Gown With Love


Just because you’re having the reception at Dojo doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dress up for the party. No matter how bohemian you are, you kind of have to wear a fresh outfit on the big day, even if it’s only a new pair of jeans and an undershirt straight from the package.

But surely you can do a little better? You may not want your friends to see you in an ankle-sweeping white gown, or a morning coat, but maybe you can manage something a little festive? With your modest budget and insouciant tastes in mind, we made a tour of downtown clothing stores in search of nuptial-worthy outfits.

We were lucky. In the spring, there are always plenty of frothy clothes around, so our task was a lot easier than it would be if we hit the stores in, say, November. At Anthropologie, a shop that specializes in airy-fairy garments, there are plenty of sheer, chiffony getups for a prospective bride, from the gal who refuses to go any further than a frill of ecru lace decorating her red-and-white-striped tank top ($48) to the quasi-traditionalist who can’t shake a desire for a long dress. A pinkish-gray number (you weren’t really going to wear white, were you?) has straps that cross and lace in front, an homage, perhaps, to the Met’s current Goddess exhibit ($148). If you prefer separates (the better to recycle into your wardrobe immediately after the ceremony), there is a gauzy blouse embroidered with flowers ($68) that could be paired with one of the store’s many peasant-y skirts, which include a sky blue (something blue?) skirt that is not only appliquéd with flowers lifted from vintage handkerchiefs (something old?) but employs the hankies themselves to create—you guessed it—a handkerchief hem ($118).

At Daffy’s on Fifth Avenue, the big draw is the lingerie—there are enough silk slips and transparent camisoles here to outfit any number of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof summer stock productions, and almost everything is in the under-$20 category. Upstairs, there’s a white caftan with a label reading Patrizia Pepe Firenze; if you believe the ticket, this garment started life at $175 and is now $39.99. In any case, it would make the bride (or groom) look a little like Talitha Getty, the doomed wife of a dissolute Getty heir who spent a lot of time swooning around terraces in caftans and died of a heroin overdose, none of which has prevented her from becoming a current style icon. Daffy’s also has a collection of puffy gowns that are surely intended for proms and, though most of them are in regrettable shades of turquoise and orange, there is at least one off-white gown, flecked here and there with rhinestones, for a happy $39.99.

At first it doesn’t seem that the flip-flop-laden, T-shirt-heavy Urban Outfitters will yield anything for the prospective bride, but a careful search turns up a pale green dress of crinkled cotton with a fluted hem, a high waist, and curious braid trim around the neck and armholes, giving the wearer the air of yet another latter-day goddess ($78). And even Old Navy—a ridiculous place to look, you might assume—has a lovely linen halter top, in traditional white or lilac (for the bridesmaids?) with a row of eyelet lace to subtly emphasize the poitrine, and all for $19.50. This could be worn with a skirt purchased at the outdoor market at Spring and Wooster, where, among other offerings, there is a triple-tiered version with an old fashioned lace overlay for $35.

As for the groom (or grooms, if that is the case) it might be fun to don a traditional tux or cutaway jacket, perhaps subverted by a pair of jeans if the entire ensemble is a bit too-too. For this, vintage seems the best bet, but our first stop, the Cheap Jack’s near Union Square, is a disappointment. The formal jackets downstairs are not exactly what you’d call pristine (the dove grays are in better shape than the whites) and their price, $125 each, isn’t spectacular, plus there are no equally fancy pants anywhere in sight. (Upstairs, a rack of dingy Miss Havisham-worthy wedding gowns hangs from the ceiling; as we crane our necks, a salesclerk, bored, mutters, “What size?”)

We have much better fortune at Alice Underground in Soho, where there are many, many tuxedo jackets (around $40) and equally formal $25 pants (sold separately) none of which seem to have cooties. If a shawl-collared jacket feels too serious, there is also a $35 white tuxedo shirt whose traditional pleats have been replaced by a dense swath of black sequins—an item that could be worn proudly by a groom with a sense of humor or his particularly saucy consort.