Wedding Attires for Women: Navigating the Most Requested Dress Codes


When those gorgeous foil-lined envelopes start appearing in your mailbox, you know wedding season is near. You’ve sent in your RSVP, and now comes the tricky part: decoding the requested wedding attire for women. Getting dressed for a wedding is no easy feat. Whether you’ve been to one event or 20, wedding dress codes vary depending on the season, time and location. Feeling stumped on what to wear to an upcoming ceremony? Well, ladies, today is your lucky day. We’re here to guide you through the different types of wedding attires so you will shine as the best-dressed guest.

What to Do When There’s No Dress Code 

Many couples will provide a description of their preferred women’s wedding attire in the invitation or on their wedding website. If your couple hasn’t, it’s always smart to ask them directly for clarification. You’ll be confident knowing you’ll look the part and the to-be-weds will likely appreciate your effort to look your best. 

The setting of the event can offer further insight as to what you should wear. Your wedding outfit for an afternoon outdoor wedding will be different from an evening at an upscale ballroom. Don’t hesitate to research the venue beforehand so you know what to expect. Photos on the venue’s website or social media will help you understand what’s appropriate to wear to weddings on their property.

White-Tie Wedding Dress Code

Let’s begin our journey through types of wedding attires with the most stately and sophisticated of them all. White-tie wedding attire for women is the most formal of all dress codes. Think White House State Dinners or Royal State Dinners at Buckingham Palace. Be sure to dress accordingly if you snag an invitation to one of these extremely special white-tie occasions. 

This white-tie wedding dress code indicates that formality is an essential element of the wedding. For women, formal floor-length gowns are a must. Opt for colorful choices in lush jewel tones to avoid competition with the bride’s white wedding dress. It’s important to know that this is one of the most strict dress codes, with little to no room for interpretation. This is your chance to go all out with your accessories. Opt for coordinating elbow-length gloves, polished pumps and glittering jewels. You’ll be the epitome of elegance at this swanky soiree.

“Life is a party, dress like it.” — Audrey Hepburn

Black-Tie Wedding Dress Code

Few occasions require as much glam as a black-tie affair. When a fancy invitation arrives that reads black tie required, you know you’re going to dress to the nines. Do you find yourself wondering, what is black-tie wedding attire for women? If so, we’re here to break it down for you. Evening gowns are standard fare, but you can get away with a formal long dress or even a sumptuous suit. The key is to not show too much skin.

Attending a wedding with an evening wear dress code is a great opportunity to elevate your look with elegant embellishments. A classic pair of diamond studs and a trend-forward pearl necklace are stylish complements to a black-tie ensemble. Dive into wearing pearls by taking it up a notch. Don a black gown with layered pearls and a voluminous updo for Audrey Hepburn-inspired nostalgia. You’ll be the belle of the ball after mastering this type of wedding attire

Stylist Tip: When wearing a floor-length dress, the hem should graze the ground. If the hem falls higher, it will look like the dress doesn’t fit properly. If the dress is longer, you’ll risk stepping on the fabric and tripping. A visit to the seamstress with the shoes you plan to wear will ensure your dress hits at the perfect spot. Time to hit the dance floor in style.

Formal Wedding Attire For Women

Formal wedding attire suggests something slightly less formal than black-tie. It’s a signal that the couple wants guests to dress up, but doesn’t require ultra-fancy ensembles. We often see formal wedding dress codes lumped in with the phrase, black-tie optional. Truthfully, there’s not a huge difference between black-tie and women’s formal wedding attire. While you can’t go wrong with various floor-length silhouettes, you have the option to wear dresses that show some ankle. Rock a midi-length dress in a lush fabrication like velvet or satin. Finish your look with stacked heels, a classic clutch and statement jewelry. Can you say très chic style?

Semi-Formal Wedding Attire For Women 

Semi-formal dress codes are perhaps the most ambiguous of all types of wedding attire. This calls for a more lax look than what’s required at a black-tie gathering. It’s the couple’s way of telling guests to put on something nice without requiring women to purchase an expensive gown. Semi-formal wedding attire for women translates to shorter hemlines, and it’s a prime opportunity to experiment with bold prints and elevated separates. A refined pantsuit or a sleek one-and-done jumpsuit with killer accessories can make the same impact as a cocktail dress. 

Cocktail Wedding Attire For Women

Cocktail wedding attire is arguably the leader of all dress codes. But when it comes to deciding what to wear as a guest, this popular choice can be puzzling. Cocktail wedding attire for women creates a delicate balance between formal and casual. You want to appear elegant but also comfortable. Cocktail attire often bridges the gap between day and night events. While it’s still an occasion to dress up, there’s no need for a full-length gown. A chic cocktail dress in a knee or midi length is a fail-proof option. 

