So you’ve asked your best ladies to be a part of your epic day by serving as your bridesmaids. After all the hugging (and tears of joy) comes the really fun part: shopping for dresses! Now with you being a cool bride and all, you, of course, want to find dresses that will make everyone in your bridal squad look and feel amazing. With so many bridesmaid dress brands offering both classic and unique styles for every taste and body type, the possibilities are endless. The tough part is choosing which dresses will work best with your day and your maids.
We talked to Erin Graver, a bridal consultant and stylist for BHLDN in Chicago, about what it takes to make the right choices for every gal in your bridal party. Whether you choose one dress, a common color or you mix and match, you can find a way to make your whole crew look and feel stunning as all get-out.
1. Go for styles that are universally flattering. Of course, different styles are going to be flattering on different body types, but a dress that hits at the natural waist generally works best. Erin says, “A well-structured bodice will always make a huge difference to support ladies who need it, and create shape for ladies who need that.” There are styles that people drift toward that are seemingly flattering but can be deceiving. “Women tend to want to wear things that are flowy over the hips and stomach, but sometimes extra fabric visually adds extra volume,” says Erin. “Instead, steer toward streamlined silhouettes with patterns or textures (such as beading or lace) to help your ladies feel less exposed through their midsection, while still looking elongated. Any kind of back detail that forms a V shape instead of cutting straight across will be really beautiful as well.”
2. Avoid cuts that might make your bridesmaids feel uncomfortable. Certain cuts, while they look great on most, might make some bridesmaids feel a bit self conscious. “Most women are not comfortable in strapless, and believe me, nothing looks less flattering than a woman who is uncomfortable and tugging at what they are wearing,” says Erin. “Sweetheart necklines are flattering and feminine, and the best part is that they don’t always have to be strapless. Strapless can be hard to wear unless the dress is incredibly structured and tailored. If you like the sweetheart neckline, consider something that has a strap (or the option for one), or an illusion neckline (some sort of nude or subtle mesh that goes over the chest and shoulders above the sweetheart line).” Speaking of straps, be careful when it comes to dresses with spaghetti straps. Erin says, “While this sometimes is a refreshingly casual look, it’s… not something I recommend if your maids vary a great deal in shape.”
Length can be a problem for bridesmaids too. Let’s say one of your friends is a gymnast (small) and another is a basketball player (tall). Finding a length that makes both feel beautiful can be tricky. Tea length, for example, is a difficult cut. “Tea-length dresses are a really gorgeous and sophisticated hemline, but very difficult to wear for a lot of women,” says Erin. “Often times if the hem isn’t at just the right length, it can really shorten people visually.” If you don’t want your shorter bridesmaids to feel like they’re swimming in floor-length skirts either, try something that cuts off at the knee. Pro tip from Erin: “Sometimes finding a dress that has a higher waist is a great way to create the feel of a tea-length dress without cutting off a woman’s height.” No matter their height, all your girls deserve to stand tall in a dress that flatters them.
J.Crew Julia Dress ($180)
3. Keep an eye out for trends that are versatile. Avoiding unflattering cuts doesn’t mean your choices have to be limited. There are a ton of styles to look out for that look great on everyone, some of which are moving from “trendy” to “bridesmaid style mainstay.” Erin says that dresses with blouson tops are a becoming a popular option. “Though a lot of women are skeptical of this silhouette on the hanger, almost everyone loves it on,” says Erin. “The reason is that it is very minimizing to the chest on women who are busty, but naturally creates shape for women who feel less endowed. It’s also flattering at the waist and often times isn’t too hip hugging, so it’s easy to move in.” The best part? You can wear a normal bra with it, which is a dream come true for any bridesmaid.
Convertible dresses are a modern bride and bridesmaid’s dream. You can stick to one dress, but each bridesmaid can make it their own. Erin says that “having a dress that has a gorgeous, feminine silhouette but allows the wearer to easily customize the neckline by securing panels of fabric in place is a great way to ensure your maids are wearing something they are comfortable in, but also looks cohesive with each bridesmaid.”
