Brides who want a wedding worthy of a film romance today can cast their bridal party in diverse scenarios. They can look for inspiration in sophisticated '30s drawing rooms or dreamy historical formal gardens and dress bridesmaids in frills, suits or even tailoring.
When Susan Yourison, 25, an advertising executive in Easton, walks down the aisle next month in a traditional beaded wedding gown, the guys won't be the only ones at the altar wearing pants. Ms. Yourison's bridesmaids will be dressed in classic black tuxedos.
"Because I have four bridesmaids with completely different looks and body types, I didn't want them wearing those traditional pink taffeta tea-length dresses," says Ms. Yourison, who got the idea from a bridal magazine ad for Lord West women's tuxedo rentals. "The models in the ad looked so classy, I just knew it would be a flattering solution for everyone. Not to mention economical."
Ms. Yourison divided up the two free tux rentals she received with the purchase of her bridal gown from Robinson's Bridal and Formal Wear, thereby bringing the rental cost down to $65 per attendant including alterations. Not bad when you consider the average bridesmaid dress today runs $150, and that's not counting the hidden extras like hosiery, dyeable shoes and alterations. Even though she opted for pants instead of two skirt options, the look will be feminized with black heels and drop pearl earrings. Each bridesmaid will carry a long-stemmed red rose.
Now the decision is between a white lace T-shirt under the jacket or a halterneck vest that was ordered with the rental. "This is my second marriage and because I'm older now, I know what I want and that is to really make a statement that won't be forgotten," says the bride-to-be.
Women in tuxedos are also on the mind of designer Nicole Miller, who has added them to her fall catalog of understated bridesmaid and special-occasion dresses. In addition to black, her tuxedos for women are available in ivory, aubergine and bordeaux and come single- or double-breasted, with either a long skirt with a wide satin panel or trousers. The tuxedos cost around $500. The Nicole Miller mini-catalog is available at Panache in Greenspring Station, Jones & Jones in Cross Keys and Gamberdella in Towson.
"Bridesmaids don't need to wear a tawdry color or a big puffed sleeve anymore," advises Rachel Leonard, fashion director of Bride's magazine. She says the average age for today's bride is 25, as opposed to 23 just a decade ago. Because most of these brides are choosing simpler gowns with minimal detailing, the same sophistication is following through to the bridal party.
"The bride wants her maids to stand out from the guests, and therefore the trend has strayed from two-piece dresses and tea-length taffetas to dressier, yet simple, floor-length gowns," according to Maria Prince, vice president of Watters & Watters bridal house. "Silhouettes have also shifted away from long straight skirts to detachable long skirts over short sheaths, Jackie-inspired empire waists, princess lines and looser A-line shapes," says Linda Stansbury, creative director of Elegant Bride magazine.
Remember how elegant Oprah Winfrey looked at the Oscars in that sweeping latte satin ball gown? Bridesmaids are looking beyond jewel-tone taffetas and are gravitating to heavier fabrics like crepe, velvet and duchess satin. "Besides the newer browns, green is an important fashion color for bridesmaids now -- from celadon to hunter," says Ms. Stansbury. She also sees a strong turn to soft hues for warm-weather months.
Wedding consultant Elizabeth Bailey, who advises about 150 older professional working women each year, was at first alarmed to hear that lighter colors were catching on again. "It brings back visions of those passe rainbow weddings where each maid wore a different color to match a groomsman's bow tie and cummerbund. But the new dusty pastels are much prettier because they're more muted and not so sweet," she says. Think periwinkle instead of sky blue, or champagne instead of powder pink.
Navy and black
Of course, all this color hasn't pushed navy or black out of the bridesmaid picture completely. When it comes to sophistication and practicality, a girl can never have enough little black dresses.