28 June 2010 – Taboo Hues

June 28th, 2010 § 34 comments

28 June 2010 – Outdoor Wedding, originally uploaded by academichic.


  • Pink eyelet dress – Ann Taylor, thrifted in San Fran
  • Pink flower pin – H&M
  • Yellow shoes – Gianni Bini
  • Silver cuff – gift
  • Gold clutch – BR, gift from mom
  • Flower earrings – my wedding earrings, side walk sale


This past weekend, T. and I attended the wedding of two good friends of ours. It was a beautiful outdoor ceremony in a park followed by a wonderful reception at a local restaurant. The couple looked gorgeous and the day couldn’t have been any nicer or more enjoyable. Everything was great, barring perhaps the insanely hot temperature – close to mid 90s during the outdoor ceremony part. I knew it was going to be sweltering and so I tried to dress accordingly.

I had initially planned on wearing this light and airy white dress (also thrifted) that has a tulip shape to the skirt and a deep V cut-out in the back. It’s also knee length and somewhat more formal than the pink cotton number I ended up wearing. I had envisioned adding the same flower brooch for that touch of summery flair and my red wedge sandals…

But after I brought up the discussion on wedding guest attire during my last wedding-related post, so many readers chimed in with emphatic protests to wearing white as a guest that I first wavered and then retreated entirely from said ensemble above.

Although I still don’t agree with the idea that certain colors (even white or black) should be taboo for a wedding, I couldn’t help but lose my resolve to wear what I wanted to wear because I realized how many people might read my choice as something other than what it was. I wanted to wear a dress that would be elegant yet summery and day-wear appropriate; light and breezy for the heat; and flattering on my body shape. I had no intentions of outshining the bride or diverting attention to myself. And while I know that, I decided that a sign is not only what you (the wearer) decide it is, but also what the other person – the receiver – reads it to be. So despite my best intentions, if the majority of readers (and by extension, perhaps the people attending this wedding?) would misinterpret my wearing of white (with polka-dots, mind you) to a friend’s wedding, then it would be a battle lost.

28 June 2010, originally uploaded by academichic.

In the end, I was happy with the pink dress, I don’t think the bride would have cared either way about my choice, and I forgot all about my outfit once the celebration started and I enjoyed the time with my friends. But this incident just reminded me once more how powerful certain sartorial symbols are and how ingrained certain signs and signifiers continue to be. I’m appreciating that even when I don’t agree with said symbolisms and signs, I still cannot opt out of what they mean to others. S.

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§ 34 Responses to 28 June 2010 – Taboo Hues"

  1. EmilyKennedy says:

    Well the dress you went with is very beautiful and perfect for a summer wedding. Erm, I just don’t know. I wore purple to my own wedding; I’m anarchic like that, but I would have loved for guests to wear white. Again, it’s all about context, like you say.

  2. Lisa says:

    That’s an interesting point about the white. I wouldn’t have thought twice about that dress, since it has the polka dots. But your outfit ended up gorgeous! I love the cut of it and the fun summery color.

    After starting to read this blog, I’ve been thrifting a lot more, and am happy to say I’ve found some pretty awesome and inexpensive things! Thanks for the inspiration

  3. Maria says:

    It’s a dress with huge polka dots. Nothing to worry about. The rule about white IMO concerns much fancier dresses that could actually be confused with the bride’s from across the room.

  4. Sara says:

    I love the bright pink dress you chose to wear! So summery and vibrant. I like the polka dot dress too, especially with the red shoes.

    That initial post and its comments were incredibly interesting and eye-opening reading. It made me change my mind on a dress I was going to wear to a wedding, too!

  5. Kathryn says:

    I really like the pink dress you wore, but wouldn’t have thought twice about the polka-dotted dress either. I agree that the wearing of white might be less about “outshining” the bride and more about confusing people- no bride wants someone who could be mistaken for them at their wedding, but I know very few brides who have rocked polka-dots on the big day.

    Either way the choices were both lovely.

  6. nicholle says:

    I too agree that white with polka dots is totally fine. And honestly, even if you and the bride both wore white….is anyone REALLY going to confuse the two of you?? :)

    Plus, so many brides choose to wear a rainbow of colours these days!

    But I do understand the slight worry that other people may be judging. Sometimes easier to go a different route, and you looked fabulous anyway. :)

  7. kjlangford says:

    oh no! Now I feel bad. I was one of the “no, never white at a wedding!” people, but I actually think the white with the polka dots would have been fine!

