Building a Better Bridesmaid Dress (Hint: It’s Already Been Done for You)

I’m not going to lie — I fall in the camp of those who feel the strapless wedding gown is hardly all that. In fact, I don’t disagree with Miss Manners, who pointedly sniffs at the “debutante dresses” that every bride seems to drool over today.It’s true. There’s something oddly jejeune about today’s wedding fashions, at least for women. The issue gets amplified when when you surround the bride with flocks of attendants in typical bridesmaid attire. It all looks suspiciously like Junior Prom.

Of course, brides do notice. And many try to escape this particular pitfall. How can you tell? Well, for starters, look at all the ways they’re striving to loosen things up and get less regimented. After all, once upon a time, as a bridesmaid you had to have your hair shellacked into the same just-so helmet as your Delta-Thisa-Wedding sorority sisters. Your gowns were all the same cut and color. And God help you if you didn’t get your shoes dyed at the same mall.

Now, not so. In fact, you don’t even have to wear Pepto-Bismol pink anymore. Brides are turning to brown and black in droves in order to lend their ‘maids some longed-for sophistication.


Something Got Lost in Translation

And yet, when you look at this season’s David’s Bridal, where someone’s tried so hard to mix things up and minister simultaneously to the maid of honor that’s six months pregnant and your college sophomore niece who wants to rock her sixpack, you might conclude that none of this quite pulls it off.

Yup — it’s still Junior Prom. (Only, sometimes there’s too much black and it’s more like a Junior prom funeral.) And while we’re on the topic, ever walked into a thrift store and been fooled into thinking a bridesmaid’s dress was anything else? From 10 feet away? 50? Probably not.

So much for “they’ll wear that again.”

Now try to imagine Carrie Bradshaw wearing one of those things. You can’t, right? Not unless some kind of grotesque blackmail was involved, like thugs threatening to dye her hair mouse-brown, or dangling her nameplate necklace over the garbage disposal.

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O My Brethren, Are We Women?

Many of today’s weddings involve what we euphemistically call “older couples.” As ancient as that sounds, we’re usually talking about couples that are older than, say, 28.

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In other words, we mean people that have relatively new cars, platinum credit cards, high-end kitchen accessories, an infallible alarm clock and a Rolodex. People who know their Cabernet Sauvignons from their Sauvignon Blancs.

And while age has its drawbacks as well as its privileges, one of the best things about reaching maturity is the clothes. Right now, the payoffs are showing up in power-glam styles reminiscent of the 40s and the womanly women who ruled them.

The Sensual Shirt Dress

One of the most intriguing styles that’s persisted through spring, summer, and fall — and even now is glamming up for winter — is the shirt dress. No, don’t fall off your chair. The shirt dress keeps making inroads in the fashion landscape.

And as it continues (and continues) to gain steam, it’s showing up as an eye-catching, all-woman alternative for bridesmaids who’ve dressed to kill for years.

The formal, special occasion shirt dress isn’t a total anomaly — fuller skirts and shorter hemlines are part of the bridal party package right now. But it sure stands out from the crowd. And the sparks go flying when you throw together a structured collar, tailored belt and a flirty taffeta underskirt.

Take a look (keeping in mind that strappy sandals are a must) and see how it strikes you. Because even if the sexy shirt dress somehow fails to charm, the vision of a tailored, glamorous, all-grown-up group of attendants is bound to leave an impression.