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The Ultimate Wedding Season Survival Guide

Gee's Blog, Industry Trends and News, Sewing for Beginners
2017
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Yes, that time has arrived again. Straw hats the size of a small planet are fished out from the back of the airing cupboard and plucked into shape. Formal suits are donned in the hopes that the moths have not been dining on it. Will the waistband fasten? Love them or hate them, matrimony has been an integral part of society since humans realised they needed to make long lasting alliances in order to survive.

Here are a few wedding outfit pointers that will help you survive the season:
Protocol
In the old days when there were only four channels to choose from on the telly, weddings were quite a simple affair if you didn’t have celebrity status. You booked a local church, found a scout hall for the shindig and looked up the services of a Rolls Royce to take you to the church on time.
Nowadays, the ceremony is likely to be in any part of the world. You can get married at the top of the world, or with a snorkel and flippers at the ready instead of a bouquet. In short, weddings can be any myriad of styles, which means, as the attendee, you have to be at the top of your game. When the invite arrives, don’t just plonk it on top of the microwave and forget about it, thinking – “oh its eons away, I’ll sort it out closer to the time.” Do so at your peril. Modern weddings can be a complex affair, even if it is taking place in the country that you reside in. As soon as the invite arrives, read it closely. Is it taking place on a beach? What time of year will it be? Is there a theme? Will it be an inside or outside affair? Is it in another country?
All of these things need to be taken into consideration. Once you have had a good read through, check with the wedding party if there are any special requirements for the day. Do you need to bring beachwear if it is being held by the sea or will flip flops be provided? Do you need hiking boots or will the ceremony be held in a purpose built spot that does not require climbing equipment in order to get to it?
You catch my drift…

Dress Code
You received the invite; you are all primed to hit the shops for an outfit or for some fabric to make that killer garment. You saw something you just can’t wait to buy. You charge down to the shops, try it out and are ready to head to the cash desk.
Wait a minute. Did you take note of what the dress code was? Do you remember what the invite said? Does it really matter? Is it cocktail dress, evening wear, morning dress, evening tails or business attire? The answer is- yes it does. How do I know this?
I was at Ascot when a man arrived looking very dapper. In a dinner suit complete with white jacket. I wish I had a magic wand that day which changed his dinner suit into a morning suit. He was the butt of many a joke that day.
The point is- some people are not bothered if you turn up in the wrong type of outfit. Others who you may think would not be at all concerned about such things are very particular. There is no way of telling who they are, until the situation arises.
Therefore, it is best to adhere to the dress code.
Dress-aggeddon
The most important rule of the wedding season: Nobody out-dresses the bride.
It means that of all the colours a person may wear to a wedding, the only colour which is off-limits is white and its closest relatives- cream and oyster. Why? Even if the bride chooses not to wear what used to be traditional white or cream, anyone wearing those colours may be mistaken for the bride…two or three people wearing those colours can make for a complicated afternoon.
It is the only day the couple will have which is completely theirs. As they have worked hard to make it perfect, it is not advisable to wear attire which detracts from them, so diminishing their perfect day.
Hands off the dress
One of the biggest cardinal sins of wedding protocol is touching ‘The Dress’ without permission. Regardless of style or colour, the wedding dress (‘The Dress’ could also be a suit, coat, national dress, regalia, uniform, robe, sari, cheongsam, kimono, etc) is the most important piece of clothing in the congregation. Many hours have been spent finding the right dress or making the garment in question. To the bride, it is absolutely unique and irreplaceable. Needless to say, whether the fabric was a bargain purchase or the price of a house deposit, the memories attached to the garment is priceless. It is not a good idea to feel the quality of the material whilst still being worn, nor ask how much it cost. Both actions may award you a poke in the eye.
Several years back, I attended a friend’s wedding reception. Whilst chatting away to a couple, I felt a tug under my shoe. I looked down to find I was standing on the train of the wedding dress. The look the bride gave me was indescribable. I quickly apologised and kept on apologising all night and for several weeks afterward. Eventually I gained favour after five months. Ever since then, I ensure that at every wedding I have attended, I draw up an imaginary exclusion zone around ‘the dress’ and stay out of it.

The Partner
The other half of the partnership is the person the bride has agonised over every decision with. He/she will have saved the money for the occasion, managed the budget, found the catering staff, listened to all the party music, good and bad, kept warring families and friends at bay, run around the United Kingdom looking for all sorts of things, and been the shoulder to cry on, just for their bride to be happy on the big day.
Yet the day may well come and go without anyone even commenting on how well they look in their outfit. Don’t forget them.
In the era of superfast technology, some things are just plain old fashioned – if they didn’t ask the person to marry them, there would be no wedding.
Bridesmaids, Ushers, Best Man and Chief Bridesmaid
It is not every day one gets asked to join a wedding party as a bridesmaid. It is an honour bestowed upon only the most beloved family and friends. It has also been strategically used to mend bridges and calm relationship waters. For the person bestowing the honour, it is a time fraught with indecision as one wrong bestowment can set the tone of the whole proceeding, from asking the person, to the end of time.
The recipient of the honour also accepts that whatever outfit is chosen, they shall wear it. If that garment happens to be a sleek sophisticated Chanel or Tom Ford number, great. If it’s to be a bargain basement reject in the colour of sink effluvia, great.
There is no wiggle room on cut, style, colour, fabrics or even sometimes fit. There has been many a nuptial where the wedding party looks like they have been playing musical clothes instead of musical chairs. Sometimes the groom plays too.

