Material Pursuit

Upstaging The Bride? Maybe Don't

Everyone knows not to do it. But like, maybe secretly you can upstage just a little bit? Here are the rules.

Edith Head working on a wedding gown. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times Photographic Collection.


Material Pursuit is a monthly column dedicated to the dos and don'ts of vintage shopping, the secrets of finding the right size, and the history behind uncovered vintage gems.

I’m of the age where, all of a sudden, it seems everyone around me is getting married. As the invites flood in, I’ve found myself dress shopping and asking the age old question: what really is appropriate for a wedding?

Obviously, there is the classic "Don't Wear White” rule. But these days, there seem to be a lot of hidden expectations cropping up. Including but not limited to:

- Don’t wear red (unless you want people to think you’ve slept with the groom!)

- No pastels

- No patterns with a white background

- No white appliqués

- No cleavage

- No thigh-high slits

- Formal- but not too formal

- And above all else, don’t upstage the bride.

Now, I’m of the opinion that anybody spending $30K+ on a party isn’t really at risk of NOT being the center of attention. Your name is plastered everywhere, we all gathered here specifically for you — after months of staring at your save the date on the fridge. I promise girl, tonight’s your night.

But this notion of “upstaging the bride” seems to be a strangely American idea. In other parts of the world, namely in Middle Eastern, Baltic and West Asian regions, dressing up and dressing out are run-of-the-mill expectations for a wedding guest. It’s a show of respect to wear your absolute fanciest garments to your loved one’s nuptials– after all, they are spending a pretty penny to feed and entertain you.

But in America, we have an incredibly Puritanical view on the whole ordeal. I mean, it makes sense when you remember our history. The whole reason colonizers left England was because their country wasn’t religious enough for them– they didn’t call ‘em “Puritans” for no reason.

“But in America, we have an incredibly Puritanical view on the whole ordeal. I mean, it makes sense when you remember our history. The whole reason colonizers left England was because their country wasn’t religious enough for them. They didn’t call ‘em “Puritans” for nothing.”

So, for a long time in America, respectability has been predicated on how modest you are. You’re only a “good person” once you’ve absconded vanity and proven your virtuous dedication towards plain, boring, cotton clothes from Amazon.

But not all hope is lost! Admittedly, there are still those who believe in a wholly glamorous experience! New York-based Publicist, Gia Kuan and Stylist, Rachel Rodgers had two of the coolest weddings this year– both with guests dressed to the nines. So there are surely still some girls out there fighting the good fight.

All this to say: you should never be afraid to be a little bold, a little brave, and a little gorgeous. So, today let’s eschew these stupid rules and find a couple dresses that won’t necessarily upstage the bride – but will definitely come pretty damn close.

You know where we’re going. Time to boot up the ole Etsy.

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We’re coming out the gates swinging with this 1970’s satin number. This one breaks all the rules: It’s red, it’s dramatic, it’s definitely a scene stealer. I love the white lace piping around this pinafore style top. It reminds me of a sweet little valentine. When dressing for a wedding, It’s fun to lean into the over-the-top, mushy-gushy romantic side of Love– it’s called paying homage to the occasion!

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This next dress is a chevron done right. It’s subtle enough to not be tacky, but bold enough to be interesting with this ruby/burgundy contrast striping. The overall silhouette reminds me so much of a Charles James gown– which makes sense given that this dress is also from the 1940’s. It’s a little bit more delicate than some of the others in this bunch so, it’s probably better suited for your more formal, garden-style weddings (not really the all-night-rager type).

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Now, unfortunately, this beauty you can’t have– because I already bought it. I got it from Kokeshi Vintage Shop. This dress ticks all my boxes for a wedding guest dress. It’s forgiving. I can do as much eating and drinking and dancing as my heart desires– with no fears of feeling constricted. The adjustable sash on the waist also feeds into my insatiable desire to be snatched at all times. So, I have the ability to tug in the waist for pictures, but then loosen it the second I see those appetizer plates coming in.

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Hear me out. A lot of people aren’t going to get this one, but Real Fashion Girlies will see the vision. The big lacy collar, the muted satin fabric, the oh-so-not-sexy school marm hemline– nothing about this dress screams ‘Hottest Guest at the Wedding '. But you could totally spin this into a Chloe-Sevigny-Cool-Girl moment. Some tousled hair, a little bit of blotted red lipstick and a pair of sexy, point-toe, patent leather shoes? Forget about it.

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If you want something a little bit more subtly glamorous, this 1950’s velvet-look dress is for you. I love how the neckline swoops into this ultra-feminine boat neck scoop but doesn’t go fully off the shoulder (so you can still wear a bra!). The nipped in waist and sheath fit bottom will be very flattering– and that baby pink ribbon weaving through the bust is to die for.

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I will be honest, this cobalt velvet gown has been sitting in my Etsy favorites for quite some time. It’s from the 1930’s and has such a gorgeous, medieval, occult vibe to it. I imagine wearing this dress while walking through my dilapidated, haunted manor. I would wear this gown every second of every day– if only the waist measurement were an inch or two wider…

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How romantic is this lacy little number! It seems like something straight out of the EveliinaVintage stockroom. Perfect for a summer wedding, this lightweight vintage nightgown is a cutesy something blue to wear while watching your friends say “I Do”! It’s also a modern size 2X, so snatch this up while you can!!

Now, hopefully, as wedding season quickly approaches this list can help you find a little something special to wear. But if you take anything away from this installment of Material Pursuit, let it be this: Don’t be afraid to be glamorous!

I’ll see ya next time!

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