Saturday, October 1, 2011

White Bridesmaid Dresses

         As previously discussed in the posting White Wedding Dress, the bride’s dress is iconic for weddings in western culture – when thinking of a bride, most will fantasize about that white gown. And if you did your homework, you’ll also remember the very strong piece of advice from What to Wear to a Wedding, which was “Do. Not. Wear. White.” However, an up-and-coming trend in weddings is for bridesmaids to wear white down the aisle. Although American tradition has opposed the idea of members of the wedding party wearing white, ever since Pippa Middleton wore a white Alexander McQueen dress as Maid of Honor, white bridesmaid dresses have become a very popular trend. Although this style can make for a crisp and clean wedding party, it can also be done wrong. If one is thinking about incorporating white bridesmaid dresses into a wedding, take the time to consider styling choices so that there is no confusion between the bride and her maids.

         For brides looking to have a true White Wedding, white bridesmaid dresses not only follow the color scheme but also provide a crisp, clean look for the entire bridal party. As white is often defined as the color for purity, kindness, and loyalty[1], there is no reason for the color to end with the bride’s dress. If a bride and groom choose to have a wedding ordained with white flowers and décor, then it might throw a wrench into the design if a bright green wedding party walks down the aisle. White bridesmaid dresses (as well as white ensembles on the groom and groomsmen) are clean and cohesive, but featuring them creates many extra styling problems when choosing the gowns.

The primary issues to consider when choosing bride and bridesmaid dresses are:
1)    The fabric and design of the dresses
2)    The length of the dress and train
3)    The shade of white
4)    Accessories

         For the Royal Wedding, both Kate and Pippa Middleton wore dresses made of satin and lace, with similar details in the back of the dress and in the lace detailing[2]. Although the dresses were created out of the same fabrics, the design and shape of the gowns were very different – Kate’s was a full-skirt with long, lace sleeves and Pippa’s was a column dress with short sleeves and a cowl neckline. Due to the large difference in design, it was clear who the bride was.

         A common rule of thumb for the wedding party outfits is that the bridesmaids’ dresses should never be longer than the bride’s. As Kate’s dress had a 9-foot train, it was fine for Pippa’s dress to have a small train. However, if Pippa’s dress had been the bridal gown, then the bridesmaid could differentiate her own outfit by having a tea or knee-length dress. Here’s what a wedding party with shorter white bridesmaid dresses could be:
Image courtesy of Kelly Brown photography

         Of course if the color for the wedding is a crisp white, then there will not be many shades of white to dress in. To keep a white wedding party while emphasizing a difference in color, the bride could be dressed in white and her maids in ivory or champagne. If there is a second color in the decorations, then bridesmaids can wear colored sashes.
Image courtesy of April Foster Events

         One of the most important details when the bridesmaids are wearing white is how everyone chooses to accessorize. The bride can wear statement jewelry or a standout pair of shoes. Of course, the easiest way to pick the bride out of a group of white dresses is by the bride wearing a veil – a clear symbol of bridal status. See in this picture, it is clear to tell which wedding party member is the bride, even though the dresses are the same length and color:

Image courtesy of The Last Detail 

         This trend may be celebrated when featured at the royal wedding or when executed with perfection, but not when there is little planning done in order to make the bride stand out. Take this picture as an example of when the bride blends in to the rest of her wedding party:
Image courtesy of Pink Bridesmaid Dresses Blog
         The bride’s dress (whichever one it is) clearly differs in shape, design, and fabric… but all the dresses do. There is no clear quality that makes the bride’s dress the center of attention. With no accessorizing setting the bride apart, and no veil on any of the women in the picture, the bride is lost in a sea of white. This picture serves as a “Where’s Waldo” example of what one would not want when dressing a wedding party in white.

Bottom Line: Although it defies traditional wedding standards, dressing bridesmaids in white makes for a crisp and clean white wedding. If enough effort isn’t made to differentiate the bride from her maids, however, then the bride might blend in among her bridesmaids. Guests attending the wedding will still be able to clearly know who is the bride (otherwise they probably aren’t supposed to be there), but it is still important to have the bride as the center of attention on her big day.

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