Help me find a bridesmaid dress that doesn't suck!
February 14, 2008 10:50 AM   Subscribe

I need help picking a bridesmaid dress for myself, as the maid of honour, for my best friend's wedding. I haven't voluntarily worn a dress since my high school graduation, I've gained a ton of weight in the last year, and I really, really need help. More details and specs after the jump.

My best friend is getting married in June. We really need to get my bridesmaid dresses ordered now. We've gone shopping already, but because we're all completely different body types and some of us are being rather picky about what they are and aren't willing to wear, we've decided to each get our own, as long as they follow the following criteria:
- Alfred Angelo dress
- has to be available in 'claret' red
- floor length

I have many problems here. The first is I hate dresses (i'm more a jeans and hoodie kinda gal), but i'm obviously willing to suck it up for my best friend. The second is that i'm completely clueless about fashion and what looks good and what doesn't look good on me. The third is, for a bunch of reasons both medical and my own fault, i've gained a ton of weight in the 12-18 months, and have gone from being a size 8-10 to a 12-14, and i'm still not used to dealing with the extra bulges, including the boobs. (The extra weight also means I've gone from a small B to a larger C - this is the one part of gaining weight I'm happy about!). But I'm definitely open to suggestions; I'll wear anything that isn't completely out there or hideous or poofy. That being said, I'd prefer to avoid excessive detail (rhinestones, big gaudy fabric roses, that sort of thing) - simple is better.

I'm pretty much doing this on my own (the bride is in Halifax, the other bridesmaids are also scattered across the country, and I'm in Vancouver.) Once I've found a dress, I can order it - but the trick is finding the right dress. The bride is actually quite laid back about the whole thing, and is more concerned about me being happy and comfortable with what i'm wearing than anything else, within reason of course. (which is why i love her!)

So ladies (or gents with fashion sense) -- any advice? What should I be looking for? What should I avoid? I'm really stressing out about this, so any and all advice is welcome!!!
posted by cgg to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How would you describe your body shape? Like, which one of these are you? How your body is shaped should be a determining factor in what type of dress style you choose.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:00 AM on February 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

I briefly looked at the Alfred Angelo site, and I noticed that they have separates. Rather than a dress, separates might be a great strategy for you!
posted by trillian at 11:03 AM on February 14, 2008

I'm the same size as you, cgg, although I don't know if I'm the same height.

If pants are really your thing, and you truly wouldn't feel comfortable otherwise, consider a pair of palazzo pants with a simple top.

Otherwise, stick to clean lines, with a minimum of detailing or fuss. The dress on the left in this picture looks to fit the bill - a-line skirt with no frills, and a simple top with details worked right into the fabric.
posted by LN at 11:04 AM on February 14, 2008

We had similar dress choices last year for my best friend's wedding (Bill Levkof, Euro red, floor length, otherwise pick your own).

Hit a local bridal store and ask them to bring you every dress fitting your criteria that you can (in any color, as long as it comes in your red). You'll soon get a sense of what works. For me, I went with a long straight skirt that had a corset-like top. Hardly any of the dresses had sleeves, but the bride bought us all matching red wraps. THIS WAS GENIUS. Not only did it help us stay a bit warmer (January in Washington DC in an ancient church) but it looked great in the photos AND those who thought their arms looked fat could cover them up as desired.
posted by GaelFC at 11:06 AM on February 14, 2008

I'm that size. Assuming you're putting on weight in your thighs, butt, belly, boobs and upper arms, the best advice I can give you is find something with definition and structure, to work your curves. The skirt part is easy: as long as it fits, all the jiggly bits can jiggle undercover. Fitted bodices are tougher. Empire waists are usually good, and in my opinion, clearly defined waists are better than long, uninterrupted lines. This one's my pick. Also, get a elasticky body slimming slip! It might help your confidence to be smoothed out before the dress even goes on.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:07 AM on February 14, 2008

Seconding Gael... it looks like there are several stores in Vancouver that carry this brand. Go and try things on. Really, it's the only way that you'll figure out what looks good, and what fits.
posted by kimdog at 11:08 AM on February 14, 2008

The other option that occurs to me, is to pick something you can repurpose. A cute little cocktail dress like this would look fantastic, and take you to other parties afterwards!
posted by LN at 11:13 AM on February 14, 2008

I would suggest *not* strapless since those are harder to fit correctly and look terrible if you've got parts of you squeezing out the top.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:14 AM on February 14, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks so far - keep em coming!

Just a couple extra details - i'm 5'5 or 5'6", and although narrowing myself down to of the categories ThePinkSuperhero linked to is harder than I though, I'll probably have to admit to being 'The Bell', or some variant of (maybe crossed with a pear? I dunno). My problem areas are definitely my butt, thighs and belly.
posted by cgg at 11:15 AM on February 14, 2008

The Alfred Angelo people (as with other bridal stores) are really good at dressing people who aren't used to being all dressed up, and AA had the best service of the bridal stores I visited recently. They will know what will work on you and make some useful suggestions. Take a supportive friend with you and just let your store helper help you. :]

And we want to see pictures!
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:16 AM on February 14, 2008

I kind of like this one. It's fitted enough to give definition but not super confining and allows for less than perfect smoothness in the waist and since you like your newly larger breasts, it's got a pretty neckline!
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:20 AM on February 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

Separates are really kind to most people, a lot more than most bridesmaids dresses.

