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Wedding dress codes, explained

A lady's guide to dressing for the occasion.

From opulent weddings at the St. Regis to breezy casual weddings by the beach, here’s a guide to navigating wedding dress codes and top tips on nailing them.

Black-tie


You know you’re in for a fabulous evening soiree if the wedding invitation states “black tie” on the dress code. Originating from British and American conventions for dressing in the nineteenth century, black tie refers to a semi-formal attire for events from 6pm onwards. Men have it easy—anything from a prototypical tuxedo to a dinner jacket will do. But for women, gowns are a must—which comes with a whole other set of do’s and don’ts, not forgetting decisions that have to be made on the colour, fit and level of extravagance. We recommend going with a fit that’s most flattering for your body shape and a shade of colour complementary to your skin’s undertone. This applies to jewellery as well. Ladies with cooler (or bluer) skin tones, should opt for silver or white gold jewellery whereas those with warmer undertones will look better with yellow gold accessories. When it comes to choosing your gown for the evening, keep comfort in mind—you’re going to be doing a lot of sitting and waiting till the ceremonies are over.

(Related: 4 Singapore jewellery designers who create stunning statement pieces and heirlooms)

Formal or black-tie optional

 

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Here’s when you have some leeway when it comes to dressing. The same choices as a black-tie event applies but you can have more fun with it. A fancy party frock from Rotate would do the trick. But if you really want to the turn the dress code on its head, we recommend doing so with a #powersuit. This way, you’ll be making a fashion statement without upstaging the bride. Earrings are optional, depending on your hairdo, but we’d recommend keeping them subtle yet stylish.

White tie


White tie is the more formal version of the black tie—think Michelle Obama at the White House State Dinner. Ladies are expected to turn up dressed to the nines in formal floor-length gowns with no exceptions. Up the ante with sophisticated jewellery and elegant heels.

Casual


Casual dress codes are a huge hint that the wedding will most probably be held outdoors, suggesting a more laid-back convention of dressing. But that doesn’t mean it’s time bust out your Levi’s — it’s still a wedding and decorum demands a certain level of sophistication. Our favourite way of approaching this dress code is with a cheongsam. Normally, we’d suggest wearing it with a pair of heels but given today’s fashion trends, kitty heels, flats, or a pristine pair of white sneakers would do the trick, too.

(Related: Where to buy jade jewellery)

Cover image: Instagram/@oscardelarenta