The Bridesmaid’s Dress


Back in the “olden days” oh, say about five to ten years ago, the traditional bridesmaid’s dress consisted of taffeta in some dreadful pastel, with a Scarlett O’Hara hoop-skirt, festooned with a large bow at the back (butt-bow to the trade), topped off in a white or pastel picture-frame hat tied with another bow with two long tails hanging down the bridesmaid’s back.  Have I drawn a clear word picture of this odious outfit?  I am happy to announce here and now that TIMES HAVE CHANGED!


Today’s bridesmaid dresses are as varied in design and style as they can possibly be.  There is a flattering dress for every, and I mean every bridesmaid – not matter what size she is, no matter how tall or short she is.  I promise.  And the other good news is the price which ranges from $75 to $400 averaging around $200 with $30 to $40 for alterations.


There are few situations in planning a wedding fraught with more pitfalls and opportunities for trouble than choosing the bridemaids’ dresses.  This is the largest expense borne by the bridal party.  It includes shoes, jewelry, accessories and headpieces.


It is the bride’s responsibility to make certain the dress she chooses for her bridal party is affordable to all.  If money is an issue, this is the time to find out – not after the ensembles are chosen and ordered.


In the majority of weddings, the bridesmaid dresses are chosen to complement the wedding’s colors, style and feel.  This may mean that bridesmaids wear identical dresses – but that is not always the case these days.  Some brides maintain a coordinated look by buying dresses that vary slightly in design or color, but still match the formality of the affair and overall look of the bridal gown.


Most important, though, is that all the bridesmaid’s dresses be ordered at the same time from the same shop.  While this is not always possible when the bridesmaids are from different cities, it helps to have the dresses drawn from the same dye lot at the manufacturer.


Brides generally ask the bridesmaids to buy shoes in the same color as the dress and with a similar height heel.  If she plans on asking her bridesmaids to wear gloves, specific jewelry, special undergarments or headpieces, the further in advance she announces these decisions, the better.


Before flipping through catalogs and visiting bridal shopsthe bride should speak to each bridesmaid to discuss what dresses she likes and which dresses are absolutely out of the question.  This is a time for great tact and diplomacy. 


When you are ready to place the final order for the dresses, you will need the following measurements for each woman:  bust (fullest point of the bust) waist (natural waist across the belly button) and hips (fullest part right across the derriere).  Although measurements are tedious, they are supremely important if the dresses are to fit well.


Now is the time to hit the stores.  Shopping should be fun and everyone should be included.  There is no reason for anyone to be surprised with the final choice.  There are many places to look for dresses – from the large discount bridal chains, to department stores to full service bridal shops.  Each type of store has its own advantages and disadvantages.


A full service bridal shop is the most comprehensive choice, providing information and advice on measurements, sizing, undergarments, shoes and the all-important order time.  The bridal shop provides fabric swatches and almost always has full time seamstresses on staff to perform necessary alterations.


They are professionals and usually charge slightly higher prices than discount retailers.  However, it is their business to make certain the wedding day goes perfectly.  Brides often find it convenient to choose one shop they like and purchase everything there, including the bridesmaids’ dresses, shoes and accessories, which can work out to an overall discount for the bridesmaids.


It is of the utmost importance to scrutinize the differences in quality among the dresses.  It will become apparent early in the search there are stark disparities between manufacturers, shops and styles.  The bride and bridesmaids must be discerning and educated shoppers to find the perfect dresses and accessories.


So, the big day arrives.  Everyone looks gorgeous – although not more gorgeous than the bride – and everyone is happy with the dress chosen.  You, the bride and bridesmaids, can give yourselves great applause.  You have navigated bridal waters fraught with perils and not only survived, but also prevailed!! 


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