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Dressing the Whole Family for Events: Some Key Tips

Dressing the whole family

As we head into the season of family events, we know you want your family looking their best!

Whether it’s for weddings, graduations, birthdays, Thanksgiving or other key events, sometimes you need everyone to be putting their best foot forward. It’s always nice if the event photographs turn out well!

Here are a few tips to be prepared for any family occasion:

Free download: Tips for beautiful family photos

Do an inventory of what you have first

Has your family ever faced this scenario? You’re getting ready to go out when someone has an issue with their wardrobe. “Dad, my shoes don’t fit,” or “there’s a hole in my shirt!” It always adds tension to the situation when there is a last-minute mishap that needs attention. You end up trying to make do or purchase a replacement at the last minute.

Our first suggestion is that you do an inventory of what each member of your family has available well beforehand. This includes trying the whole outfit on so that those holes, stains or items that don’t fit anymore can be found early.

Knowing what you have available and what condition the items are in will kick-start you with a plan for getting everyone dressed for the event. We recommend you do this two or three weeks ahead, but not so early that younger kids have time to grow out of their outfit. 

For the adults, this also gives you the opportunity to get any needed alterations made, such as having suit jackets taken in or hems repaired. One of the top tips for looking good is to ensure that clothing fits well.

Dressing the whole family

Know the dress code

As part of your planning, do you know the dress code for the event and what it means? For example, weddings are a common event where the whole family may be invited, especially if the wedding is within your own family. Some typical dress codes include:

  1. Black tie – Very formal and usually reserved for evening affairs. For men and boys that means tuxedos while for women and girls, floor-length evening gowns.
  2. White tie – More formal than black tie. It is relatively rare for any event suitable for “family” to be white tie as this is the code for events such as state dinners. White tie means full-length ball gowns for females and tuxedos with long tails, white vest and a white bow tie for males.
  3. Casual – This may be themed in some way if it is a wedding or other type of special occasion, in which case, dress to the theme. In most cases, “casual” for a wedding will mean summer dresses for females and dress pants with a button-down shirt for males.
  4. Beach formal – Formal summer dresses for females and linen suits for males.

If the event is taking place in a church or place of worship, there may be other aspects of dress code to consider. For example, many such places require that shoulders be covered and some also expect clothing to go below the knee. It’s always a good idea to check before going to any sort of school or religious venue.

Whatever the dress code is, one thing you should always consider, especially if you’re dressing kids, is their comfort. Think of layers that meet the dress code but are easily added or taken off to suit the conditions. Consider also the type of fabric they are wearing. Kids are less likely to fuss and fidget if they’re wearing comfortable, soft fabrics. 

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Consider location and weather

When you’re planning outfits, besides the dress code, location and weather should be key considerations. Everyone will be much more comfortable if they’re dressed appropriately for the elements – for example, perhaps hats are necessary for a beach wedding.

There are also fabrics that are better suited to some weather conditions than others. For example, any fabric choice for summer or hot weather should absorb moisture and keep you cool. Cotton or linen are great choices, but most synthetics are not. In the winter, warmer fabrics such as wool or a heavier cotton weave will be more comfortable.

Consider which accessories or layers you might need for the location and weather. Strappy sandals might be an uncomfortable choice for an outdoor event that involves some walking to get there. An indoor event at a warm venue may mean you should think about light clothing.

Consider color preferences

In the case of many weddings, there may be a theme that dictates color preferences so that photographs have a uniform look. Otherwise, colors may be dictated by dress code, seasons and your own photograph preferences.

We recently wrote a piece about choosing colors that suit – if everyone in your family has different undertones, there are some colors that are “universal.” These can be a good choice for coordinating outfits while keeping everyone looking their best.

If you need some inspiration for how multiple generations pull together for event portraits, the official portraits of British royal weddings are a good example. Dress code and coordination are observed, and everyone, down to the youngest baby pulls off a chic, vintage aesthetic.

Dressing the whole family


Allow sufficient time

Most people would love to pull off the perfect family photographs that the British royals seem to hit every time. However, there is a not-so-secret secret to their success – everything you see is very well planned and executed.

You can take a leaf out of their book by allowing sufficient time to plan for the outfits that you need and make any necessary purchases or alterations. If you leave it too late, you won’t be able to get key items tailored or find coordinating clothing for the kids who have had a growth spurt. 

Speaking of growth, how do you allow for that when you’re planning ahead? We recommend that you have outfits ready at least a month ahead, but have them made so that they’re easily adjustable. A visit to your tailor within a week or two of the event can have any last-minute alterations made for a perfect fit.

Remember this with shoes too. Kids seem to grow a shoe size virtually overnight, so buying a “perfect fit” too far ahead may not be a great idea. Use your best judgment – a half to one size too big, but bought weeks ahead may work out for you.

Get our tips for beautiful family photos here

See your tailor…

Importantly, when you’re visiting your tailor, make sure you give them the time and the key event information so that they’re able to ensure the whole family looks good. We can advise you on looks for dress codes, color coordinating, accessories and of course, flattering fit.

We hope your next big family event is a great success and that you have the perfect pictures to prove it!

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