What to wear when I don’t want a dress or a suit?

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Chic wedding pantsuits for dapper brides as seen on @offbeatbride

I am a very plain and un-fancy person. I hate wearing makeup and jewelry. I want to look somewhat good for my own wedding, but I don't know what would be an alternative to anything girly (like dresses or skirts) and nothing like a suit either — it's just not me. I tend to wear guy clothes, like men's t-shirts, and shoes, and I am always wearing baggy pants. I just want to feel like me. -Becky

I totally support your goal here, Becky. You want to look good at your wedding, but you also want to look like YOU, instead of someone wearing a costume. I hear you saying you're not girly, but you're also not into butch formalwear. And I think I've got a solution for you.

Really, your wedding is just a big party.

So tell me this: what would you wear to a big party full of all your friends? Now, take that outfit and wave a wand over it to make it really special — imagine better fabrics. Imagine if it was custom made just for you. Imagine it in your very favorite colors. Imagine nicer accessories. Picture your favorite “nice” clothes, but with a bit more oomph.

That image you're seeing in your mind? Wear that.

In my book I talk about this concept of “a smidge above.” However you normally adorn yourself (clothes, accessories, skin, hair), just do a smidge more than usual.

…If that means you wear chapstick to your wedding instead of nothing on your face, then that's perfect.

…If that means you get a sterling wallet chain instead of the cheap one you bought at the mall, then that's perfect.

…If that means you get a pair of custom baggy pants made out of butter-soft twill, then that's perfect.

Really, this is just about knowing what clothes make you feel your very best, and then taking them up a notch. A smidge above, really. Maybe for you this looks like a nice pair of baggy slacks, a sweet pair of new chucks, and a custom-made shirt with a vest? I can't really say, but I'm pretty sure you know what clothes make you feel best. My advice is to take that look, and push the “special” up a notch.

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Comments on What to wear when I don’t want a dress or a suit?

    • *late reply is late*

      Whenever I do end up getting married I’ll show you guys. But you know? We’re having distance and money problems at the moment. And he’s only 17 [I’m 18, younge </3] Plus our parents don't approve, so we have to wait a few years, plus the fact that I'm in Canada and he's in the USA doesn't help. I was thinking black Butterfly pants and some sort or tube top, [Colour of whatever wild colour we chose to be the main colour] I've always loved how those look on people with larger breasts and a bit of a stomach like myself. With a long button up shirt [un buttoned] to cover up my arms cause I'm self concious of their inner stretch marks.

      But yeah, I was thinking of something along those lines, and skate board shoes or runners, cause any other shoes I can't walk in properly.

  1. Some of my favorite dressy pants are here. Pants totally aren’t me and these ones were super tempting for the wedding.

  2. I think this is right on. Another thing you might want to do is find something you would normally wear, only wear it in a different color (like the traditional white or ivory). Or, you could add some adornments (or buy some adorned clothing). I have a v-neck green t-shirt with a little lace panel covering the cleavage area, and I wear it to job interviews under a black jacket with black dress pants. My mom has a pair of jeans trimmed with lace that she wears to work. We’re both big fans of lace 🙂 Also, you could try a ribbon belt, or something like that.

    Since you don’t seem to ultra-butch, I would wear a feminine top – something that’s you, but something that’s dressier than a t-shirt. I’ve actually been searching myself for such a wedding top that might be worn with jeans – etsy is my go-to place for that type of search, but you could probably also find something nice at fashion boutiques like urban outfitters, modcloth, or plasticland. Bridal “tops” just aren’t made – now bridesmaids, or mothers of the bride, on the other hand… feel free to cheat. Nobody has to know the top you wear with nice pants is supposed to go on a bridesmaid.

    A piece of advice my mom always gives me when talking about wedding attire: Remember that your wedding is a day you’ll want to remember for the rest of your life. Feel free to do something out of the ordinary, but keep in mind that anything you’re uncomfortable with looking at years down the road, you shouldn’t do now. Be you, but don’t be too casual, because your wedding is a very important day, and it should be treated just as formally, if not more so, than you treated your senior prom. Go at your wedding like an adult, and you won’t regret it.

    • Stephanie, I’d beg to differ with your mom’s advice. I don’t think anyone should ever worry about being “too casual” at their wedding. If you’re a casual person, then have a casual wedding! Formal-wear does not a special day make.