Then there’s the two-piece trend, which is very modern but also very flattering, especially since each piece can be different a fit. “Picking a skirt and a top that is the most flattering for each body type is a really great way to ensure your maids are wearing something they love,” says Erin. Crop tops are hot in the fashion world right now and are often featured as bridesmaids’ separates, but brides looking for a “timeless” look might want to steer clear of the trend. “This is definitely a look that will be trend specific, which I’m all for embracing if you’re into the idea, but it can look awkward if not done carefully, and it will date your wedding,” says Erin. The key to keeping this look classy is to keep the skirts high-waisted and the tops at a length that still slightly covers the top of the skirt. Keep it more “peek-a-boo” and less Britney Spears in the early ’00s, and make sure this is something that your bridesmaids feel comfortable wearing.
According to Erin, patterned dresses are “a great way to instantly set the tone for your wedding and give it a really interesting and unexpected look.” For the most part, patterns are super flattering because they can hide problem areas by shifting the focus more on the print and less on a person’s silhouette. The important thing is to keep in mind that a bold print might look good on some but unflattering on others. Erin says that you should “gravitate toward patterns that are softer and more muted and subtly integrated into the overall color of the dress.”
BHLDN Brooklyn Dress ($280)
4. Keep the vision of your day in mind. There are a ton of things to keep in mind when looking for dresses, with the main one being, well, your wedding. “Think about your dress and venue,” says Erin. “There are lots of different types of weddings, but identifying the tone you envision will help you zone in on the types of dresses you want your ladies to wear. Sleek, modern, industrial? Get inspired by dresses with classic, sleek silhouettes, or play around with the idea of metallics. Think of what will really pop in the space. Romantic, boho, whimsical? Consider softer fabrics like tulle and lace. Things that are flowy and feminine and so on.” Also, consider the time of year you’ll be getting married. “Getting married in July? Look for lightweight, breezy fabrics. Getting married in Chicago in December? This might not be the time to do strapless,” says Erin. “A comfortable wedding party is a happy wedding party, and a happy wedding party is always the most photogenic, regardless of what they’re wearing. ”
5. There can be power (but some problems) in numbers. Another ongoing wedding trend is big bridal parties. If this is the route you’re taking, be prepared for some hurdles along the way. “If you are having nine bridesmaids, your challenge is going to be cohesion,” says Erin. “Things don’t need to match perfectly, but to simplify the process you’ll want something that feels a little more uniform. Whether this is done with a color, a silhouette or just making everyone wear the same dress, this is the key.” Another challenge is trying to work with all the different body types of your group. This is when you should consider the convertible route, or different dresses in the same color. Erin says, “I would probably recommend going through a place that specializes in bridesmaids dresses in these situations. Often you get a deal if more than a certain number of maids order through them, and you can stay a little more organized with knowing who has ordered and ensuring everyone is getting something a little more tailored to their measurements.” Here’s another pro piece of advice from Erin: “A general rule of thumb is the fewer maids you have, the bolder and more creative you can get with mix and match. The more ladies you have, the more it helps to tighten the focus and the palette to avoid everything looking messy and distracting.”
6. It’s important for brides and their bridesmaids to have each other’s backs. Communication is super important when it comes to bridal parties. After all, you’re kind of a team, and you want the day to work thanks to clear support from each other. Try to give them palettes to think about, shops to look at and deadlines to keep. Erin says, “Remember, ultimately these ladies signed up for this to support the bride, so having a really clear idea of what the bride wants and when she wants it done helps make their decision-making process a lot easier.” When you go shopping, bring a couple of your ladies, if you can, so you can try to work with the different body types you have in your group. This is ultimately your day, yes, but everyone should be comfortable. “Consider a bridesmaids gift that helps them keep comfortable between photos, like a pashmina for chilly weather, or flip-flops or flats to slip on for the dance floor,” says Erin.
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