by afternoon tea and cocktails there, and the whole thing will be over by about 7pm. I don't want to rock up in a big gown to sit eating cake for a couple of hours because I'll feel stupid. But, I'd like it to be special enough that even if it doesn't scream wedding dress, someone could pick me out of the crowd as the bride if that makes sense.
- My budget is small. £150 max.
- I'm in the UK. I had thought of ModCloth and apparently they're not working in Europe at the minute, just as a side note.
- If it's ordering online I need a company with proper, well-reviewed customer service. I actually impulse bought a dress on ebay, there's an issue with it, and it's proving a nightmare to get my money back. Do not want.
- I'm 5'6". Depending on the fit I'm usually a UK 10/12 ish. I'm pear-shaped more than anything, only a B/C cup, small waist relative to generous hips. Curvy of bum so not everything hangs properly. Mini-dresses are sadly out. I am heavy of knee and chunky of calf and at best can cope with midi-length. That's just my own personal preference in terms of feeling comfortable.

Things I have liked:
- Wedding-y in that it's white and lacy (well, crotchety), as short as I'd ever go and could wear again but is it too everyday?
- I love this dress by Needle and Thread - I love everything by them - but I cant afford it.
- I've thought about a tulle skirt like this or a pleated satin one like this, but I'm not sure what I'd wear on top that would look weddingy *enough* or in general how to dress it up.
- Evening dress-wise there's this but the tops of my arms aren't my favourite part and it'll be November (although we'll be inside all day).

I have grey hair so I suit colder colours, and I seem to lean towards more flowing that fitted. Sometimes. Don't know if that's even giving any indication of what I should be aiming towards in terms of my own personal style, because I don't think I have one!

So can anyone suggest actual outfits, or ideas for outfits that I can then source myself? What options am I not thinking of? Have you any suggestions from your own second-time around wedding /weddings you've been to? I feel like I'm short for time and I'd like at least a solid idea of what I'm going for, even if I still have to find the actual pieces if that makes sense. Thanks!
posted by billiebee to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would go to an expensive big department store and ask for help from a salesperson in exactly those terms: wedding, you want special but probably not a ‘wedding dress’, and other than that you have no idea. Stores like that have salespeople who think about clothes, and I bet someone will be happy to spend a couple of hours bringing you random things that they think will look special and flattering on you.

You might not find anything in your budget that way, but I bet it’d get you some solid ideas that you can try to duplicate in your price range.
posted by LizardBreath at 10:13 AM on September 23, 2018 [12 favorites]

Normally in these situations I'd suggest looking at Rent the Runway, but they don't work in the UK. Looks like the UK equivalent is Chic by Choice. You can borrow a beautiful expensive designer dress!
posted by erst at 10:15 AM on September 23, 2018 [6 favorites]

I love the dress from your first link and absolutely think it would work as a bridal dress. You could add a wrap or shawl in a favorite accent color if you’re more comfortable with your arms a bit covered.
You’re the bride! Wear what makes you feel comfortable and lovely. Don’t let anyone else try to tell you what is or isn’t bride-like. Your wedding—your rules!
On preview—yes, you can definitely tell a salesperson at a large store exactly what you’ve told us here and ask for specific suggestions.
posted by bookmammal at 10:18 AM on September 23, 2018 [9 favorites]

What about this dress from Topshop? Weddingy but not over the top, can dress up with flowers and accessories?

Or this, a bit more evening gown and dressy?
posted by stillmoving at 10:20 AM on September 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Get the top ASOS dress and add something like a pillbox fascinator and a wrap/shawl, and bouquet.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:23 AM on September 23, 2018 [12 favorites]

Given there style of wedding you describe, why not look for a classic cocktail dress you'd be happy to wear again rather than something that evokes "wedding" in a non-wedding-dress kind of way?
posted by slkinsey at 10:29 AM on September 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

Nthing that I love the first dress you linked to, and it sounds like it would be the right level of formal but not too formal, says "i'm a bride" without being a huge poofy wedding dress, etc. It seems like it would work really well for your situation.

(I think you could also wear it after the wedding as well, so it wouldn't be a one time use dress, although it also looks relatively reasonable, as occasion dresses go, if you don't wear it that often.)
posted by litera scripta manet at 10:31 AM on September 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

Ooh, sorry, missed the edit window. Found a couple more on the Topshop site that might fit your criteria. Also would agree with going to John Lewis and asking a salesperson to help. You may well find something you like in the cocktail dress section. And as for sleeves: can always add a cardigan/bolero/shawl to dress your outfit up or down.

Cream sleeved dress with belt

Lacey dress kind of like you linked to, but short

Creamy (dusty rose-y?) long dress with mesh sleeves

Another lacey top long dress

Another lacey beaded long dress with long sleeves

This one has shorter sleeves but is a bit darker than cream

One more option
posted by stillmoving at 10:34 AM on September 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Your first dress is great and not too everyday.

It’s your wedding- you get to choose! I posted my own wedding dress AskMe a couple months before my wedding and then went by myself to my local fancy department store that offers in-house alterations and said “take me to your fancy dresses!” I ended up with something really nice and navy and fancy that felt like me that I have worn since on a few extra fancy occasions.

Don’t panic. Pick something you like that suits you without worrying what anyone else feels- because anyone else who would judge you or be weird about it is not worth your time being anxious about.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:46 AM on September 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

I love that ASOS dress and agree that a fascinator or hat would make it.

