formal dress remix style yourself

formal dress remix: get the most bang for your bridesmaid buck

It's about that time of the year again, when weddings, proms, and other formal events start dotting up the calendar, sending droves of young women to department stores' more frilly, gauzy, and bedazzled dress racks. But if you've ever invested in a formal dress (or had one "suggested" for you as a bridesmaid), then you know that you can't really incorporate that beaded mermaid number into your everyday attire post–big event. Hence, pretty much every woman's got one: a formal gown from a wedding or prom hanging in the back of the closet, never to be worn again.

So for this week's installment of How-Tuesday, we're showing you a few tricks that can save your gown from purgatory (and help you feel better about the money you spent on it). The trick is finding clever ways to dress that dress down with more casual pieces. Start by focusing on the things you do love about it—its ornate beading, floor-gazing train, or lovely draping—then scheme up looks that put this element on display, all while downplaying the gown's overall over-the-topness. Don't be afraid to experiment with gathering and pinning the dress for a more modern length, and if you find a length you love, go see your tailor about it.

To help demonstrate this advice, we pulled an old mid-calf, cream-colored, Grecian-style bridesmaid dress out of hiding and remixed it with our own clothes for six everyday looks, as featured in our fashion guide Style Yourself. That's right, all six of these outfits are built around the exact same dress. If we could do it, you can do it too—get inspired and look at that formal frock in a whole new way.

Ladylike length
For a "meet the parents" hem, fold the extra fabric over the waist and smooth it out into a band, then cover with a shimmery belt and a cropped cardi.

Look-at-me layers
Accentuate curves and create a fishtail shape by layering a body-con dress over the gown. Pretty sassy stuff.

Stealth tunic
Gather and pin the dress's skirt at the waist, then shimmy into skinny jeans and steep booties for a night out.

Retro wrap
Channel Betty Boop by adding a shorter wrap dress, a fun printed belt, and '50s-inspired shades and pumps.

Instant petticoat
Make use of that dress's volume. Pin the skirt way up and top with a shorter skirt for a punky-pouf look.

Country corsetry
Head out to a backwoods picnic by throwing on a casual bustier with a denim jacket and boots.

Illustrations by Tabi Zarrinnaal.

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