What To Wear To A Summer Wedding

Style blogger Susan B. wears an Eileen Fisher silk dress and duster cardigan with Loeffler Randall clutch. More ideas for what to wear to a summer wedding at une femme d'un certain age.

Some of you have written to me over the last few months asking for suggestions for what to wear to a summer wedding. Though not everyone has specifically said so, I’m assuming that most of you are looking for dresses.

“Summer wedding” covers a lot of territory. Climate variables and the formality of the event all have to be taken into account. Outdoors? Indoors? A traditional church ceremony? A sunset beach wedding? It’s almost impossible to come up with something that would be appropriate for all venues.

Dress (similar) | Cardigan (similar) | Necklace (similar) |
Bracelet (similar) | Bag (similar) | Shoes (similar)

Plus options: Dress | Cardigan

Summer Wedding Guest Dresses

What to wear to a summer wedding: ideas for wedding guest dresses. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Still, I’d like to try to help, so I’m going present some options based on a few criteria that would be important to me if I were choosing a dress to wear to a wedding or other special occasion:

  • First, I’d stick with simpler styles that won’t look dated in a year, and could be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. (The dress I’m wearing above is a couple of years old, and would still be my “go to” should I be invited to a summer event that calls for dressing up a bit.)
  • Second, nothing that requires shapewear, or a non-standard bra.
  • Third, I’m going to assume a level of formality that does not rise above “Cocktail.”
  • Finally, I’ve looked for styles that are knee length or longer.

To sleeve or not to sleeve, that is the question. I tend to run cold, so unless I’m in sauna-like conditions, I can usually manage with short or 3/4 sleeves in a lightweight fabric. Some of you may be more comfortable without sleeves. And you can always add a lightweight cardigan (Plus) or shrug to a sleeveless dress if you prefer.

(As you consider these images, remember that the accessories you choose will play a large part in how casual or formal the overall look appears.)

Eileen Fisher asymmetric hem dress in sandwash fabric. Details and more wedding guest dresses for summer at une femme d'un certain age.

Here’s a simple style in a fluid fabric that allows some air circulation. This can easily dress up or down with accessories. (Petite / Plus)

Adrianna Papell faux wrap gauzy dress. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

If you like something with a bit more shape but that’s not constricting, this faux wrap dress might do the trick.

Diane von Furstenberg navy cotton dress. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Stay cool in cotton! The handkerchief hem on this navy wrap dress adds a festive touch.

Ganni printed crepe wrap dress in abstract floral print. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Short sleeves are a happy medium for many of us. This cute wrap dress is also on sale!

Nic + Zoe Plus sleeveless dress in abstract print. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

This abstract print has a fun retro vibe. (Plus.) Again, this could dress up or down depending on accessories.

Eliza J. pleated blue floral dress. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

If you’re fond of florals, you’re in luck this season, as they are ubiquitous. Here’s a maxi option that works for day or evening. Those pleats add a nice bit of “swish” and movement.

Vince Camuto floral maxi dress in Plus. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Here’s an option in Plus with a flattering v-neck. The navy background on this dark floral print keeps it from feeling too heavy.

Talbots floral flounce hem dress in ivory and black. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Finally, it’s hard to go wrong with a simple style in a monochromatic print. Add a bright bag and shoes if you like a pop of color. This dress is available in Misses, Petites, Plus and Petites Plus sizes.

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16 Comments

  1. Elizabeth M
    May 20, 2019 / 5:01 am

    This is very helpful as it is a challenge finding a special occasion outfit/dress that is both pretty and age appropriate. I love the flowered blue and white ElizaJ dress (this brand does have some nice selections) and the green faux wrap dress.

  2. Sara
    May 20, 2019 / 5:49 am

    Love your description of “running cold”, Susan. That is me to a tee! I must remember that as a very apt phrase; as we get older and the hot flushes descend, why do they never properly warm us up instead of just being on a range from irritation to major disaster??
    Forward planning= always the key, as you describe.

  3. Rondi
    May 20, 2019 / 7:00 am

    I question the handkerchief hems and any uneven hem staying in fashion for a while. I didn’t care for the hi lo hems as I thought they would look dated in a relatively short amount of time. Susan, do you feel the uneven hemlines will allow a few years use out of a special occasion dress? It’s hard to tell if designers are offering variety or if its just a trend.

    • Susan B
      May 20, 2019 / 7:06 am

      Hi Rondi, I’m seeing a lot of uneven hems in this season’s collections, whether handkerchief, asymmetrical, or hi-low. I’ve always loved handkerchief and asymmetrical hems, and would probably wear them regardless of trend. I think if the rest of the details are simple, the hem itself won’t make the dress look dated.

  4. Carol Montanti
    May 20, 2019 / 7:43 am

    I feel the same way about the handkerchief hems but I suppose after a couple years if it looked dated could it be easily tailored, getting the hem evened out? I guess it depends on how “high” the highest part of the hem is . . .