    I’m imagining a dress that is a solid white in terms of what it not appropriate. Someone mentioned that the rule applies to more formal white dresses, and while I think there are some white sundresses that would broach inappropriateness, I think that version of the rule (no white, formal dresses) is more accurate. One of the women in my wedding party (a greeter/guestbook attendant) wore a white dress with a black floral print to my wedding (to my black and white wedding), and she looked fabulous and appropriate.

    That being said, I think the outfit you ended on was beautiful!

  8. Franca says:

    What you wore is lovely, but I don’t think that polka dot dress would have been anything to worry about! I have a black and white dress that I’ve worn to a couple of weddingss – though I always made sure to ask the bride in advance.

  9. Sima says:

    As a married woman who wore a white dress on her wedding day, the white taboo seems so silly to me. Grooms don’t feel upstaged by the other suits in the room.

    Is there not enough already in the pomp and fair to distinguish a bride from the crowd? Is she really that threatened on her wedding day of being forgotten?

    Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that a woman is not her wedding day, and that a wedding is not a celebration OF her but a celebration WITH her of a community-sustained and supported bond with a man or woman she loves.

    Weddings aready have enough stress, rigidity and social pressures built around them that I think we could afford to lose a destructive tradition (or two or three!) and all be better off.

    I hope you can feel more supported and welcome to wear your lovely polkadots, S.

  10. I love the dress you selected. Yes, wearing white to a wedding (even with polka dots could send an unintended message to some attendees). That’s a tough choice, but on a wedding day it’s not one I’d want to risk. Love the pink w/ yellow flats to accent.

  11. Miranda says:

    I’m with kjlangford — I feel bad if I implied that “wearing white” included dresses that have white as part of a background or pattern. I think wearing all white (or ivory, etc) is faux pas. But patterns are fair game. (I’ve done it myself — an Anthro dress with a feather-toile white and black pattern.)

  12. Rlutz71 says:

    I love the way you paired the yellow shoes with the pink dress…
    In my opinion I think there is no reason that you could not wear a polka dot dress to a wedding

  13. Raquel says:

    I’m one of those who abide to the “no white rule”… and even with the polka dots, IMO, there is ennough white in the dress to not be appropriated – in my part of the world.

    I love the pink dress, it is so cute on you.

  14. Sara Rose says:

    I’ve worn a simple white linen dress to about 4 different weddings and never once got accused of trying to outshine the bride or look like I was in the bridal party. I usually try to make sure my accessories are nowhere near the same colors as what the bridal party is wearing though. I’ve never understood the whole ‘don’t wear white to weddings’ thing though.

  15. Kim C. says:

    I actually commented on the previous post saying that I thought that black or white to a wedding was not appropriate. However, I think the polka dots would have been adorable, especially with the colorful accessories. If the dress had been solid white, I would have said no way, but a whimsical print makes a difference. I love that you chose the pink though. It was the perfect choice for a summer wedding and looked great.

  16. Diana says:

    This is a really good point you make here about appropriateness or inappropriateness not existing in a vacuum, and I think it articulates well why I don’t wear white dresses to weddings. (I do think the polka dots would have been OK though.)
    To come at this from another angle, I think a bride in some ways also feels this sort of societal pressure to dress a certain way (i.e. big white dress, and in the case of chinese weddings, traditional chinese dress for the reception) and do certain things for her wedding. I myself am not even crazy about the idea of having a wedding AT ALL, much less a big lavish affair with the big dress etc, but I also know that if I marry my current boyfriend (which is very likely) I am going to HAVE to do the whole big wedding thing, because his family would completely flip out were he not to have a big traditional wedding. In this case, I think the whole wedding (dress included) is a really powerful sartorial symbol; I have resigned myself to this fact, and I’ll even do it happily, since I don’t really want half of his family to be predisposed to hate me!

  17. Michele says:

    I’m not a big fan of wedding culture, so I’m of the opinion your dress would have been completely acceptable. It’s a very cute dress! You’ll definitely have another opportunity to wear it out.

  18. Licia says:

    While I am in agreement with you about wearing white at a wedding, risking the chance that the bride may not like me wearing it is not worth it. After all, it’s her day and, rather than the golden rule “treat others as you’d like to be treated,” I would apply the platinum rule “treat others as they’d like to be treated.”

  19. Cara says:

    I’d shy away from ONLY white, but I think the polka dots definitely prevents that in a very cute way!
    However, I LOVE the pink dress. Especially since the shoes in the first couple pictures, at least on my monitor, have an orange tinge to them. I’m now itching to pair pink and orange! The shoes definitely work as yellow, but inspiration always comes from the weirdest places!

