TORONTO - Invitations to weddings, showers and stagettes often jam the summer social calendar, but they can be a drain on the finances of women shelling out for different dresses for every occasion.
On top of dinners and drinks for nights on the town and gifts for the bride and groom, costs can quickly escalate for female guests assembling multiple ensembles. What's more, some fashion-conscious attendees may feel less inclined to give their new frock an immediate repeat wear while among the same circle of friends at summer festivities.
But fear not, fashionistas: formality and frugality don't need to be mutually exclusive.
For those who've combed through their own closets and exhausted borrowed finds from sisters or friends, rental services offer the promise of a fresh, off-the-rack look for less.
Rent Frock Repeat allows customers to browse online for dresses by designer, occasion, colour and body shape that can be shipped anywhere in Canada. Women living in or visiting the Toronto area can arrange for an in-person fitting at their showroom.
Co-founder and president Kristy Wieber said the reasons for renting vary for each customer, with some simply wanting to experiment with new styles while others are seeking to save.
2012 Wedding Trends: Would You Dare To Try Them?
Shelby Walsh, a TrendHunter.com exec, says that while engraving wedding rings is nothing new, couples are now doing so with tweets rather than traditional messages. Some people are even making their own rings entirely -- like the man who forged his wedding band from a meteorite. "From personal tweets to fingerprints on wedding rings, people don't just want to customize their wedding bands, they want to personalize them," Walsh says.
Another trend, Walsh says, are super-creative invitations. "The first impression a wedding makes is with its invitations," she says. "Those planning weddings are coming up with all sorts of eccentric ways to make their wedding invites standout from the crowd -- from wedding invite boxes to interactive cards."
Emily Bidwell, an Etsy style expert, says that couples are creating more playful Save-the-Date notices. She told HuffPost Weddings, "What used to be a simple postcard has become a way to express a lot of personality." She says that lottery-style scratch cards (like the ones shown here) and personalized map invitations are some of Etsy's favorites for summer.
Xochitl Gonzalez, HuffPost blogger and co-founder of Always a Bridesmaid/AAB Creates, a New York City event design and planning firm, says that couples are ditching low-quality decor in favor of high-end designer furniture. "We're seeing couples move away from the traditional 'cane' ballroom chair and bring in metal chairs, Eames chairs and even bentwood bistro chairs," she says. The result is a chicer feel to the event, however it could put quite the dent in a couple's reception budget. Metal chairs typically cost $20 each per day, according to YeahRentals.com.
Another unusual trend that's hot right now is "propping" reception tables "with cool and unique details like figurines, statues or books," Gonzalez says. For one wedding, her team used books and magnifying glasses to style tables, and for another, (shown here) they incorporated fruits and animal figurines. Bidwell also suggests mixing "vintage milk glass vases, silver spoons, and mismatched china on tabletops for a rustic whimsical feel."
Gonzalez is also seeing couples ditch traditional tablecloths for more atypical linens. "The solid tablecloth is kind of a thing of the past. Linens have become a great way to add more personality to the table," she says. Some of what she's seeing includes "men's suiting fabrics, to Liberty prints to more 'Mad Men'-style, mid-century modern-inspired prints." Jillian Quint, editor of PureWow.com, a digital lifestyle publication focusing on trends, adds: "I've even seen maps as place settings and tablecloths. I think that some of it is Etsy-related -- it's easier than ever to get a local map made that looks crafty and cool."
When it comes to incorporating a pop of color, orange is in -- which should come as little surprise given that tangerine was selected as Pantone's color of the year for 2012. "Orange is huge right now," says Quint, who is currently planning her own wedding. However, she says, we're starting to see it featured in new ways: "Brides are not just carrying orange-hued bouquets, they are incorporating the color into their Big Day make-up looks and sporting bright orange nails." Sharon Sacks, HuffPost Blogger, event planner and president of Sacks Productions, adds that while brighter is better, brides don't have to go to extremes (think: neon) to capitalize on this trend. "Colors like tangerine or coral are a nice addition [to the color palette]," she says, without being too bold.
Sacks says that watermelon, cucumber, lavender and mint are the flavors of the summer and can be used as accents for decor and in food. "Add these to your cocktails to awaken the senses in your guests. They will love the smell of these aromas." However, she also encourages brides to be daring by incorporating these flavors in unique ways. "Why not create a lavender honey ice cream dessert? It will not only hit the spot, but it is also delicious," she says.
While you may not trust every guest to wield a tub of frosting, decorating-your-own dessert tables are an up-and-coming trend. Guests can personalize their desserts with frosting, sprinkles and other topping, similar to how they would at an ice cream sundae bar. "From decorate your own cookies, to frosted brownies -- anything goes!" says Jessica Deckinger, senior brand manager of The Promotion In Motion Companies, Inc, which manufactures various candy products.
Lindsey Robers, apparel buyer at BHLDN says that bolder brides are trading traditional gowns for sleeker wedding day apparel. "I'm really loving the two-piece suit for this season, it's such a nod to the tailored, feminine feel of 50's but with a modern twist," she says. "These two-piece suits remain feminine and sophisticated yet also becomes youthful and flirty, the ultimate pairing!" She particularly likes suits that have some flair to them, like cut out back details, textured fabrics or unique beading and embellishments.
