What to wear when the wedding invitation says black tie, dressy casual, outdoors and more.

Share story

It’s summer wedding season and, with more couples opting for unique vibes and venues, it’s a great opportunity to pick up a chic new outfit you’ll love long after the nuptials.

On the other hand, knowing exactly which type of outfit to get can be confusing. Of course, there are the obvious wedding-guest rules — don’t upstage the bride, don’t wear white, don’t show too much skin. But what’s dressy casual? What do you wear if attire isn’t specified?

Here are some ideas to make assembling your wedding-season wardrobe smooth sailing.

BLACK TIE 

When an invite calls for black tie or formal attire, it’s a chance to pull out all the fancy-schmancy stops.

Men should be in a tux or a dark suit, such as Lanvin’s Black Wool Suit ($1,795 at Mario’s, downtown), preferably with a black tie (because, well, black tie).

For women, a long gown, such as the feminine and elegant Parker Black Sweetheart-Neck Plisse Gown ($348 at Neiman Marcus, Bellevue), is a stunning choice. The gorgeous gray Twobirds Ginger Convertible Maxi ($310 at Anthroplogie) is flattering on an array of body types, with 15 different ways to wear it, from strapless to halter to crisscrossed.

For something a little trendier, the Chelsea28 Cutaway Shoulder Maxi Dress ($148 at Nordstrom) will work for multiple occasions with different accessories. Glam it up with some beautiful heels and a stunning beaded clutch, such as the Aldo Anapple Clutch ($55 at Aldo).

A sparkling cocktail dress, such as Dress The Population’s Marcella Open Back Sequin Body-Con Dress ($248 at Nordstrom), is a fun and glitzy way to go, for the right event.

DRESSY CASUAL

Since dressy casual or semiformal can mean lots of different things, take a cue from the time of the event.

For a daytime wedding, think fun and light, such as Ted Baker’s Alexie Forget Me Not Midi Dress ($279 at amazon.com), a sleek floral option. Pair it with the go-with-anything Liz Claiborne Royce High Heel Sandals (on sale for $40 at JCPenney) for a modern ensemble.

Chelsea28 Cutaway Shoulder Maxi Dress, $148; Twobirds Ginger Convertible Maxi, $310; Rachel Roy Asymmetrical-Zip Jersey Dress, $119
Chelsea28 Cutaway Shoulder Maxi Dress, $148; Twobirds Ginger Convertible Maxi, $310; Rachel Roy Asymmetrical-Zip Jersey Dress, $119

Or be bold and on-trend in the bright Adelyn Rae Strapless Woven Jumpsuit ($92 at Nordstrom), with a structured sweetheart neckline and pockets.

For an evening fete, go more sophisticated with a darker, cocktail-style dress, such as Rachel Roy’s Asymmetrical-Zip Jersey Dress ($119 at Macy’s), available in five colors.

With a flattering cut and gorgeous contrasting color panels, Tory Burch’s Iliana Lace Dress ($595 at shopbop.com) is an investment piece you can wear over and over again (and not just to weddings).

CASUAL, OUTDOOR, GARDEN OR BEACH

Feel free to take a bit of creative license when it comes to attire for a casual or outdoor wedding, keeping the destination in mind.

Sam Edelman Ginette Sandal, $110
Sam Edelman Ginette Sandal, $110

Go for a fun, bright print, like on the J.Crew Off-the-Shoulder Dress in Ratti Into the Wild Print ($128). Or stay cool in linen with The Reformation’s Parisa Dress ($218 at thereformation.com), available in navy or pale pink.

Some chic flat sandals, such as the crisscrossing leather-wrap Sam Edelman Ginette Sandal ($110 at Nordstrom), completes the look for a garden or beach wedding.

Guys, throw on a summery sport coat such as Banana Republic’s Modern Slim Houndstooth Linen Blazer ($230) with some nice dark-wash denim. For those, try Gap’s 1969 Slim Fit Jeans ($70), or opt for crisp slacks for a stylish-but-understated look.