Devil in a Red Dress?

Posted by Erin
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The last story I wrote for Curate focused on what one wears on her wedding day. Not long before that I wrote about the power of a red dress. This time I’m combining the two… Well, not wearing red on your wedding day (which, btw, is quite traditional in Eastern countries like China and India – red represents good luck and auspiciousness), but on someone else’s wedding day.

Recently my husband and I were invited to attend two back-to-back formal weddings. This meant I would need to come up with a total of four “formal” looks for the two weekends: cocktail ensembles for the Friday evening events and evening gowns for the actual weddings.

One wedding was in Geneva, quite old-school: Friday night would be held at the family home of the groom on Lake Geneva and the Saturday evening wedding would be held at chateau belonging to the bride’s family, nestled in the French countryside. The second wedding was in Rome: Friday night would be up on a rooftop overlooking the ancient city and Saturday night in an Italian castle in the countryside (which turned out to be one of the sites for Berlusconi’s famous “bunga bunga” parties).

The settings were similar, yet different. Basically: two kinds of fancy.

When pulling aside appropriate dresses for the Friday night events, I came across a 1950’s, strapless, red tulle party dress that I have yet to wear and that I absolutely love. It is festive, yet formal. Fun, but refined. Perhaps a little too fancy for the Friday night? But could it work for a black tie wedding? No, I decided. It was red.

Somewhere in the back of my head I could see my mother’s serious face and hear her stern Irish voice doling out one of her rules: “No red to a wedding! It will look like you are saying ‘Look at me!’ and it’s not your night.” This from the same woman who had also once warned, when I attempted to wear a little black dress to a family wedding, “Black is too morbid for such a joyous occasion!”

So there I was with my red dress in one hand, ready to hang it alongside the other discards, when my husband walked in and said, “That looks like a good one… Red is festive!”

He must have seen my face darken, because then he quickly added, “Weddings are festive, right?”

Weddings are festive, so why then did red feel so wrong?

I explained that red dresses scream “Look at me!” and he understood, but he still thought it was fine.

It turned out my husband was right (but don’t tell him). Apparently I’m the only person who felt threatened by a scarlet A-line. While I opted not to wear my vintage dress to any of the wedding parties this time around, I have never seen so many red dresses and gowns at a wedding as I did in those two weekends. Red was the color of choice. If there was a majority color amongst the female guests, red was it. Not only did I find it appropriate for the first time, but the women wearing red seemed to give some kick to the party, and who wouldn’t want some added life at their wedding reception? Have you ever noticed that the dancing party girl emoticon for Instagram is a girl in a red gown?

My choice of a black and ivory Tuleh (almost vintage) gown trimmed in chocolate silk for the Geneva wedding felt tidy and conservative next to the vermilion gowns cha-cha-ing around me. And while I felt my black, Lanvin, Grecian-style gown was perfect in Rome, I couldn’t take my eyes off a girl in a red, open-backed gown with a deep-V that was cut almost to her waist. It was a bold choice, but she looked amazing and not at all out of place. (The girl wearing the dress was Liza Urla, founder of gem-a-porter.com – I ended up talking for quite a while with her and featured her on my site earlier this week.)

I wore shorter dresses for the Friday night dinners: a pink, bejeweled collar Marchesa in Rome and a black, pleated, bejeweled-bib vintage Shrimpton Couture cocktail dress in Geneva… although I was also considering another vintage, a light blue, scalloped vintage wiggle gown whose buttons love to pop open when I walk, showing whole lot of leg, but I thought it was a little too sexy for the Geneva crowd. I’m saving it for a special dinner in St. Tropez…)

People are becoming more daring at weddings. While I’m not a huge fan of all the short, bandage dresses that were showing up in church pews for a while there, red dresses are vibrant and subtly sexy, and while they do demurely scream “Look at me!,” it’s usually in a nice, non-vulgar way (depending on cut of the dress, of course, but you get my drift).

Judging from the deep sea of red I experienced at those two weddings, it seems that red is replacing the ever-popular wedding pastel. You need not worry about standing out in red; you almost need to worry about blending in! Little did I know…

Let’s face it: red, black, rainbow or winged, you ain’t going to have nothing on the bride. She knows it, you know it, everyone knows it.

So go ahead, wear red to a wedding… just don’t wear white!


All photos by Benjamin Theys unless otherwise noted.


Liza Urla wearing red Olga Lowenstein in Rome (Personal Photo)


The Pink Marchesa Dress I wore in Rome (Personal photo)


The Lanvin Gown I wore in Rome (Personal Photo)


(L) The Tuleh Gown option (R) The blue vintage Dress I decided to save for St Tropez


The dress from Shrimpton Couture I wore in Geneva

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