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The dread of the bridesmaid dress

Style (not) in the City

January 29, 2011

Let's face it, when a friend or relative says, "Will you be in my wedding?" thoughts of fashionable, fabulous dresses usually don't come to mind. (Plus, what girl really wants to show up at an event wearing the same dress as one person, let alone four or five others.) The good news is that bridesmaid dresses aren't what they used to be, and plenty of styles and out-of-the box thinking can make the bridal party a true accent to the ceremony.

While the wedding day is all about the bride, those of us who have been in weddings before sometimes have to suck it up and perform our duties in a dress we by no means look decent in or feel comfortable. In 2007, my friend Loura chose the dresses and shoes for her bridal party. Although the color of the dress was great, it was a less-than-flattering dress on me. The strapless T-length yellow dress not only made me - the shortest one in the bridal party - look like I wouldn't meet the height requirement to ride a roller coaster, but it also made me very self-conscious. I spent the evening feeling like I was going to, for lack of a better term, fall out of the dress. Part of a bridesmaid's duty is to not only make sure the bride has everything she needs, but also make sure guests are having a good time. During that wedding, the dress made it difficult to boogie down on the dance floor and encourage others to do the same.

Fast forward to 2008 for my friend Melissa's wedding. Melissa and the rest of the girls in her bridal party piled in the car for a road trip in order for us all to try on dresses together. Some of us in the wedding either hadn't met or only knew each other on a limited basis. The trip, trying on dresses together and having lunch afterward gave us the opportunity to bond and realize we were all going to have a blast during the wedding.

Just last week, I once again found myself trying on dresses with another great group of girls who are going to be in my friend Amber's wedding. Once again, I had another friend whose only requirements were that the dress be a light blue, which matched a band on her dress, and that we be comfortable. We are all excited about the dress. It's strapless, and I must say it seems strapless dresses have come a long way since 2007. They seem to provide better support and the chiffon has many folds and crinkles to help hide any flaws. The best part: If I dye the dress black after the wedding, I'll be able to wear it again to a formal occasion.

For Amber's upcoming outdoor, summer wedding, the knee-length skirt will help us stay cool. Her colors are going to be blue and brown, and Amber wants to incorporate brown with the blue. Instead of traditional heels, for her outdoor wedding we'll be wearing flip flops, which she's thinking about brown; and to incorporate another splash of brown, she's considering adding a brown flower to the waistline of the dress or possibly our hair.

One of the best things about some bridesmaid dresses is that they come with pockets, which is perfect for carrying lipgloss, a ring or anything else a bridesmaid might need during her time of service. Knee or T-length dresses are great for outdoor, summer wedding and colors range from bright orange, pink and lime to the traditional black, red and blue. (As we were trying on dresses, one bride's family told us that she had chosen an assortment of tropical-looking colors for her bridesmaids.) Of course, full-length dresses are always in style for any wedding setting.

Experts say that a bride's dress should be ordered at least two to three months before the wedding. Well, it's almost the same for bridesmaids. Because we ordered so late for Loura's wedding, the dresses barely made it in on time, leaving us with only a few days for alterations. For Amber's wedding, which is at the end of June, the sales clerk told us the dresses we want are on an approximate eight-week back order. To save on shipping costs, we're ordering the dresses together and having them sent to the same place. Now, we'll only pay one $15 fee for all the dresses verses $15 per dress.

Buying dresses at a bridal shop isn't the only way to find the perfect wedding attire. There are ways to make your wedding special and save your party some money.

After all, not every bridesmaid may be able to afford a traditional dress. Brides (and even bridesmaids before they agree to be in the wedding) should consider the money their attendants will be forking out for extra wedding celebrations, such as the shower and bachelorette party. Being a bridesmaid can easily cost a girl $400 to $500.

Going to a department store or ordering from the sale section of an online store or catalog is a great idea for those who aren't able to spring for an ensemble that can cost more than $200.

In 2004, at yet another friend's wedding, the bridesmaids wore simple black strapless dresses they had ordered from a popular catalog. The bride gave them all pink wraps to complement the colors of the wedding. The dresses were elegant, inexpensive and could easily be worn again. By going to a ready-to-wear department to look for bridesmaids dresses, money will not only be saved, but you could provide guests with a view that will have them remembering the wedding for years to come.

At one fall wedding I attended, the bridesmaids wore different shades of velvet dresses that had been specially made for each girl. The rich, warm colors complemented the absolutely beautiful outdoor West Virginia wedding.

Don't forget that looking for bridesmaid dresses can be a fun experience, too. Getting a group of girls together for an outing is a great bonding time for those who may not have met each other or know each other on a limited basis; and going out to eat afterward is a near perfect way to end the day.



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