Six Industry Style Pro Tips to Selecting Bridesmaids Dresses

Remember that scene from the movie, “27 Dresses”, where Katherine Heigl as Jane Nichols, the perennial bridesmaid, opens her closet, and all 27 bridesmaids dresses come tumbling out? My favorite “all-time worst” bridesmaid dress ever? That Little Bo Peep frock! But seriously, gone are the days of dresses that leave your bridesmaids cringing. Today, bridesmaid attire has come a long way with many different options – from styles to colors to fabrics and budget – meaning that as a bride, you can finally show off both your personality and style, and importantly, ensure your bridesmaids look and feel good walking down the aisle, too.

Whether you are into mismatched or prefer the traditional look of all matching dresses, there are lots of different options for bridesmaid dresses. Before deciding which dress to outfit your ‘maids in, there are a few factors you’ll need to consider. For the skinny on today’s top bridesmaids dress trends as well as do’s and don’ts, I touched base with a few of our favorite wedding stylists to get their take on outfitting your bridal squad.

1. Use your wedding color palette as your guide.

Your wedding color palette can be a great starting point but if in doubt, neutrals nearly always look good on everyone. Tara Maietta from Tara Maietta Style, starts by browsing Pantone color swatches which helps to develop a consistent color story with the wedding. “From there, I work with the bride on what color(s) we think each individual will look best in. This simplifies the styling process and allows us to create a vision board before we execute.”

2. Consider the season.

Just as seasons influence color, seasons can also determine dress style. Spring and Summer are great months to showcase prints such as florals as well as lower cut or off-the-shoulder necklines, while Fall and Winter can be wonderful months to explore textures such as velvet and satin as well as longer lengths. According to Campbell Weiss and Kerrie Lunsford of Style Me Bridal, “Depending on your color palette, a particular bridesmaid look could be more appropriate year-round. For example, a champagne or neutral shade would fit into more seasons than a warm burgundy for Fall, romantic evergreen for winter, or even a fun, hot pink for summer.” If getting married in the winter, consider adding cute accessories such as fur boleros or pashminas to complement your ‘maids gowns.

3. Who foots the bill?

Traditionally, bridesmaids are expected to pay for their dresses. However, once you consider the investment your ‘maids are making into your big day – between travel expenses such as hotel rooms and flights (for out-of-towners or destination weddings), attending your shower and splurging on your bachelorette party, taking time off work, and buying a wedding gift – if you can afford it, I think it’s a thoughtful gesture for you to pay for their dresses or at least subsidize a portion of the cost (note, this also gives you the flexibility to decide whether you’d prefer a designer or less expensive dress). Whatever you decide, once you’ve popped the question to your gal pals, it’s your responsibility to let everyone know their financial commitment before they agree to be part of your squad.

4. To match or not to match, that is the question!

While classic matchy-matchy bridesmaids will likely be a mainstay in bridal fashion, personally, I love the trend toward mismatched dresses. Style maven Gabrielle Hurwitz agrees. “I think we’re seeing couples veer away from anything that comes across as cookie cutter, and that includes bridesmaids in the same dress,” she says. “Most of my brides are doing some variation of the mismatched look, whether that means the same color but a different silhouette for each bridal party member or a general theme with all of the bridesmaids in a dress that fits the brief (like color or print).” Mismatched dresses can go a few different ways: choose the same dress and color, but select a different silhouette or fabric depending on your bridesmaid; choose one dress but in two or three different colors that fit your palette; or pick different complementary dresses for each of your bridesmaids with some common thread such as hue and length. Regardless of whether you choose to match your dresses or otherwise, do prioritize your ‘maids feeling their best so that they can focus on you on your big day!

5. When to order your ‘maids gowns.

Even pre-COVID, lead times on dresses were typically 4-6 months. Samantha Levis, owner of The Bold and Bridal tells us, “Today, with supply chain issues, you should plan to order at least six months in advance to avoid rush fees and shipping delays. Custom-made dresses will likely take even longer.” And, if you choose to go with a non-traditional bridesmaid dress brand, ready-to-wear dresses from online sites like ShopBop, Revolve, Intermix, Moda Operandi or Net-a-Porter for example, can sell out quickly. “Be sure to leave yourself and your ‘maids enough time for exchanges and/or alterations, so we recommend leaving at least a two-month buffer,” she adds. Overwhelmed? Working with a stylist will shrink the time spent shopping around and help you narrow down choices while streamlining the selection process.

6. Bottom line, hire a stylist!

There are many important and time-consuming decisions that lead up to your wedding day – what you and your maids are wearing should not be one of them. If there is one piece of design advice we share with our brides, it’s to consider hiring a professional wedding stylist both pre- and on your wedding day. It’s an investment you won’t regret.

“Find a stylist who’s a personality match for you,” adds Hurwitz. “The relationship between a bride and a stylist can be really intimate so it’s important you click with the person you’re working with.” According to Maietta, “Your stylist is meant to make your day as smooth as possible and we will go above and beyond in all ways, including steaming all attire, sewing loose buttons, styling for photography, etc.!”

There’s nothing better than having a pro hair and makeup artist create the best version of you, so why not trust a wedding stylist to help you find your own best look, too? Weiss explains, “Be willing to try new things; stylists are meant to push you a little bit out of your comfort zone while still making you feel like your best self on your big day!”

We couldn’t agree more! For those who know me, you know I’ll never turn down a good shoe, dress or chat about the latest trends in wedding fashion (I’ve been known to carry on shoe dialogs with my brides long after they are married!). So, as you embark on your Big Day, give us a call to discuss your wedding planning needs, and we’d be happy to share our recommendations for the best wedding stylist for you, too.

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