Last weekend, my maid of honor and two bridesmaids joined me to look at bridesmaid dresses for the first time.  We went over to Here Comes the Bridesmaid, who carries a bunch of well known designers. While we did have an appointment, the experience was pretty laid back and independent. Once we checked in, we were told to browse the racks and pull out dresses we liked. We were looking short, knee-length cocktail dresses that were available in red. My goal from the start has been to find a dress that comes in the same fabric, with a couple of different shapes, so everyone can pick a dress that they feel comfortable in. I also really want to find dresses that each of my girls will be happy wearing again.

The best part about going with three of my bridesmaids is that we could try on a bunch of dresses quickly and eliminate the ones we didn’t like and then switch the dresses we did like! Jessica and Julie were our dress guinea pigs. I think they tried on at least ten dresses between the two of them. Sadly, only two really stood out. One is the yellow one to the right. It’s from Watters & Watters. It’s silk dupioni, which is a really interesting looking raw silk, so you get interesting variations in the fabric. Obviously, we’d get it in red. The nice part about this dress is that there are a couple of dresses that are made of the same fabric and have the same style, but have different neckline or strap options. Jessica and Julie both looked really cute in the dress. So, it’s on the list. The only problem is that it’s pretty pricey, close to $300. I’d rather find something a little more affordable before settling.

The other dress we found was from Watters’ other line, Wtoo. This dress also looked great on Julie and Jessica and the back was really sexy, but the fabric was a poly-chiffon and while the grey worked, we all agreed it might look a bit cheap in a red color. But I was surprised to learn that at least three of the five girls would be willing to wear a chiffon dress! I was expecting them to veto that.

So, the next step is to make an appointment at a different store. I think we’ll try Bella Bridesmaid next. They carry a ton of lines. I’m definitely excited to look at Anna Elyse, which fits perfectly in the same fabric, different styles dress goal. There’s also Jenny Yoo, Amsale and Alix & Kelly. I’ve looked on all of the websites, but it really doesn’t matter until you’re actually in the store looking at the dresses.

And of course, there’s always J.Crew. So, we’ll find something. My sister will be in the city for three weeks for a summer programming starting next week, so it’ll be much easier to get everyone together to go try on dresses and at the very least meet! So, hopefully, we’ll find something. We’re not in a rush and there are definitely a few seasons to pass before we really have to make a decision, but considering how long it can take for some of these dresses to come in, I’d rather start early. Better safe than sorry!

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Bridesmaid Dresses

April 16, 2010

I have found since I started planning this wedding that selecting bridesmaid dresses can be very tricky. First of all, there a a lot of bridesmaid dresses out there! This is not something you know about if you’re not involved with the planning of a wedding. Secondly, there are a lot of factors to take into account when selecting bridesmaid dresses; fit, style, color, fabric, etc. And finally, there are five people to take into consideration.

There are a couple of ways to go about dresses your bridesmaids. You can pick one dress in one color and make everyone wear that dress in that color, you can select one color and fabric as part of a collection and ask your ladies to pick any style in that category. Or you can pick a color and say, find something in this color.

The first option, having your ladies buy the exact same dress is probably the most common route taken by most brides. I’m sure many feel that’s the way it’s done, so that’s what they do. But it doesn’t taken into account many of the issues I mentioned before, specifically that you’re outfitting multiple girls in the exact same dress. Unless all your friends are models and a size 2, odds are good they won’t all look good in the same dress.

The last option also seems like a pretty good idea at the time, but it frequently backfires. First of all, asking bridesmaids to find their own dress puts a lot of pressure on them. Anyone who’s had to go out and buy a dress under pressure, much less a dress in a specific color, knows how frustrating it can be. The other problem with this option is that it ends up putting a lot of pressure on the bride. One bride I know who tried to make things easy on her bridesmaid has been bombarded with calls and e-mails from her TWO bridesmaids asking if this a dress would be okay. She’s ready to just cut her losses and pick a dress.

The other option, and the route I’m planning to take, is to select a fabric and a color at a specific company and allow your bridesmaids to pick a dress that best fits their body type. This allows a lot more flexibility in terms of dress style and, I think, creates a more interesting look in the bridal party. Not all my bridesmaids look the same, why should they all dress the same?

But where to get the dresses. I was taken aback by just how man bridesmaid options there are and even more so by the fact that with all the options out there, people STILL get dresses at David’s Bridal! While there are some dresses at David’s Bridal that are nice…ish, the vast majority of their dresses are very obviously bridesmaid dresses.

There are also companies like Dessy¬†Group, TwoBirds Bridesmaid, Anna Elyse and dozens more. But while those dress companies all have a lot of options in terms of color and style, the fabric they use drives me crazy. Okay, let me backtrack briefly. The price of these dresses drive me crazy *considering* the fabric they use. I’ve looked at tons of dresses and when I track down the details about the fabric they use it almost always ends up being a polyester, poly-satin or some other man made material. I really don’t understand why so many companies think it’s okay to charge over $200 for a polyester dress!

I think it’s fair to say I’m a fabric snob. I recognize that polyester is a much cheaper alternative than silk in many cases, but I’d rather pay the extra money for silk. I find that polyester and other synthetic fabrics don’t feel as good as natural fibers like cotton, wool, silk, etc. I also think that polyester doesn’t look as nice. It doesn’t move the same way other fabrics do. Being a fabric snob is frustrating, because SO much is made out of polyester. (Sidenote: On “Project Runway” recently, Michael Kors berated a contestant for using polyester when half of his Macy’s collection is made from polyester or poly-blends. And you know what, Michael, two-thirds of the collection is ugly to. End sidenote.)

Getting back to bridesmaid dresses, the other option, beyond the specific bridesmaid collection out there are the dress options at J.Crew and Ann Taylor. Unfortunately, Ann Taylor doesn’t have the color I’m hoping for in their dress collection presently. But J.Crew does. The dress seen here is the Sophia dress in vintage burgundy. I love the color and the fabric is silk tricotine. Real silk! I bought the same dress in a different color in the silk chiffon and I really liked it.

The best part of the J.Crew collection is that they have four or five dresses in the same fabric and color that are different styles. If one of my friends would rather have less cleavage, there’s a dress for that. More cleavage? Well, there’s a dress for that! I, personally, think the color is stunning and this is the kind of dress I really feel like could be worn again.

I think that idea is one of the biggest driving factors for brides to consider when choosing bridesmaid dresses right now. Will my girls be able to wear this dress again? I think, looking at some of the specifically designed bridesmaid dresses out there, the vast majority of them just look like bridesmaid dresses. If you’re asking someone to stand up with you and spend their time and money to be a part of your wedding, I think it’s nice and considerate to extend them the courtesy of getting a re-wearable dress.

Being a bridesmaid is an investment. It’s an investment in time and mostly money. While we haven’t started the search for dresses yet, I plan on getting all the ladies together to try on dresses at J.Crew and maybe check out some of these other brands. Hopefully, it’ll be a fun time and we can all decide on a dress designer that is comfortable, affordable and wearable for years to come.