I remember being a flower girl at many a wedding, whilst still a child. The dresses were always picked I now presume, by the bride, and were usually white, creamy, or floral. Being a child, I just enjoyed the moments, attention, and the awww, ‘so cute ‘ comments, that my twin and I attracted. Needless to say, I was unaware of how much it cost to have us both kitted out for the weddings, or what would happen to the clothes afterwards. My parents no doubt paid for the outfits, and my mum, I suppose, had no doubt as to what she wanted to do with the outfits post weddings.
Atlas we wore them to church, birthday parties, and other gathering, my mum saw fit. In stack contrast however, my daughter was a flower girl for the first time two years ago, and the dress, is still sitting under the dry cleaners cellophane bag, hanging among the fancy dress rail in my her room.( I really must do something about that) thinking out loud..
Fast forwarding to adulthood, and for many years, I just was not asked to be a bridesmaid, and in retrospect I never really thought about it, until I was asked to be one, five years ago – and then more requests, followed shortly afterwards.
I soon discovered that being asked to be a bridesmaid, involves a lot more than just rocking up at the wedding and looking pretty (without upstaging the bride of course!). Once I committed wi
th an elated YES, what followed was a wave of emails, on their colour themes, links to images of suggested dresses, random text messages with pictures of a dress, or ‘have you found a dress yet? and no that’s not the right colour. It got even more complicated, when one bride chose a fabric, which all the bridesmaids had to wear. This involved finding a tailor, picking a style, going for the first fitting, then the second fitting, and then the tailor got it wrong! arrgh, back to the drawing board.- is there any enough fabric to make amends???
As a stylist, I am constantly baffled when the bride expects all the bridesmaids to wear the same dress. I see wedding pictures with maids in a row, all in the same dress, which I dare say, allows for uniformity,but in my head, I think, oh dear God, they are all sizes and shapes, surely, one style, cannot fit all? Needless to say, it is always evident from the look on faces, which maids are feeling fair, and who can’t wait to get out of the dress!
Thankfully, my bride-to-be friends were savvy enough to know this, and allowed us maids to choose our own dresses, on the proviso that we stick to their colour theme or fabric.
Now, in my quest to find a bridesmaid dress, for me the two big elephants in the room are, (a). How much is this going to cost?, and (b), Would or could I wear this outfit post wedding? and I don’t mean to another wedding, which of course is fine, and I do , but can I wear it less formal occassion, without feeling overdressed??
The criteria for choosing my bridesmaid dresses are thus: nothing too complicated, reasonably priced, (under £100), baring in mind that I might have to buy a pair of shoes, a bag, something to put wrong my shoulder, if its typical London weather, and make up; this is assuming I don’t already have these extras in my wardrobe. Believe you me, I try hard, to match the dress with my existing wardrobe, and perhaps subconsciously, this makes it easy to transform them into day-to-day wear.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some bridesmaid dresses that are more difficult to dressed down, because the bride-to-be chose an elaborate bridesmaid dress In such case, I just wear them to other occassions, or have them altered.
The KEY to dressing down my bridesmaid dress is LAYERING & THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX. For weddings, I think – Nice earrings (perhaps slightly dropped ones), high heeled shoes, more attention to my make-up, perhaps a small piece in my hair (not necessarily a fascinator or hat) instead glitter, or a temporary gold or silver hair tattoo, a small clutch bag, and something chic to wrap round, in cold weather.
To dress down my bridesmaid dresses, I think – nothing in my hair, more casual hairstyle, quirky accessories, simplicity, a much bigger functional bag (tote bag, rucksack), or my day-to day battered bag, casual shoes – DM’s, high tops, tennis shoes, trainers, sliders, or whatever else I bang around on a daily basis.
So, my dear friend Charlie Lamb chops, chose Coral & Blue for her wedding theme 2 years ago. It took ages to find something, because there was not a lot of coral in the shops that year.In the end, I settled for this Simple coral dress, which cost £49.00, and yes on that occasion, it needed a new bag, which, thankfully, CL gifted to all bridesmaids!
I like wearing the Coral corsage dress in the summer, It’s light, playful, flattering and a nice colour against my skin tone. I can easily rock 4 outfits of of this one dress, 6, if I think hard, but I like to be spontaneous, so here are 2 looks…
OUTFIT1 OF 2 for Coral dress
Coral Dress by Debut (Debenhams) £49.50 Current stock , now reduced to £29.00 and in Black!
My way of dressing it down, is to simply pair it with a full skirt, making it look as though I am wearing a top and a skirt. The full skirt accommodates the lower part of the dress, and makes it comfy.
