Dress Code

Every woman knows the dilemma. The wedding is tomorrow. You’ve rifled through your closet like a MET Alpha member hunting down WMDs, and you still can’t find anything to wear. The thought of recycling that brown-and-white polka-dot number that you wore to the last wedding is just too depressing. What to do?

Last summer, with two weddings rapidly approaching, I purchased a sexy yet tasteful Nanette Lepore pale-pink sundress with a bird-and-butterfly pattern. Since the guest lists promised to have little crossover, I planned to cheat and wear it twice.

The dress never made it past the first wedding, which took place in Vermont. Depressed that my personal life would never match the picture of purity and simplicity at the quaint church where my friends exchanged vows, I drank too much at the reception and made an ass of myself on the dance floor. Sadly, the dress was not up to the task. Or, more precisely, I wasn’t up to the dress—I didn’t have the cleavage to hold up the scooped and gathered front. The ruffled straps kept falling off my shoulders, taking the rest of the bodice with them. Several times, the entire dress nearly fell to my waist. I have not asked to see the wedding photos.

Moral of the story: Finding the right dress to wear to a wedding requires serious planning. There are two main considerations: first, your relationship to the happy couple, and second, what you intend to gain from the experience.

Say, for example, you’re attending a “duty wedding”—family friends, colleagues, sandbox playmates. You’re probably hoping to get in and out in the shortest possible time without offending anyone. This is the moment for that solid-color shift that hangs lovelessly in the back of your closet, and a pair of comfortable shoes with low heels so you can easily navigate bathroom and cigarette breaks. If your outfit is out of style, well, you’ll probably never see these people again anyway.

If you’re attending the wedding of an ex (who is not marrying you), spend serious cash on the sluttiest and most devastatingly fetching frock you can find. Think zebra prints, décolletage, and braless halter dresses by Catherine Malandrino. As for overshadowing the bride, well, that’s the point—along with salving your twisted heart by hooking up with another wasted and embittered guest. Preferably, he is the groom’s best friend and sexual rival.

Location should also be factored in. Tiny heels are no friend of grass, nor will the bride appreciate it when you take off your shoes and bare your filthy toenails. If you’re in a house of worship—and you insist on going strapless—remember to bring a shawl or cardigan. It’s that, or risk God’s wrath.

What if your friend is marrying a complete loser? Wearing black was once as much of a no-no as white, but these days, the little black basic is standard garb both for evening and for formal weddings, regardless of the season. Thanks to its funereal connotations, it also fits the bill when you’re 100 percent convinced that your friends will be divorcing in two years. For dramatic effect and/or if you want to end the friendship, you might also consider a veil or shroud (again, in black).

By summer’s end, you’re suffering from serious wedding fatigue. If you eat one more salmon fillet with julienned vegetables while the band delivers a bastardized rendition of “Strangers in the Night,” you’re going to inflict damage on an innocent bystander. Time to get out your leather dress and have yourself some serious fun. That’s right—it’s your day, too.

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Dress Code