Often, the only opinion that matters is the bride’s.
If money is an issue, you may have to pay for the outfit. If you are lucky, it has been hired. The only thing that can be done in this situation if you are part of the wedding party is to wear whatever has been given and wear it with style. It is only for one day. The bride and groom will love you forever for being so accommodating.
Clothing Critique
So, you have arrived at the wedding in your dynamic outfit. You look good and feel just dandy. You look around you to find several members of the congregation are looking a bit dodgy and dated in the clothing department.
What do you do?
1. Grab the nearest person and start loudly discussing the worst offender which the fashion police ought to round up right away.
2. Strut up and down the aisle in your designer coat, to show everyone how dressing well ought to be done.
3. Slip off your designer coat. You need to blend in.
4. Pay no attention to who is wearing what. You need to find your glasses so you can join in singing the hymns.
There is no wrong answer, although each decision will provoke a different reaction from the congregation. Don’t forget, whoever you chose to chat to about the sorry state of the congregation, they may well be related to the wedding party.
Note; if you chose point 1 or 2, you may be labelled a show off and Aunty Maude may give you the ‘evil eye’ for the rest of the day. Is it worth the aggravation?
Lycra
This is one fabric which should not make an appearance during the big day. It does not matter whether you are an acquaintance, work mate or mother of the bride. Do not be tempted to wear anything made entirely of this fabric, no matter how fabulous you look. Lycra has no place in the congregation, that is, if you do not want to spend the entire day being clucked or tutted at by attendees. Or chased by great uncle Hubert.

Hats
The old saying goes ‘if you want to get ahead, get a hat.’
When it comes to weddings, if you want to be relegated to the back of the venue, wear a big hat.
The hat would certainly be eye-catching and dynamic when worn with a killer outfit, but do not expect to be wearing it for long if you happen to be sitting at the front of the venue, because nobody else will be able to see a thing behind you. People want to see and take pictures of the main event, not just hear it.
Wear a feisty little fascinator which is stylish, sassy and far smaller in comparison. That way, you need not worry about ‘hat hair.’
Clones
There are two types of clone:
Clone 1
When buying an outfit for a wedding, this situation is likely to crop up if you purchase garments from mainstream retailers. We have all been there. Picture the scenario:
You spend ages finding the perfect outfit after trawling the stores. You spend hours getting ready on the day and strut up to the venue in your finery, to find that someone else is wearing your outfit! It’s too late to slip into something else. What do you do?
If you buy an outfit from a popular store, find a way to customise the outfit such as changing the buttons or adding a different jacket to it. If you are already at the venue when you find you have a clone, borrow a scarf to break up the look of your outfit. A colourful pashmina or wrap will detract from the fact that someone else is wearing your dress. When going to a wedding, it is always a good idea to carry a scarf to ward against this happening and to keep the chill off when night falls.
Clone 2
You arrive at the wedding to find that the safe bet colour you opted to wear, such as beige or navy, is also the safe the colour bet for several other people.
I have been to weddings where half a dozen women have arrived, all wearing beige.
Now, it’s not easy going wedding outfit hunting, when all the shops sport the same colours.
If you have enough time, making something is always the best bet to solve both Clone 1 and Clone 2 scenarios. Even if the style of the outfit is the same, the fabrics won’t be which all you need to look individual and stylish.
Stormy Weather
When packing for a day at a wedding, there is one thing I believe is absolutely essential if you happen to live in the United Kingdom. Your faithful friend, the umbrella. Living on an island in the northern hemisphere makes it prudent a move to always have one to hand, especially if you have spent a fortune and half a day at the hairdressers’ getting your hairdo just so. Who wants to have it ruined by an onslaught of relentless grey drizzle? Lets not even mention your nice and expensive suit, which leaves water stains when wet.
Eating room
What can I say? Before you left the house or hotel, you knew your outfit was a tad tight. Did you return and change into something roomier? No. Now you’re sat in the marquee having devoured a four course meal, half a bottle of red wine and attacked the late night hog roast top up. Your zip has given up the fight and you are covering up the gap with your jacket, even though you feel like you are ready to self combust with the heat in the venue. I feel your pain. I have been there many a time.
You only have yourself to blame. Should have left some eating room…

Hands off the Dress

Fashion
Everyone wants to look good, feel great and be individual. We all want to make the best of ourselves and our clothing is a visible way of making a statement. When attending a marital union, people often wear fashionable clothing. However, pictures and videos date and none more so than wedding pictures. Every family has dodgy yellowed photographs portraying people wearing seventies flares, lurid tank tops and baggy New Romantics shirts. All wearing questionable haircuts. We laugh at them now, but at the time they were wearing cutting edge fashion. In thirty years’ time, another generation will probably be viewing today’s images on four dimensional devices and laughing their heads off at the fashions of today. It is inevitable. Enjoy the day and move on.
Last but not least…
Don’t forget to take a little sewing kit for all those clothing emergencies. Your skills could be a real asset on the day if a hem comes undone or a button pops off.
Be a hero!

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Jay Francois-Campbell is a theatrical tailor and costume maker at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London. She specialises in costumes for opera and ballet. Jay has made garments for men, women and children for film, TV, theatre, family entertainment, fashion, special events and pantomime, and is the author of ‘Simple Tailoring and Alterations’ which is available in John Lewis, London and on sale worldwide. When not conducting talks on all aspects of garment construction, she can be found scoffing popcorn whilst watching the latest blockbuster film at her local cinema, or trying to locate the potatoes she planted on her allotment.

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