Help Me Help the Bride
March 13, 2007 11:59 PM   Subscribe

Good sites for affordable bridesmaid dresses?

My friend is getting married this September (I'll be in the wedding), and we are having one heck of a time finding bridesmaids dresses. She found one she LOVED (shown here [in the smoky plum color]), but at $160, not all of the bridesmaids can afford the dress. I know that, realistically, that's really fairly inexpensive for a wedding party dress, but because the timeline is 6 months, it's important to respect everyone's financial constraints (at least if you're going to be a Not Insane bride), which means that we're looking at a $100 ceiling.

What are some good places to look? We've done David's Bridal, Nordstrom's, Macy's, etc., but maybe there's some great secret (or not so secret) places we don't know about? The dress needs to be knee length and on the casual side, as it's an outdoor wedding in late summer/early fall (if that's at all helpful).

Thanks in advance!
posted by messylissa to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It's not much less expensive than David's, but Alfred Angelo has a huge selection of bridesmaid dresses and some fall under the $100 limit you've set. We wound up going with David's for my wedding though - the customer service is crap but the dresses came to about $80 each because the girls ordered them together & there was a sale going on.
posted by tastybrains at 12:12 AM on March 14, 2007

Can the bride subsidize part of the dresses? That's what I did oh those many years ago (okay, it was 1994) when I got married. In the scheme of wedding expenses, it's not that much.
posted by houseofdanie at 12:57 AM on March 14, 2007

Best answer: Bridesmaid's dresses are insane -- you can take a fairly simple silhouette such as the one your bride likes, and merely by tacking on the word "bridesmaid" change a $100 dress to a $200 dress. If you want to keep the cost low (for which you + bride ought to be applauded) I think the first think you should consider is to stop looking at bridal specialty stuff. Suprisingly, JCrew has some very cute simple dresses in plenty of colors -- this one is pretty cute ($98!!), but a little more basic than your example. This dress is awful darn cute too. A dressmaker or handy sewer could add some notions and voila, awesome dress for cheap. Wierdly enough, JCrew also has a "bridal" category, and watch how that price point shoots up for similar styles.
posted by brain cloud at 1:43 AM on March 14, 2007

My bridesmaids' dresses came from Chadwicks about 9.5 years ago. Their prices are a little on the high side of what you're looking for, but they do have some under $100 stuff.

Depending on how many bridesmaids you have, a seamstress is another option.
posted by Lucinda at 4:53 AM on March 14, 2007

Best answer: Stop looking at 'bridesmaid' dresses. That should drop the price range quickly. Look at 'Special Occasion' dresses, or even in just plain 'dresses'. That style seems to be popular this year, so look anywhere that has dresses. JCPenney (of all places) has a pretty decent selection of halter style dresses this season.

I don't think a seamstress is going to be much cheaper than buying the dress ready-made, not to mention that 6 months isn't much lead time for a flock of dresses.
posted by jlkr at 5:24 AM on March 14, 2007

If you know exactly what you want (designer, style number, sizes, color) try a discounter. I used House of Brides for my wedding a little over a year ago and was very pleased with them. They weren't overly personal, but they got my order right, my dresses came in early and they were all the same dye lot (which is more than can be said for a lot of brick and mortar stores). I think our dresses were 30% off retail (They quote Bari Jay 703 at $120; alfred angelo and After Six tend to cost a bit less).

Pearl's Place and RK Bridal also have good reputations as reliable discounters, if amateurish websites. You might still have to do orders over the phone there, but I've heard many brides were very pleased with them as well.

Another thing to consider is stores you might find in the mall -- Ann Taylor carries their own brand of bridesmaid dresses which you might be able to catch on sale, and Nordstrom carries some of the more popular bridesmaid dresses. I've also heard of brides getting good deals at JC Penney.

If you go with David's, try searching your local David's on bridal message boards or maybe here to see how they are. There are a couple of good ones out there, but a lot of them -- more than you'd expect -- have absolutely dismal track records, yet stay in business because brides are pretty much one-time customers. A good friend of mine whose wedding I was in used David's, and by the end of it she wanted nothing to do with them. They didn't get anything right or on time, and fought with her the whole way.

