Summer wedding season feels worlds away but those with pending nuptials know February is busy season as far as nailing down your bridal party look is concerned. With most bridesmaid dresses taking 4 - 6 months to order in, if you haven't said yes to the bridesmaid dress, there's no time like the present but that's not to say it's an easy task. Coordinating schedules, finding flattering dresses for myriad body types and managing everyone's expectations can turn any sane bride into a certified bridezilla. I remember the challenges I had dressing my bridal party and am reminded now as I prep for my cousin's big day in September.
Maintain your sanity and the bride's dignity, with these 5 tips for bridesmaid dress shopping:
Tip #1 - Dress The Part: Understand as a bridesmaid you'll be trying on many (MANY) sample size dresses with various necklines and in sometimes unforgiving fabrics. Do your self esteem a favour and come dressed in undergarments that show off your assets and clothing that's easy to peel off and put back on. I'm not suggesting you run out and buy a corset but seamless underwear and a strapless bra will make it easier for your bride to envision you on the final day and body shapers that smooth any extra weight you're planning to lose could make it easier to slip on a few more of those sample gowns. For clothing, a simple button down shirt and slip on shoes are saviours.
Tip #2 - Be Open Minded: Surrounded by gobs of fabric and a mix of either really simple or really fussy dresses, neither of which likely suit your own personal style, it can be really easy to write off dresses before they even see the light of the fitting room. Try anything and everything on when asked to do so. Even if the dress you're wearing is giving you psychosomatic hives, keep an open mind. You're probably not wearing the colour or size that would end up being your dress, nor is it altered to fit your frame so don't be super attached to what you see in the mirror.
Tip #3 - Know Your Role: This follows the lines of tip 2 but it needs to be taken just a little bit further. Repeat after me: You. Are. Just. A. Bridesmaid! This means that even if you hate lime green taffeta, you may be wearing lime green taffeta and it's your job to sashay down the aisle like you adore lime green taffeta. The worst thing a bridesmaid can do is try to make dress shopping about her. Remember, your bride chose you to be there to support her, so do just that. If you really want to have a final say on your dress for her big day it might be wise to consider demoting yourself to guest.
Tip #4 - Come With A Balanced Budget: Nothing is more stressful for a bride than trying to manage everyone's expectations and when money's involved it becomes even more awkward. Naturally every bridesmaid understands there's a price tag to wearing the title but don't make it the bride's job to figure out just how much money you can squirrel away to cover expenses. If money is tight be up front about how much you can afford and create an open dialogue amongst the entire bridal party so that a champagne bride isn't left feeling frustrated with her ginger ale maids. And, don't forget to clarify early on what financial commitments are due when. Your dress, for example, will probably require a deposit of up to 50% up front and then there are the alterations, accessories, undergarments and more. It adds up quickly and it can get ugly really fast when you start to realize you haven't budgeted accordingly.
Tip #5 - Pack Your Pom Poms: Whether you find the dress after just a handful of appointments or feel like bridesmaid dress shopping is your new full time job, keep the vibe as light and fun as possible starting with your own attitude. Yes, cheerleader is also part of the gig so even if your fellow bridesmaids are playing Nancy Negative, do your best to help your bride out by being as positive as possible. Skip the knee-jerk reactions to dresses ("Ewwww, that's hideous!") and look for the good if you can or, at the very least, express your distaste by talking instead about what you prefer about the dresses you do like rather than bashing every dress you don't care for. A single negative comment changes the energy in the change room but so does several positive ones. Help everyone have a great experience by choosing to make dress shopping just as fun as the bachelorette promises to be.
-- Tamika Auwai is our resident Style Editor, Shopping Enthusiast and Wardrobe Expert.