Bridesmaid dresses unfortunately have a bad reputation for being unattractive, unflattering, and difficult to wear again. But in recent years, bridesmaid dress trends have (thankfully) shifted toward more casual, practical, and customizable styles—and since a bridesmaid dress can be a significant expense, more and more brides are realizing the importance of choosing re-wearable dresses for their crew. Luckily, it’s easier than ever to find bridesmaid dresses you can actually wear again. We’re sharing some of the things to consider as you’re shopping for options and choosing dresses for your friends to rock as they stand by your side.
Let your ‘maids pick their own bridesmaid dresses.
A bridesmaid who has some control over the dress they’re wearing is more likely to be happy with their choice, compared to a bridesmaid who had no say in their dress selection. Think about it: You know what type of clothes you feel and look your best in, and the same goes for your bridesmaids. Our recommendation? Ask for your bridesmaids’ input when you first start looking at dresses, whether it’s their preferred dress length, silhouette, color, or material, and try to find common ground among everyone’s suggestions. Then, provide a few guidelines (for example, “a light pink, midi-length slip dress”) or give them a few specific dress options they can choose from, and leave the rest up to your crew. The end result: A mix-and-match assortment of dresses that you’ll all love, and everyone can spend the amount of money they're able to afford.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to bridesmaid dress retailers. Traditional bridal shops and online bridesmaid dress brands are both great places to start—and many of them have plenty of bridesmaid dresses you can wear again—but your ‘maids can also consider ready-to-wear brands and stores.
Choose the right bridesmaid dress length.
Floor-length dresses are the standard when it comes to formal and black tie dress codes, but these types of gowns are also the most difficult to re-wear (unless your friends are regularly attending swanky red carpet galas). When it comes to bridesmaid dresses you can actually wear again, knee-length and midi-length options will make a world of a difference for your bridesmaids, since they can easily be repurposed for other parties and events.
If you have your heart set on floor-length gowns, your bridesmaids can always take their dresses to a tailor after the wedding to shorten the hem (depending on the location, this usually costs around $40-$50). In that case, look for dresses with skirts that won’t be too difficult to alter—try to avoid anything with extensive ruffles, beading, embroidery, or other embellishments in order to make shortening the hem as easy as possible.
Two-piece ensembles and jumpsuits are other alternatives for your bridesmaids. A jumpsuit could easily be dressed down with a denim jacket and sneakers after the wedding day, while tops and skirts can be worn separately with other outfits.
Choose a versatile bridesmaid dress color.
The color of the bridesmaid dress can quickly determine whether or not it will be easy to re-wear. For example, a mint green dress might be wearable again for a few weeks in the springtime, but it probably isn’t getting pulled out of the closet for a formal work function or cocktail party—especially in the dead of winter.
If the goal is finding bridesmaid dresses you can actually wear again, choose neutral or understated colors that are appropriate for a variety of occasions, seasons, and settings. A simple black or navy dress could work for other weddings and cocktail parties, while a dress in a pale blue or blush shade can be worn at daytime events. Bold colors and patterns (like tropical motifs or floral prints) can sometimes be more challenging to wear beyond the wedding day, since they’re likely limited to specific seasons and/or themes.
The silhouette and neckline will also make a difference when it comes to re-wearing bridesmaid dresses. Dresses with sleeves and straps tend to be more versatile than strapless options, especially if they’re bra-friendly and don’t require special (and often uncomfortable) undergarments.
Encourage your bridesmaids to get dress alterations.
Fact: A perfectly tailored bridesmaid dress will always look better than one that’s right off the rack. While it’s an added expense for your ‘maids, altering a bridesmaid dress will make it more wearable in the long run, and your friends are more likely to view the dress as a valuable piece of clothing that fits them to a T and makes them look amazing. Simple tweaks like shortening straps, taking in the waist, or adding built-in bra cups can quickly transform an ordinary dress into a wardrobe staple—your bridesmaids might be surprised how much their opinion of a dress changes when it fits them like a glove!
And if your bridesmaids still aren’t fans of the dress...
At the end of the day, you can’t force your bridesmaids to love their dresses. And while it’s important to do your best to find options that make everyone happy, it’s also important to remember that it’s your wedding, and you ultimately have the final say. If there’s no chance they’ll wear their dresses after the wedding, your bridesmaids can consider selling them via resale sites like Poshmark, ThredUp, or Tradesy. They’ll likely only earn back a small portion of what they paid, especially if the dress has been altered, but it’s better than having an unused item in their closet taking up space—and it will help defray the (high!) cost of a bridesmaid dress.