Kirstie Clements: Black tie, formal or just ‘fancy’? Some simple rules for your next big event

My son proposed to his girlfriend last week and our two families got together to celebrate on the weekend.

The big topic of conversation was not about a wedding dress for the future bride, but what on earth the mothers-in-law were going to wear.

I hear this a lot now – it must be my age group – as many of my friend’s children are planning to get married, and the mothers are very confused and conflicted about what to wear to the wedding. 

I think when we hear the term ‘mother of the bride or groom’, we often think of something frumpy, like a homemade dress and matching coat with a hat. Or floral chiffon. Mind you, both of those options could look very elegant, but it’s a fine line.

There is also a lot of angst about the black tie and formal dress codes, and what they mean. Typically, black tie demands a long dress, to the floor.

Formal is a step up from cocktail, which means a mid-length dress or even a tuxedo or evening pant suit.

Flaunt the rules … with permision

Strict adherence to these codes seems to be a little out of date, especially with young people who think a play suit is a good black-tie option.

But many soon-to-be married couples have very specific views about how they want their wedding party and guests to look for the photos, especially in this age of Instagram, so it is best to check with them beforehand if you want to flaunt the rules.

I think there’s two rules that should never be broken. One is dressing to overshadow the bride. That could mean a wearing a gown that is too over the top, too grand, too revealing or even white, unless the couple are planning one of those  “let’s all wear white” situations.

My other rule is don’t be too casual – it is a very important occasion in this couple’s lives and you can do better than to rock up in cut off shorts and flip flops with sunglasses on your head.

I must admit I’m quite surprised at how daunted my friends are about choosing what to wear, another reminder that the fashion industry at large does absolutely nothing to help normal women navigate dressing for real life occasions, especially if they are over 50.

Heels from hell

Even right down to choosing appropriate shoes, as none of us want to be standing around in sky high Manolo Blahniks for an entire event, and long dresses often call for high heels. 

We want to look polished, elegant, chic. And for our feet not to hurt. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask, but there is a lot of tizzy, tight and tacky fashion out there.

I received an invitation to a 40th birthday party and I was happy to see that the dress code was “a bit fancy”. Not fancy dress, my worst nightmare. Just fancy, which can mean anything you want, a gold shoe, a sparkly clutch bag, chandelier earrings, a hot pink dinner jacket.

I like the idea that you choose what’s fancy, as opposed to being told to wear a floor-length gown. I’d rather leave that to the brides.

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.