My top tip: I try to keep the colours simple, otherwise I find it too messy.
My rucksack says, I am off to the park, or fun out with friends, as opposed to a dressy or clutch bag.
Yes, I quite like the peek of the dress at the end of the black skirt. Full black skirt: https://bluevanilla.com/ old stock
My clear boots, No ,they are not DM’s. I found them in a shop under the arches in Camden town, whilst I was trying to find my way out of the maze. I attempted a return visit a few days later, but simple got lost again!
OUTFIT 2 FOR coral dress
I layer a black top under the dress, wear my clear boots, which makes it less girly, and black ankle socks, which ties in nicely with the black top.
My top tip – I layer with lightweight tops, so the whole outfit doesn’t look too bulky
I opt for my day to day earrings, but still get away with a strong colour pop on my lips, because everything else is quite casual. Lipstick (Gelradine) http://narscosmetics.co.uk/ Sunnies – https://www.ospreylondon.com Old stock
Black top (Heattech range) ; I live in these tops!, they are great for layering, keep my warm, and come in 10 colours, short, long or thin strapped. http://www.uniqlo.com/ current stock £9.90
THE LACY DRESS
This humble lacy number has seen many a wedding! it was originally a bridesmaid dress, but it is so versatile. It cost about £100, but it has certainly been, and continues to be great value for my bucks. The combination of the lacy tip and the tulle bottom half, allows me the flexibility to make a few day to day outfits.
Lacy dress brought many moons ago http://www.relaxgarden.com/
Casual accessories wooden Bangles: http://www.hm.com/ old stock Simple Bracelet: I rocked this all summer and beyond : https://www.lolarose.co.uk/
Clogs are in a different category of their own, and definitely redefine any outfit! I finally broke mine in, last summer, and this colour just makes me smile.
Clogs – https://www.swedishhasbeens.com/ (current stock £159.00)
My playful sunnies : http://www.toms.co.uk/ current stock (reduced to £60.00)
Simple bar earrings, as opposed to my dressier earrings. Sometime I think Less is More… https://www.tadaandtoy.com/ Current stock £45.00
God bless the person/s who discovered denim! It just goes with everything. dress it up, dress it down, and hey presto! a new outfit.These are my first pair in denim trousers in 8 years, and I am certainly experimenting with them. I found these pair on my last day in Rotterdam last summer, at C&A!! anyone remember, when they existed in the UK? yes, I am quite grown up. Oh, and they cost just 15 euros.
My lacy dress is two tied, which makes it easy to stuck into a pair of wide legged culottes, or dungarees. (I needed the room to accommodate the lower part of the dress). My little trick to making the lower part comfortable in my culottes, is to gather the lower part of the dress, and stuck it around you inner thighs, as though you are wearing a loose nappy or knickers, then once my culottes are on, I tuck the front & back of the dress further down my trousers, to get a smooth look, but still keep the nappy shape. – if that makes sense…
My lacy dress is matt gold, hence works well as a neutral colour, allowing me to rock it with colour pops here and there.
String bracelet https://www.lolarose.co.uk/ Rose gold knot ring http://www.marksandspencer.com/
My old denim jacket to break up and dress down, & little badges for quirk. PS: If I had a long bomber jacket, it would have featured in these outfits too. Denim jacket http://www.riverisland.com/ Very old stock
My favourite coloured tights, for a bit of fun, rather than sheer tights for a wedding; High shine Weejuns loafers, instead of heels. https://www.ghbass.com current stock
As a personal stylist, I am opportuned to meet lots of women like myself. I strongly believe that regardless of shape or size, we can all get away with dressing down our maiden gowns. Again, it just takes a bit of thinking outside the box, and experimenting. Don’t be nervous about slightly altering a bridesmaid dress either. For instance, a long dress can be cut, to a three quarter, knee or above the knee length. If you don’t feel confident about altering the dress, use a local dry cleaners service that offers alteration. I took the corsage off my coral dress, luckily, it was only attached by a safety pin, but I have been known to cut of bows, trimmings and all sorts of other embellishments.
If you are not comfortable with tucking dresses in, consider throwing an oversize jumper over the dress, to give the dress the appearance of a skirt, or a cropped top with a belt around the waist, or a sleeveless long jacket to create a minimalist look.
TOP TIP, and most importantly, don’t worry about who else thinks you wore it to so and so’s wedding, or how many times you’ve been seen in the same dress! Layering, makes it a new outfit each time you rock it.