Ask Leah: Wedding Attire When You’re Not a Dress/Skirt Kinda Gal

Ask me a question! (6)

A few weekends ago a friend called with a style question. (I am still utterly tickled that people in my real life think I know enough about style to give them advice.)

She and her wife have a family wedding to attend in the near future and needed help re: the dress code.  The save the date for the wedding, to be held indoors at a winery, listed a more casual attire advisory, but by the time the invitation came around it had upgraded to “cocktail/semi-formal.”  Her wife is not a dress/skirt kind of person and had planned to wear the lovely light tan suit she had worn to their own wedding – something similar to this:

tall-suits-women-salmon-beigeLengthen the sleeves, though, and nix the big handbag; makes the look too daytime/officewear. Source

At her wedding she wore it with a dressy black shirt and shoes and a pearl necklace.  But that was her wedding, where she was, indeed, supposed to wear whatever she wanted.  What about for someone else’s celebration?

So today on Ask Leah, the question is:

As a woman, can I wear a suit to a cocktail-attire wedding?

If you have already imagined my response including some remarks about sexism and how men get to wear suits to weddings all the time without anyone giving them the side eye, you’d be right.  If women can wear pants in pretty much every other venue in American life (see: the Pantsuit Revolution), why not a wedding?

Just because something is unjustly -ist (sexist, racist, ableist, ageist, heteronormative – okay that’s not an -ist…), though, doesn’t mean you don’t still have to deal with people’s -ist reactions when you go against the norm.  Uncle Bob or Grandma Sally might still make a passive-agressive comment about how nice you would have looked in a dress or a just-plain-aggressive comment that suits are for men.  So some amongst us might choose the path of least family snark and just put on a damn dress.

In my personal opinion, though, the two most important factors in wedding dressing are:

  1. Feeling comfortable in your skin.  Not wearing things that are uncomfortably tight or too far outside your normal sartorial expression means you can feel like YOU and enjoy the celebration – particularly important if tense family relationships mean you’ll be anxious no matter what you wear.
  2. Showing respect for the couple/event.  You want to be comfortable, yes, but not at the cost of looking like you don’t care that this is one of the most important events in someone’s life.  Luckily it’s 2016 and there’s considerably more variation than there used to be as to what’s considered dressy for such events.  For example, if a cotton romper or sundress is your normal go-to but this is an evening affair, a shift dress with a little shine or sparkle keeps the comfort level A+ while stepping up your style a bit.

With those parameters in mind, let’s address the question at hand: if you haven’t seen the inside of a dress since your toddler years and would feel completely out of character wearing one, simply put together the pants equivalent of “wedding smart” using a lovely suit (ex.: above) and some jewels/heels.

Avoiding boxy cuts and stiff fabrics in favor of clean, fluid lines will help it look less corporate America and more festive function, as will skipping over cheap material and that weird light grey color that screams “I got this in the juniors section for my very first interview.”   (You know the color I’m talking about?)

Another option for those not excited about the traditional suit: pair dress pants with a blouse/shell and top off with a statement jacket – think bolero, sequins, metallic fabric, textured silk, velvet, etc.:

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source / source / source / source


What if the wedding is a truly formal occasion?  Plenty of women now wear a feminine version of a tuxedo to fancy events:

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source / source / source / source

Here’s a great article on how to select one.  And yes, I have seen jackets like this (and definitely vests!) at thrift stores in the women’s section, and you might be able to find tux pants with the stripe in the men’s section and get them tailored.


Back to my friend’s wife and her upcoming wedding conundrum.  I told her I thought it was perfectly acceptable to wear her lovely suit with a little jewelry and some dressy shoes (whether heels or not) and call it good.  After all, they invited HER to the wedding, so shouldn’t she show up as a respectfully fancy version of herself, not somebody else?

What do you think, Thrifters?