  3. Hmmm, I had a friend who had a similar dilemma. She ended up having a seamstress make her dress, which was “half dress, half pants”, and it looked great.

    I’ll send her the link to this post, and she can comment with more info. 🙂

    • I am the friend irisira is talking about. I rarely wear dresses in my day to day life and honestly, regardless of what other people think of what I look in them, hate them for myself.

      I drew some inspiration from Ao Dai’s (an oriental style that looks like pants with a two panels of fabric over them) and some of the pants outfits that are online. I brought everything I found that I liked (and things I didn’t like) to a local seamstress and we picked apart the designs. I basically said “I don’t want to wear a dress, but I want to feel like Cinderella.”

      In the end, I ended up with a 3 piece outfit. One was a strapless top, one a pair of pants, and one a skirt that could be attached and detached. The skirt opened in the front allowing for ease of walking and – when my husband started stepping on it while dancing – allowed for easy removal so that I could dance wearing just the pants. So few people realized there were pants underneath that they thought I had changed!

      If I can figure out how to add photos here, I will.

  4. Stephanie at this point it’s looking like my whole outfit will be a bridesmaids/mother of the bride one. Or just a regular prom dress.

    I’m also kinda tempted to bring back ye olde pesantry tradition of just wearing the nicest thing you already own, but that’s just because I hate clothes shopping!

  5. I once owned a pair of silk cargo pants. I wore them to occasions that were a little fancier than the ones to which I’d wear regular cargo pants. A fancy version of something you already like could be very cool.

    Or what about something like an Indian Salwar Kameez? It’s like a shirt dress over comfy pants:

    The male version is a kurta:

  6. Oh YES!
    This topic is so exciting and interesting.
    I have so many Etsy favorites that are coming to mind right now… I’m going to narrow them down and send a few your way Ariel!
    Another way of taking your favorite comfy outfit to the next level could be through accessories like a beautifully embellished wide belt or a dress jacket specially made just for you.
    I used to wear only the baggiest of pants. It was a glorious time. What happened to those pants? I think I need to go shopping now…

  7. I suggest you try on something that you just really like, even if it is out of your comfort zone. You never know, it may make you feel amazing.

    • I love those pants! How amazing would that type of outfit look in white and ivory tones? Bridal but casual and comfortable. I love it!

      • My mom’s best friend is going to wear something similar to the navy pants suit for her wedding, except all blue. She’s almost 60, so she didn’t want white or even cream. And it will be her “something blue”!

        • A couple of the ones closer to th bottom might be nice too. Like the red shirt with the billowy sleeves (dressy t-shirt anyone?)[She demonstrates the technique of her great-grandmother Trixie,
          a former trick-riding rodeo queen.]
          The blue strippy skort dress [After finding a parking ticket on her car, she determines that
          her day at the beach will not be spoiled.]
          Navy blue short dress (looks like a sleeveless T) [She hopes, as her fortune cookie predicts, that her winsome smile will open many doors. ]
          just a few thoughts on the ones from that link, they’re easy going, are close to what you normally wear from your description, and yet are a bit dressier perhaps.

  8. OMG. I LOVE the navy pants and white shirt combo. It looks so comfy, but elegant.

  9. I too am a jeans and Tshirt kinda gal. But, I wore a fancy wedding dress anyways(once I found the perfect one, which really took a lot of work! and my fancy, might be typically simple…). And for me, that was perfect, with chapstick and a ponytail like usual. And our ceremony and reception were decidely low key, so my dress stood out as really special which made feel very happy that day.

    The fun part was really that I still acted like I was wearing my everyday clothes… so I snowboarded in my dress and climbed all over the place to get great photos which I adore, and generally had a blast all day long. My dress got destroyed (even before the ceremony it was slightly tattered!) but I really don’t plan on needing it again!!

    Try some on if you want… just in case you love how it feels like I did!

  10. For those who don’t already know, I had a “wedding hoodie”, bought at a casual store the day before the wedding, 30 minutes before it closes. The judge said I was the most original bride she had ever seen.

    With it, I was wearing a cream-colored skirt but, had I known, I would have plaid the casual card even more and bought or made a pair of jeans like this:
    Because the skirt made my butt look a little fat.

