Choosing your bridesmaids’ dresses

Article by Emma Krieger.

Photo: Karen Brown Photography

In the 2008 rom-com 27 Dresses, Katherine Heigl’s character, Jane Nichols sports an array of cringe-worthy, laughter-inducing gowns as she fills the role of bridesmaid, yes, on 27 occasions.

In times past many a bridesmaid can relate to Heigl’s fate – billowy frocks in various shades of ugly were once the go-to.

While it’s an honour to be asked to be a bridesmaid for a close friend or family member, it’s understandable that many women are somewhat nervous as to what they will be asked to wear.

So as the bride, it’s imperative you find a style and colour that suits your tall, blonde, slim best friend just as well as your brunette, hourglass figured shorter sister. And equally importantly, one that you ultimately love – it is after all your big day.

Photo: Karen Brown Photography

Let’s go shopping…

The first step in selecting your bridesmaids’ dresses is to consider your own gown, (as well as your overall wedding style). Is it classic, modern or vintage?

If you’re wearing a flowing, bohemian vintage lace dress, your bridesmaids will look out of place in formal taffeta. While less formal bridesmaids designs will be all wrong if you’re donning a traditional princess-style dress.

Of course, the second most important consideration is colour.

While you may have your heart set on yellow, keep in mind not every skin tone matches every colour dress. For example, pink looks better on women with fairer skin, while brunettes are more suited to shades of red.

If your bridesmaids run the gamut – from a pale redhead to a bronzed blonde – consider selecting identical styles in differing colours.

As for what colours are on trend right now, greys, slate, mocha and soft vintage rose were all huge favourites throughout 2017.

Also keep in mind colour choices are often dictated by the time of year. Deep plums are perfect for winter weddings, while softer pastels are more suited to summer or springtime nuptials.

“Navy, black and espresso are also popular colours,” says wedding planner Nina Lawrence, “plus they are simple and classic which means they can absolutely be worn again.”

After colour, the style of gown chosen needs to suit all of your bridesmaids – whatever their figure.

“This can be tricky as every bridesmaid is shaped differently and consequently will not look good in every style,” says Lawrence. “However, there are some styles that look good on almost everyone, for example, an A-line dress has a form-fitting bodice that flares out from the waistline to a full skirt. This gently flared style is known to flatter most figure types and is a popular choice for formal dresses.”

Don’t forget to also consider your fabric choice. If you’re having a summer wedding you need a lighter fabric, while a heavier (and warmer!) fabric is needed for an autumn or winter wedding.

Photo: Linda Pasfield Photography

The finer details

With all of the focus on “the dress”, accessories are often an afterthought, but finding the right shoes, jewellery and hair accessories (if you’re using these) is crucial.

“Accessories can make or break any outfit,” says Lawrence. “You don’t need to spend a fortune, but a lot of thought needs to go into sourcing the right heels and jewellery to best complement the bridesmaids gowns.”

Photo: Lifestyle Images by Alexandra Grimshaw

The money factor

While once upon a time a bride’s father may have footed the entire bill, these days many couples ask their bridal party to pay for their own clothing.

If you’re uncomfortable about preparing your bridesmaids for the expense (especially if they’ve never been in a wedding and aren’t aware that they have to pay for the dress), you can gently explain the tradition. If money is a major issue you can look for more affordable dresses or find other ways to help.

Conflicts over the cost of a bridesmaid’s dress should never come between friends.

As a bride-to-be you need to show sensitivity toward the possibility that one or more of your attendants might have an issue with costs, and choose gowns and accessories accordingly. In special cases, you may gracefully offer financial help, but as a general rule, your selections for the bridal party should be as acceptable to them as they are to you, at prices well within their means.

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