A local seamstress might be able to make some dresses for you if you find a pattern you like -- the fabric is surprisingly cheap, and if you find someone good (get referrals!) this can be a great way to get high-quality dresses for a good price.

The bride might also consider making up the difference if she can't find anything under $100 that her bridesmaids like, if she's in a position to do so. I ended up buying one of my bridesmaid's dresses and helping out another one with hers. In the grand wedding budget scheme it hardly made a difference, and it was very much worth it for my friends not having to worry about bowing out of the wedding due to a silly thing like not being able to buy a dress.

One last tip: I really liked the book which is sold by the folks who run that message board I linked to a few paragraphs up -- it has a pretty big section on how to get deals on bridesmaid's dresses, along with some other good tips on how to save money on the wedding in general. Might be something your friend would want to check out.

Wow, that was long -- hope it helped!
posted by AV at 5:29 AM on March 14, 2007

Be careful about asking the bride to subsidize the dresses. I ended up offering that after they found a style ($120, DBS) and then dragged their feet ordering for months to the point that there was nothing cheaper -- and a $40 rush). I know people like to spend their money on their own stuff, but what do I remember about my girlfriend? Shelling out 300 clams while we were hoping heat didn't get shut off, and finding out she bought a second motorcycle that week.

Seconding the advice with the discounters; you can save about $40-$60 per dress that way. One cost to beware of about "bridesmaids" dresses, is alterations. If you're going locally, ask if that is included.

indibride's forums have a lot of useful advice, too.
posted by mimi at 6:17 AM on March 14, 2007

I second JC Penney. I found mine in their special occasions section of the website and as luck would have it, they promptly went on sale. The girls were able to order them individually and I think they paid around $50 each.
posted by lemoncello at 6:36 AM on March 14, 2007

My best bridesmaid experience happened last winter, when the considerate bride picked a "dress code" rather than a specific dress. Each of the eight bridesmaids wore a floor-length black dress of her own choosing.

Everyone looked great (and was comfortable!) in the dress they had picked, but we still looked like a group, especially with flowers, etc. I love this option for bridal parties with dissimilar body types/budgets/taste/whatever.
posted by non sum qualis eram at 8:37 AM on March 14, 2007

Believe it or not, ebay (the stores on ebay, not individuals putting dresses up for auction) is a fantastic when it comes to bridesmaid and formal dresses. You can probably find the same styles you'd find at david's for around $50 a dress.
posted by birdlady at 9:34 AM on March 14, 2007

AV's got it - Netbride and RK Bridal (among others, but those are the ones I've used) have great "no-frills" ordering that is much cheaper than in a bridal salon. I'll bet you can get those dresses for a lot cheaper than $160.
posted by pyjammy at 10:44 AM on March 14, 2007

Best answer: will price your selected gowns at all of the online shops (,, rkbridal, etc.) and then give you the best prices.

I used the site to get estimates for the gowns my bridesmaids chose so they could get the best possible deals. They saved between $50-$100 by going through the online retailers.

And don't buy any of that crap about dye lots. No one at your wedding will even notice the dye lot.

Also, J Crew is carrying a wedding line now that's become pretty popular, along with the Ann Taylor line.
posted by wildeepdotorg at 6:31 PM on March 14, 2007

I think the best idea I've seen for brides conscious of their friends' budgets is picking a basic color scheme, and asking the bridesmaids to find dresses that they love. One of my friends told her bridesmaids to wear any knee-length dress in a bright color - some bridesmaids already owned dresses they wind up wearing, others went out shopping and bought something they'll wear more than once. All the girls looked gorgeous, and the pictures really captured the vibrancy of the colors, especially contrasted with the bride's white dress and all the colors outside... I don't like the idea of asking bridesmaids to wear black because black somehow seems wrong for a wedding...

I'm planning to do the same with my bridesmaids. I feel like I'm asking my friends to be bridesmaids because I want to honor our friendship and share the day with them - not because I want them to dress up in identical dresses and spend tons of money on my wedding. I wouldn't care if they all wore totally different dresses - why should that matter?

What I might do is get identical necklaces for all of them - that would distinguish them from other guests and leave them with a special gift they can wear on other occasions...
posted by barmaljova at 8:38 PM on March 14, 2007

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