I’m attending my cousin’s wedding to his beautiful bride in a few weeks and, needless to say, what to wear has come up more than once in more than one family thread.
My husband and I do not have children and thus have no need to worry about what said children would wear to a “black tie optional” affair, but many in my family do. And the level of anxiety is almost Shakespearean. That is, if Shakespeare was a Northeastern Jew living through some extraordinary times when one rarely left the house, let alone wore a fancy dress or some such for a few years. I’m not going to get too into family dynamics, because I pay a therapist for that, so I’ll just talk about my take on what to wear to a formal wedding in sorta post-pandemic times. I come from a family of folks who love fashion; but when it comes to formal dress, are our old go-tos still a go or more of an absolute no? Let’s unpack.
I have my perfect “dopamine” dress
On the one hand, I have my perfect “dopamine” dress. Dopamine dressing is a term coined of late to describe the uptick in clothes that lift the spirits in the form of sequins, bright colors, feathers, or what have you. This Simon Miller dress in “disco purple” caught my eye and my wallet, and I’m wondering if this is the vibe I’m after for this soiree; and I’m thinking yes. Oh, yes. I showed this dress to several women who are far chicer than I could ever hope to be, and they loved it. I also showed it to my astrophysicist nephew, Jake, who was over the other night and loved the dress (I think) but said, “You gotta be ready to get attention in that one.” Hmm. Not my favorite, which is one of my oddest quirks. I have bright red hair, wear oversized glasses and consider leopard print a neutral. But don’t look at me. I know. I’m strange. I think I like attention-grabbing looks, but the actual attention? Not so much. I suppose I only dress to please myself, which pleases me tremendously.
There is one issue with this dress, and that is the back. There are body parts I dislike more than my back, but a bra is needed. I have purchased every backless bra contraption on the internet, ranging from medieval to barely there, and I have yet to try them; it unnerves me. Also up for discussion is the fact that every formal dress on the internet appears to be backless. If you can go braless, bless you. For those unable, you have my support; even if the fashion industry refuses to give you any. It’s a thing.
Next, I have a fantastic vintage chiffon maxi with a halter neck and a galaxy print (a favorite of the astrophysicist in the family, for obvious reasons). It’s pretty and comfortable but not a show stopper, though it’s lovely, unique, and very on point for a July wedding and could be construed as somewhat ethereal. I guess that’s nice.
Iconic and Simple
Then, I have the iconic Norma Kamali Diana gown in black. It strangely has built-in underwear, and I don’t know why. Just picturing that after a couple of tequila and sodas induces fear. Plus, it’s constructed in a way that requires a lot of pulling, straightening, and walking like Morticia Addams. But it’s appropriate and sexy, and I have a fabulous gold flower pin a la Carrie Bradshaw (who made this dress rather infamous when she wore the ice blue version on the reboot) that would be fab on it, or worse, something my mother might call “jazzy.” But back to the built-ins. Why, Norma, why? I’m turning 52 in a few weeks, and I know this much. There is no world where I enjoy “stuffing” myself into a dress. That’s for turkeys, not grown women.
On the back burner, but always a winner, is one of the best dresses I have ever owned. It’s a silk one-shoulder caftan from Helmut Lang. It’s of midi length and is the chicest, most minimally classic thing. It’s a great dress for women who don’t love to dress up, and that woman is me. Is it iconic and simple? Yes. Yes, it is. But a dopamine dress it is not. And after feeling a bit down in les dumps of late, maybe some dopamine is desired. But then I think about women like Bianca Jagger who dressed on the simple side but often made an entrance. Not my wedding, of course, but you get my point.
I am also having my hair and makeup done. In suburban Long Island. Thoughts and prayers that I don’t end up looking like a senator’s wife mixed in with a contender on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Also, let us not forget a shoe or two.
Shoes for a purple dress are tough. But I was thinking silver or black, and I only have gold, so I purchased a pair of vintage Stuart Weitzman sandals on Poshmark that are gorgeous, but for a woman with a Barbie foot. I have no idea how someone could stand in them for a second, let alone an evening.
And though polarizing, I adore a kitten heel. They are dainty and pretty and comfortable. I have a pair of Gucci pumps with lips on them that may be a bit much, but perhaps that’s the vibe. Because being a bit much may not be enough during wedding season. Bring on the more.
If I were a different type of woman, I’d show you all these looks and have you decide. I don’t FaceTime for opinions from my friends, and I don’t “model” my looks for a crowdsourced consensus. It’s not because I don’t trust you; it’s just because I trust myself. And generally, when someone says “wear that one,” I wear the other one. Call it couture contrarianism.
I had a preview of what to expect at the bridal shower, and every one of the bride’s friends is lovely, young, and beautiful, much like the bride herself, a stunning young woman. I predict a very well-dressed crowd and, since most of the gang are New Yorkers, the fashion will be on point. For that reason, I’m leaning into dopamine. Plus, purple looks great with my coppery red hair. And for those that watched Pose, the category is: midlife sequined wedding guest realness. Am I ready to turn a head or two? Sure. Now, if only I could bring myself to see if the underpinnings work. There’s always this week to get brave and try it on again. Or then again, there’s always my trusty Helmut Lang Grecian vibe, a gold sandal, and a good spray tan. But unlike Bianca, I’ll be sans equine.
If you are so inclined, follow me on Instagram for the big reveal. I rarely post photos of myself, but I want to share the vibe. Because besides the dress-up stress, I love to celebrate love; after all, love is all we need — that and an excellent go-to look when one needs to dance the night away.