Bidwell says that cool cufflinks and boutonnieres are this summer's hot trend for grooms. Instead of traditional silver cufflinks or flower boutonnieres, she suggests that grooms "get personalized cufflinks, and look for boutonnieres with 'manly' materials like guitar picks, fish hooks and bottle caps." (Pictured here: Custom Vintage Map Cufflinks from White Ruffle and Fly Fishing Pin from Firefly Silver.)
Brooch bouquets lit up Pinterest last year and Bidwell says that flower alternatives are here to stay this summer for brides who want to make a statement. "These keepsake bouquets are one of our favorite trends," she says. "On Etsy, we are seeing exquisite flower alternatives, such as fabric rosettes and sheet music paper blooms. We've also seen felt, pinwheel and button bouquets." (Pictured here: Felt Rose Bouquet from Handmade Collectibles and Vintage Book Page Bouquet from Jayma Malme.)
"They want to be able to wear a great dress but don't want to spend three, four, $500 and have it sit in the closet," she said. "The cost per wear makes no sense. You'd be better off spending that money on a great pair of jeans that you know you'll wear over and over again."
Rent Frock Repeat has an inventory of about 800 dresses in 150 styles, with sizes ranging from 0 to 16. Plus sizes up to size 24 are set to be available in the fall.
Rental fees are roughly 15 or 20 per cent of the retail cost and run from $50 to $250. Wieber said the average four-day rental is $100 to $150. Eight-day rentals are also available and women can book their look of choice up to four months in advance.
It's not just guests that are borrowers. Wieber said they have had bridesmaids renting dresses, as well as brides needing frocks for the many events tied to the nuptials, such as the shower and rehearsal dinner. Some even take dresses on their honeymoon.
Wieber said wedding season is "always crazy" as are the months from September through February with guests attending black tie galas, fundraisers and holiday parties. But Rent Frock Repeat, which marked its first anniversary in May, is seeing a marked interest throughout the year for less formal occasions like a date or girl's night out.
Diversifying your summer style may not even require getting a new dress.
Canadian stylist Alissia Marciano said a great pair of well-made heels is an ideal investment piece. They can translate from casual chic to dressy, while a fancier dress is more limited to a formal event or a really fancy date, she noted. But women needn't feel shoehorned into buying basic black pumps.
"I think you can definitely have a little more fun because you have to remember the shoes you can use as an accessory," Marciano said from Los Angeles.
"You don't want to have something that's too wild that it's so recognizable that people are like, `Wow, she's wearing the polka-dot, floral shoes again.' But they can still have some colour, some detailing, whether it's exotic snakeskin, whether you're colour-blocking with the shoes."
But for women wanting to refresh their dress wardrobe, Marciano suggests purchasing at least two quality options, including a little black dress enhanced with accessories.
"Whether you want to go glam goddess with oversized earrings and bangles and big cocktail rings, or if you want to add a bit more of rock and roll edge to it ... have shoulder-duster earrings with studs with more of a classic dress, if that reflects more of your personal style."
For those with more conservative tastes, Marciano suggests borrowing a page out of Coco Chanel's stylebook and opting for a layered pearl necklace for a classic look. Rectangular or oversized envelope clutches in a variety of colours are also great companions to summer fashions, she noted.
Marciano said women could consider going for a more trendy look for their second dress option, like a peplum. The ruffle or short overskirt that attaches the waistline of jacket, blouse or dress has made waves in warmer weather fashions, and is also translating to the fall runway.
Marciano said many designer outlet boutiques offer deals on high-end dresses where customers can get quality pieces at deeply discounted prices. They can purchase a dress with a longer hemline and have it shortened or even have a tailor take the excess fabric to create capsleeves, she noted.
"You kind of redesign it. You don't have to spend a ton of money to buy a new dress."
Toronto-based designer Rebecca Nixon, owner of Girl Friday, suggests opting for a solid coloured dress rather than a print, which may translate easier when paired with pre-existing accessories like cardigans or blazers. Some may even be able to extend the wear of their summer pick beyond the warmer months.
"A darker dress, say a black dress, a navy dress, even like cobalt blue or red — these are colours that are seasonless."
Nixon suggests women test out all styles and not limit themselves because they think a particular dress won't work with their figure.
"A-line is always flattering. I always think anything around the knee either just below or just above the knee is very nice. It makes your legs look a little bit longer."
But there are certain frocks that may be more suited to particular body types. Nixon said halter styles and thin straps work well for those with broader shoulders.
"If you have a bit of a tummy, empire waists are good because it kind of covers that up, because it accentuates the smallest part of your body which is just under the bust — so it is quite flattering."
Rather than forking over big bucks for a dress, Nixon would feel more inclined to make the investment in accessories — particularly if you don't regularly frequent formal events.
"I guess it depends on your budget. I know people that have spent $3,000 on a dress for their son's bar mitzvah, but I am not in that economic bracket whatsoever. You should really think about if you can actually wear it again."
Alissia Marciano: www.alissiamarciano.com
Girl Friday: www.girlfridayclothing.com
Rent Frock Repeat: http://rentfrockrepeat.com