Harvey Nichols Leeds and Yorkshire special occasion shops mother of the bride and best dressed wedding guest outfits

With weddings and big formal gatherings back on the agenda, Stephanie Smith asks Yorkshire special occasion retailers and experts what the best-dressed are wearing this summer.

Now that we have somewhere to go, do we still want to get all dressed up? Big weddings are back, along with a host of special day-to-night events, from posh garden parties and genteel festivals to anniversary balls and party night reunions. And the races, of course.

Before the dawn of the pandemic, special event outfits were exactly that – special. They were dreamed about months in advance, planned with precision, shopped for with care, anticipated with joy (and sometimes with trepidation).

But the past two years have changed our priorities, and that especially includes how we dress and how we think about our clothes. Sustainability is increasingly a factor too, for many.

Christopher Kane satin midi dress, £1,495 at Harvey Nichols.

So what are those in search of a special event outfit looking for now? We asked a team of Yorkshire special occasion experts.

Ellie Bickerton is a private shopper at Harvey Nichols Leeds.

Ellie says: “The way people are dressing and what clients are purchasing for events has changed massively post-pandemic. People have taken a much more relaxed approach to dress codes, such as Black Tie, with women favouring more casual choices such as suits and above-the-knee dress lengths.

“I have also found a decline in one-time-wear event outfits, with clients preferring something more wearable. Not only is this great for the environment, but also for the bank balance and wardrobe.

Alexander McQueen pink wool blazer, £,1790, and trousers, £780, at Harvey Nichols Leeds.

“For 2022 events, my favourite trends are a patterned midi dress or a statement suit.

“If there is one brand that excels in designing go-to outfits for a fashion-forward guest, it is London brand Rixo. Australian brand Zimmermann is also a recommendation, known for its feminine and playful designs.

“A statement suit is the perfect investment piece. Not only are you bound to make a stylish impression, but you are also left with two separates which can be worn time and time again.

“I would always recommend a statement shoe or bag, and 2022 has seen a welcomed rise in playful accessories.

Silver and white dress, £518.95; Mint dress, £546.95; magenta and navy dress, £630.95, all at Helen Sykes on Stanningley Road, Leeds.

“I like to match my shoes and bag – however, do not be afraid to clash them. Complimenting colours work well, for example, red and pink for summer, or yellow shoes with a navy bag, going into autumn.”

Natalie Jackson of Helen Sykes Fashions on Stanningley Road in Leeds, which stocks designers including Sonia Pena, Talbot Runhof, Invitations by Ronald Joyce, Luis Civit, Veni Infantino, Chiara Boni, Linea Raffaelli, Izabella and more says: “We had a very busy, successful season for weddings this spring, as not only did we help all the mothers of the bride and groom whose weddings were always planned for 2022, we also had clients whose weddings were postponed from 2020 and 2021.

“We have found that both special family members and guests at weddings are incredibly excited to get dressed up this year, and sales of millinery have also increased. After two years of cancelled occasions, our customers want to go that extra step toward being prepared and glammed up for their big day.

“We have found that mothers of the brides/groom are choosing either a dress with sleeves or a simple dress and jacket.

Bespoke designs by Eliza Wyke of Harrogate. Tailoring is from £500, bridal tailoring from £1,000 and bridal couture from £2,000.

“They also love a little bit of sparkle. Some ladies are still looking for a vibrant bold colour, and others pastel or neutral shades.

“Chiffon midi dresses have proved to be very popular, as well as understated chic, tailored styles.”

Eliza Wyke is a Harrogate tailor who designs, cuts and makes bespoke clothing, specialising in mother-of-the-bride outfits and custom-made bridal outfits, from the traditional white wedding dress to trousers suit and bespoke bridal jackets and coats.

Eliza says: “Last year was very much squeezing in 2020 weddings. This year’s customers haven’t had postponements so it feels like a fresher approach to the occasion.

“My mothers of the bride/groom fall into two categories: those wanting classic, elegant pieces, quality fabrics and timeless tailoring and the younger, funkier MoBs who don’t want traditional. They tend to look at styles and shapes they already own and feel comfortable wearing, and I take this as a basis of design, using fabrics that are more special occasion (silks, chiffons and delicate fabrics).

“The trend for 2022 is wearability. Customers are investing time and hard-earned money on an outfit and they would like to wear it again. It’s definitely glam, after so many lockdowns and disappointments so luxury fabrics..

Black and floral dress with cape sleeves, £255; nude long embelllished gown, £369, and matching jacket, £155, both at Yasmine of Bawtry.

My advice is to play to your style strengths and don’t feel you need to dress a certain way. There are no set rules (although ivory should still be avoided unless you have permission from the bride). It’s a long day, so you should feel comfortable and empowered, and not worrying your heels are too high.”

Emma Morris of Yasmine of Bawtry, which stocks brands including Joseph Ribkoff, Frank Lyman, Marble, Oui and Just White, plus a range of hats and fascinators.

Emma says: “We are finding ladies are all saying the same thing when they enter the shop – they are after something that is versatile and that they can wear again.

“Popular trends are floaty dresses and pretty prints with the addition of statement accessories and a hat or fascinator to make an impact.

“Following the pandemic, trade is picking up as the ladies are ready to go out again and they want to dress up for the occasion. There have been a lot of postponed weddings, so we are experiencing a higher volume of customers who are after an occasion outfit.”

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