Autumn wedding season is here, but with all the associated expenses (hens’ parties, gifts, transport and accommodation, to name a few), how do you find an inspiring outfit without blowing your budget?

We spoke to stylist Jam Baylon and Alex Osmond, owner of dress-rental business Her Wardrobe, to get some advice on how to look and feel good, affordably, as you dance the night away with the happy couple.

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Refresh what’s already in your wardrobe with new or vintage accessories instead of going on a whole-outfit shopping spree, Baylon says.

“It’s always worthwhile looking in your wardrobe and simply purchasing a statement pair of earrings or a necklace to jazz up a current dress. I also recommend visiting your local second-hand shop – like Savers – as you’re always guaranteed to find something unique to glam up a dress you may already have.”

Baylon personally calls on Shag in Melbourne – which “provides looks that are fun, timeless and vintage” – for that purpose. You can also find great vintage bargains online and via Instagram – there’s been an explosion of pre-owned high-fashion marketplaces in recent years, including Vestiaire Collective in France and The Drobe in Australia.

Seek out more affordable labels

“Australian womenswear labels Talulah and Realisation Par – and sustainable US label Reformation – are all great for fun and flirty dresses, which are suitable for winery or garden weddings,” says Osmond. “Talulah, in particular, is always our go-to for really affordable styles that look great on a size six right through to a size 16.”

Of course, hiring an outfit can save you hundreds of dollars when dressing for a wedding. “At Her Wardrobe we have wedding-guest dresses that rent for as little as $59,” says Osmond. “And we take care of the return postage and dry cleaning so you’re saving on all accounts.”

Consider comfort – don’t be afraid to wear flats

Osmond works every day with clients looking to hire the perfect dress for an upcoming event, and her first tip is all about considering the long haul.

“I always tell customers to avoid outfits they [don’t feel] comfortable in,” she says.
“A wedding can be a long event and you want to be able to enjoy yourself, so selecting a dress you feel confident in is a must.” Wear something that allows you to eat well and dance all night, she adds, and choose your “most comfortable pair of shoes”.

She emphasises it’s totally acceptable to wear smart flats instead of heels or wedges to even the most formal wedding, and – added perk – they’re often the cheaper option.

Three local labels specialising in formal, flat footwear to consider are Essen, Nelson Made and Mara and Mine.

Colour code

Speaking of comfort, Baylon recommends getting out of your comfort zone when it comes to colour. Although you may feel most comfortable dressed in black, there’s no better time than a wedding to steer clear of it. “Even though I love the shade black, and it’s a very timeless and safe ‘colour’, try to avoid it,” she says. “It’s a happy occasion – choose something bright.”

“Being the owner of a dress-rental store, I will always have a soft spot for those really unique pieces and [fun] colours,” adds Osmond. “I love that Her Wardrobe allows women to wear a style or pattern they might not have otherwise invested in. We don’t get that many opportunities to dress up these days, so I think weddings are a great excuse to try something you haven’t before. For example, this year we’re seeing a lot of bright pink and fuchsia throughout designer collections – it’s the perfect colour to wear to a wedding, but not necessarily a colour you might get as much opportunity to wear again.”

When it comes to colour choice, the dress code and location of the wedding should point you in the right direction. “Soft pinks, yellows and blues are great at a garden or beach wedding, while fuchsia, black and navy are often better suited to an inner-city location,” says Osmond.

Likely NYC is a brand we bring in from New York, specifically with black-tie weddings in mind. They’re renowned for really effortless, timeless silhouettes in an array of block colours.”

Don’t follow the trends

Though you might be tempted by the latest trends, both Baylon and Osmond urge shoppers to consider the staying power of that purchase 10 years down the line. It’s more worthwhile investing in a timeless piece you can wear for many years to a myriad of events.

“Picking an outfit that will stand the test of time is a good idea,” says Osmond. “Especially if it’s a family wedding and you’re likely to be featured in photos for years to come.” She opts for classic silhouettes in dependable block colours. “Local womenswear label Rebecca Vallance is perfect for cocktail and formal weddings. You can’t beat [her] when it comes to classic cuts in bold, bright colours.” And renting Vallance’s designs instead of buying them will take your money further.

Osmond also recommends shopping for something that showcases your favourite parts of you. “I tend to choose outfits that suit my body shape, which means not always fitting into the current trend … I personally love a dressy jumpsuit in colour or a wrap dress that suits most body shapes.”

She’s a big fan of Melbourne label Arnsdorf for wedding attire. “Their clothing is ethically made, designed to last, and they have styles you can keep wearing over and over again.”

Suit up

The bride might be wearing a dress, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Quality suiting for women is on the rise in a variety of vibrant colourways – and it’s a great option for weddings, says Baylon. Plus, suits are versatile, making the cost-per-wear argument very enticing.

“I wore a custom-made suit by local, sustainable and independent designer Lauren De Innocentis to a wedding recently and I’ve continued to wear it to all different occasions,” she says.

If you have a bit more to spend and time to plan, Baylon recommends Melbourne custom-suit specialist ByHim, which caters to men and women. “I love the different suiting colours they offer and how they also put a modern touch on the designs,” she says.

This article first appeared on Broadsheet on October 30, 2019. Some details and prices may have changed since publication.