I chose the 13th top (bustier/corseted) and a skirt with a flowy back (the 2nd or 3rd one). That's basically what my girls wore (memail me if you want to see a photo) and I had two that matched your description of yourself, more or less.
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:24 AM on February 14, 2008

I would also not suggest strapless, only because everytime I see someone wearing one, they have to do the "hike it up" dance every 5 seconds, which really takes away from the beauty of an event like a wedding, IMO.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:24 AM on February 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

First of all, I'd spend some pennies on great underwear - a bra that fits well (given larger breasts) and some kind of bodyshaping undergarment like spanx or assets. These will provide a good foundation underneath a dress which has aesthetic purpose (smoothing out bulges etc) and increase comfort by providing proper support.

I would avoid strapless and spaghetti straps if you do not want to fuss over wearing the dress. Something with wider straps that allows you to wear a regular bra - the support should make you feel more comfortable because you won't have to worry about feeling like clothing will fall off (such as with strapless dresses or strapless bras).

An empire waistline (ie. the tightest part of the dress is just below the bust) is flattering to the boobs, comfortable because the skirt skims over the lower body, leaving waist and legs fairly unrestricted.

In short, maybe something like style 6280 will work?

A general tip on fit: focus on fitting clothes to the widest part of your body first. A good tailor can always take in, but not necessarily add, extra fabric.
posted by kitkatcathy at 11:28 AM on February 14, 2008

The most important issue with bridesmaid type dresses for someone with curves is going to be the underpinnings. Hie thee to the Spanx website. Their stuff is truly magical - with the more sheer formal dress, absolutely indispensable for smoothing out the silhouette.

As far as a game plan, I would:

- first, buy a Spanx body shaper. In no event may this be omitted.

- then, go somewhere where you can try on Alfred Angelo dresses in person, just to get a feel for what size you are. bring that body shaper. It will make everything less depressing.

- perhaps bringing a friend, go to a department store and get a sense for dress styles (or separates) that you like. I would avoid strapless or spaghetti strap style dresses, and focus on halter top, cap sleeve, etc.

- finally, applying your new found knowledge, make that Alfred Angelo selection

- once you get it, you will almost certainly need it to be altered at least slightly to fit you properly. That will be the true final step.
posted by Wavelet at 11:38 AM on February 14, 2008

A lot of the AA dresses that I'm drawn to for you mention a "princess line" skirt which looks like it'd be the most flattering for you - nicely shaped but neither too tight nor too voluminous.

Other than that, I completely agree with GaelFC: definitely go to the store, and try on everything that you are willing to wear within the pre-set guidelines, even stuff that you're not sure will be flattering. There's a good chance that a dress you'd be unenthusiastic about on the rack will turn out to be awesome on you, so hold all judgment until you've zipped up and turned around.

One more thing: don't be afraid to size up if you have to - I'm not sure if AA dresses run true-to-size but some lines do run small. If the 16 looks and feels good, but you can fit into the 14 kind of okay with a little pulling, and maaaaybe into the 12 if you suck in, get the 16. I've been there and it sucks, but you will look slimmer in the size that actually fits regardless of the number on the tag.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:50 AM on February 14, 2008

I know less-than-zero about Canadian bridal fashion, but in the U.S. it seems like the bridesmaid dresses always run small, so if you wear a 12/14 in real life you might have to buy a 16/18 (or even bigger) in their sizes. Which is just *stupid* ... they should make the numbers go DOWN so you'll feel skinnier, but whatever.

My point is, if you're already feeling sensitive about weight gain, don't panic if you end up having to buy a bridesmaid dress with a larger number on it. They're just fucking with your mind ... you're fabulous just the way you are!
posted by mccxxiii at 11:50 AM on February 14, 2008

Yes, listen to Wavelet regarding Spanx. And something wrap-style, like otherworldlyglow linked to, can be great if only to give you confidence that your belly isn't sticking out there. At least, that's what wrap dresses do for me...those long smooth expanses of satin give me the willies.
posted by cabingirl at 11:52 AM on February 14, 2008

I agree with others upthread re: the empire waistline. This style might be worth looking into - but see if they can order it with more substantial straps (or maybe your seamstress can create more substantial straps from any leftover fabric when you get it fitted). It'll cinch the smallest part, which according to your response to TPS is right under the bust, so you'll look slender there, and then it will sort of (hopefully) fall away from your body from that point on down. It's available in Claret red but I don't know if it counts as floor length. You'll probably have some cleavage showing so you may want to check with the bride to see if that will be an issue for her or something.
posted by ml98tu at 11:59 AM on February 14, 2008

Style 6126 looks like it could be very flattering.. or maybe Style 6545?
posted by citron at 12:02 PM on February 14, 2008

I'm going to be the lone voice of shaper-dissent here and say don't get Spanx unless you feel you absolutely have to. If your dress fits well and has sturdy enough fabric, and your bra and undies fit well, you probably won't be showing anything lumpy. If you do opt for Spanx, get a slip and not one of those shaper panty things because those are so very uncomfortable and require so much wrangling if you have to go to the bathroom. (Generally, think along the lines of "smoothing out" and not "squishing in.")

