by Karen Frisch
Bridesmaid dresses are the most notorious part of a wedding -- other than the honeymoon, of course. Many a bridesmaid dress hangs in the back of closets or in the local thrift store because it is so hideous that a woman can't conceive to wear it again. An ugly bridesmaid dress can even upstage a wedding dress. There is some hope, however, that you can choose the right evening dresses that fit each bridesmaid and that don't distract from your special day.
Do your research. The bridal industry is enormous, and there are many resources to pick and choose from. Ask around for references from people you know who have gotten married. Cut out pictures from magazines and keep them in a scrapbook full of ideas. Any dresses you see can lead to new ideas.
Book it to the salon. Bring your scrapbook shopping so that the sales people will have some idea of what you're looking for as a color scheme and overall theme. Traditionally, if the bride is wearing a full-length wedding dress, the bridesmaids should be wearing that same length as well. However, the length of the dresses doesn't matter as much today as the choice of fabric. The style of the wedding, whether elegant or more casual, should determine the fabric and the length of the bridesmaid dresses.
Choose a color and dress that suits all body types. Unless your bridesmaids are all models, each woman will have a different body type to fit. Stick to evening dresses that fall below the knees for the most flattering fit. You may want to avoid strapless or spaghetti strap dresses, as these do not flatter all body types and are very tricky to style. The wedding gown will not be complemented if the bridesmaids look unflattering in their dresses. With that in mind, pick a style that your bridesmaids will be able to wear again. This will make them happier and more willing to shell out money for the bridesmaid gown.
Select the right fabric. Consider the season in which the wedding will take place, the stretch of the fabric and its comfort. Try to avoid satin or velvet in summer and light satin and chiffon in winter. Also, if you are planning an outdoor wedding or reception, choose bridal fabric that will breathe and will be appropriate for both warmer and cooler weather. Cheap bridesmaid dresses made of cotton or linen can look elegant with quality accessories and shoes.
Pick the color. Remember, you want the bride to stand out, not the bridesmaids. Black is the safest color as it is always fashionable, but currently, metallic colors like silver and platinum are in style. Color depends on the theme of the wedding, and it needs to work with everything, including the flower arrangements and the wedding gown.
Don't break the bank. Your bridesmaids generally must pay for their own dresses, so keep a budget in mind. Do not go for something overly expensive. You might also consider having someone in the wedding party sew the bridesmaid gowns if it will cut costs. Sewing the dresses can also ensure that each bridesmaid gets a perfect fit and that the dresses look great with the wedding dress. Cheap bridesmaid dresses can look just as fancy as more expensive styles and be more personal to the bridal party.