weddings

ROAD TEST: I tried on 11 dresses under $200 in search of the perfect wedding guest outfit.

Trying to find the perfect wedding guest outfit is one of the trickiest shopping tasks. It’s right up there behind swimwear and a well-fitting bra.

Talk to most women about their shopping experiences (in-store, not online) and they’ll tell you it’s not really that fun. Rather, hitting the shops is time-consuming, sweaty (because of changing multiple times in stuffy change rooms), and it’s hard to find your size when every store has a different idea of what yours actually is.

I felt all of those annoyances when I recently went searching for the perfect wedding guest outfit.

WATCH: How much are you meant to put in a wedding wishing well? Find out in the video below, post continues after video.

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Being an in-between size, which many of us are, adds another layer to the experience. Technically, I’m a size 14, but the average Aussie woman is a size 16, which means even if brands do carry items up to a size 16, they’re almost impossible to find because they always sell out first.

But I digress.

Keep scrolling to follow me into the change room (in a non-creepy way) to see how I went shopping at popular department stores, fashion chains, an op shop and a designer dress hiring boutique for the perfect wedding guest dress.

1. Forever New. 

Average dress cost: $170.

Variety: Plenty!

Fit: True to size, run slightly small.

One of the first places I thought of to find a wedding guest outfit is Forever New. They have stylish, chic clothes that you can wear for many occasions. The styles I liked were only available in size 16s so I tried them on anyway. Normally, I pick up two sizes in the same style so I don’t need to ask the shop assistant for the next size.

Anyway, onto the dresses.

wedding dress road test
Forever New. Image: Supplied
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wedding dress road test
Forever New. Image: Supplied

I really love sequins these days and thought this golden number was perfect for a wedding, and while the bust was big for me it probably needed more shape overall. I also like the black number because of the material but the waistband was way too low and 90s-esque while the bust was again too big. If I had tried on size 14s however, the bust would be perfect on me but unsure about the hip region.

Overall, Forever New is a pretty safe bet for wedding guest outfits.

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2. Myer.

Average dress cost: $160-190.

Variety: Plenty!

Fit: True to size, more on the generous side.

wedding dress road test
Myer Mossman dress. Image: Supplied.
wedding dress road test
Myer sequin dress. Image: Supplied.
wedding dress road test
Myer Forever New dress. Image: Supplied.
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While you do need to search a lot of racks to find something you love, I was surprised to find a lot of great wedding guest options at Myer. The size 14 Mossman navy lace number fit nicely and came in red and black, but only in smaller sizes. I feel every colour in this style would suit a different event and it was a style I don’t usually go for but thoroughly enjoyed.

That said, I fell head-over-heels for this sequin dress by Collection in size 14. It’s a bit extra for a wedding and was quite thick for what could be a hot day, but definitely a party dress that I’d wear for a birthday, special event or a white tie/party wedding.

I also found another Forever New style at Myer from their Curve range. I was curious to see the sizing difference between a regular 16 and their curve 16 – there’s a big difference so try before you purchase. This style would suit a garden/cocktail wedding, but not so easy to style again and again.

Verdict - I would go to Myer again for special occasion shopping.

3. Sportsgirl.

Average dress cost: $110.

Variety: Sad.

Fit: Generous.

wedding dress road test
Sportsgirl dress. Image: Supplied.
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I was a little underwhelmed by the Sportsgirl at my local shopping centre. The clothing range was super casual and the most dressy thing would be something I’d wear to a wine tour (but I'd have to dress it up a lot with shoes, accessories and makeup). I used to be able to go in and find something gorgeous but alas, this is the ‘fanciest’ dress I found. Sportsgirl sizing only goes up to a size 16, which works for me but won't for everyone.

As you can see, my sockettes make this outfit more dressy, somehow?? Verdict: Cute for a picnic, not so much a wedding.

4. Op shopping.

Average dress cost: $12-17.

Variety: Inconsistent, but can find gems if you work hard.

Fit: True to size.

wedding dress road test
Savers jumpsuit. Image: Supplied.
wedding dress road test
Savers dress. Image: Supplied
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I mean, one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure! I love thrift shopping, not only is it a great way to recycle clothes and give them new life, but you save money and sometimes find a real diamond in the rough.

I got lucky this trip and found a size 14 jumpsuit that fit me. No idea what brand it is, but the tag says it was Made in Italy. It needed a little tailoring on the calves, but with a belt and heels, it would be perfect for a wedding and so easy to dance in.

I also found this blue dress that would be cute if you wanted boho-chic vibes (no label, hand-made me thinks) — I could pass this off as an old Spell & The Gypsy dress, right?

5. Designer dress hiring.

Average dress hire cost: $50-200 depending on the brand.

Variety: Lots, with new styles coming in all the time.

Fit: True to size, size range offerings differ depending on where you go.

wedding dress road test
808 Revoque dress. Image: Supplied
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wedding dress road test
808 Sheike dress. Image: Supplied.
wedding dress road test
808 multiway dress. Image: Supplied.
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If you want to stay on the environmentally-friendly train, hiring a designer dress is the most cost-effective way to wear a new outfit for different occasions.

There are so many boutiques and dress hiring businesses around Australia - where I live in Adelaide, 808 Threads specialises in dress sizes 12 to 22 for special occasions. (For transparency, I'm the owner of the business, so I get to try on lots of things all the time.)

This Sheike dress is beautiful and suits a range of occasions, plus the fabric just looks fancy! The style comes in a range of colours but I love the florals for a summer wedding, plus it’s light enough that if it’s a hot day it won’t have me burning up. I wear a size 16 in Sheike, so their sizing is true-small depending on the style.

Another great find is Adelaide brand Revoque, this Merlot/burgundy dress is a great colour for a wedding guest, perfectly true to size and their range offers many styles, fabrics and colours to suit your preferences.

Even better are outfits you can style multiple ways. The navy multiway jumpsuit can be worn 50+ ways. Their sizing is true and can be worn for many different occasions!

If you're into designer or more expensive brands, hiring for a special occasion is the cheapest and most sustainable way to go. Just be sure not to spill red wine down the front to avoid extra cleaning fees.

So, where can you find the best wedding guest dresses?

I think your best bet for finding a great wedding guest dress or outfit is going to an in-store or online retailer that stocks lots of brands in lots of different styles and sizes. I also advise trying on or, if you can afford it, order two sizes to find a great fit. If you do the latter, be sure to return the item in perfect condition so it can find a home with someone else.

And remember: while it might be a marathon trying to find the perfect wedding guest outfit, I take comfort in the fact that if I’m able to move and have a good time on the d-floor, the dress only matters because of how I feel in it.

Forget what other people might think of the outfit you love, because if you’re having a good time nothing else matters. You’re there to celebrate with the happy couple and clink your wine glasses with family and friends. And eat copious amounts of cake.

Feature image: Supplied/@alexia.eleni.

Where do you go for great wedding guest fashion? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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