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Bridesmaids favor separates, choices
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- While it's an honor to participate in a wedding, bridesmaids often must spend excessively for a gown that will only gather dust once the ceremony ends.
Phyllis Miller, associate professor of apparel, textiles, merchandising and interior design in Mississippi State University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said recent trends could transform those pink chiffon horrors into outfits that can actually be worn again.
"Brides understand how important it is for bridesmaids to be able to wear their wedding attire again, and bridal magazines and companies are pointing toward that trend," Miller said. "This actually goes back to the custom of the 1800s when women wore their bridal gowns to every formal event for at least the first year of marriage. They wanted to get as much use as possible and let everyone see the beautiful gown."
The key to choosing functional bridesmaid gowns is to allow the bridesmaids some choice in the matter. Two-piece bridesmaid outfits have become popular in the last few years, most likely because they allow for a better fit and variety.
"The bride could select a basic style or color for the skirts and then let the bridesmaids select coordinating tops," Miller said. "The skirt should be a color that's easy to match, like black, navy, white, cream or brown."
To avoid clashing outfits, the bride can specify a certain color range from which she would like the bridesmaids to choose their tops. A spring wedding may call for pastel or cream colors, while a fall or winter wedding might use jewel tones like amethyst, orange and yellow.
"If the bride allows the bridesmaids to select their own colors, she should provide them with a swatch of fabric she likes so they all come up with the same shade," Miller suggested. "Another good idea is to go through bridal magazines with the bridesmaids and point out specific styles or colors that you like or don't like. It is perfectly acceptable for the bride to specify any styles or colors she does not want in her wedding."
When choosing colors, remember that dark colors can hide a multitude of flaws and are generally easier to wear. Light colors, however, more easily show poor workmanship or ill fit.
Another option that allows for individuality yet still provides the bride's desired uniformity is to specify a skirt length for the bridesmaids to work around. Keep in mind that tea- or midi-length and knee-length skirts are easier to wear again than are floor-length skirts.
"If you do choose a floor-length skirt, allow the bridesmaids to choose their own shoes because they won't be seen anyway," Miller advised. "There really is no point in spending the money to have a pair of shoes dyed in a color you'll never wear again. Instead, ask the bridesmaids to wear shoes of their choosing in a neutral shade, like black, silver or white."
While it is important to allow bridesmaids some choice in their attire, brides should take steps to provide some continuity.
"Bouquets can provide a sense of uniformity. Have each bridesmaid carry the same bouquet but in the color of her dress or top," Miller said. "Or have bridesmaids carry identical bouquets with a ribbon or trim that coordinates with their dresses."
Same-colored shoes or coordinating hair ornaments also can add continuity to bridesmaids' attire.