This past weekend, I went bridesmaid dress shopping for my sister-in-law’s wedding. Getting the cordiality out of the way, we had a great time and we picked the perfect dress. Now for the good stuff: in talking to some other brides and bridesmaids about our shopping experience, I noticed a weird trend. Everyone I spoke to seemed to have some idea of what’s acceptable and what isn’t when picking out bridesmaid dresses. “No you can’t wear pants.” “That color is awful for a fall wedding.” “Cocktail length? For an evening sit-down dinner? Hah!” I was actually shocked at how many crazy, arbitrary norms and pseudo-mores were floating around. For some reason, I thought we (or at least my circle) was past all that.
Here’s the thing about bridesmaid dresses 2016: the only rules are your rules. Sure, there are certain things you should keep in mind, and I’ll get into them more specifically, but at the end of the day if you’re happy and if (hopefully) your bridesmaids are happy, then you can throw out all the arbitrary nonsense. What arbitrary nonsense am I talking about?
You can’t wear short gowns at night. I’m sorry, but this is just silly. If you want cocktail length, go with it. The length of your dress doesn’t need to be dictated by the time of day or a sun dial. You may want to take the wear into consideration, as a long velvet gown in August is likely to cause some dehydration problems, but what meal you’re serving should have no bearing on your dress choice.
[Insert fashion trend here] is so last season. Throw Cher Horowitz back into her walk-in closet of couture. (Yes, that was a Clueless reference. Yes, it was intentional.) What’s “in fashion” right now doesn’t matter, again, as long as you and your bridal party are happy and comfortable. Spaghetti straps have been “out” for quite some time (since about 2004, if you ask me). But that doesn’t mean you don’t like them! Leave the fashion police at home.
Don’t wear pastels in the winter. Pastels are a spring color, obviously. And jewel tones are definitely winter colors.
I’m sorry (#notsorry?), but colors do not have seasons. Colors also do not have genders. And, in case you’re wondering, colors also don’t have a taste, smell or sound. Yes, assigning colors a season or gender is just as ridiculous as saying blue smells like, well, anything. Okay, colors and seasons — there is a rhyme and reason to it.
The colors typically associated with each season are based on things that naturally occur during those times: the color of the flora and fauna, holidays, and even the warmness/coolness of the tones compared to the warmness/coolness of the temperature outside. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. If you want to wear pastel green in the winter: Do it. If you want to wear emerald and wine in the spring: Go for it. It’s really ok.
Now with all that nonsense out of the way, what should you try to keep in mind?
Your bridesmaids’ body types and comfort level. Not everyone is confident walking around in a strapless gown. And likewise, some fabrics may be irritating to sensitive skin. And really, we all have things we are self-conscious about when it comes to our bodies. (If you don’t, you’re awesome! And congrats on loving yourself for who you are. You’re my idol.) In effort to meet that “you AND your bridal party” are happy mantra, be considerate and ask for honest feedback on what other people are comfortable wearing.
The weather and season will play a role. I just said to forget the seasons. I know. But when it comes to temperature, precipitation, etc. you may want to make accommodations in your clothing choices. White chiffon and rain don’t play nice together. Short-short strapless dresses in 20 degree weather is also not fun (unless you get to wear a really fluffy overcoat). If you are going to dress out of season, keep appropriate accessories (coats, sweaters, hand-fans ... air conditioning) in mind.