Farewell, taffeta, tulle and big bows

Fashion: A book signing gives bridesmaids the chance to ditch the dresses that made them ask, "This is an honor?"

Family Matters

July 09, 2000|By Tamara Ikenberg | Tamara Ikenberg,Sun Staff

Step aside, brides.

It's time for your attendants to get some attention.

Tomorrow at Bibelot in Timonium, bridesmaids can dump those dowdy dresses from weddings past and even enter them in a contest with such categories as "dress with the biggest bows" and "most upholstery-like dress fabric." They'll also be treated to a fashion show of flattering bridesmaid frocks.

The "Bridesmaid's Appreciation Bash," hosted by WPOC 93.1's Laurie DeYoung, is a party-cum-book signing for "The Bridesmaid's Survival Guide," a primer for playing second banana with style and dignity and most important, a sense of humor. The author, Timonium-born Mary Kay McDermott, will be at Bibelot to sign her book.

Catherine Bereson, public events coordinator for Bibelot, calls the book "comic relief." When it comes to weddings, she says, "It's easy to get lost in the planning and all the ritual."

No, McDermott's mission isn't to lampoon the bridesmaid, but to empower her. But in an age of career gals, sperm banks and single pride, isn't the idea of the pitiful bridesmaid outdated?

"It should be more evolved than

it is," says McDermott, who has been a bridesmaid nine times. "That's what shocked me into writing the book."

Ironic, witty and refreshingly upbeat, the 135-page book is studded with playful cartoon illustrations drawn by McDermott and covers every bridesmaid topic from selecting a stripper for the bachelorette party to alcohol's benefits in calming a frazzled wedding party to the terror of wearing a really ugly dress.

The irreverent advice includes recycling wedding pumps as doorstops and making sure that the eligible bachelor in the groom's party isn't related to you before you start flirting.

The book would be the perfect gift for a bride to give to her attendants, says Freda Gough, owner of Just About Perfect Consignments in Pikesville, who will be at the event to buy old bridesmaid dresses. She's been a bridesmaid three times and remembers her most awful dress. "It looks like something that maybe if you were 8 would look cute," she says. "If I had a little staff, I would look like Bo Peep."

Gough's store stocks plenty of used bridesmaid's dresses. From her experience, she's found the garish gowns are most frequently recycled as Halloween costumes ... for men.

The thirtysomething McDermott still vividly remembers her most disastrous dress: It was emerald green. "Who looks good in emerald green unless you're a leprechaun?"

Then there were the shoes: "The green dye was so intense, our feet were green for a few days after the wedding ."

A hideous hairstyle -- a spiky, uneven, punky 'do she got the night before -- topped off the nightmarish ensemble: "I looked like one of the Sex Pistols."

Every bridesmaid should be prepared to look less than her best and to pay for it, McDermott warns in her book.

Sure, she may be your best friend, but the bride doesn't want you upstaging her. Why do you think bridesmaids' dresses are so legendarily awful?

"This is the bride's big day, not yours," McDermott says.

If the bride gives you a little leeway, offering you the chance to play down the poof and pastels, McDermott has a few tips. The happy hour shopping spree is one. Simply take the bride-to-be out for a drink or two ... or 30, before shopping, McDermott writes. Her hangover the next day might save you from a fashion hangover that could last a lifetime.

The author, who earns a living as a freelance writer, cartoonist and illustrator, began the book five years ago while she was working at a New York entertainment public relations firm. McDermott, who started her bridesmaid career at 18 as an attendant for her sister's wedding, currently lives in Greenwich, Conn., with her husband, Edward. She thought modern wedding rituals were ripe for spoofing.

"I saw so many absurdities," she says. "It's gotten so extravagant. It's just so overdone."

McDermott says that in her research for the "Guide," she discovered that people are paying more than ever for weddings these days and that lavish, Martha Stewart-style ceremonies are definitely back.

The book is not the bridesmaids' guide to a simple wedding. It addresses the deluxe edition with deluxe responsibilities: showers, brunches, china patterns and more.

"As much as I bust on a lot of the traditions that are tired, I actually did everything I bust on," McDermott says.

She had six bridesmaids at her own wedding, and their dresses were sailor style. Perhaps not the height of fashion, but the price was right: $77.

"After being a bridesmaid so many times, everyone thought I was the best bride," she says.

You're Invited

What: Bridesmaids Appreciation Bash. Just About Perfect Consignments will be on hand to buy old dresses, and Gamberdella Bridal Salon will be putting on a bridesmaid dress fashion show. All in attendance are eligible to win "A Day of Beauty" at About Faces Day Spa in Towson.

When: Monday, July 10th, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Where: Bibelot at the corner of York and Timonium roads in Timonium

Call: 410-308-1888

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