The Stylist wedding blog: how to source flattering bridesmaid dresses

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Natasha Tomalin
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This week on the Stylist wedding blog, Stylist’s art director and resident bride-to-be Natasha Tomalin talks about the trauma of choosing bridesmaid’s dresses

I myself have never been a bridesmaid, so have never been subjected to having to squeeze myself into hideous, ill-fitting, peach-coloured monstrosities, but I know plenty of people who have.

As if it wasn’t enough that as a bridesmaid you have to organise three different hen dos to suit all tastes, put up with bridal tantrums on a weekly basis and help stuff confetti into tiny individual linen bags the night before the wedding – not to mention your official duties on the day itself – you must also be subjected to your bride’s taste in clothes.

Now, that’s all well and good if your bride is Stella McCartney, but if she’s not (which I’m guessing not as she’s already married…) then you’re pretty much screwed.

Queue the panic I feel on behalf of my four adult bridesmaids. Their first thoughts - given I'm planning a gothic romantic wedding - were probably, “Oh man, we’re all going to end up looking like Wednesday Addams”.

Which in the grand scheme of things isn’t so bad, right?

However, I was pretty chilled when it came to the dresses in the first instance. I did a bit of Pinterest research, cut out a couple of dresses from the numerous wedding mags I’ve bought (I know, cliché!), and had a perusal on Net-a-Porter.

Nothing grabbed me at first until I stumbled across an online shop called Lindy Bop. Their dresses seemed very reasonably priced and they had lots of colours to choose from, but more importantly they had a vintage style to them, which I liked the look of (being the ‘alternative’ bride and all).

My initial thought was that I wanted my bridesmaids all in black. It’s chic and timeless, makes everybody look great and of course ticks the ‘goth’ box. However, when I casually drop this into conversation with my mum she looked at me with a face of horror, “You’re having bridesmaids in BLACK?”.

I replied sheepishly, “Um, yeah, well that’s what I was thinking.” “Wait till I tell your father…” she muttered.

So that put the kibosh on that idea. I get it. She was worried the bridesmaids may all look like children in the school orchestra who have borrowed their friend’s older sister’s oversized black shirt and skirt and look a total mess. It’s a niche reference, but I know exactly what she meant.

So, I plumped for two different styles of vintage-looking dresses on Lindy Bop in the same aubergine colour and ordered them along with a black petticoat to see what they look like on one of the bridesmaids.

Job done right? WRONG. As has been the way with pretty much everything in this wedding process, I had a panic that they’re just weren't good enough for my girls - not nearly cool/chic/timeless/flattering enough. I sent them all back and started the search all over again. 

Not knowing what to do, I turned to the fashion team at Stylist. I have a vague idea about ‘separates’ and show them a picture of Paloma Faith I found on Instagram sporting a chic high-wasted midi skirt, in black (yes, I went back to black – sorry Mum).

They told me not to panic and to have a look on Net-a-Porter and Asos and shy away from designated ‘bridal sections’.

They also said they thought they knew where to find the exact type of skirt I’m after… Coast.

“Coast? Really?” I exclaimed. “Yeah, Coast is ace for this sort of thing!”

The fashion editor got the skirt she was thinking of up on the screen. It was perfect, exactly what I was after. I pored over all the super-elegant tops and skirts on the site and ordered the same four skirts along with four different styles of top to avoid the stuffy, old-fashioned, quadruplets look.

I couldn’t have been happier with my choice and neither could the bridesmaids - they all looked so chic. Luckily, my mum was also thrilled.

So, here’s the thing: don’t worry if you think you’ve made the wrong choice, if you make it early enough there’s always time to get exactly what you want.

Don’t settle for anything that you’re not 100% happy with and do look in unexpected places.

The ‘bridal’ section of a shop doesn’t always yield the best fruit.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, so please post your comments below, or on Twitter @stylistmagazine and @natashatomalin, using the hashtag #Stylistweddingblog