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A Bride's Guide to Rehearsal Attire

Basic black? Hot pink? Strapless? Backless? Mid-thigh? Mid-calf? Trendy? Conservative?

Could this be a case of rehearsal dinner dress confusion?

It seems that for many brides, their rehearsal dinner outfit is almost an afterthought in wedding planing. After making so many choices, it may be hard to confront yet another one, especially since there are countless options in selecting rehearsal dinner attire. And unlike a wedding gown, which despite the style you've chosen is still a wedding gown, a rehearsal dress is more likely to express you and your own personal style. So there's a lot at stake
But don't bite those nails that you've been taking such good care of before your wedding. We have a cure for those rehearsal dinner dress blues. After all, you will be a star of your rehearsal dinner just like at your wedding itself. And you want to shine.

BBQ or Ball:


The first thing to keep in mind when looking for your rehearsal dinner outfit is what type of rehearsal dinner you will be having. Will it be a casual BBQ or an elegant soiree at a country club? A dinner in someone's home or at a tony restaurant? Will you be inviting just the wedding party for an intimate gathering or them plus all of your out-of-town guests? These are the questions that Susan Stein, a personal shopper at Bloomingdale's in Los Angeles, asks brides who come to her for a rehearsal dinner dress rescue. "When I find out what type of party they're having, it sets the tone for what they should wear," she explains. Cocktail attire for the country club, perhaps capri pants for the BBQ. After that is settled, Stein sets out to help the bride achieve what she says is the No. 1 rule in rehearsal dress attire: "She must look better, more wonderful and more special than everyone else at the rehearsal dinner."

The Bride with Two Faces:


Look for an outfit that expresses you in a different way than your wedding dress does. If your wedding dress is traditional, look for a more sophisticated, contemporary rehearsal dinner dress. If your wedding dress is long-sleeved with a high neckline, look for a rehearsal dinner dress that's more revealing. "I call it the 'other side of the bride,' " Stein says.

Tres Trendy:


Don't be afraid to select a hot new look your rehearsal dinner. But beware of being too trendy, or you'll laugh at the pictures years later. What's hot now?:
  • the strapless sheath and the little sweater that's paired with just about everything
  • a simple shift dress with a sweater around the shoulders
  • a long, soft skirt topped with a soft sweater or twinset
  • a silk taffeta long skirt paired with a short sweater
  • a tank style dress

Lengths can run the gamut from very short to very long, so look for what is most flattering to your shape. As for shoes, anything open-toed and strappy is in for summer and early fall. But if you go for that look, stay away from hose, unless they are extremely sheer, nude hose. And don't forget to get a pedicure.

Color Me Mine:


It's a great time for color in rehearsal dinner dress-wear. If you're bold enough, steer clear of the ubiquitous little black dress. Try the pastels, an array of greens from sage to lime, and the many shades of pink that are hot right now. If you go with a light color, be careful with sauces and red wine at your rehearsal dinner. If you're not into color, gray is a good neutral. "Anything but black," says Stein, especially if you want to stand out among your guests. "It's too safe." But if you are most comfortable choosing black, you can still shine with the right accessories to pull your look together. You should probably avoid anything close to what you're wearing the next day -- white, off-white or ivory. Unless that's the look you feel best in. "If someone loves themselves in a white suit or a shift, go for it," Stein recommends.

Accessorize, Accessorize:


There's more to accessorizing than fastening a strand of pearls around your neck. Sparkle is in, and if you don't have diamonds you can buy some great fakes. Illusion jewelry is also in, as is ethnically-inspired jewelry. If you can, borrow something really special from Mom. When selecting a handbag, think small with little handles if you want a look that's now. Makeup is also important on your rehearsal dinner evening, and it's a good chance to have a trial-run before your wedding.

After the Dinner:


Don't plan on bringing your rehearsal dinner dress on your honeymoon, unless you expect to send it out to the cleaners as soon as you arrive at your destination.

Comfort First:


Make sure that your rehearsal dinner dress fits comfortably and tastefully. If you choose a low-cut dress, be sure it's not too low. Allow time for alterations, if necessary, and make sure you have the proper lingerie for the style. The rehearsal dinner is a relaxed, fun introduction to your wedding. You want to be relaxed and comfortable, too.

Love it or Leave it:


Make sure that you're absolutely ga-ga over your rehearsal dinner outfit. Says personal shopper Stein: "If someone feels great in what they're wearing their whole body language changes. They stand up straighter. They smile." And your rehearsal is an evening sure to be filled with joy.

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