Your Bridesmaid Style Guide
Chelsea Campbell, Director of Bridesmaids at Claudia Hanlin’s Wedding Library, on how to pick a timeless dress your girls will love
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Should a bride bring all of her bridesmaids dress shopping with her or start scouting on her own?
Choosing bridesmaids dresses can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. Limiting the number of people you bring with you to your first bridesmaids dress appointment really allows you to focus on what you want for your wedding. For your first look, I suggest bringing only a few people whose opinions you really trust. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by your options, and swayed by your ‘maids’ opinions. Once you’ve decided on a dress, bring your girls to try it on, followed by dinner or cocktails!
What are the biggest style issues a bride should consider when selecting bridesmaid dresses?
When you have different shapes and sizes in your bridal party, it’s important to make sure everyone feels and looks their best! Open the options to a few similar styles in the same fabric and color to accommodate this. If you prefer the streamline look of all your ‘maids in the same style, consider necklines and waistlines that would be suitable on everyone. If you have a bridesmaid with conflicting taste, be accommodating but remember that it is your wedding. (Also remember, you may be a bridesmaid in her wedding one day!)
Let’s talk about color. Are there any that truly flatter everyone?
There are certainly colors that will flatter everyone! Classic colors like navy, black, and deeper purples are timeless and elegant, and work with every skin tone and hair color. If you’re going for a more neutral color palette, be sure to pick a color with a saturated undertone so that everyone looks picture perfect!
What styles will ensure a classic, timeless look?
To avoid choosing styles that may end up looking dated, stick with clean lines and simple silhouettes. The classic chiffon strapless may catch a bad rap for being a standard bridesmaid style, but it will never look dated. If you’re looking to do something a little different, choose a silhouette that is minimal but in a unique color, or select styles from an emerging designer.
Where should brides look for bridesmaid style inspiration?
Rather than looking at editorial spreads, look at wedding blogs like Style Me Pretty and Carats & Cake to find real wedding photos. Seeing what other brides have chosen for their bridesmaids and how the dresses look on various body types will help you envision your big day. Pinterest is another useful tool brides can use to immerse themselves in all things weddings!
How far before the wedding should bridesmaid dresses be ordered?
Many bridesmaid designers require between 12 and 16 weeks to fulfill dress orders. To give yourself some breathing room, and make this processes as stress-free as possible, I would begin your search 7 to 8 months in advance and place an order at least 5 months before your wedding date. You will want to factor in time for tailoring, as most dresses require some sort of alteration.
What are the most important guidelines to give your ‘maids if you’re letting them pick their own dresses?
I’m a big fan of the mix and match trend! Plus, what bridesmaid wouldn’t appreciate being able to choose a dress that suits her? A little variation can translate beautifully in your wedding pictures. However, you should definitely set some parameters – whether that is length, fabrics, or designer – so your bridesmaids don’t end up looking like guests at your wedding.
Who is responsible for alteration costs?
Bridesmaids are typically responsible for their own alterations. Most will have someone they already use, but some will ask for recommendations. It’s important for a store to have suggestions for qualified tailors on hand who they know will do the job right.
Should a bride dictate accessories like shoes and jewelry or is it okay to let bridesmaids choose their own?
You want your girls to match, but if they’re already paying for a dress, makeup, travel, and other various costs associated with a wedding, I would suggest gifting them the jewelry. If you had something else in mind as a gift, ask them to wear shoes and jewelry of a specific color, for example, silver or gold. The accessories are a matter of personal preference, and don’t necessarily need to match. Also think about the length of your bridesmaids’ dresses when considering shoes. If they’re wearing long dresses, it is less essential to have everyone purchase and wear the same style.