Is it possible to look both appropriate and fierce at the same time?
April 7, 2010 6:54 PM   Subscribe

How should I accessorize my bridesmaid dress?

I'll be wearing this dress with these shoes (fully endorsed by the bride) and I have no idea what kind of jewelry I should wear. I am very excited about the opportunity to look both beautiful and girly, within the boundaries of propriety for a wedding. I haven't worn a real dress with heels since the mid-90s, so I've been doing research. Unfortunately, I've overloaded myself with options and now I'm all confused.

Stuff you should know about me that might make a difference: 1) I have RIDICULOUSLY broad shoulders and large upper arms. I'd like to avoid emphasizing the width of either. 2) I also have a half-sleeve of tattoos on one arm, so that's going to compete visually with all of it anyway. 3) My hair is short with side-swept bangs, and there's very little I can do with it. 4)The bride chose the dress and its color, and I really like both but neither can be changed. 5) Don't know if this matters, but I'm in my mid-30s (I know, I know, Ice Cream shoes, but they're gorgeous!)

Should I wear a necklace with a strapless dress? Choker, pendant, or maybe a lace applique-type thingy? Chunky bracelet(s)? What about a funky hair thing? I have pierced ears, but don't really like earrings (except for my tiny silver studs). Should I get over myself and find some proper earrings? Can I get away with a steampunk jewelry theme?

I find all of these things intriguing and fun, but I also know not to wear all at once. What combination of the above is appropriate for a bridesmaid? What have I not thought of? To make matters more complicated, I don't know the true color of the green, because the bride bought my dress and I'm an ocean away from both of them. That pic is all I have to go on. Should I stick with metals? If so, gold or silver?

I know I'm making this much harder than it should be, but I'm lost here without any girlfriends to ask. The bride says "wear whatever you want!" which is great, but I don't know where to begin. Any suggestions would be most welcome. Help me Ladies of the Hive!
posted by Eumachia L F to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (22 answers total)
Whatever you wear, keep in mind that as bridesmaid you will be in a TON of pictures.

I wouldn't go too "out there" or distracting or funky with anything. What looks cute today might look really dated in their pictures in a year or five.

Love the dress!

If it were me I'd go silvery, delicate pretty chain, no bracelets.
posted by mazienh at 7:05 PM on April 7, 2010

My mom always told me to never ever wear more than 3 pieces of jewelry at one time. Given the funk factor of those shoes and a big colorful tat, I might consider picking just one piece of jewelry. A super simple one.
posted by lilnublet at 7:07 PM on April 7, 2010

I agree with lilnublet. Something very simple--probably a necklace?
posted by Neofelis at 7:10 PM on April 7, 2010

I think you can go one of two ways with it: Either keep it visually quiet and accessorize as such - minimal jewelry, and it should be on the dainty not-stand-out side at that, and if you go this route, consider make-up over the tattoos?

Or go all out with larger more chunky jewelry/funky taste - I love the shoes and applique necklace, but you need to think in terms of wedding - it is the bride's day and there will be pictures that will be around forever - do you want to stand out in that context? The reason one isn't supposed to wear white to a wedding is so that they don't compete with the bride. I can't tell if you know the others in the wedding party, but personally I'd ask/reach out to them to see what they're doing.

Ultimately you know her well enough to know what she would be comfortable with and what you will be comfortable with looking like or not looking like to make her wedding be as awesome as you can for her. I'm sure you'll look great in whatever you choose, the dress and shoes are fantastic!
posted by cestmoi15 at 7:11 PM on April 7, 2010

First off, those shoes are adorable! Moving on...

When I went to Catholic school, all the girls wore the same basic outfit, so our chance to express ourselves was with our accessories. I think bridesmaids are in rather a similar situation. Wearing a fun funky necklace (the lace one is pretty awesome) or some steampunk jewelry would be fun. There is, however, a delicate balance between being funky and expressive and screaming "LOOK AT ME!". I think as long as you keep things cohesive with similar styles or materials, you should be just fine.