One final thing and then I promise I'm out of advice: if you can choose a matte fabric over shiny satin, do it. Shiny is generally unfriendly to curves.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:12 PM on February 14, 2008

if you wear a 12/14 in real life you might have to buy a 16/18 (or even bigger) in their sizes

aside: That's mostly because the dressmakers actually use real sizes. Most American retailers mess with the sizing so that you'll feel better about the size you wear ("Wow, I can fit into a size 6. I'm getting this pair of jeans just so I can have a six in my closet"). But this is a relatively recent phenomenon. Check out clothing from 40 years ago and you'll see that you need a much larger size than what you're used to looking for. But it's true, you'll probably need a much larger size number in a bridesmaid dress than you would in a regular department store.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:33 PM on February 14, 2008

I don't wear dresses either, but I will suck it up for special occasions. A bonus is that you get a lot of "wow, you clean up nice!" comments.

I personally wouldn't do any screams "old lady." Separates might be okay if they look like one piece. Skip the gauzy jackets too.

Fortunately, it looks like the majority of the Alfred Angelo bridesmaid pieces are stylish and modern.
posted by radioamy at 1:37 PM on February 14, 2008

Agreeing with citron as stated upthread. Style 6126 may be quite flattering. A couple of years ago I was in a wedding in which bridesmaids were everything from a size 6/8 to 22. The halter type top looked best on everyone.
posted by mightshould at 2:30 PM on February 14, 2008

One problem you have is that, with your recent weight-gain, you probably dont think you look like "yourself." But you can find a dress you'll feel good in -- you just won't know it till you try it on.

Make sure you have a bra that fits really well. Go to a good department store or bra store for a fitting. The right bra can improve your posture, make your waist look smaller, and be a lot more comfortable. A fitter told me that most women wear too small a cup, and compensate with a too-large band size. Control undergarments can help with clingy clothes, but make sure they're not too tight... they're only supposed to help a little.

Bring shoes of the right height when you try dresses on. You can't evaluate dress styles if you're in low heels.

Take a look at the "What not to wear" concepts; there aren't a lot of them. E.g., if you're bosomy, wear a scoop or V-neckline. With a pearish shape, a very-close-fitting skirt isn't your best bet. Make yourself taller with heels, but make sure the heels are sturdy enough for you to walk comfortably. You don't want a dress with any kind of horizontal seam in the widest hip area.

I looked at the Arthur Angelo site just now -- wow, they have a lot of tasteful dresses! Don't freak; you'll be able to start eliminating the not-so-great styles and things will get simpler.
posted by wryly at 2:55 PM on February 14, 2008

Unless you can try it on first, and find an excellent bra, stay away from strapless. Also, as I hippy girl myself, i try to avoid halternecks, as they make the dress into a triangle, and make my hips feel much wider. If your abs are reasonably flat, then a high waist is good, but if you have a pooch under your breasts, it'll make you look pregnant. And those suck in everything underwear garments are great. (if for no other reason than you'll feel very drafty if you have worn a skirt for awhile.) If you can't get to a store to try them on, I'd suggest getting separates, if only because there's more latitude for tayloring the two parts to fit you properly.
posted by kjs4 at 5:15 PM on February 14, 2008

I'll suggest this one.

• It's chiffon and not satin. Satin is cruel to the bulges, chiffon is more forgiving.
• It follows the curvaceousness of your body instead of fighting it. That's sexy.
• You can probably wear a normal bra.

If you have a tummy, then that may be an issue with that dress. In that case, A-line skirt. Nothing hides more lower body problems than the simple A-line.

I'm going to advise you to steer away from strapless or thin strapped gowns. If your hips are wide, then the straplessness really highlights that especially in a bold color. Essentially, you've got a narrower vertical tube above your wider hips. It's rarely flattering.

Remember, a wedding is party. Have fun.
posted by 26.2 at 5:47 PM on February 18, 2008

I am in the exact same situation, except the bride in my case chose harvest gold. I went to a bridal store in NYC (where I live) and tried on everything in a 12, 14, and 16. (yes, it made for a depressing afternoon....) I'm currently 14 in everything else I've bought, but I ended up ordering an 18 to fit over my boobs. I ordered style 6544 because the neckline was very flattering and the faux-wrap gauzy skirt hid a multitude of midsection-related sins. Hope you can find a store nearby to try some on. Best of luck!
posted by ahimsa at 5:51 PM on February 26, 2008

I am the same size you are, and I find that a v-neck helps to create a nice silhouette.

I like this


posted by nikksioux at 7:23 PM on March 19, 2008

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