  5. May 20, 2019 / 8:09 am

    My thing about dresses with high-low hems is trying to wear a wrap, jacket, or sweater over them. When the hem of the jacket or cardigan is straight I think it looks odd with a high-low hem underneath. To me those dresses look best on their own, unless the wrap is really a “wrap” as in shawl or pashmina.
    That outfit looks great on you Sue. Love how you’re using that long Eileen Fisher sweater which I think is a couple of years old now? Way to shop your own closet my friend. 🙂

    • RoseAG
      May 21, 2019 / 6:01 pm

      I have a dress with an uneven, by design, hem and I wear it with a sweater that’s longer in the front than the back.

  6. Lily
    May 20, 2019 / 8:39 am

    I really like the basic jade dress by Eileen Fisher. I would wear it with some chunky, ombre green beads. Keep it simple, with beautiful color. I did notice it looks better on the model at the top of your page. It looks like a sack on the model at the E.F. website, especially the back view. So if a model can’t sell the dress… Still it gives me ideas for shape/style I might like.

  7. Marybeth
    May 20, 2019 / 9:24 am

    WOW! So beautiful! You have the best taste ever! I’ll be going to a Fall Wedding in CO in Oct so it’ll be chilly… wonder if I can convert this to a Fall look…? Ya never know! Thank you!

    • Jill
      May 20, 2019 / 5:01 pm

      You look so very chic and age appropriate and I love the choices you shared!

      I attended a beautiful and sweet outdoor wedding over the weekend (yes I cried). My mother, who can be a bit critical(understatement!), noticed several ladies who could have used shapewear. She told me a story on the way home about modeling for a local department store when she was a teenager. The coordinator of the show praised her for wearing a girdle even though she was so tiny. Needless to say she never leaves home without something to smooth the lumps and bumps that have come with age!

  8. Pink azalea
    May 20, 2019 / 2:25 pm

    We are going to a wedding in Sicily in June. The bride advised us not to wear purple or black as those colors are associated with mourning. I already had a red dress with short sleeves and a swingy knee-length skirt so all I’ve had to buy is a pair of colorful low-heeled sandals. I really like all of your selections including your own. If I were buying and fell in love with a dress with an uneven hem, I would buy it and try to wear it often – dressed up and down, in case it began to seem dated.

  9. Nicole K
    May 20, 2019 / 6:24 pm

    I am attending a wedding in San Francisco at the end of June. I was able to put together an outfit with Eileen Fisher, all on clearance at Nieman Marcus. A beautiful satiny silk light blue round collar, flowing long sleeve blouse with a coordinating (but not exactly matching) asymmetrical hem skirt in a taupey granite like print in silk. Very flattering and comfortable and I will wear both pieces a lot in different ways! I have Paul Green taupe heels and a dark navy clutch. Following Alison on That’s Not My Age, I added a large-ish pair of sparkly earrings. I feel that you and Alison were guiding me at every step. I can guarantee I would not have been able to put this together 3 years ago before I started following both of you!

    So…thanks so much!!

  10. MaryInMD
    May 20, 2019 / 6:28 pm

    This statement: “Second, nothing that requires shapewear, or a non-standard bra“—Brava!!! These simple concepts seem foreign to designers, manufacturers, retailers, influencers, etc. I will not wear a single item that requires shapewear, or anything other than a standard supportive bra. This means I also refuse to purchase any item that requires shapewear or bra nonsense. Being squeezed by 50% lycra or fighting to keep an overly tight strapless bra in place is not comfortable, and women look more beautiful when we are relaxed and at ease in our clothes and our bodies.

  11. Alison M Gunn
    May 20, 2019 / 6:45 pm

    The last time I went to a wedding was 2017 in Sweden, and it took me by surprise that virtually every female guest was wearing a white or ivory jacket. The colors in general were mostly taupe to pastel and some brights. I have to say, my colors were not necessarily appropriate, primarily because I do not travel with taupes, pastels, or brights. Were I to attend any wedding now, I’d probably go with navy and ivory or navy and floral. Blue/navy/floral seems to cover all bases, and I could travel with those colors and not have it look inappropriate in other circumstances.

  12. Wendelah
    May 21, 2019 / 9:38 am

    Your outfit is perfect. I love your rules, although I have a wide enough assortment of brassieres that I don’t have to rule out deep V-necks. Thank goodness I believe in the right to bare arms because summer in LA is hot as Hades and getting hotter. The last summer wedding I attended was held in the early evening in the rose garden at Descanso Gardens. It was a gorgeous, romantic setting but even at 7:00 p.m. that year, the temperature was over ninety degrees! I wore a sleeveless, full-length dress by Rachel Pally White Label in a rayon knitted print. Her clothes are a little too bohemian for most of your readers but I love the comfort and the natural fabrics. I won’t wear polyester in the summertime, ever, so that’s the one requirement I’d add to yours. Light weight cottons and linen are fine; silk is a maybe, but only if it’s very light-weight or a blend. Rayon breathes, so does hemp. I run hot, unfortunately.

    • Peggy
      May 25, 2019 / 8:45 am

      I totally agree about polyester. I refuse to wear it for personal comfort and environmental reasons. Over the past 10 years I’ve returned to sewing because it’s so difficult to find clothes that I like in a natural fabric. And thanks for bringing Rachel Pally White to my attention.

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