Personally, I like gold with greens. And don't do earrings unless you feel like it.
posted by chatongriffes at 7:13 PM on April 7, 2010

I'm sorry, I have to ask about the shoes. I went to the site and there are a million shoes -- what brand are your ice-cream shoes? I love love love them.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:13 PM on April 7, 2010

Keep it simple, no matter what you do. The bride should be the one in the the most statement-y clothes and jewels. That said, I think that the person who styled the model for the picture got a lot right by just using a simple bead necklace. It would call attention away from your shoulders, towards your neckline. The tat is jewelry enough on its own, probably, so I'd skip bracelets.
posted by pickypicky at 7:13 PM on April 7, 2010

Keep it simple. You're already making a statement with the shoes and your tattoos. You may not think you're making a statement but there will likely be people in attendance who see the tattoos as statements.

Stick with a simple elegant necklace. The applique is nice but I think may be over-doing it for a wedding.

(Someone asked about the are the shoes.)
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:22 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

OH. They are schuh - so you're in UK or Europe? Those head thingies are called fascinators and are now gaining popularity in the US, but aren't terribly common, so if her family leans towards conservative they may find it, um, different.
posted by cestmoi15 at 7:24 PM on April 7, 2010

From the dress that the bride chose, it seems like it's a fairly traditional-type wedding. Like, she will be wearing a dress, and the husband a tuxedo, and you're an actual bridesmaid who will be standing up at the altar, and she might have a dad walking her down the aisle, and there will be a nice dinner reception. Is this correct?

It's awesome that she's totally letting you be you. But the subtext is that following a bit of protocol, given a kinda-normal wedding, would be appreciated. Of course she wants you to wear what you want to wear - she asked you, her friend, to be in the wedding party. And she chose a dress that shows off your tattoo, so it's awesome that she's already fine with that. But given that it's kinda-sorta a real wedding, at least nominally, but more importantly, that it's her day to shine, I'd really try to pick something that isn't about "let's make the most awesome statement on the wonders that can be 2010 femininity" and something more like "given the setting, event, my friend's taste, the dress, the occasion, and my own personality, what seems appropriate?"

As such, I'd suggest some nice chandelier earrings. They can be a bit funky (a nice colour) but still classy. Or a single cuff bracelet, made of nice wood or silver or gold. Or maybe a pendant necklace, but for some reason they're not my favorite with strapless dresses.

I'd suggest looking through offbreat bride for some suggestions. Folks there have style to spare, but most of them also manage a certain amount of restraint. Pay particular attention to the group shots - it's always a little awkward to have one person's personality scream through, while the bride is looking beautiful but 'normal'.
posted by barnone at 7:24 PM on April 7, 2010

One way to play it would be: earrings like this, a necklace like this, and a small feathered head piece like this.

That's just my gut reaction.
posted by Mender at 7:28 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just saw that you don't like earrings. That's totally fine. And the poster above that mentions the wood bead necklace in the original photo has a good point -- it looks great! You could get one with slightly larger beads, or interspersed with other colors. A bit more oomph but still stylish. And yes, as for your original question - it's totally possible to look both appropriate and fierce. And nothing will look more appropriate or be more fierce than at least somewhat fitting into the tenor of the overall event and being the best damn bridesmaid around, part of which requires you making your friend look soooo beautiful and surrounded by her best support team ever. I promise.

Of course I'm basing some of these assumptions off the fact that it's a fairly normal/traditional bridesmaid dress, in a 'wedding-y' color, so I've reasoned that your friend will actually care about photos and all the crazies of a wedding day. If not, then go for the glitz!
posted by barnone at 7:33 PM on April 7, 2010

I'm probably going against everyone's advice with the following, but whatever....

The bride *did* tell you to 'wear whatever you want', and that's tremendously sweet and nice that you're able to go a little more personal with all the jewelry/accessories.

Here's what I would do in your (AWESOME!) shoes:

Pick about 2-3 necklaces (varying styles), 2 pairs of earrings, and 2-3 hair pieces (barettes or even little twistie gems to stick in there in various places) and I would take them with me across the ocean. And then I would look at them all with the dress, and ask the bride's advice about what she thinks works best, and what you both think will be appropriate and still awesome and still you. If it ends up that nothing looks as great as you want, then go shopping her and see what you guys can rustle up together.
posted by kirstk at 7:35 PM on April 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

