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Image / Style / Sustainable Style

A stylist’s guide to wedding guest attire for 2021


by Sarah Finnan
11th Jun 2021
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Re-wearing formal wear can seem a little daunting – how does one master sustainable wedding fashion and make an outfit look different? A few subtle accessory additions and swaps here and there though, et voilà, you’ve got yourself a whole ‘new’ look.

With the country slowly opening up and getting back to some semblance of normality, you’ll probably find your calendar filling up with different engagements over the next few weeks. Having spent much of the past few months with little else to occupy my time, I vowed never to refuse an invitation again. Fancy a pint? You bet ya. Free for a picnic? Absolutely. Brunch with the gals? Couldn’t say no to that.

As the social obligations continue to pile up, the feeling that I simply do not have enough clothes to wear also mounts. It’s a well-worn path I’ve been down many a time before, but the truth of the matter is that I actually have far more than I could possibly ever need. I also live in a house of three other girls, whose wardrobes I like to consider an extension of my own… so realistically, I’ll never be without options.

Learning to ignore the little voice inside your head telling you to browse Zara’s new arrivals is a skill that does not come easily, but give it time and it will become less of an internal battle each time. The most sustainable fashion is that which you already own, so next time you have an outdoor gathering to attend or a wedding reception to RSVP to, consider how you can restyle what you have before heading straight for the fast-fashion checkout.

Sustainable wedding fashion

As the restrictions pertaining to weddings continue to ease, the backlog of couples waiting to tie the know will begin to lessen – which means it’s likely you’ll have at least a handful of days out to dress for. The fashion experts at Zalando have spoken to champions in the sustainable wedding industry and they’ve collated some of their top tips for helping you rework your clothes to get the most of them.

Professional stylist Donna McCulloch predicts there will be two key trends this wedding season. “On the one hand, there will be understated outfits for small, intimate weddings – for those focusing on their nearest and dearest after the lack of contact during the pandemic. On the other hand, we’ll see bold and adventurous clothing from the ‘go big or go home’ crowd who want to make the most of overdue wedding celebrations”, she said.

Top tips

Be bold

According to her, smaller ceremonies generally equal less pressure, so McCulloch encourages people to “take the opportunity to wear something more unconventional that you feel comfortable in”. Be that a long skirt, a cocktail dress or your favourite pair of trousers – have fun with it.

Show second-hand some love

Don’t be afraid to explore pre-worn pieces or even swap with a friend. If you do feel the need to invest in something, the best way to ensure your purchase will get the wear it deserves is to opt for pieces that can be re-worn in several different ways. Invest in quality, long-lasting garments that you know you can be styled with things you already own.

Pay attention to materials

Steer clear of synthetics (e.g. polyester) as they’re made using fossil fuels and take years to break down. It’s also important to make sure that you’re taking proper care of your clothes – avoid overwashing and try to extend the lifespan of items rather than simply throwing them out at the first sign of a small hole etc.

How to re-work/re-wear formal wear

While re-wearing clothes is something we all do on the regular, oftentimes, people find it harder to employ the same rules when it comes to formal wear. But it’s surprisingly easy. McCulloch suggests adding a blouse underneath a dress or switching up your choice of coat/accessories to give an outfit a fresh new look. In her expert opinion, “sustainable trainers and your favourite pair of shades can be combined with formal skirts, dresses or trousers to create a perfect picnic or beer garden outfit.”

Reiterating much the same message, plus size activist Lindsay McGlone said that it’s all about wearing what makes you feel good. Sustainable fashion should be inclusive to all and as she puts it, “there’s no better feeling than feeling comfortable”.

“That displays itself different for everyone, we can’t assume a larger body wants to ‘hide’ certain parts or stick on a floral dress. To explore what clothes make you feel most confident, start by changing up accessories or even trying accessories, full stop. If that feels good, try a different pattern or colour. Then, if that feels really good, do it all at once! Fashion is about self-expression and everyone differs on what makes them feel beautiful. Just remember to dress for you.”

Solid advice. Kate Saunders called Lizzie McGuire an “outfit repeater” as if it were a bad thing, but it sounds like Lizzie was ahead of the curve.

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