How to Pick a Dress your Bridesmaids Will Actually Wear Again

by - Friday, April 13, 2018

Isn't this the age old question? How do you pick a bridesmaid dress that your girls would want to wear again? It is a great idea in theory, and it certainly fits if you are trying to make your wedding a little more eco-friendly (those David's Bridal numbers that are made who knows where and never worn again aren't exactly helping the environment). But, it is also a REALLY tough order to fill.

bride and bridesmaids wine j crew dresses

I thought I really nailed it. Short, low-maintenance. On sale. And the bridesmaids genuinely looked gorgeous in them.

Well, try again Barbie, because 5 years later, I have seen those dresses out again a total of zero times.

On the other hand, I did see at least one bridesmaid trying to sell hers on facebook. So, not what I was hoping for (but still reuse!).

bridesmaids david bridal dress

see no evil speak no evil hear no evil smell no evil

I have been a bridesmaid nearly professionally, and I can't remember rewearing a dress, even when I really liked them. The truth is, the event is so incredibly specific, it can be so hard to come across another event where the same dress could fit the bill. It is too much of that day (and of that other person's taste) to fit other days very well.

Because this feels so impossible, I kind of want to hand it to brides that just say "screw it, they are just wearing what I like." Go, Madam. This may be the epitome of doing what you want and not caring what anybody thinks, so my hats off to you. I love the gusto.

On the other hand, if you could pick a dress that has a life beyond your wedding, that your bridesmaid could re-use, this is definitely the greenest way to approach this part of the wedding. Re-use is key to saving the world and ending our addiction to stuff. The stakes are higher than you thought. Men can use the same suits over and over, and in this, they most certainly have us beat on the less waste front.

 Last summer, I noticed a real trend that I think might be on to something. More than once, we went to weddings where the bride picked the color black and let the bridesmaids pick their own dresses. At one point, I would have hated the black (too sad a color) but now, I kind of think that shit is genius. The bridesmaids looked sharp, everybody matched because blacks don't tend to have as much variation as blue or grey or purple, and I bet those girls actually wear those dresses again. Well done.

In other words, the secret to picking a beloved and reusable bridesmaid dress is just letting your bridesmaids pick their own.

You want them to feel beautiful? Give them control.
You want to enjoy the planning? Give them control.
You want the dresses to actually be used again? For goodness sakes, just give them control.

If they blend in with the rest of your guests after the ceremony is over, you might be on to something. It also seems to me that smaller bridal parties might work better for this kind of thing (as well as all other things- I'm a big fan of small bridal parties).

The more space you give them to choose from, the more likely they are to find a dress with lots of re-use value. Here are a couple of bridesmaid ideas that I thought make a lot of sense if reuse is the goal:

bridal party mix and match bridesmaids

bridesmaids in mismatched dresses
all from tulle and chantilly

Mismatched Dresses

 Your bridal party probably isn't a bunch of clones, so you can let them express their own individuality by picking their own dresses and styles.

I was just in a wedding this winter where the bride let us all pick. It was so much easier and I heard people say again and again that everyone looked so good. Because we were a wide range of bodies (two of us had just had babies), letting us choose for ourselves meant we could each choose a dress that was actually flattering.

 Some women obviously do a great job of using a really wide variety of fabrics and styles, and others pick the fabric and even the company, so there is less room for personal style. It's up to you, but if you want the dress to get used again, you want to give a lot of space (I am just amazed when that works out so well). Also great? You don't have to limit yourself to "bridesmaid" stores, so your maids can shop anywhere with a color and length in mind! Some could even rent, but we will talk more about that later.

infinity bridesmaid dresses
from Rooney Mae Couture

Infinity Bridesmaid Dresses

This can be a good way to approach the mismatched look while still having a lot more similarity than difference. They also have the possibility of being styled lots of ways, so even if your wedding day look can't translate to other parties, maybe other looks would work! Another bright side? You can buy them on Etsy from stores like The Jersey Maid Vincente Dresses, Atom Attire, or Venus Dress,  where they are made in America and still come out to be more affordable than bridesmaid dresses on J Crew or David's Bridal. If you are looking fancier, Anthropologie has a line made in the USA (as well as the prettiest bridesmaid dress I have ever seen).

Same Store, Same Color, Different Styles

This is the route I took, and I am not sure it is the winner. If you do want to do it that way, let me show you to my beloved Show me your Mumu bridal collection. I love them, because the dresses are affordable, stylish (they feel young in a good way), and made in America. Anthropologie and Reformation have made in America lines too.

neutral grey bridesmaid dresses
from Wedding Chicks

Pick the Most Neutral Color

 Pick a dress in a usable fabric (think cotton) and keep it in a color that everyone wears. If your colors are navy, yellow, and grey, pick a navy or grey bridesmaid look.

 I love a rainbow color, but it may not be your best option if you want the dress to have a life beyond your wedding. Like I said, I think black makes a lot of sense, but navy or grey might work well too. I love the way these look, because each bridesmaid also gets to show her individual style.


What about totally letting go of the idea of re-use and letting your bridesmaids rent their dresses like guys rent a suit? Rent the Runway is a freaking treasure. You could put everyone in the same dress or you could pick a couple or you could go mismatched and let them have at it. Tell me a bunch of Shoshanna dresses wouldn't make the prettiest bridesmaid dresses ever (or poke around- it's fun to look). Everyone will feel like a million bucks (even though they actually saved money), and they don't have more chiffon to drag behind them in life. I love this idea, so if you have tried it, let me know!

bridesmaid skirt
from Shabby Apple

Skirts and Tops

Shabby Apple is one of my favorites, because they make all of their dresses in the US. They often come out with small collections that all go pretty well together, so you could even pick a collection. They also have pretty and feminine separates, so you could maybe do a long skirt or tulle skirt and top that keep up a more formal look, but also could get more use separately later? It's an idea!

Regular Dresses

Just stay out of the David's Bridal, J Crew, and wedding stores! If you start with dresses designed to be worn elsewhere, it's way more likely that they will do that. Even if you plan on one dress for everyone, I would start anywhere but a bridal store.

I hope this helps! Good luck with your mission, and let me know if you find the magic secret formula for reusable bridesmaid dresses! And check out more wedding ideas on the Green Weddings page.

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  1. I would totally wear my dress again! I just exploded junior year of college and haven't been able to fit in it.

  2. I was perusing about bridesmaids dresses under 100 and I discovered your blog which is very intriguing. I do trust it's alright with you on the off chance that I stick them on my
    Pinterest board. A debt of gratitude is in order for sharing!

  3. These are great ideas! Love the idea of different styles but same color or even mismatched how fun!

  4. I love the idea of letting bridesmaids choosing their own dresses. My husband and I asked both sides of the family to think about the pictures and what they would want it to look like. In consultation with them, we came up with a simple palette that included both dresses in neutral colours that they already had a a splurge on colourful shoes that they were looking for an excuse to wear. Thanks to the time they took to think about it and the openness of everyone involved, we styled ourselves in a way that suited everyone's body type, personal taste, budget, and made the pictures look amazing. And it brought us closer together :)

  5. Amen to this! My bff just got married and she let us pick our own - it was so nice 😁

  6. This is a great post! The best bridesmaid's dress I ever wore was one that we got to pick the style that was right for us. My dress was a one shoulder and tighter in the middle (back before I gained some weight), whereas one of the girls had an atheletic body and chose a flowy dress to cover her thighs. Having that freedom made me more comfortable wearing it all day and night.



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