Bridesmaid Dress Basics

We’ve all been to a wedding or two where all we can do is stare at the bridesmaids with sympathy and wonder what the heck happened. Horrible bridesmaid fashion is a running joke, but when we see it in person, we all gasp and say under our breath, “I’ll never do that to MY bridesmaids!”

Yet, it Still. Keeps. Happening. So often, that there are entire websites devoted to showcasing these bridesmaid dress blunders.

I refuse to listen the age-old belief that people intentionally make their bridesmaids look bad so that they can look better; I won’t believe that anyone is that mean. I think that sometimes a well-intentioned bride can get a little too carried away with her vision of what she wants on her big day that she forgets the bridesmaids have to walk down an aisle in front of tons of people too.

Of course, sometimes brides just have terrible style. Blame the 80s. (Image from Bridesmaidtrade)

How can this be avoided? A few ideas:

  • Do enough research to know what color, length and material you want. Beyond this, let your bridesmaids weigh in with their opinions. What styles do they feel complement them the most and what styles do they feel downright uncomfortable wearing?
  • Ask at least a few, if not all, bridesmaids to come with you to try on dresses. Set proper expectations by sharing your wishes, wants and “deal breakers” with them and also letting them know you want their opinions but hope they will respect yours, too.
  • A bridal party is bound to include bridesmaids with several different heights, weights and body types. It can be very difficult to choose a dress that will look great on everyone. If you’re open to it, consider having different styles in the same color, or in complementary colors.
Amsale dresses in Blush. Amsale is a fantastic designer to choose if you’re looking to vary the bridesmaids styles and colors as all of the dresses are still cohesive.
Amsale again in different colors and styles. Photo from Style Me Pretty via Jamie Fender Photography
  • Let go of the whole “but they can wear it again” concept. When have you ever worn a bridesmaid dress outside of the celebration of wedded bliss? Never. Ever. Doesn’t happen. Get the notion out of your head now, realize that this triple digit expense is completely in your honor and save yourself the eye-rolls from the peanut gallery.
  • Now that you comprehend how much your bridesmaids are going to spend on YOUR day, ask them for a price range with which they are comfortable spending. As a bride, you are likely spending a small fortune on your wedding, but it isn’t fair to expect the same of your bridesmaids. Be conscious of what you are asking and if you fall in love with a dress that is simply too expensive, look for a cheaper alternative or consider paying for a portion of the dress as a gift to your lovely ladies (Want some more gift ideas?).
  • Don’t forget about the rest of the look – and the cost. Shoes, earrings, necklace, bracelet, etc. Accessorizing isn’t cheap and certain dresses require more than others. A halter gown lets you skip a necklace and opt for a bracelet and earrings. A strapless dress means they’ll likely need to spring for all three. A long dress lets you have a little more freedom with the shoes since they won’t be visible; let your bridesmaids wear shoes they already own to save them some cash.
  • Think beyond the traditional bridesmaid dress. There is no rule that you HAVE to pick a dress from a bridal designer and there are some pretty fabulous dresses out there. However, you do run the risk of the retailer selling out of a dress, so I’d recommend going this route with a smaller bridal party just in case. A friend of mine chose BCBG dresses for her bridesmaids and they were absolutely stunning. *This is the only case in which there is a small chance they may actually wear the dress again.
  • It is impossible to make everyone happy, but you can make everyone comfortable. Listen to your girls and do whatever you can to make them feel confident and fabulous. They’ve spent a ton of time supporting you, make sure you return the favor!

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

The detailing on this dress is darling. BHLDN Tracery Dress | on sale for $180 (originally $260)
Peplum flatters almost all body types. While peplum is a trend, this option is classic enough that it won’t lead to regrets in a few years. Alvina Valenta StyleAV9265
The one shouldered look is not for everyone, but this is a clean, classic option. BCBG MAXAZRIA Blue One Shoulder Dress | At Lord and Taylor for $298

Of course, I am partial to the bridesmaid dresses chosen for my own wedding. Strangely enough, this dress was picked by every single one of my seven bridesmaids. I was content to have several dress styles in the same color, but ended up with one dress as it was everyone’s favorite. It just so happened to look absolutely perfect on every single one of them!

Dresses from Jim Hjelm Spring 2011. Photo taken by Paul Morse. (A special thanks to these gorgeous ladies who are phenomenal.)


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