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What on Earth Are You Supposed to Wear on Top of Your Dress at a Wedding?

If you’re prone to getting cold, you’re out of luck.

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A woman in a red tea-length dress Photo: Elizabeth Kennedy

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When it comes to matters of temperature and comfort, I like to be prepared. It doesn’t matter if it’s 85 degrees outside; I never know if my destination will be an AC-powered ice box, so I just always assume I’ll get cold pretty much any time I leave the house. In general this is an easy equation to compute for — dress in layers, bring a sweater, etc. — but there's one scenario that still stumps me: summer weddings.

I’ve worn a fitted leather jacket to weddings during the fall and spring and received plenty of compliments. In the winter, I've worn my great-grandmother’s fur stole. But in the summer... there just aren’t very many options that don’t immediately take away from the effect of your outfit.

Cardigans can alternately look very frumpy or very childish. Jackets — even cute, fitted ones — are too bulky to carry with you and seem like overkill to wear during daylight hours in June, July, or August. I guess you could just plan to steal a suit or tuxedo jacket from your brother, dad, or date, but come on, there has to be a better answer.

In preparation for the summer wedding season (and specifically, the mid-June wedding I’ll be attending in a few weeks), I’ve polled dozens of people on the best thing to wear in case it gets cold, and in my opinion, the options are still coming up short.

The most obvious answer is choosing a dress that has some length (keep those legs covered) and/or sleeves (keep those arms covered, too). But this doesn’t address the issue of temperature changes; you can’t take the sleeves off for the portion of the ceremony where you’ll be sitting outside in the hot sun and suddenly add them back on once the sun sets.

Another idea: Skip the dress entirely and go with a sleek suit instead. While this won’t jive with everyone’s style, it is relatively easy to find wedding guest–appropriate women’s suits or jumpsuits and jackets these days in many price ranges. (Pro tip: ASOS and Farfetch have the best selections.)

So far, the most satisfactory suggestion I’ve received is to bring a pretty scarf or shawl that blends with your dress. The pros: You can stash it easily or fold it up in your purse, you can use it like a blanket during the sit-down dinner portion and nobody will notice, and you can cover your shoulders with it to stay warm otherwise. The cons: It’s a shawl, which might make you feel like someone from the Revolutionary War period.

Maybe I’ll just settle for the tip offered by the friendly sales associate at & Other Stories in midtown Manhattan: “Just wear whatever you want on top, but make sure you don’t have it on in any of the pictures!”

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