Maxi Dresses- Appropriate For An Afternoon Wedding?

Dear Deborah,

I have an afternoon wedding on the 25th of this month, and love the look of the Maxi dress, but have no idea what kind to choose. Also, I’m 5’3 and wonder if this style would even work for me? Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Melissa

Hi Melissa,

Yes, A maxi dress is a wonderful choice for an afternoon wedding, but here’s the catch. You have to be careful you don’t pick a maxi that is too casual for the affair.  Some of the maxis out there look like they belong lounging by the pool. You are best to choose a maxi in soft fabrics like silk, jersey or chiffon, rather than cotton or linen. Also solid colors are more formal than prints- not to say you can’t wear prints, but be mindful the pattern is not too funky or beachy.

Also, since you are only 5’3″  avoid maxis with little or no shape because they will drown you. Petite women need to choose maxis that sit closer to the body  and have a defined waist. The defined waist can even be a higher one – i.e. empire waist.

Here’s a few maxis I found that illustrate these points and reveal some other Do’s and Dont’s …

DO wear Dresses with a bit of Bling
This beaded jersey dress has a bit of sparkle up top which makes it appropriate for a fancy occasion like  wedding. Some skin is revealed up top, but  not too much. Still, for the church part of the ceremony we’d recommend a pashmina wrap for your shoulders to be respectful.
DON’T wear Plunging Necklines
All eyes should be on the bride, so don’t try to upstage her by wearing a dress as low cut and revealing as this sexy, red halter,no matter what your age or how good it looks on you.
 
DO wear Feminine dresses that move
We talked about soft flowing fabrics. This pretty Shelly Laundry empire maxi dress is chiffon will make you look like you are floating on air. The vibrant painterly print pattern is so in vogue at the moment.
 
DON’T wear Animal Prints
This leopard Rachel Zoe maxi is great for a Saturday evening out with friends, but too edgy for a family event like a wedding ceremony.
 
DO wear Florals
Florals are always appropriate for a wedding and this Donna Morgan Chiffon maxi is  pretty and appropriate. This is a big busted gal, but her dress covers her well while still revealing her figure.
DO wear Caftans
This Rachel Pally caftan with butterfly sleeves  is elegant, appropriate and perfect if you have a few pounds to cover up.  Solid purple is elegant, a busy patterned can also work, (Remember Hillary Clinton) or sometimes it can be too much.  Keep in mind that smaller women need smaller patterns and full figured women need bigger patterns to balance them out.
 
DON’T wear Casual Maxis!
Don’t wear maxis that are so casual, there is nothing you can do to dress them up. Some Maxis like this sporty striped Donna Karan maxi were meant for the beach!
DO wear Black and White
White by itself is a no-no for weddings, black can work for a formal or evening wedding. For a summer afternoon wedding we prefer the combination of black and white in a graphic print to look modern and chic
DO choose a dress that sits close to the body if you are Petite
We talked about this earlier and here’s a good example. If you are tiny a big flowing maxi can overwhelm. This dress has a defined waist and sits close to the body so it won’t overwhelm you. The ethnic print gives it a more casual vibe, and would work best at a more relaxed wedding
DON’T wear flats unless…
A flat sandal, preferably metallic,  is fine for a backyard or outdoor wedding , but for an indoor wedding we’d suggest that you wear some pretty heels or wedges to kick the look up a notch.  photo look too Don’t forget a pretty necklace or earrings to also raise the elegance level.
DO embrace Color
Don’t be afraid of color no matter what your size. The right colors will make you look wow! This Donna Morgan chiffon maxi with empire waist looks fab! Notice the sexy heels too.

DO embrace Color


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  1. Lucy:

    I was just remarried and wore a chiffon ivory tea length dress with a gentle ruffle at the neckline (V- neck) and a black grosgrain ribbon sash, with satin ivory peep toe pumps

  2. I wish we had a Nordstrom’s in Canada. Frequently you have recommendations of clothing from this store! What Canadian equivalent do you suggest? Melanie Lyne?

  3. Hi Deb, I love your site. I’m living in london and age 57. I find it a problem what to wear to different occasions. I stumbled on you site by mistake. I still feel young and not 57 and I don’t want to be mutton dressed as lamb. Hah hah. Keep it up your great site!

  4. Speaking of wedding, my brother having an engagement party. So which kind of dress should i wear? I prefer the short type. Any suggestion?Thanks

  5. Deb, that Rachel Pally caftan in slate is an absolute winner. I’m absolutely drawn to it and think that the model looks amazing! What a versatile number too. So easy to dress up or down, wedding then weekend away! Well done girls. I do love your practical approach to gently guiding women on their missions. A:)

  6. Speaking of weddings… any tips for what a 40-something bride could/should wear to her third wedding? Probably more particularly I would be interested to know what she should NOT wear. Would never have thought that I would get married three times but life throws us some curve balls at times. Any pics or tips would be greatly appreciated … thanks ladies. XX

  7. Great designs. I would like to have one for my partner.She will surely like it.

  8. Great tips for women over 40 to stay sexy! Great article!

  9. Deb, great post – and great dresses and tips, even for someone who doesn’t really go for maxis, it made me kind of want one.

    • HI Kelly,
      Yes, at least go and try some on! You will feel so feminine and festive! They are casual and so comfortable but really take it up a notch from wearing jeans!

  10. Hi Deborah,

    This is a great style of article because it so clearly shows the do’s and dont’s. And I love that you use petite, missy and woman models to show the ideas! So often I see your posts and think they look so good, but really I am not at all that shape or have the skin condition to show off those short dresses, high heels etc etc… So just loving this one!!!!
    Again, The Glam Gal rules!
    Jen

    • Hi Jen,
      Glad you enjoyed the post. Now if we could only find pics of models our age wearing these clothes. It takes work to visualize what these will actually look like on a 40+ gal.