Dressing for a bridal shower can bring on all forms of guest anxiety, especially if the invitation is ambiguous. We hear you—this popular party is often held at a variety of different venues (no shower is the same!) which means determining the expected formality level can be confusing. That's why we tapped four etiquette and style gurus to help you get dressed, whether you're attending a casual fête in the bride-to-be's parents' backyard, her favorite fancy restaurant, or on an urban hotel rooftop. Here, a comprehensive guide to selecting a bridal shower outfit that works at all those venue types at every dress code point—and a few more tips to help you on your way.
Choose a pastel look for a backyard garden fête.
"Whether you choose a sundress, a skirt and top, or a sleek pantsuit, wear your girly colors and accessorize with pearls and pretty scarves," says New York-based stylist Julie Sabatino of The Stylish Bride. That doesn't mean go all out, though. The bridal shower is a dressy event, says wedding guru Cacky's Bride Aid's Cacky Rivers—but you should never try to upstage the woman of the hour. "Have fun with your dress choice but don't out-do the bride," she adds. "Think sweet, not sexy."
Wear cocktail attire for a more formal event.
If you're invited to a bridal shower in a restaurant, hotel, or a banquet hall, you should dress accordingly. While an indoor event often means more wardrobe flexibility (it's temperature controlled!), you'll want to make sure your outfit is seasonally appropriate, says Myka Meier, the founder and director of Beaumont Etiquette. "If the event is held in the fall or winter, stick to dark and warm tones. If it is held in the spring or summer, brighter and lighter tones are acceptable," she suggests. For these types of events, you'll also want to take into account time of day, she says, since a luncheon fête often calls for a more casual style than an evening party.
Whatever the formality level, don't wear black.
Virtually all four experts we spoke to were in agreement on this one. "This is not the time to wear black," said Sabatino. Etiquette expert Diane Gottsman believes that your look "should feel celebratory and lively," as does Rivers, who also nixed black entirely. She added white to the banned list, too, for obvious reasons. The bride-to-be will almost definitely be in that shade.
If there's a color palette, stick to it.
Sometimes an invitation will specify a guest color palette instead of a dress code. Stick to it as best you can, says Gottsman. "You will have to put forth a little effort to find the right look unless you are lucky enough to have it in your closet," she advises. "You don't have to break the bank to get the desired look but you should try and follow the request as close as possible and dress 'up' rather than 'down.'"
When in doubt, refer to these rules of thumb.
Study the style of the invitation, note the time, and research the venue, suggests Rivers. If you're hitting a few bridal showers this summer, opt for this style formula: "A pretty floral wrap dress or off-the-shoulder linen dress with a soft lining looks summery, cool, and happy," says Gottsman