For a daytime ceremony requiring summer cocktail attire, think natural colors and fresh wedding styles. For an evening cocktail affair, feel free to experiment with darker hues and embellishments such as sequins or feathers. Remember, the goal is to look polished and dressy, but not so much that you take away from the bride. When in doubt, don’t overthink it. Styling your best LBD with a pair of sensible heels is a timeless combo for a cocktail wedding outfit. Or, break your favorite stilettos in beforehand to make your heels more comfortable. Who knew getting dressed could be as easy as that piece of cake you’ll treat yourself to during the reception.

“A woman can be overdressed, but never over elegant.” — Coco Chanel

Casual Wedding Attire For Women

We’ve arrived at the most relaxed of all wedding attires. You may think that anything goes for this dress code, but we’re here to tell you that’s not the case. With the rise of backyard ceremonies, casual wedding attire for women is becoming increasingly more common. A wedding is still a special occasion that requires more effort than your everyday informal ensemble. Typically, a wedding with a casual dress code takes place during the day or outdoors. Give spring wedding guest dresses or skirt sets a whirl paired with wedges and delicate jewelry. 

This wedding dress code comes with more flexibility than others. Ready to try on 2022 women’s fashion trends, colors, patterns and fabrics on for size? If you are deciding what to wear to a summer wedding, try an earthy-tone dress with smocking and puff sleeves. Give the cottagecore trend a fresh wedding upgrade. Ultimately, what matters most is that you feel comfortable and confident in what you choose to wear. As long as you abide by the preferred dress code, you’ll look and feel your best while celebrating the newlyweds. Cheers!

Beach Wedding Attire For Women 

Getting married with the sand between your toes while in the crisp ocean breeze is a dream for many couples. As magical as it sounds to hear waves crashing during “I do’s,” it can leave guests feeling confused about what to wear. The beachy element of the day means you’re able to appear casual, comfy and cool. Of course, the weather and time of year will be indicators of an appropriate outdoor wedding outfit.

The biggest difference between beach wedding attire for women and other dress codes is the color palette and footwear. Leave your little black dress and heels at home and opt for a breezy dress in vibrant hues and sandals. Flat sandals are acceptable here, but leave your beachwear flip-flops behind. A maxi dress in a feminine floral print with a matching crossbody and slide sandals perfectly complements the beachy scene. Throw your hair into a relaxed fishtail braid and you’re ready to seas the wedding day.

Styling Outfits for Traditional and Cultural Wedding  Ceremonies 

From time to time, you may see different wedding attires  that align with a certain culture’s customs. In this case, do your research and don’t be afraid to ask for help, if needed. The goal here is always to dress respectfully. Whether you received an invite to a traditional Nigerian or Indian wedding, be ready for an all-out, multi-day, colorful affair. 

If attending a Nigerian ceremony, evening wedding attires for women are usually acceptable. If Aso Ebi is on the invite, this event requires color-coordinated traditional attire. For Indian weddings, the wedding function itself determines your wedding outfit. Each will have its own signature vibe and dress code. Traditional Indian looks are welcome for the ceremony, encouraging bright hues. Yes, the more vibrant, the better! Stick to pastel tones for daytime events and jewel tones for the evening. Always remember to avoid wearing red, as this is what the bride typically wears. Also, black is an absolute no-go. 

What to Wear as Mother of the Bride or Groom

Once upon a time, mothers of the bride or groom wore basic and rather matronly gowns. A cocktail jacket atop an understated sheath was the go-to uniform. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case. With your child getting married, this is a monumental day for you to celebrate and look your absolute best. For your wedding attire, follow the couple’s cues about style, color and degree of formality. You are an important member of the wedding party and you’ll want to look the part.

Styling Mother of the Bride and Mother of the Groom Wedding Outfits

Traditionally, the mother of the bride’s and groom’s wedding attires should complement the wedding colors. Rest assured, it doesn’t have to match exactly. If the bridesmaids are wearing cobalt blue, a navy dress will harmonize nicely. Remember to keep these three words in mind: elegant, understated and appropriate. A floor-grazing gown checks all the right boxes. Explore your style with embroidered, lace or beaded finishes to instantly make you feel fancy. A little bit of sparkle and texture will look stunning in photos. It’s a safe bet to have a shawl on hand to toss on in case it gets chilly. Finally, give your shoes a test drive before the big day. Staying comfortable ensures happy memories take the spotlight. 

Stylist Tip: Start searching for your mother of the bride dress no later than three months before the wedding. This allows ample time for any special orders and alterations. Be sure to share your choice with the mother of the groom. It’s always nice for the dresses to complement each other in the photos.

Need help to nail your wedding guest attire? Our stylists are here to help you look and feel like your most fabulous self. Take your style quiz, order a Fix and don’t forget to ask your stylist for the perfect wedding guest look. Relax and receive five items that you can try on at home. If you prefer, head over to Stitch Fix Freestyle™ to instantly buy wedding outfits curated for your style and size. Shipping and returns are always free.

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