I recently attended the wedding of the son of some very good friends. It was semi-formal and every detail was carried out to perfection. No detail was overlooked and it felt both flawlessly formal and impeccably intimate. I knew I wanted maxi dresses for both the wedding and the rehearsal dinner, but not formal dresses. As I began searching for the perfect looks, I quickly discovered doing so was going to be a real challenge. I also learned that I’m not alone in this predicament, as many have asked where I got my looks as they too have searched and searched for similar ones.
What is it with semi-formal and cocktail dresses for women, say older than mid-40s? The majority of dresses I found were sleeveless. Please. Retailers and designers: there comes a time when a woman either doesn’t want to go sleeveless or in many cases, shouldn’t go sleeveless. I am not a huge fan of my arms but I don’t hate them. Still, they are not, IMO, sleeveless material and neither are those of many a woman I see going sleeveless. Also IMHO, I believe after a certain age, unless you have truly “cut” arms and a body to die for, a woman shouldn’t wear a sleeveless dress; particularly of the semi-formal or cocktail variety and one that is form-fitting. That’s just me though.
Now granted, depending on the event, a simple sleeveless sheath or a fun Lilly Pulitzer number might be appropriate, but as with anything: gauge the audience and event and remember that even though it fits, it doesn’t mean you should wear it. When all else fails, do what my dear friend does to perfection: pair a beautiful silk blouse with white jeans or pants, throw on some heels, pearls or a subtle statement necklace, and you’ll look polished and perfect.
Speaking of fit, another obstacle I ran into while shopping for the wedding was form-fitting dresses. Again, we are of a certain age. Please design dresses to fit our “mature” bodies. Anything tight, clingy, and revealing is out for me. I’m all about keeping it classy and comfortable as well as age-appropriateness. If you absolutely have to have that form-fitting or sleeveless dress, throw on a colorful ruana or striking wrap. One wedding guest did this and it was stunning and a blogger I follow is forever wrapping herself in something and it always works.
Granted, many women in my age bracket have gorgeous legs and to them I say: show ‘em off! Me? I’ve never really liked my legs so I prefer midis or maxis. Anything that shows my knees is an almost instant no for me. This was also a challenge while dress buying. I saw a lot of pretty things but they were short. God bless all those sites that allow you to filter your search and I could click on midi and maxi and then search away.
Right up there with short and sleeveless is anything belted or tied at the waist, including any type of elastic gathering, although the latter occasionally works on me. I will say the belted/flowy look is all the rage this season, with the style everywhere. Cute yes, just not for my body and my shape.
Chico’s Gauze Maxi Dress
So what did I settle on? The above perfect hot pink maxi from Chico’s for the rehearsal dinner and a surprise subtle animal print from Ann Taylor for the wedding, also above. Both proved comfortable and exactly what I was looking for. They were no easy find however, and took multiple orders and returns to find. As with anything, I knew the minute I saw them and tried them on that they were it. I love when that happens!
For footwear, I opted for festive pink flats and mid-height woven natural sandals. I knew parking could be a distance issue, there might be lots of walking, I like to be comfy, and this girl planned on dancing at the reception! The winner of the “best shoes” however, went to the groom’s mom who chose adorable yet comfortable pointed-toe glitter flats. That mamma had her thinking cap on as she debated what shoes to wear and I have officially taken note!
When shopping, my taste ranges from high-end to discount stores and I tend to go more traditional than trendy and a good caftan is always my friend for anything from a wedding to a swimsuit cover-up. One of my favorite dresses is pictured above and is from…drum roll please…Walmart! I follow a blogger whose posts are 90 percent designer and very expensive items, but not too long ago she posted a fabulous dress she found at Walmart. I immediately took a liking to it and bought it. You can’t believe how many compliments I get every time I wear it and the shocked looks I get when asked “who are you wearing?!”
I also like to practice a secret French commandment of not trying to make everything perfect. Leave something a little undone, whether it’s a messy bun, a Chanel jacket with jeans, or maybe unpolished nails with an otherwise polished look…excuse the pun! I personally have not had a manicure since the 2020 lockdown and I don’t miss the commitment or upkeep at all. For the wedding I did brush a very subtle Essie “Ballet Slippers” (Queen Elizabeth’s trademark hue!) on my nails but stayed away from a bright color or over-manied style.
When choosing any outfit for a special occasion, keep in mind that you will more than likely be photographed. There’s nothing less flattering than tummy, arm, or leg flaws front and center in a pic. Photos normally add pounds to you so check out all those body parts when deciding whether to purchase an item. This is the time of year when you might be taking lots of photos at weddings, graduations, and while on trips. It’s not only helpful to know what to wear for those photos, but how to look best in them.
Funny thing actually happened on my way to posing for photo after photo during our wedding weekend: the best pic of the bunch was an impromptu non-posed pic that the mother of the groom texted me. It was natural, casual, and the one that I said “frame that puppy!”
STRIKE A POSE
Whatever you’re wearing, don’t over pose…keep it natural and not so staged. And selfies; please limit them. They are overplayed and actually a bit vain, especially the older you get. High schoolers, college coeds, and millennials: go for it. Everyone else: put a limit on them. I personally rarely post photos of just me on social media and can’t remember the last time I posted an actual selfie of just me. All those “look at me drinking a glass of wine at this beach” or “this is me looking fabulous at this fabulous restaurant” snaps are snapping me into a photo frenzy. Give it a rest ladies.
All those beautiful photos you see online were not the first shot and the majority of them use filters and all sorts of beautification tricks and treatments but there certain posing tricks worth taking not of such as standing slightly behind someone else and at an angle. Other tips include tilting your head, turning your body 45-degrees so it’s not facing the camera head on, keeping your weight on one leg or crossing one leg in front or behind the other, standing up straight and maintaining good posture, pushing your chin forward and slightly up, keeping your arms slightly away from your body, and most importantly: relaxing! As for your hands, two good tips are to hold your fingers as if your nails are wet or to rest your hands on top of your thighs. Have pockets? Place one hand in one of them!
Now for the feet. Standing straight at the camera with arms straight down and feet together will make even the smallest of bodies look bigger. Instead, think “twist and shift.” Twist your body at the waist, turn one hip toward the camera, and shift your weight onto a slightly back positioned foot. Then, angle the foot that’s forward away from your body and turn your face toward the camera.
Where a camera is, is equally important. Consensus has it that looking slightly up toward the photographer is best and never, ever look down toward the camera.
And speaking of posing, can we officially retire the hand on the hip pose? I know it’s supposed to make your arm and your waist look thinner and more defined, but honey, if you don’t have thin arms and a small waist to begin with, no hand on the hip is going to do the trick and most likely will do just the opposite cuz all you’re doing is drawing attention to them. The pose is overdone and I’m over it. You need to be too.
I’m by no means an influencer, professional stylist, or fashionista but I do love fashion and I hope this helps and answers any questions many of you posed (again, excuse the pun!) my way. I’ll leave you with some dresses I found during my wedding search. Just remember these shopping mantras: Fashion is what you buy and style is what you do with it. Fashion is fleeting; style is timeless. Have fun shopping!