Reader Response: What to Wear to an Evening Wedding in May in the South?

Dear Shop Talk,

 I was invited as a date to a wedding in Camden, SC at the Carolina Cup fields. The wedding is May 2 at 5:30.  My date is in the wedding (so  he will be wearing a tux) but  he has no idea about the attire for the rest of us.  The bride’s very brief wedding website states that the dress code is “Spring/Summer Formal.”  From the 5:30pm start time, I take this to mean that I do not need a floor length dress.  However, Spring/Summer Formal sounds like something we had in middle school, and I have been away from the Carolinas for too long to know how this is going to play out so I humbly seek your advice.  Here are my big questions:  Do I have to wear color or can I wear black (I admit it, it’s my safety net), what length would be appropriate, and how formal do I need to be?  And as a last concern, you don’t think the women will wear hats and/or gloves, do you?  It’s not the weekend of the races or anything, so that would just blow my mind.

Any advice would be appreciated.


Julie in DC

Dear Julie,

First, the good news:  you do not need to rush out and buy white gloves and a silly hat… at least, we can’t IMAGINE that you would need to.  If it turns out that women showed up wearing hats and gloves at this wedding, then Sarah and I will wear hats and gloves to work every day for a week by way of an apology.  Now for the bad news: you should really try not to wear black.  I know it’s safe and easy and it’s every girl’s go-to, but if you can help yourself, try to keep it in the closet for this occasion. There is really only once place on earth that black dresses start to look out of place, and that one place happens to be  outdoors, in the South, in the summer.  Why? Because usually (not all the time, but usually) the fabrics and textures that are employed in making LBD’s are of a more heavy, formal nature (satin sheen, subtle beading, heavy draping), and those things tend to look odd when placed in juxtaposition with pastel sundresses and the warm glow of a southern sunset.  If you simply don’t feel comfortable in anything other than midnight black, then consider looking for a black dress in a less formal fabric (poplin, linen), or lighten your look with a spring inspired accessory palate (robins egg blue shawl, a bright coral necklace,  lemon yellow heels… there are lots of options out there right now).  Also, don’t forget about black’s slightly less dour pal – navy.  Navy is an awesome backdrop for pastel and neutral accessories, and it won’t seem out of place in the evening.   If you do decide to be bold and wear color, steer clear of things that look like they’d be better off at a bridal brunch (ie, most of Lilly Pulliter’s classic print collection) You can get away with a lot when it comes to wedding fashion in the South, but dressing like it’s 11:00am for an evening wedding where your date will be in a tux isn’t one of them.   Here are a few picks that we think can’t fail:

Redecorated Dress ($158) from Anthropologie
Grand Holiday Dress ($118, in Sapphire) from Anthropologie
Biennial Dress ($158) from Anthropologie
Printed Erica Dress ( $275 in Light Chartreuse) from J. Crew
Cotton Bow Dress ($78) from J. Crew

Best of Luck!

 The Shop Talk Girls

Categories: Reader Response