Let the wedding floodgates open. After two years of nuptial postponements and cancellations, 2022 can, legitimately, be called the year of the wedding, (along with other celebratory gatherings — gatherings being the operative word). According to wedding planning site TheKnot.com, the wedding boom is big; a whopping 2.6 million in the U.S., up from 2.2 million in 2019. And yikes, suddenly, you realize that you’re invited to several events and you haven’t bought anything new for a while. Can you trot out that little, black dress that’s been a go-to for years?
“I hate to say it, but the little black dress looks very old right now,” says Adam Glassman, creative director of Oprah Daily. “These days, people are looking for joy, happiness and brightness in their wardrobe. We cannot control a lot of things that are going on in the world, but we can control how we present ourselves to the world, and people are looking to be optimistic and upbeat in their wardrobe. That’s why bright colors are so popular this season — hot pinks, bold greens, sunshine yellows are really big right now,” he explains.
Take it from Katie Sands, 29, of Locust Valley, a fashion influencer (@honestlykate) with 331,000 followers and style host on shows such as “Good Morning America” and “The Today Show,” who has 22 weddings this year (one, her own) and has embraced color wholeheartedly. “People are thirsting for color that sparks joy. They want to see bright colors and they’re wanting prints and patterns. It’s all about bringing vibrance and cheer into your events.”
So, aside from happy hues, what is in vogue? “Maxi and midi dresses, those are the important lengths right now,” says Glassman. “And the biggest trend is the slip dress in vivid color because the '90s are back. You can throw a shawl or a cardigan over it, and come fall, people will layer over T-shirts and turtlenecks.”
For the most formal affairs, “think red carpet moments,” he says. “You’re a starlet going to Cannes or the Met Ball. The everyday person is willing and open right now to more dramatic, sexy and va-va-voom looks including corsetry — a la 'Bridgerton,' and for people confident enough to wear them, cutouts at the neck, shoulder and waist are major.”
As for the beloved black dress? “I don’t want to say the black dress is over-dead-done but for now, you should put it in the back of your closet. A classic black dress is never going completely out of style, but, right now, you’re going to feel very awkward wearing it when everything else is so colorful,” adds Glassman.
Rare is the repeat outfit on Instagram, and this has led to people seek out something new for every function. But with the sheer volume of events and the fact that clothing, says Sands, “has become astronomically expensive with inflation,” how does one navigate variety without going bust? “It’s definitely possible to look great without breaking the bank,” she says. “I can’t tell you the number of times I have bought things that cost over $1,000 and no one even mentions them. And then, I put on something from Forever 21, everyone wants to buy it.”
To that end, both she and Glassman call out resources that offer of-the-moment party looks at surprisingly low prices, most under $200, some even less than $100. These include Mango, Zara, ASOS, H&M, Lulus, Banana Republic, Express and Torrid, to name a few. Along with the dress, many offer great accessories too. “The shoe and the bag can really elevate a look,” says Sands.
For top designer looks, “renting is a great option, and everyone’s doing it these days,” says Glassman. Consider sites like Rent-the-Runway where a blue lace gown by Badgley Mischka that retails for $990 is $135 or the uber-upscale Novo Octo where you can borrow a saucy sequin number that sells for more than $1,000 by designer Naeem Khan for $185. Other options include high-end consignment shops such as The Real Real in Manhasset, where, with a little luck, you can nail a once-worn designer outfit for a lot less than its original price.
SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING DRESSES
And, if you’re lucky enough to have friends with similar fashion sensibilities and to some extent, sizes, create what Sands has cleverly done with 10 of her besties: The “dress share.” The pals take an inventory of their gowns and dresses and photo share them on a group text. Then if someone spots something that works for a specific event, they reserve it, borrow, wear and return.
One member of the group, Fallon Lieberman, 31, a luxury travel adviser from Woodbury, has six weddings this year. “We try to do the sisterhood of the traveling dress, especially with the price of clothes these days,” she says. “We don’t all go to the same weddings and we all wear things differently. The dress share system is great — you save money, you’re being sustainable and you look cute.”
DRESS CODE GUIDELINES
“It’s sometimes really hard to decode dress codes these days,” says Katie Sands. “Recently, I was invited to an engagement party where they requested guests wear ‘springtime metro casual.’ What is that supposed to mean?,” she asks, noting that it’s becoming more commonplace for invitations to call out fashion themes. “Another wedding asked for people to wear 'one with the earth' suggesting they wear neutrals including white,” (traditionally a wedding no-no), she says.
Fashion has become such a major player at weddings, that some couples are creating mood or inspiration boards to offer guests guidelines. Morgan Landow, 28, of Locust Valley, requested that her guests wear “Barn Festive” to her welcome party held at a New England barn. “We truly coined the term so we felt that we had to provide some information and inspiration,” she says. “We want people to jump into the vibe.” She created a collage of sorts (gingham, bandannas, cowboy boots and hats), posted on a website and included a list of do’s and don’ts,” (one of these was not to wear stilettos because of the grass). Fallon Lieberman, 31, of Woodbury, thinks mood boards are the way to go. “Honestly, my brain is consumed with so many other things. I definitely appreciate the direction. When a bride has a vision, nobody should mess with that.”
Here are a few of Sands’ thoughts on what to wear when the invitation says:
Casual: “Even if a bride says casual, I would wear a sundress, or a linen pantsuit, I would never come in jeans or a tee shirt.”
Beach or tropical chic: “You’re obviously not wearing a gown because you don’t want to drag it in the sand, so choose a midi length in a cotton material -something flowy with a flowery print and avoid high heels, again because of the sand. You can even wear a really pretty summery dress that you’d wear out to dinner.”
Barn chic: “Smock dresses, gingham, cowboy boots — these all work but you want to still look a little dressed up.”
Semiformal or cocktail: “They’re both the same. It means dressy. You can do a midi-length dress or even a sexy jumpsuit.”
Black tie optional: This is the hardest to decode because you don’t want to feel underdressed or overdressed. Choose a lane, women can wear a midi or even a gown, men can wear a suit and tie, or a tux.
Mountain black tie: This is another confusing one. Men still need to wear a tux but maybe can wear cowboy boots and women should wear a gown, but can add something for warmth over it like a bolero or fun, fuzzy boots.
Black tie: “This is the easiest. You better show up in a full-length gown and men should wear a tux.”