Sometimes choosing dresses for the bridesmaids is more stressful than finding a wedding gown. At least the wedding gown only has to look great on one person – the bride! When it comes to your attendants, though, you will be looking for one style or color that works for a lot of different ladies. For the best luck, you may wish to start by deciding which type of store will suit your needs the best.
The traditional place to buy bridesmaid dresses is at a bridal salon, often the same one where you got your wedding gown. There are some advantages to going this route. The biggest one is that a bridal salon will have the widest selection, especially if you prefer a floor length dress. Also, they usually order the bridesmaid dresses, which means that you don’t have to worry about five girls all needing the same size (which would be a problem when buying off-the-rack), or having a range of figures from petite to average to plus size. Special fit issues can often be handled without a problem. The other good thing about ordering from a bridal salon is that you will have access to their seamstresses, who will specialize in wedding alterations.
There are some drawbacks, though, to choosing your bridesmaid dresses in a bridal salon. For one thing, they can take a long time to come in. The biggest disadvantage is likely to be the cost. Traditional bridesmaid gowns are going to be the most expensive choice. This can be tough if your attendants are paying for their own dresses. A bride who selects a pricey dress for her attendants can take some of the sting out if by giving her bridesmaids their shoes, wraps, and pearl bridesmaid jewelry as a gift.
A lot of brides these days like to pick out a dress at a national retailer, such as J Crew or Ann Taylor. It used to be that you would have to find a suitable dress in their everyday line (which were usually best for informal weddings), but now several of the big chains also offer special occasion collections designed for bridesmaids. This can be a terrific choice for a bride whose attendants are scattered all around the country. It allows them to go down to the store in their local mall and try on the dress in person, which is great. (Returns, if needed, are usually very easy, too.)
The disadvantage to finding a bridesmaid dress in a national retailer is the lack of flexibility. If you have one bridesmaid who is not a standard size, she may be out of luck. The other thing is that it can be hit or miss. If you are the type who likes to plan ahead, it may be nervewracking waiting for the spring collection to arrive in time for your summer wedding. What is nice is that choosing a dress in a store like J Crew is usually less expensive than buying one from a bridal shop (although if you choose from their special occasion collection, the savings may be small.)
Everyone shops online these days, and brides are no exception. Sometimes if you are looking for a great bargain or something out of the ordinary, the internet is the place to find it. This is certainly true for accessories, such as your pearl bridesmaid jewelry. When buying dresses online, though, be sure to look before you leap. Unlike a pair of earrings, sizing and fit is important for a fancy dress. Carefully check the retailer’s return policy – can you send back any dresses that do not fit your bridesmaids? If so, is there a restocking fee or any other hidden charge? One of the nicest things about picking a bridesmaid dress online is that you can email the picture to all of your attendants in a flash to get their opinions.
Wherever you decide to purchase your bridesmaid dresses, make sure that you will be comfortable working with the retailer over a period of time. Online, catalog, or brick-and-mortar, be sure that the store has a good reputation. You want to know that if you have any special requests or issues that they will provide the outstanding customer service that every bride deserves.