Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bridesmaid Dresses

Bridesmaid dresses: for years those two words have conjured up dreadful images of ruffles, puffed sleeves, and dyeable shoes. A lot of progress has been made over the years and brides seem to be more sensible. Many brides-to-be are even giving their bridesmaids the option of picking out their own dress; isn't that fantastic! Well, it is and it isn't. True, you may be able to find something you can actually wear more than once (and to something other than a costume party/tacky prom); however, where does one even begin to shop for one! Most of us single girls have not spent a lot of time perusing various bridal stores, and some of them can be rather intimidating if you don't have a rock on your finger. Depending on the parameters the bride-to-be has set, there are actually a lot of places to look. In addition, some of the traditional bridal stores may have some decent options; either way be sure to bring a shopping buddy, because it is a truly entertaining experience.

With several of my dear friends getting married this year, I've spent a lot of time at Priscilla of Boston and learned a lot about dress shopping. I hope to help those of you that feel lost, overwhelmed, and frustrated to find a dress that works: one that's cute, cheap, and makes the future Mrs. happy.

While the spring Wedding Season is still many months away, if you've been asked to be part of the bridal party you have started (or need to start) shopping for your dress. Many stores suggest allowing around three months to get the order placed and get your alterations done. As I have said before, do not underestimate the importance of alterations. Formal dresses tend to run small, so it's often best to up a couple of sizes and have a seamstress nip it and tuck it to suit your body. I have also recently learned that several retailers only take orders and don't actually carry any of the dresses for you to try on. Now the useful part; I'll go through store by store and share my new-found knowledge.

Priscilla of Boston
Personally, this probably would have been one of the last places I looked for a bridesmaid dress. I would have thought that it would have been super pricey and, quite frankly, I would have been far too terrified to walk in there with a naked left ring finger. I was quite wrong! While accompanying a friend wedding dress hunting, I discovered that they carried several different labels of bridesmaid dress and most of them were cute and surprisingly cheap. Most of the dresses were under $250 with many under $200, and if the bride purchases her dress there you get a discount on bridesmaid dresses. There was an excellent selection of dresses with lots of color options and many had different sashes and other accent pieces that could be ordered in different colors. Another huge plus is that you can actually try the dresses on and see how they fit. Oh and it's worth mentioning that the store was not nearly as scary as I thought it would be. To be perfectly honest, I would go back and get a dress there for a cocktail party or black tie event.

I remember when J.Crew started carrying bridesmaid dresses. Many a young lady were thrilled that should her friend ever get married, she could just go to trusty '0le J.Crew! I'm sad to say that I have not been impressed. Yes, most of the dresses are re-wearable; and they should be! You may be lucky enough to find one that matches your bride's color swatch, but otherwise the dresses go from around $200 to over $400. I can't fathom paying over $400 for a bridesmaid dress. It is also worth mentioning that they do not carry these dresses in the stores, so you have to blindly order them. When it comes to dresses, I greatly prefer being able to try them on; they all fit so differently and you never know what size to get.

Ann Taylor
This section is going to be a bit sparse, because I have not had a lot of experience with their wedding collection. However, from what I can tell the selection of dresses can vary greatly by season. I looked several months ago and there were only two; I just looked now and there are two whole pages! The dresses are much more reasonably priced than J. Crew and there is that familiarity with the store that can be reassuring. Like J. Crew these are not generally carried in stores, but since they are not terribly pricey you can probably afford to actually get the alteration (at J. Crew after spending $400 you'll be taping hemlines with duct tape!).

Probably the biggest selection you'll find online; however, some of these dresses are actually in stores but some are online only. If you click on the dress it specifies its online vs. actual store availability. The prices cover a broad spectrum and if you're lucky enough to find one on sale you can possibly snag one for under $100. That right there makes looking through all 9 pages of dresses (some rather hideous) worthwhile. The color choices here can be rather limited, though, since some are just normal dresses that they have flagged as being bridesmaid-compatible.

David's Bridal
It wouldn't be much of a post if I didn't mention David's Bridal (I bet you've all got that "you'll love David's Bridal" song stuck in your head now), but I saved this for last since this would probably be my last resort. It's not that I'm snobby and don't want to go to a warehouse of sorts; warehouses generally mean deals and I LOVE that. I was honestly scarred by the whole experience. I went with a friend who had to get a specific dress from there. The place was overwhelming, the service was atrocious (Springfield, VA), the dresses were poorly made (the one my friend got looks like it's been through a war zone), and they were expensive! I think it was the cost for the poor quality that shocked me the most. The bridesmaid dresses are around $130-$200 and that is before you pay $50 for hemming alone. There were some cute dresses and they did have a good selection of colors and styles. Oh and don't think this is a last minute resort, because they need at least three months. Unless you find one on sale or you can't find a certain color anywhere else, I would probably avoid this place; you won't love David's Bridal.

The places I've listed about are just the big targets to hit; other good places are the formal sections of department stores, the prom section if the season's right, vintage stores could land you an awesome piece, and if all else fails you (or a friend that can sew) can make your own!


Subtropical Paradise said...

I am definitely going to have the David's Bridal song stuck in my head all day!

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