Bridesmaid Dresses Get a Much Needed Makeover

View Gallery 12 Photos

The likelihood of a bridesmaid’s dress being worn again usually has been slim to none. The tendency has been to toss them in the back of a closet, gladly forgotten.

After decades of being a jumble of poufs, frills, ruffles and bustier bows, the traditional “one-style-fits-all” is undergoing a much-needed makeover. Even the mindset has altered, focusing more on “special occasion attire,” expanding possibilities past the reception dance floor.

Keeping that in mind, designers now offer an array of options that will make any wedding party embody the bride’s vision.


Whatever the season, Nneke Alexander of Brides by Nona in Atlanta emphasizes that “styles are more fashion-forward, with designs that are unique, even in high-end labels.” This means more expressive, often cutting-edge styles that can convert to post-wedding haute couture.

Over at Jenny Yoo Collections in Chicago, showroom manager Sarah Stachelski stresses gowns should evoke the spirit of the bride and connect to the theme of the wedding. “It’s all about classic, timeless lines and silhouettes.” Also, blending “runway-ready as well as romantic” is a prevailing motif.

More specifically, when asked, these experts agree that mix-and-match bridal parties have come out on top in recent years, and it’s easy to see why.

“Brides are choosing more of a mixed look for their attendants, so many bridesmaids are able to choose the style of their dress for themselves,” said Claire Cunningham, Allure Bridals, Bartlett, TN. Cunningham says the upcoming season will still feature simplicity and timelessness. “The better the silhouette, the more longevity your bridesmaids will have out of the look.”

Nonetheless, Alexander advises that mix-and-match “should be controlled, as [the bridesmaids] want to complement, not confuse, the bride’s vision.” As an example, she used eight attendants being presented with four styles, narrowing down to just two, sidestepping any visual confusion.

“There are many ways to achieve a fresh bridal party look creating tonal hues from one hero color, prints and solids… or even choosing a print and splashing in solid colors pulled from the florals,” said Stachelski.

Besides the mix-and-match concept, many brides still hold a set vision of a unified look. Michelle Locke, media manager for bespoke bridal designer Jean-Ralph Thurin in Sommerville, NJ, says this concept evolved with Thurin’s one-of-a-kind wedding party ensembles. “One popular look is the all-white wedding. This trend, which began in celebrity circles, debunks the myth of only the bride wearing white. This has become quite an ultra-chic fashion statement and is very memorable.”

Another unconventional alternative is the bridesmaid jumpsuit, usually with a detachable skirt for the ceremony. This can be the best of both worlds — a conventional look transforming into something fun and whimsical for the reception.


The options are endless when it comes to choosing the most flattering tones and fabrics for your attendants.

“Color palettes can be whatever you choose, thanks to sites like Pinterest serving up constant inspiration,” said Cunningham.

As the upcoming winter and spring seasons approach, Locke notes that rich jewel tones — burgundy, gold, navy and corresponding neutrals — will always be in style. Blush and floral tones will carry into Spring 2019, with rose-gold a standout.  Of course, fabrications are the other key element in selecting dresses that will impart that “wow” factor beyond the wedding. Don’t rule out softer feels like silk, chiffon and even knit crepe, used by Jenny Yoo for more fitted silhouettes.

Accents and the love of all things sparkly hold great appeal for many brides. “I would definitely say ‘bling’ is the thing!” said Alexander. “You can never go wrong with the beading or the sequins.”


Having your family and friends say “I will” to be a bridesmaid means you must be aware of selecting styles that flatter a variety of figure types and still work with your vision.

“A bride should want her maids to feel beautiful in whatever she chooses,” said Stachelski. “Above all, we recommend clean lines and confidence.”

An accurate fit is another factor furthering another post-wedding wearing. Since the gowns will more than likely need custom fitting, Alexander suggests sending full-length pictures of your bridal party prior to the first salon appointment. That way, the consulting team will already have a general idea of the most flattering styles and necklines.

Finally, put yourself in your bridesmaids’ shoes. Ask yourself, “Would I want to wear this again?”

If you feel it wouldn’t be a “bad dress day,” you’ve got a winner!