I originally arrived to say: Monsoon! The wedding dresses are out of budget but the bridesmaids dresses are all really wedding-y and in budget and I love this one. (Again: fascinator or hair comb!)
posted by DarlingBri at 10:51 AM on September 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

Vivien of Holloway has a lot of nice options in your price range. (And they might look shorter than what you want but I think would be midi-length on someone 5'6"--they go well past my knees and I am 5'8")
posted by Polychrome at 10:52 AM on September 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Searching on "church suit" and "mother of the bride" bring up some really cool looks.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:56 AM on September 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

I love those fancy skirts you linked to -- reminds me of the time Sharon Stone wore a snazzy skirt + her husband's white shirt to the Academy Awards. You could **totally** do that and it would be awesome!
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:58 AM on September 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am you! Well, nearly - my dimensions are a bit different but I got low-key married last year at the age of 42 and had a similar quandary, frock-wise. I also love Needle & Thread and tried a dress very similar to the one you linked, but alas I am not a waif and it didn't work.

So I am here to recommend Phase Eight. They are really great for this kind of semi-formal wear. I went with this one and it was perfect with white satin heels and a blue wrap.

And congratulations!
posted by freya_lamb at 11:10 AM on September 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

I love the first dress you linked (Chi Chi London). It's beautiful and not too everyday at all, but that said, you could wear it again by changing your accessories.

Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:29 AM on September 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

Another vote for the ASOS dress, which is by Chi Chi London and still available on their site. They also make a couple of the popular ModCloth wedding dresses, actually: I've seen the cream/gold and white versions of this one in wedding photos of some folks in my extended social circle, and it's closer to midi-length on anyone not of model height. There's a longer-sleeved version in gold, nude, and white. And here's another cute crochet-y option with more shoulder coverage. There are also some longer dresses on their site, all of which are also in your price range.
posted by karayel at 11:37 AM on September 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

JUMPSUIT. This one is £10 more than your budget but holy cow is it gorgeous - and it has a CAPE. There's also this jumpsuit with lace long sleeves that's considerably less. And congratulations!
posted by nerdfish at 11:43 AM on September 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

I love the first dress you linked! It reminds me of some dresses from Anthropologie, and they do mail to England. The Linden Dress from there is $280 (American), so within your budget. I would search their dresses for inspiration and visit them if you have one near you! (Everything is also 20% off today if you have Anthroperks.)
posted by shortyJBot at 11:48 AM on September 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

I love the Topshop and Needle and Thread dresses and the tulle skirt, to which I'd add a velvet tee, hemmed if needed. Velvet is perfect for November, and it's luxurious. The tulle skirt is my 1st choice.
posted by theora55 at 11:58 AM on September 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was also going to suggest looking at the BHLDN collection at Anthropologie (I actually bought my BHLDN dress on eBay but totally understand why you'd want to avoid it). You might like their bridal separates, but even their dresses are often well-suited for adding things like cardigans or capes or other accessories.
posted by sm1tten at 12:08 PM on September 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

I often feel that Mefi runs a little too casual in its dress recommendations for formal events, but, honestly, for what you've described and on a limited budget, I think that first dress would work. Wear very nice jewelry and fancy shoes.
posted by praemunire at 12:17 PM on September 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

It seems Unique Vintage ships internationally. Honestly - the stuff you linked is great too and it’s your wedding so you can honestly wear what you want.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:27 PM on September 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Here is a top from Needle & Thread in a similar color to the Needle & Thread dress you linked to, with similar detailing. It's originally $249, but is now on sale for $39.68. All of that site's Needle & Thread items, including skirts, are on this page, also on sale.
posted by La Gata at 12:28 PM on September 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

You probably know this but asos stocks some Needle & Thread, and some pieces are on sale
posted by Dwardles at 12:32 PM on September 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thanks so much for all the recommendations! I've been having a lovely time working my way through them. There are a few I've already come across before now in my own searches - Lace and Beads, Monsoon, Phase Eight - so that's great that you're on the same page. There are other sites I haven't heard of so I've found a few new options which is great. And I'm especially excited about the idea of hiring a designer dress for the day - I hadn't thought of that! Also interesting that the first dress I linked was so popular so thanks for that as I wasn't sure if it was nice enough. Feel free to keep them coming if there are any more. And see you soon for the accessories follow-up :)
posted by billiebee at 1:20 PM on September 23, 2018

I'm not entirely sure the site I linked to earlier ( with the Needle & Thread sale items is a safe site. I got to wondering why everything was on sale so cheap, and found warnings from scamadvisor and islegitsite.
Maybe you should look elsewhere. Sorry.
posted by La Gata at 2:01 PM on September 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

That’s ok - everything I liked seemed to be a size UK4 only so luckily I wasn’t in a position to order anything!
posted by billiebee at 2:14 PM on September 23, 2018

I would choose clothes for the tea 'n cocktails first, then choose their color, then get a nice pillbox hat or whatever you like. Gloves could be an extra nod to formalwear.
posted by rhizome at 4:11 PM on September 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

First of all, YAY AND CONGRATULATIONS!! How exciting :D

Secondly, I know you have a ton of great recommendations here, but I can't help adding mine. I got my wedding dress from Dig for Victory in Brighton - they're an independent, sustainable dress shop who will make-to-measure at ridiculously good prices.

My dress* was £120, made out of the fabric I wanted and in the style I wanted, plus £10 extra for pockets to be included! It looks like they've gone up in price a little since then, but you might still be able to get in just about in budget if there's something you like :)

*I think you might have seen it on the thread but memail me and I'll send you a photo - they really nailed what I was after!
posted by greenish at 12:13 AM on September 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Have you considered looking into pre-owned/used gowns?

On UK ebay there are a number of Needle & Thread gowns for sale in your size at or below your price point.

The Real Real and Vestaire Collective are other good hunting grounds.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 12:22 AM on September 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

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