  20. Jackie says:

    I grew up in the southeastern US and I was taught that traditionally in the US a lady is not supposed to wear solid white (to avoid appearing to compete with the bride), solid black (to avoid appearing to mourn the marriage), or solid red (to avoid appearing to be competing for the groom’s attention). IMO, the print makes your dress appropriate, especially for an outdoor wedding, which would generally be considered less formal. I really think it would only be an issue 1) in very stuffy company or 2) at a very formal affair where guests and wedding party females were in floor length gowns.
    That said, the traditional rules have been considered much less in recent years. Black bride’s maid gowns are now the norm. I even had all my bride’s maids pick out their own dress in white/ivory/cream as our “colors” were white in its various shades.
    That said, you looked lovely in pink and the polka-dot ensemble is also quite fetching!

  21. Erica says:

    I like both of the dresses but I’m glad you made a decision that made you comfortable! however, this post just made me a little nervous! I got this great dress – white satin cocktail, ruching, with lots of big bright flowers all over it that I have since worn to 2 weddings. Everyone has loved it (at least my friends) and the brides, but now I’m wondering if perhaps some of the older guests were offended by my choice.

  22. Nerd Girl says:

    I think either choice would have been equally appropriate.

    I don’t necessarily stand on a lot of tradition – particularly those which I find downright silly – but I think it wonderful that you were aware enough to make a choice that took into consideration the feelings of others.

  23. admin says:

    Thanks for all the feedback, everyone! And to those of you who commented previously, thanks for chiming in again. I really didn’t take any offense at being dissuaded from wearing the white dress, so no apologies were needed. I actually am quite excited to have this dialogue, I find it fascinating to hear what others think regarding these big cornerstone events and the ways we mark/dress these events.

    I am now going to consider wearing the white polka dot dress to a wedding after all, thanks to you all :)

    I should just make up my own mind, right? S.

  24. Deepti says:

    I love both the dresses. I have a thing for polka dots anyways. The hot pink dress looks great on you though, great choice. :)

  25. Rachel says:

    Both dresses are gorgeous. I grew up in MD and my memory of the “rule” is exactly the same as Jackie’s: “traditionally in the US a lady is not supposed to wear solid white (to avoid appearing to compete with the bride), solid black (to avoid appearing to mourn the marriage), or solid red (to avoid appearing to be competing for the groom’s attention).”

    While I think the second two are dated, I’d still avoid wearing a solid white or ivory dress to a wedding. Even if you’re not trying to compete with the bride, you never know how she’ll take it. I’d hate to think that I bothered someone on her wedding day.

  26. Brandy says:

    While I agree with not wearing white to a wedding, I think that if it’s got a significant pattern overlaid on it then it doesn’t count as white anymore. The entire point of not wearing white is not to look like you’re trying to upstage the bride, and I don’t think anyone would ever mistake a short polka-dotted dress as being more elaborate or showy than a wedding gown!

  27. Like the others, I think there is a HUGE difference between a white dress and a white-with-pattern dress, like the polka dots.

    One of the most popular color combos for guests at weddings that I’ve seen is actually black/white, a classic combination that is never confused as “white” or “black” alone. Although I think black dresses are fine at weddings b/c black now means formal/classic where it used to mean mourning. But a white dress at a wedding still means bride.

  28. Sylvia says:

    That last statement was so very well put that I want to email it to everyone I know.

  29. G says:

    There is no way that cute little polka dot dress could have offended anyone or upstaged the bride! It’s adorable and perfectly summery…The pink one looks great too, I just wish you could’ve gone with your heart..

  30. EJ says:

    I love both those outfits! I replied to the last post, agreeing with the no red, black, or white to a wedding (but any print combining the above would, I think, be okay). AND I agree with you that these limitations are rather passe and most brides wouldn’t care… but I’d still not wear them, for exactly the same reasons you did not. (Others at the wedding might object.) …Hope you find a reason to wear the other outfit soon… love black and white with pink & red accents!

  31. GingerR says:

    I think the polka-dots would have been alright but it was thoughtful of you to pick something else to avoid any issues.

    Another good reason for owning a large wardrobe!

  32. I love that pink dress on you. I think because the white dress has such an obvious pattern, it wouldn’t have been mistaken as WHITE! and therefore competing with the bride.

  33. Terri says:

    Both outfits are lovely…and would have been perfect at my wedding. :)

  34. Mary says:

    Personally while I don’t necessarily agree with such traditions I abide by them as I really don’t want the group of grannies talking about me behind my back..

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