If you had asked me at the beginning of wedding planning what I thought the most difficult part of the process would be I would have had a list of suggestions for you - finding a florist that was affordable, being able to find a date where our reception hall and church were available (okay, given that we are getting married in January I wasn't all that worried about that one), finding my dress, etc. But I don't think I would have anticipated what really has become my biggest wedding stressor - bridesmaid dresses.
The bridesmaid dress journey really starts a few years back when I made a vow to myself that I wouldn't be one of those brides who made her bridesmaids pay an extravagent amount for an ugly dress that they would only wear once. I have been a bridesmaid in 5 weddings now and have quite an intersting plethora of dresses - ranging from bubble gum pink to reflector blue, long and short, chiffon and satin. But at least I haven't paid upwards of $350+ for a dress - which is what some of my friends have recently been asked to do. However, this vow was ultimately much easier said than done.
I thought my original requirements were simple: grey, long, chiffon, and preferrably not strapless.
Problem 1: the color. I found out I have an extreme distaste for most grey dresses. In my opinion the wrong grey can look very matronly and unflattering. I also started getting frustrated with working the greys together - do I go light grey for dresses and a dark for table linens? I know, sounds ridiculous, but these little things can drive me nuts.
Solution: Black. Everyone looks good in black and black goes with everything. Grey and purple are still our primary colors but the whole wedding party will be in black. The plan is for color to still come in via the flowers, scarves, and possibly the men's ties.
Problem 2: the length. Not only is the selection of long dresses not great, I realized in talking to my bridesmaids that the majority of them would prefer something shorter. This ended up not really being a problem, more of just a change in plans. However, since I am not a fan of tea-length (does anyone else think it's awkward?) it was somewhat challenging to find something knee length. Not only do I have several tall bridesmaids but apparently bridesmaid dresses are starting to creep up to an uncomfortably short length.
Solution: Go shorter...but not too short.
Problem 3: When I found my wedding dress, the 2 consultants working with me immediately suggested that I look for bridesmaid dresses in chiffon. These bridal-savy women commented that chiffon would be the most complimentary material to my dress and would not take away from my dress in pictures. I of course agreed - after all, what do I know about fabrics and fashion?! The problem came when I started trying on bridesmaid dresses with 2 of my girls. While I do have girls in a variety of sizes, none of them is over a 14. However, we found that chiffon immediately made a size 12 look like a size 18+ (I think this is mostly because of the combination of the flowy chiffon material and the empire waist style that many chiffon dresses currently have). While chiffon seemed like the best way to go for several of my recently pregnant bridesmaids....it actually excentuated their hip/stomach area rather than hide it.
Solution: Ditch the chiffon and look for a fabric with more structure and support....but one that isn't too shiny.
Problem 4: I really didn't want strapless bridesmaid dresses. From a modesty standpoint Brandon had requested from the beginning that our final choice be very careful in avoiding any clevage or accentuating the chest. In addition, I don't typically wear anything strapless nor do I think it's comfortable! But when we starting looking I found (a) there are very few non-strapless fancier dresses out there, (b) the ones that aren't strapless are often very low cut and end up being less modest than strapless would be, and (c) it is a lot harder to find dresses with straps that work for multiple body types - strapless really seems to be more flattering. I spent a lot of time online or trying to come up with an alternative cover-up option, but I just couldn't seem to find something that was fancy enough or that would work with all my girls.
Solution: There was no solution to this problem. We ended up avoiding it, but I really thought for awhile that I was going to end up with strapless bridesmaid dresses - which bugged me.
And so my original requirements were thrown by the wayside. After 3 months of looking, my new requirements became - find anything that remotely works.
Why didn't I just have each girl pick out their own black dress?
There were a couple of reasons. First, I preferred to have all the girls in the same dress. Second, while I trust my bridesmaids, I knew that by picking out the dress myself it would have the length, lack of clevage, formality, etc. requirements Brandon and I wanted. Third, I talked to several girls who had been given this option by brides in the past. The main comments I recieved was that it was annoying and often more work trying to find a dress within the brides requiremnets, and that they still ended up spending just as much money for a dress they still only wore once.
I did attempt to deviate from traditional bridesmaid stores/lines and we had a couple of dresses ordered from different department stores, but I actually found that to find the formality I was looking for in a mainstream department store would often cost more than it would through a bridal store.
BUT - we found dresses :)
I met my sister-in-law at a nearby store to try on a dress I had found online. While trying it on (it looked awful on us both by the way) my mom grabbed a dress of the rack and handed it back to us. I hated it on the hanger, but once it was put on it worked! I made the executive decision that this was it and our journey was over. I gave a quick call to my matron of honor for her seal of approval and the decision was made.
Material: Satin - doesn't seem to be too shiny, but at this point I don't really care
Length: We had some of the girls order extra length so the dresses will ultimately hit right at the middle of the knee.
Neck: The dress has a scoop neck with straps that can go either off the shoulder or off to the side - the girls will have the latter.