I love kirstk's idea. Just make sure you're arriving well in advance of the wedding - don't do it the day before, if you think you'll have to go get something. But if you have a bunch of options at your disposal, bring them and ask some of the other friends and/or the bride at the event. If you have to order something in particular, it makes it a little more difficult. Maybe send your friend 2-3 options and see what she thinks?
posted by barnone at 7:41 PM on April 7, 2010

What's your skin tone and hair color? What are your tattoos like? Take those (awesome!) shoes, and your tattoos, and every other color you naturally have on you, and pick out one or two colors that seem to run through you naturally. Clearly, the green of the shoes goes with the green of the dress. Those shoes also have pink, light blue, yellow, and dark brown. Choose one of those colors that also exist in your tattoos, and find a necklace in that color family. If you have skin that's more olive toned, I'd stay away from the pink, but if you're a ruddy sort of person, go with it.

With a light sage sort of green like your dress, I'd probably go with silver more than gold when it comes to metal tones, just because gold can bring out the yellowy undertones of the green and emphasize it, which wouldn't go with your mostly blue shoes.

Also, think about what photographs well. Fussier necklaces like that lace applique thing, while trendy and neat to look at in person, often make a mess in a photo. A jade bead necklace might be all the accessory you need. You could have a few silver chains of different lengths and thicknesses, maybe with one or two pendants on them (something pink and something brown?) but this can be harder to pull off without looking overdone. You don't want to compete within yourself against your tattoos, so make sure whatever you have coordinated stylistically and color-wise with them.

Don't try to put so many things onto yourself that people look everywhere except the simple dress; work with it. Your shoes and your tattoos spread the interest around evenly everywhere except for your face, so just bring it up a little higher with a simple, colorful necklace. I'd say wear your studs, but make sure they're extra shined up. Keep your hair simple and clean, to coordinate with the dress. Anything more than that is going to be spreading too many details in too many places.
posted by Mizu at 8:09 PM on April 7, 2010

Here's a post of a bride wearing a strapless dress with tattoos. Obviously it's not the same color as your dress, but gives you an idea of something that can look beautiful AND restrained AND fierce.
posted by barnone at 9:21 PM on April 7, 2010

Substantial and colorful bracelet/bangle on the arm without the tattoos and maybe a ring (helps balance and complement the tattoos and also -- along with the belt on the dress and the shoes -- helps draw the eye downward and so balances broad shoulders). On top: your tiny stud earrings, bright lipstick, dazzling smile. No necklace. No hair thing. In the smiling line of faces in the photos you'll look fabulous and your accessories won't compete with the bride, but you'll be beautifully accessorized and when people look at you they will see you.
posted by beanie at 9:21 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

imo a funky hair thing OR funky bangle, to be worn on the opposite side of the tattoos.
posted by Billegible at 9:34 PM on April 7, 2010

No-one has mentioned that with your broad shoulder, and the straight line of the strapless, long swingy kinds of necklaces (i'm visualizing one of those flapper string of beads that you wrap around twice, but anything that hits below the collarbone would work) will create a nice, lengthening vertical line. that said, they pair fabulously with chokers. black jet beads would be a nice neutral. if you go with the combo, keep them in the same color. maybe wrap yourself in a towel (to mimic the strapless) and experiment in your mirror at home, or do your accesory shopping in a tube-top (ya, i know, cold! put a shirt over it!)

upon looking up, i do like beanie's suggestion, too!

also: COMFORT. you might like some blister stick, and some gel insoles for your pretty shoes, to keep you dancing all night!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 10:43 PM on April 7, 2010

All of what you suggested is just too much. Really.

And, for reference, the "funky hair thing" is called a 'feather fascinator'.
posted by shesaysgo at 11:48 PM on April 7, 2010

Keep it simple. Your tattoo and shoes are definitely enough to reflect your personality and as others have noted the bride should stand out the most.
That said, the shoes are awesome and you could probably get away with a simple necklace along the same theme. I think any of these ice cream themed necklaces from Etsy could work.
posted by like_neon at 1:27 AM on April 8, 2010

Thanks everyone. These are some good suggestions. I really like the idea of letting myself go wild choosing things of varying styles, then making a decision when I have the dress fitted. (she promises there will be time for alterations the week of the wedding) (I am not convinced, but what can you do)
posted by Eumachia L F at 2:22 AM on April 9, 2010

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