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What to Wear to Weddings This Summer

Not only the bride and groom need to shine, you know ...

Lois Joy Johnson and best friend Valerie

Bob Capazzo

Lois Joy Johnson and best friend Valerie

Summer weddings give all of us a red-carpet moment — an opportunity to hit the "glam" key and strut our stuff. That's what happened last Sunday afternoon, when my BFF Valerie married Kenny (husband No. 3 — saving the best for last!). The reception turned out to be a beauty-and-fashion fest of women dressed to thrill.

My invitation to the tented garden affair mentioned a dress code ("smart casual attire," whatever that means), but the true sartorial theme was much better expressed by the first tune the band played: Cole Porter's "Anything Goes." So whether you're slated to be the main attraction at a wedding celebration this summer or merely an honored guest, here's how to take the cake.

1. Find a dress with a split personality. The right dress balances common sense flattery with folie d'amour. It flaunts your assets, pops out in wedding pics and lets you dance your buns off day or night.

Choose the silhouette first: sheath, fit and flare, or shift? Then consider texture, color or print. Don't feel obligated to honor the bridal category or stick to white; instead, pick colors that make you feel good. Check out cocktail and "after-5" dresses that show your legs to advantage and play up some combo of neck, shoulders, waist or bosom. Lace and florals are both trendy for tying the knot right now. (Oh, and before you ask: Sleeves rule every size, from 4 to 24W, and every price point from double to quadruple digits. So bring on the AC — and toss the pashmina!)

2. To marry a millionaire, borrow a designer. As costs for catering, honeymoons and destination weddings skyrocket, renting a wedding dress — or buying a pre-owned one — has become increasingly popular. The website Rent the Runway, for example, offers luxurious dresses for a fraction of their retail price, and gives you four or five days to return them.

So imagine wearing a Marchesa Notte blush pink sheath with lace bodice and short sleeves to your next nuptials. The dress normally retails for $845, but you can borrow it — in two sizes, no less — for $125. Pre-owned gowns, from sites such as and others that connect buyers and sellers, allow you to make alterations. They range from samples to used to — despite the name — brand new and never worn.

3. Test-drive your hair and makeup. A few days before the Big Event, take some trial photos: with and without flash, and in both natural and indoor light. Aim for extra eye definition with neutral makeup shades. Emphasize eye shape with a black or dark-brown gel liner at the lash line; then apply waterproof black mascara, contour the crease with a medium-brown shadow, and add sparkle with a shimmery sand or peach tone on your eyelids.

Because high-definition cameras and flash photography exaggerate any makeup, avoid using too much highlighting or light-reflecting products. Set your makeup with a powder that contains no titanium dioxide or any other kind of luminous particles, especially beneath the eyes. You do want to stave off meltdowns, however — always a danger when champagne is involved — so stash some Q-tips (to clean up eye smudges), lipstick (for photo ops) and a travel-size dry shampoo (to add oomph to frizzed or flat hair).

Finally, don't forget the makeup of honor: A portable opaque stick — the Cover FX Cover + Correct Click Stick, for example, or Bobbi Brown's Skin Foundation Stick — can keep any brown spots on your face, hands, neck or décolletage under cover, even during a heated tango or salsa.

4. Weatherproof your body. Heat, humidity and hormones can turn on the waterworks under your arms or breasts, or down your spine. That's to be expected at midsummer matrimonials, but the effects will show less on a dress that features lace or a floral print — another bonus of taking my advice in No. 2 above!

In addition to using an antiperspirant (to keep wetness at bay; a deodorant has a different job), you can absorb body moisture by slipping on a new shapewear bodysuit. Among its many fringe benefits, such a garment can also flatten belly bulges, compress thigh jiggles, restore your waistline and forgive those nervous midnight snacks. After all, you want to be able to say "Mazel tov!" and not "I can't zip this stupid thing up!"

For more beauty and style tips for women 50-plus, check out The Woman's Wakeup and AARP's new Beauty & Style digital magazine, which is available for tablet.