  11. Here is a big pile of awesome:

    Half a dress by SHIHAR
    Triangular Pants by SHIHAR
    Unisex Slit by SHIHAR (technically a skirt, but what a cool ensemble!)
    The Woman Warrior Tunic by SHIHAR
    At Ease Pants by Cocoricooo
    At Ease Capris by Cocoriocooo
    Dark Triangle Pants by thaitied
    The Scrunch Ankle by GaiaConceptions

    Most if not all of these items can be customized – just convo the seller. 🙂

  12. There is also (as bland as it seems after all that awesome) the tunic/leggings/ballet flats combo.

  13. Hee! Just found this via the shot-in-the-arm you guys gave our traffic that day. Thanks for the love! And yay alternative fashion!!

    Sarah Dopp

  14. Hi! I had the exact same dilemma. I am NOT a dress person. I just placed an order for this bridesmaid separates ensemble for my wedding:
    pants: http://www.edenbridals.com/9123f-p-1216.html
    Top: http://www.edenbridals.com/9059-p-775.html

    I’m a tomboy, and don’t have a feminine shape either. The halter cut lessens the size of my wide shoulders, and adds a touch of femme without me feeling like I’m at a costume party dressed up like “the ironic princess”.

    Hope that helps!

  15. This post (and particularly the photo) has given me ideas. Now I want to wear red shoes when I get married!

  16. Oh how I love this website. I was having an unexpected crisis of hair. I don’t want to spend $300 to sit in a salon for 90 minutes but I do want to look pretty for my wedding. Mostly, I *don’t* want to be the kind of girl who freaks out over hair (because that’s so not like me it’s kind of like I got possessed by the Spirit of Weddings Past or something).

    My solution? Ponytail with a birdcage veil and fascinator. I’d already decided I wanted a vintagey feel to my look, and my dress is very 1950s fluffy tea length wonderfulness, AND I’m wearing sneakers (Chucks!) so the ponytail not only can be done in 5 minutes, doesn’t cost me $300 and 90 minutes of my wedding day, makes me feel comfortably myself, AND works well with my entire look.

    I call that epic win.

    Coming to this site and reading about how other gals took the reins over their fashion decisions and wore whatever they felt comfortable in? Well, that pretty much banished all the evil bridal spirits and allowed me to exhale and find my sanity once more.

    Thank you, offbeatbride and you lovely offbeat ladies! You remind me that it’s okay to be me, even – gasp – on my wedding day.


  17. I have exactly the same dilema, I think I’m heading down the asian route. Glad that I’ve finally come to terms with not wearing a typical or even alternative wedding dress!

  18. I am having this exact same problem! We get married in 6 months (and it’s a private, bride and groom only ceremony) and we don’t know what to wear. We both grew up (and still are) living in the midst of the grunge era. Our every day, and going out, attire pretty much includes a band t-shirt, a blue or red flannel shirt over top, and plain blue jeans with converse or combat boots. I really don’t want to wear a dress. Do you have any suggestions?

    • @ Heather U. – Combat boots but find special ones that will look cool with your outfit, do a theme of what kind of band shirts or pick a group. Instead of layering a flannel over it wear a dress shirt under (think how menswear fashion has layering often, that kinda dressing up t shirt type look, if you don’t want to layer with a dress shirt their are instructions on ripping shirts into creating different styles of shirt looks… you might want to check that out), if you still want flannel see if you can get someone to make flannel vest or a more structured blazer style jacket out of flannel or make ties out of flannel (hell you could even use ripped up flannel as ribbon for flower arrangements like bouquets or make fabric flowers from flannel and jean material), ripped “fashion” jeans or jean skirt/kilt. Slightly dressier version of whatever accessories you might wear usually or ones that give the same feel but are actual real quality things.

  19. I’ve had black satin cargo pants before that I loved! Wore them all the time, dressed up or down to go out, they where supper long so sometimes I would pin them so I could wear flats and sometimes I’d just let them be long and wear heels. My favorite combo with it was during winter wearing a black velvet keyhole bodysuit/leotard thing and either my red combat boots or my black high heel boots (depended on my mood). Also have done a lace sleeveless top with a suit vest and cargo shorts (all in white), with a pageboy hat and silver oxfords for my birthday once.

    Their are so many ways to dress up without doing a typical dress.
    Infact if you like say more casual styles but want to dress it up is sometimes you just buy better quality casual and dress up with the accessories. Like adding a brooch, or a pocket watch, or jewelry, or suspenders, or a tie… all sorts of ways of going about it.

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