We all know the jokes about hideous bridesmaid dresses, like pink taffeta as far as the eye can see or yellow organza that is sure to make every woman in the bridal party look pallid. We’ve all seen a few dresses chosen specifically to make the bride look utterly amazing in comparison at a wedding. The endless shopping for a dress that will drain your savings account and be worn only once, because, really, who wears dresses like these anywhere in public?

You don’t need to be a wedding planner to know that there are some basic dos and don’ts of choosing a bridesmaid dress your attendants won’t mind wearing on your special day. But what if you could choose one that your girls will actually love and be able to utilize beyond your special day?

According to the New York Times, choosing a bridesmaid dress that your girls will love begins with thinking about the bridesmaid dresses as a (wedding) party dress, not as a uniform indicative of loyalty and submission. Avoiding dresses with “an exaggerated shape” or a “stiff textile” is key to choosing dresses that will be flattering and sophisticated enough to attract and satisfy even the most savvy bride and bridal party. Think about fabrics that drape and accentuate the more positive attributes of your attendants, and choose materials and styles that are flattering in both their design and their color.

While the bride’s wedding dress should be the starting point for choosing bridesmaid dresses, keep in mind that not all of the features of the wedding dress needs to be incorporated into the bridesmaid dresses. Choose one or two design aspects of the wedding dress–for example, a sweetheart neckline or a drop waistline–that can be replicated in the girls’ dresses and keep the other elements of the wedding gown specific to the bride only. This will increase the likelihood that the bridesmaid dresses will have an elegance all their own that doesn’t make them look like they are wearing colored wedding gown costumes, even if you choose to have them all wear the same style.

Keep in mind the location and time of year for the wedding so that the bridesmaid dresses are complementary to your wedding, without making your bridal party look cartoonish or cliche. If your wedding is planned at the height of summer, long dresses may not be appropriate no matter how sheer the material. And remember that choosing a shade for the bridesmaid dresses involves more than just your desire to utilize the wedding colors.

It’s important to consider a variety of skin tones, so your girls may be wearing an accent color, not one of the main colors of your wedding. Remember that stonewashed colors like blush, sand, and gray are universally flattering and trendy, while brighter tones like hot pink will stand out against darker skin. Remember attendants with fairer complexions look better in jewel tones like amethyst or emerald. Choose colors that work with your wedding theme, but also work well for the attendants you’ve chosen.

Each one of your bridesmaids will likely have a different body shape, height, and general sense of style. It is important to think about the styles and shapes of dresses you think will suit them, and if one particular dress will not “fit” all, there is always the option of having mismatched bridesmaid dresses. This is currently one of the more popular wedding trends, and nailing it means that both you and your attendants will feel beautiful, comfortable, and unique walking down the aisle. It also means that each member of your bridal party has a greater chance of obtaining a dress that she will want to wear again.

Lastly, keep in mind current trends with regard to color. While you might be focusing your planning around the trendiest colors for weddings, it’s important to remember that there are also non-wedding fashion trends worth considering for your wedding party. For example, wrap dresses and one-shoulder dresses are making a comeback, as are gunmetal-colored sequins and dark velvet. Look at all of the fashion trends before making decisions about color and style.

We realize, of course, that this day is yours and you should make decisions that you are most comfortable with. But keep in mind that choosing bridesmaid dresses that are fun, flirty, and flattering will increase the likelihood that your wedding party will be happy.

Do you have any bridesmaid dress horror stories? Or maybe you have a wedding success story? Feel free to share your ideas here.

About the Author

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Mirko Humbert is the editor-in-chief and main author of Designer Daily and Typography Daily. He is also a graphic and web designer based in Fribourg, Switzerland, as well as the co-founder of We Jobshare.