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Bridesmaids Dresses – Rules and Tips

The appalling nature of some bridesmaids’ dresses has almost become a wedding movie cliché, and for good reason: you can Google up a host of crimes against fashion, style and comfort without really trying. We hope a few tips and cautionary tales helps you avoid inflicting shame on your friends, and the real possibility of losing them as such.

Of course some brides actively search for dresses that make their bridesmaids look awful, so they by comparison look fabulous. We know of brides who’ve taken this further by asking bridesmaids to gain weight to make themselves appear slimmer. And it’s not unknown for a bride too often in the shadow of her closest friend to seek petty revenge through a bridesmaid’s dress.

In the UK we tend to have between one and four bridesmaids, which makes things easier for the bride than her counterpart in the USA, where many weddings have six and more. For that reason among others American bridesmaids are generally expected to buy their own dresses, which brings its own complications (not least when a bride goes rogue and expects friends to spend small fortunes); whereas in the UK the norm is the couple fork out. But the process of choosing and buying bridesmaids’ dresses can still be tricky.

Rule number one, as far as we’re concerned, is that you should choose your bridal gown first. Don’t make the mistake of falling for and purchasing bridesmaids’ dresses before your own, then discovering the perfect bridal outfit that clashes horribly with them.

Next, involve your bridesmaids in the process, and listen to them. Unless you’re a complete egotist you’ll want them to look good, and they will (or should) know what suits them as regards styles and colours. Getting them together for an evening of browsing on the net can pay dividends. We’d suggest the priority here is to select a colour both in keeping with your dress, and that matches their skin tones and hair colours. Two hints: pink rarely if ever suits adult women or teenagers; and gray dresses, whether called champagne or not, make many women look like zombies.

Timing is another factor that needs consideration. Some hi-end makers require several months to make dresses. You can find plenty of excellent examples off the rack, but it can be risky buying them too early, as adults gain and lose weight quite quickly, and kids and teens can have growth spurts (for girls out as well as up). We said it’s tricky. And while we’re talking sourcing the dresses, a word of caution: lots can be found online, often without problems; but as with everything in life if it looks too good to be true, it probably is, and the integrity shown in cloning a top designer’s dress may possibly be reflected in a supplier’s other business ethics.

General rules of which dress style suits particular body-shapes apply, so you may wish (family politics and friendships allowing) to select bridesmaids who are similar in build. But often family politics won’t allow. Common sense suggests that what looks great on your 10 year old niece will probably make your 35 year old best friend look weird. A smart compromise in that case is to go with your agreed colour, then choose a single fabric and perhaps one or two unifying details to be used with each dress, and then work towards the style most suited to each bridesmaid.

Looks are not everything. Having witnessed a bridesmaid who ripped her dress en route (but on the positive side, that may have saved her from suffocation), we’d advise against second-skin gowns. And a moment on the net will show plenty who have fallen out of their décolleté or held-up-by-prayer dresses, instantly recorded for posterity and cheap laughs.

Good luck with this bit of your planning, as with every other. Hope it hasn’t scared you too much.

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