Our theme for the month of March is “Ask the post calvin.” We’re taking on questions submitted by readers and offering our best advice.

Dear the post calvin,

I have, like, fifteen weddings to go to this year, but I hate and can’t really afford to get new dresses for all of them. Some of the people getting married know each other, so there’s bound to be some overlap in guest lists. How can I get the greatest number of weddings out of the fewest number of dresses without looking cheap and uninteresting in all the pictures?

Faux Fashionista in Franklin

Dear Faux Fashionista,

Fifteen weddings in one year? Mother of pearl.

My first suggestion is to evaluate whether you actually want to attend all fifteen (!!)  weddings. As you decide, remember to consider the cost of buying fifteen gifts, travel and hotel expenses, shoes, jewelry, and so on. If the mix contains people with whom you probably won’t be in touch next year, you can graciously decline a few invitations without providing much detail. It’s okay to say no.

If, however, you truly cherish all fifteen couples and know that each of them sincerely value your smiling face at their special day, then you should go, but we’ll need a bit of strategy to make this work.

I think that you can probably get away with wearing the same dress to two weddings if the dates are far apart. Any more overlap than that, though, and people are going to notice when the photos make it to social media. Now, in the grand scheme of things, does it actually matter that people know you wore the same dress (gasp!) TWICE in your life? Of course not. That’s ridiculous. All the same, someone will still notice and potentially think a snarky thought, so it’s up to you to decide how much the opinion of others really matters to you.

My advice to you here, then, is how to get fifteen dresses on a budget.

You’ll want to do a bit of preparation before going shopping. Start by gathering all your wedding invitations, perusing each couple’s wedding website if they have one, and making note of all the information you can find regarding the dress code, venue, time of year, and time of day of each event. In all likelihood, these fifteen weddings run a spectrum of styles and formality, so you can use the details to get an idea of what sort of dress is appropriate for each event. Chances are that some of them might be more affordable than you might have thought: a dress for a brunch wedding in a garden probably won’t set you back as far as one for a ritzy evening at a downtown hotel.

One option could be to trade dresses with a friend. You mentioned some guest overlap, so perhaps someone else you know is facing the same issue as you. Some people are weird about sharing their things, so you might not receive an enthusiastic response, but if you can think of someone you know well enough who looks to be the same size as you, it might be worth talking about at least. If your friend is a decent person, this option will not cost you any money.

Second hand dresses will be your next most affordable options. Look for selective, “like new” shops such as consignment boutiques, Style Encore, Plato’s Closet, etc., and avoid spots where people just donate garbage bags full of clothes (Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc.) Donation stores certainly have some hidden gems if you have time to look for them but if you hate shopping it’s better to have curated, limited choices. Personally, I’ve seen dresses at Style Encore that would be appropriate for many types of weddings for $7 to $20; local boutiques tend to be a bit more in the $20 to $60 range, depending on the dress brand.

For black or white tie weddings, you can rent dresses that retail at $300-$500 for $30-$50 through a service such as Rent the Runway. If you feel the urge to splurge on something truly fancy, a number of RTR’s dresses retail in the range of $1,500-$5,000, and you can feel rich in one for a small fraction of the retail price. Of course, you’ll probably only want to go this route if you leave yourself plenty of time before the event to find another dress if the one you ordered doesn’t fit, or if you decide you don’t like it in person.

Be patient, thoughtful, and creative and you will find your best solution to this puzzle. Happy dress hunting!

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