Image Courtesy BHLDN

Image Courtesy BHLDN

Want a surefire way to achieve terrible wedding photos? Bridesmaids who feel uncomfortable and ugly - not to mention angry - because they had to fork over hundreds of dollars for yards and yards of shiny, chartreuse taffeta.

Luckily the world of bridesmaids' dresses today is far more appealing than it was 10 years ago, says Julie Raimondi, editor-in-chief of Brides.com. "It's not even a comparison."

According to Raimondi, the current trend is for regular fashion to dictate bridal style. The days of simply seeking something "plain and simple" among a sea of bad options are over; now brides just want great "dresses" rather than "bridesmaid dresses." And the key to avoiding a cliché disaster is both a gown's fabrication (e.g. printed silk versus iridescent taffeta) and the detail, such as an interesting neckline or waist embellishment like pockets or a belt. A good example is BHLDN (Anthropologie's new bridal line), which has more unique attire. Raimondi also is a fan of Ivy & Aster's fall collection, as well as Wtoo for its great style paired with great prices.


Image courtesy BHLDN


When it comes to cut, short still claims first place - which is exactly why designers are adding more long gowns, in anticipation of the "next wave," Raimondi says. "Women have become accustomed to the maxi dress, and long gowns in flowing silk jersey look quite modern." She loves Amsale's version thanks to the sophisticated colors and impeccable construction. Raimondi also seeing lots of pleating, ruching and draping in addition to fr is esh takes on strapless and one-shoulder options.

If, however, you know you'll be having a summer soirée, Raimondi suggests opting for a boat neck or higher scoop neck - these lines will help maids avoid the pit-stain problem that frequently arises in hot weather when strapless dresses are properly fitted tight under the arms. You also want to look to breathable fabrics such as cotton or a light, flow-y chiffon.

As for colors, Raimondi notes that royal blue was all over the fall 2011 collections (likely inspired by Kate Middleton's engagement photo dress), whereas this summer's most popular hues include a variety of nude hues and muted tones.

Another trend that continues to go strong is brides selecting a designer, color, fabric and length for the dress, and then letting each bridesmaid choose the style she likes best, says Nancy Kramer, co-owner of the Seattle-based Bella Bridesmaid boutique. This way the wedding party looks cohesive but each girl is comfortable - for example, a large-busted maid might prefer a dress with straps, while a full-figured friend might like a fuller skirt. One of Kramer's favorite designers for this versatile tactic is LulaKate. "You can choose the type of skirt - straight, full, A-line, floor length, knee length or mini, and opt to add a sash or a built-in waistband."

Kramer also recommends Thread for fun, re-wearable dresses, and she likes new designer 57 Grand for its fashion-forward designs in playful fabrics at a reasonable price point.

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