Bridal Party: Tale of a Tomboy Bride

illustration of ramona quimby from a book coverGrowing up, I loved being outside, climbing trees, building weird contraptions to attach to my bike to see if I could get it to fly like the Wright Brothers. My heroes were Indiana Jones and Ripley (from Alien), and as many of my nearest and dearest know, I jumped off of my roof with tennis ball halves glued to my sneakers, convinced I would bounce like the Gummi Bears. NOTE: This theory is incorrect!

Point being, I was much more Ramona than Eloise, and I wasn’t one for dreaming of being a princess.

Despite the common stereotype, a grown up tomboy can present in all kinds of ways. We are not all sporty folks, eschewing every aspect of femininity. Tomboys, as with most gender identities and presentations, can be as nuanced as they like. I build furniture, hate wearing dresses, am unapologetically outspoken, and keep my hair in a pixie cut, but I love ruffly blouses and elaborate necklaces (an illustrative reduction, but you get the idea). Dominant culture didn’t help with this integration process much.

As an adult, I spent the better part of my twenties reconciling my inner tomboy-ness with a genuine love of aesthetics and womenswear/fashion, finding inspirational icons from other times that more aligned with my sense of myself (Katharine Hepburn, Jean Seberg, Lauren Bacall, Julia Sugarbaker).  

As a tomboy bride, I BARELY wanted to wear a dress, let alone something that looked like to me like a cupcake. 

The wedding industry, and pop culture in general, is so bossy about what everyone’sa bride in a white dress on a treadmill next to a woman wearing a pink shirt that says BRIDE BOOT CAMP experience of gender is. Hey, Wedding Crap Culture! Not everyone is a pile of princess fantasies! And stop telling all humans to lose weight! Stop counseling us all on up-dos!

“What will your wedding day hair be, Michael?” It will just be my hair. It’s short and sits there on my head quite well.

Basically, I ended up scrapping traditional wedding sites and advice all together in favor of finding a solution that fit with my gender identity and expression.

I’m a Scorpio rising; nobody puts me in a corner—gender or otherwise. But enough about me.

Good news! Just like you don’t have to wear white, you also don’t have to wear a dress, nor do you have to wear a floofy dress. Nor does anyone have to wear a tux, formal suit, etc.! 

Some wedding and non-wedding idea boards for wedding fashion for a small sampling of tomboy “types”…

(I have absolutely no idea how anyone pictured below actually identifies in terms of their own gender. I am not making assumptions about people, but I am noting kick-ass styles that I enjoyed looking at and thinking about). 

For Feminine-Fancy Tomboys: Pants!


a woman wearing fancy pants and a blue top

         You can change elements to make this type of outfit as formal or casual as you like.


    a woman in a white pants suit

      This is an actual bridal pants suit. I’m a fan of the jacket.


     a woman in a tuxedo

   Janelle Monae in a tuxedo 

I had a friend who wore a tux to her wedding. BOSS!


For the Outer Femme/Inner Tomboy: Alternative Dresses!

  a woman in a yellowish dress with tattoos showing

This cut and pattern perfectly complements the tattoos!


   a woman in an asymmetrical white dress

    Simple asymmetry, y’all!

    a woman in a pink dress with a flower in her hair

    A little flair.

       a green flowy skirt

Easy breezy.


       yvette nicole brown in a black dress

   This dress would make the perfect black wedding dress.


 a woman in a vintage white dress

Vintage Dress.


For Butch, Butch-ish, and Dapper Queer Tomboys: Suits and Other Options!


    a person in tux shorts, hat, and bowtie kissing a bride

I know this is a repeat, but I like it so much. Tuxedo shorts, bowler, garter belt. 

         a person in a striped suit

        Tailored striped suit, non-traditional black and red palatte. 

      a person in casual pastel dressy clothes

  [Above and Below] Perfect for the casual garden party wedding. Photos by Bex Wade

       a person in casual pastel dressy clothes

  a person in casual pastel dressy clothes

From Gladiator:The Etymology of the Female Muscle.

        a person in a tux shirt with a black rose

       Gothic dapper.