Other Fashion Rules to Break

Reader (and friend!) Sheena spotted this Old Navy advert featuring bloggers busting the myth that “certain jeans are for certain body types.” (Let us take a moment to celebrate that Old Navy didn’t select a bunch of skinny white women as their featured style bloggers.)

It reminded her of one of my “Can I Wear This?” posts where young women felt restricted and shamed by these very rules.  That post also features a picture of Sheena!  Isn’t she gorgeous?

Inspired by their take on things, Sheena asked me to do another post on fashion rules you should break – particularly ones that say that certain kinds of people “can’t” wear certain kinds of clothes. Continue reading “Other Fashion Rules to Break”

Can I Wear Harem Pants? Or, Thoughts on Orientalism, Feminist Liberation, and M.C. Hammer

Ask me a question! (6)

Reader Ginna at Feet Chic sent me an email last week. (Head right over to her visually arresting blog chronicling chic street style footwear of all kinds!)

She asked what I thought about “harem” pants.  She had seen them named as a trend in a style blog she reads and immediately felt “sick to [her] stomach.”

No, it wasn’t the baggy crotch or visions of MC Hammer dancing in her head that gave her the heeby-jeebies.  These ladies sporting various street style takes on the pants in question look lovely, yes?

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Source ; source. Even Emanuelle Alt got in on the trend – source

Continue reading “Can I Wear Harem Pants? Or, Thoughts on Orientalism, Feminist Liberation, and M.C. Hammer”

When You Just Can’t Help Yourself; or, Can I Wear Colors That Don’t Suit Me?


I have a confession to make.

I LOVE chartreuse.

There’s something about that acidy, lemon-lime color that just draws me in—maybe it’s the way it pops next to navy and muted red, some of my other favorite wardrobe colors.  Or maybe it’s that it’s a little bit badass—not a color for those faint of heart!

Either way, I love it.

And it looks pretty horrible on me.

The lighting here doesn’t really do it justice, but you get the general idea that chartreuse wears me instead of the other way around.  It washes me out and is really too strong for my skin tone and coloring:

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on


Part of me doesn’t really care.

This is a big no-no on style blogs; as with cuts and styles that flatter you, there’s a lot of blog and website space dedicated to finding “your” colors—the ones that complement your complexion and coloring instead of overwhelming you.

In theory, I get this concept—as Tamara at Glowing Color says, you want clothes that draw attention to you, not clothes that hog the limelight: “If the eye is drawn to your face first, you have a winner.”  This is partly why you won’t often see me in jewel tones or black—they overpower me. (And too much black is just…depressing.  Renouncing black is another fashion no-no but I claim it as my TRUTH.  Take that, NYC fashion elite.)


Rules are made to be broken and fashion and style are supposed to make you feel good.  If that means wearing a color you LOVE despite its not being “right” for you, then I say go for it.  If you’re feeling timid about it, wear the hue in question away from your face—on the lower part of a top or on a skirt/pants, or wear it as a top but wear a scarf around your neck in a buffer color.

The bottom line, though, is that life is too short to wear clothing you don’t love.  So wear colors that make you SMILE.

Check out Peter Lappin’s take on this age-old predicament over at Male Pattern Boldness (yes, that is the most fabulous blog name ever; yes, you should RUN not walk over there if you love sewing, either as spectator or participant, particularly menswear).


What are your thoughts on the wear-it-or-leave-it color debate?  Scroll down to share!



Can I Wear “Tribal” Prints?

On Tuesday I showed you my recently thrifted tops for fall.  One of those pieces is a “tribal” top from Xhilaration, meaning it features a print drawing from the art of some sort of tribal culture, often indigenous to the Americas or Africa.  (This phenomenon also happens with Indian, Polynesian, and Asian cultures, although I haven’t seen those labeled “tribal”—I’m thinking henna as decoration, fish hook necklaces and puka shells, Chinese character tattoos…unfortunately the list is pretty long.)

In the case of my shirt, we’re talking about a riff on a Navajo pattern:

IMG_2376 Continue reading “Can I Wear “Tribal” Prints?”