Wedding attire is relatively straightforward for the people in your life who wear suits, and it doesn’t change too much season to season. But that is not the case if you need to pick out a dress for each wedding on your calendar. Peak wedding season may be over, but if the invites keep coming, you’re probably wondering what to wear to fall and winter weddings. There are different dress codes you need to know, sure. But you also need to figure out how to dress up for a formal event without being uncomfortable in the cold.
We’ve picked out some of our favorite dresses for every kind of wedding you may be attending this fall and winter. If you love dressing for fall, a wedding is an exciting sartorial event — one that gives you an excuse to wear beautiful dresses made of luxurious fabrics and in gorgeous jewel tones. But which dress should you wear for which wedding? What do the dress codes on each wedding invitation really mean?
We’ve consulted the expert advice of the Emily Post Institute. The organization notes that “hitting the right note with attire can be confusing.” But with the following wedding dress code advice (and the dresses we’ve picked out for you) you’ll be well on your way toward choosing the perfect outfit for every wedding you have on your social calendar this fall and winter.
1. White tie
A white tie wedding, the most formal of wedding dress codes, calls for a floor-length gown, according to the Emily Post Institute. It’s safest to choose a gown in a dark color, and not one with scandalous cutouts or excessively flashy embellishments. The idea is to look formal and proper — which is easy to achieve with a gown as undeniably classic as this Halston Heritage gown. Long gloves are optional, but you should definitely accessorize with fine jewelry instead of costume jewelry, and put some thought into a gorgeously understated hair and beauty look.
2. Black tie
A black tie wedding, while still pretty formal, gives you a little bit more flexibility when you’re choosing a dress. You can wear a floor-length evening gown, a dressy cocktail dress, or even your dressiest little black dress. You’ll still want to keep things classy and proper, and bear in mind that this is a more formal event than most of us are used to attending regularly. Nonetheless, you can have fun with beading and sparkles on a long dress, or go with an elegant but fun gown like this strapless La Femme style. Or, feel free to opt for a statement-making short dress — so long as it isn’t something you’d wear to a cocktail party or to a club.
3. Creative black tie
Popular in certain circles, creative black tie is similar to black tie attire, but with a key difference. You can still choose among a floor-length evening gown, a dressy cocktail dress, or a dressy little black dress. (If you really want to make a statement, you can’t go wrong with a sequin-covered style like this Dress the Population gown.) But unlike with other iterations of a black tie dress code, you’ll want to accessorize with fun or unique accessories for a trendy or whimsical look. Choose a bag or jewelry that are quirky and demonstrate that you can have fun getting dressed even for a formal event.
4. Black tie optional
Black tie optional is less formal than black tie — but still a pretty formal event. You can still opt for a floor-length gown, a dressy cocktail dress, or a little black dress. But this time, dressy separates are also acceptable. This is a wedding that doesn’t require the most formal attire, but where it’s still appropriate to wear something quite formal if you’re in the mood to really dress up. If you plan on dancing a lot and want to steer clear of a floor-length dress, a cocktail dress like this Erin Fetherson style is a safe but chic way to go. You should accessorize with glamorous jewelry, hair, and makeup to complete your look.
5. Semiformal, or cocktail
A semiformal wedding is much easier to dress for than its more formal alternatives. For a semiformal affair, you can wear a short afternoon or cocktail dress, a little black dress, a long dressy skirt and top, or even dressy separates. You’ll want to choose a dress that you can dance in, and you can choose something with a little bit of embellishment if it’s short. This opulent Ted Baker London dress fits the bill, and will make it easy to dance all night long.
6. Festive attire
An event requesting festive attire, a dress code that’s popular for weddings that are held around the holidays, is relatively easy to dress for. You can wear a cocktail dress, a long dressy skirt and top, an outfit with dressy pants or separates, a little black dress, or an outfit that features holiday colors. If you want to try out a two-piece outfit, why not go with this Eliza J ball skirt, which is not only the perfect shade of navy but also features a silhouette that will flatter every body type.
7. Dressy casual
An invitation that requests “dressy casual” attire tells you that this wedding will be pretty easy to get dressed for. You can wear a dress, a skirt with a dressy top, a dressy pants outfit, or even nice jeans and a dressy top. A jumpsuit in a luxe fabric is also a good option. No matter how casual people are dressing for this wedding, bear in mind that it’s still a wedding — so you’ll want to wear something that feels special, and appropriate for the celebratory nature of the occasion. If you want to take the excuse to dress up, your can even go with a luxe black dress like this Kate Spade number. There’s a reason why a little black dress is almost universally considered a wardrobe staple!