You know, the wedding industry is really operating on a factory farm model when it comes to making money by putting everyone into homogenous gender categories. It’s much easier to use advertising and dominant culture to squeeze everyone into one of two camps than it would be to try to make money off of heterogeneity. Imagine how many variations of a product line you’d need. Imagine the loss in manicure income! Heavens.

List of Enjoyable Resources and Idea Spots:

*Because some folks from last week’s post thought that I was making literal suggestions for purchase when I posted what was meant to simply be an idea board, I want to make it clear that any products/styles that I posted are just supposed to get your creative thinking juices flowing—a little dose of inspiration. I’m not in any way saying “YOU DO THIS NOW!” My whole trip with weddings is individuality, so go forth and compile your own idea board! It’s fun. I have several going for any given life event at any given time, including retirement.

Previously: Fight Evil Wedding Traditions with a DIY Invitation Station!, Put A Ring On It! (An Origin Story)

by Michael Braithwaite
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7 Comments Have Been Posted

cupcake dresses

I'm really digging this article. When I got married three years ago, I had a hard time finding un-cupcake dresses. I'm pretty short, and the last thing on earth I wanted was a dress train as long as I am tall. It took three shops for me to find a place where the clerks didn't look at me like I'd sprouted purple horns when I asked "do you have any knee-length dresses?" But the shop that was accommodating to me had a minor crisis when one employee literally ran up to the woman helping me and asked in a panic, 'What do we have that's not a dress for a woman?!" Glad to see there are more options out there now.

Thanks for this!

I'm loving this post! My partner and I recently got engaged, and I'm on the lookout for a cute suit.

Body diversity

Loved this article, Michael. As someone who is inching slowly towards her second marriage, I feel released from a lot of the constraints I felt with my first wedding. I wore a long lacy number the first time, but definitely want something a little more reflective of my personality (and my sass) this time around.

Mainly, however, I had to comment about how happy I am to see the wide range of body types you chose for your images. The feeling I get when I see a body that mirrors mine in a fashion-related post is…well, indescribable. I follow some fat fashion blogs, but it's not the same as seeing different bodies presented together, without commentary (positive OR negative) on their size. Thank you, thank you.

This article is awesome and

This article is awesome and really highlights how I feel about most aspects of the wedding industry (also, I am in love with Janelle Monáe's suit- I wish everyone dressed like that for formal events. Or any events...)

I just got married & skipped the bridal shops completely because every time I got near anything being marketed to brides the insanity, heterogeneity, cost, and sexism of the massive bridal industry made me want to puke. Long princess dresses are great if you want one, but if you don't there don't seem to be too many alternatives, especially if you don't want to wear a dress. I also got asked about my 'wedding hair' and makeup, etc- although no one asked my husband what he was going to wear or how he was going to groom himself.

I had a look at some websites of bridal hairdressers after a really pushy friend insisted that I should, and it was just too much- besides perpetuating the bridal princess fantasy (which is just not me) & being mega expensive, they were hawking everything from makeup artists and personal trainers to good places to get my teeth whitened. Seriously?! I just don't see how conforming to a narrow standard of beauty at an extortionate cost has anything to do with my relationship or my marriage.

I really enjoy this article.

I really enjoy this article. Even though I never plan on getting married, I can completely relate to this in situations where I have to wear a formal dress. There should be more articles like these.

Plus Size

THANK YOU for showing REAL plus-size women! It is so affirming to see pictures plus-size women have taken of themselves, rather than the polished pictures in magazines. Tattoos, thick arms, round faces, and fabulous clothes! Bitch, take notice of this post! This is what your readers want more of!!!

Like These Women In White

Wow, I like all these white clad women, and I am thinking of designing the similar dresses for myself. I am a great fashion follower, and I like to <a href="">pay visit</a> to blogs and articles that speaks about the latest trends in fashion.

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