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Wearing a Formal Dress Instead of a Wedding GownYou might have visions of making your grand entry in a luxurious white ball gown complete with a gorgeous train and decadent details like lace, sequins, rhinestones or tiny fabric flowers . . . or not. Maybe you prefer a simpler silhouette, you’re not a big fan of white or you’d rather not wear a traditional wedding dress at all. If you love formalwear but not bridal wear, donning an evening gown or cocktail dress for your nuptials may be the perfect solution.

But Don’t I Need a Wedding Dress?

You’ve probably heard that Queen Victoria jumpstarted the white lace wedding gown trend when she wedded Prince Albert in 1840. Prior to that, most brides simply wore their best dress in whatever color they preferred or was customary for their cultures. While you do need to select attire for your special day, you’d probably rather feel comfortable and confident in an ensemble that better reflects your personal aesthetic. In truth, a “wedding dress” can be any dress you like on your big day. You just need to make sure it fits properly and that you can happily wear it for several hours.

Will I Save Money if I Choose Regular Formalwear?

In a June 2016 Business Insider article, Mallory Schlossberg reveals that prices for white gowns marketed as “wedding dresses” can cost up to four times as much as equivalent white gowns simply labeled as formalwear. While wedding dress makers argue that fabric and workmanship justify these markups, even prices for bridesmaids’ frocks price out nearly twice that of their standard formalwear equivalents without the “bridesmaid dress” classification. With those kinds of numbers, you could fare better shopping standard formalwear selections.

Heed These Savvy Formalwear Shopping Tips

Bagging a formalwear bargain depends on your searching and purchasing strategy. Some key tips to follow to ensure you don’t break the bank include:

  • Setting your budget before you shop
  • Researching formalwear vendors that sell in your price range
  • Starting your search up to nine months in advance

Your price range will dictate your choice of dresses as well as where you shop, so knowing your target numbers early on is a plus. Also, starting far enough in advance gives you time to take advantage of special sales, helps you sidestep the pressure of picking a frock at the last minute and permits you enough time to get your fabulous find properly tailored.

Speaking of Tailoring . . .

Just as you would have a standard wedding gown fitted to your body's proportions, your evening gown or cocktail dress should also be tailored. If the vendor you purchase it from doesn't have its own in-house tailoring service, you'll need to find either a standalone alterations shop or a dry-cleaning service with a tailor on staff.

Los Angeles Times writer Alene Dawson imparts some sage wisdom on alterations from fashion expert Stacy London. First, you should have a general understanding of your body shape and pick a garment that already fits but can be “fine-tuned” to flatter. Next, keep in mind that apparel that’s slightly large on you can be more easily adjusted to fit than pieces that need enlarging. Finally, selecting a frock that fits the biggest part of your body allows a tailor to easily customize the rest.

Think Outside the Box for Your Dream Dress

Perhaps it’s money on your mind or disdain at the thought of a traditional snowy-hued frock that prompts you to choose an evening gown or cocktail dress for your special day. It’s vital to decide on your price range, know your body type, give yourself ample time to shop and have your garment professionally tailored. Following these tips will help you look sharp and feel great when you say, “I do.”

Category: Ceremonies


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