5 Bridesmaid Dress Ideas From a Bridesmaid

Photo: Nick Nguyen

Oh, the bridesmaid dress. That much-maligned, expensive bit of fabric that, depending on the style chosen, can make a group of women look like ravishing goddesses or bloated Disney princess rejects.

I have felt very honored every time I've been asked to be part of a bridal party. The weddings I have participated in have been for people who I love dearly. But when it comes time to buy The Bridesmaid Dress, I — a woman who will rarely spend over $50 on a dress that I get to choose the fit and color of myself — grit my teeth a bit. Yes, I'm happy to buy the dress to make this day special for my friend. But spending $150 (or much, much more) on one piece of clothing makes me...well. Here's a way to describe how I feel about the cost of bridesmaid dresses — the first time I ever found a grey hair on my head, it was during a bridesmaid dress fitting. Take from that what you will.

Now, I certainly hope any former or future brides who picked or will pick me for their bridal parties won't feel like I'm laying down a guilt trip. I feel lucky to have participated in your weddings, and you've all been good, sane brides. And I should also issue a disclaimer — I have not been a bride, nor do I have any plans to be one soon. I know the wedding day is not about the bridesmaids. That said, here are a few humble dress suggestions from a woman who's had to wear her share. (See also: Alternative Wedding Ideas for Big Savings)

1. Give Options

I happily just plunked down $215 for a bridesmaid dress. Why happily? Because the bride in question found a line of dresses that gave all of her maids options for different tops and skirts. The resulting dresses manage to flatter each of our body types while still looking like one cohesive style. Even better? We got to choose from a small selection of bride-approved colors as well.

2. Consider a Non-Bridesmaid Dress

I love this bridesmaid dress slideshow from Glamour. Not only are all of the dresses are under $150, but several of them are inexpensive-yet-elegant options from easy-to-access shops like Express, Dillards, and even Wet Seal.

3. If You're Going to Say It's Something We Can Wear Again, Mean It

I have heard this refrain every time I have been a bridesmaid, and I have appreciated it. But what the bride would have occasion to wear again is not necessarily what her maids would wear. I'm not trying to tear down your image of a perfect wedding, brides. Just ponder that, OK?

4. Think About the Cost

I know, you're reading Wise Bread; this should be obvious. But your bridesmaids might also be shelling out funds for cross-country airfare, hotel stays, and (hopefully) a sweet bachelorette party as well. Take all of that into consideration.

5. Remember the Reception

Yeah, we'll all look lovely in our slinky, floor-length gowns when you say "I do." But please, please do not expect us to dance the "Electric Slide" in those. I am clumsy. I will fall, and I will take your aunt with me.

Do you have any other bridesmaid dress tips? Share them in the comments!

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Guest's picture

I know a woman who selected the FABRIC and had each bridesmaid have a dress made in a style that flattered her. I can't remember if she also set them up with the dressmaker. The result was a wedding party that looked cohesive (and smart, as the fabric was black and white), but no one bridesmaid ended up looking ridiculous in a gown that wasn't suited to her shape.

Meg Favreau's picture

I love this idea!

Guest's picture

One other tip: consider renting bridesmaids dresses instead of buying them. Because seriously, no matter what, that dress won't be worn again. Renttherunway.com and littleborroweddress.com offer great options.

Guest's picture

Consider the chameleon dress from Isadora Clothing (on Etsy.com)! They can be in a variety of colors and fabrics, and they can be worn over a dozen different ways. I got married in April (on my honeymoon) but couldn't commit to an exact style that I wanted, so I chose a white floor-length chameleon dress with a lace overlay on the top, and had a ton of options for how to wear it. Could have been strapless, asymmetrical, halter, etc. My reception is in June and I'll be wearing it a different way compared to how I wore it for my wedding. After the party I'll dye the dress black and have it hemmed to cocktail length for my 'forever' little black dress. Because of the way the dress is made, it didn't need alterations. I didn't have a bridal party, since we got married on our honeymoon, but if I did my bridesmaids would have worn Isadora dresses. Then they, too, could have worn their dresses in a style that fits their personalities and comfort level. As long as you don't pick weird colors, they really are dresses your bridesmaids can wear again.

Guest's picture
kelly smith

i actually used the Chameleon Dress form Isadora Clothing for my bridesmaid dresses. My girls loved them and i loved them so much that i bought one of my own. What a great idea to dye it black!

Guest's picture

Can anyone explain to me why on God's green earth this is even a discussion? Why is there such a thing as a "bridesmaids dress"? When I got married, my bridesmaid asked me what she should wear. I told her, "you've been dressing yourself just fine for 35+ years and I'm sure you'll be able to do it again this day. Just look fabulous -- whatever your version of fabulous is. Now, I have other things to attend to." I just told everyone involved in my wedding that I expected them to look spectacular and happy -- "Try to Outshine the Bride" was the dress code.

Guest's picture

I'm getting married next summer. I told all the women who are my bridesmaids to pick a dark blue dress that fits them. I don't care if they don't match, I want everyone in a dress she actually likes.

Andrea Karim's picture

Congrats on your upcoming wedding! I've noticed a lot of brides doing this. Pick a color or a color family and have the bridesmaids/bridesmen pick out whatever they want. My wedding was tiny, so my sister was my only attendant, and we just went shopping and picked out (oddly enough) a dark blue dress that suited her and was affordable. It was so much less stressful than dealing with a "real" bridesmaid dress.

Guest's picture

I did this too, only in black. My exact requirements were: long, black and formal since it was a more formal, evening wedding. The girls loved it and everyone could buy a dress they liked and could afford. Everything else was up to them with the one request that they stick with the wedding colors or match the color of their bridesmaid gift. One bridesmaid had really awesome, bright purple shoes to match. Another made a feather fascinator with some extra feathers and did retro pinup style hair and makeup. Everyone matched, but was still totally themselves. I loved it.

And I second number 3. I've worn two bridesmaid dresses again. One was entirely my choosing, the second was picked from a number of styles and the bride also took into consideration my plea for a blue-green and not a yellow-green. She ended up with a very pretty bright grass green with blue undertones. I've worn that and gotten compliments on it. I have another dress that is statue of liberty green and let's just say that it's never seen the light of day since that wedding. I had to spend 6 months lightening my hair to something closer to a natural red just to pull it off in the first place.