More and more brides these days, in their totally-not-a-zilla magnanimity, are giving their wedding party options. No more matching dresses that flatter (at best) 70 percent of your bridesmaids and/or house party. Instead brides are designating a color—or even a spectrum of colors—to choose from and letting their friends do the rest. Sounds great, right? It does until it's time to actually find and buy your own bridesmaid's dress. Rather than asking the bride for help (she's busy, okay?) try these options, ranked from most budget-friendly to most splurge-worthy.
I don't have any personal experience with this concept, but they have many, many bridesmaid dresses in simple, flattering silhouettes, most of them for under $100. That means you're dealing with polyester, so be wary if the ceremony is outdoors in July, and maybe think about some kind of shapewear or slip so it doesn't cling. Other than that, this looks like a godsend for bridesmaids on a budget.
This UK-based fast fashion site is another exciting new wedding party option. Most of the dresses are under $150, and unlike Lulu's they are a little less traditional and more bohemian—think micro-floral prints, spaghetti straps and ruffles. Two big pluses: Most of these gowns are lined (or at least partially lined) and they also offer plus-size styles.
In my opinion Modcloth is a step up in price (we're talking $100-$200 for cocktail-length dresses) without an increase in quality. However, if you're looking for something a little different, like a bold floral print or a cute vintage cut, you'll find it here.
There's something to be said for a store that carries every dress in every size, so you can try them on in person. (That actually doesn't seem like such a difficult concept in most stores, but we're talking about the wedding industry, and it's weird.) Exclusive lines from Vera Wang, Jenny Packham and Zac Posen offer plenty of modern, fashion-forward cuts in tons of colors. The prices are reasonable too, with most options under $200. But—there's always a but—a big name attached to a small price tag means something has to give, and generally that means the fabrics are not great.
No matter what the bride says, you'll probably never wear this dress again, so why not just rent it? I'm not going to lie, this strategy is not without risk, but the upside is huge. For the price of a basic dress from Lulu's, you can show up in something from Halston Heritage or Marchesa Notte or Elizabeth and James. If you do this, either rent it in advance for a trial run or pick at least two dress options and opt for the eight-day rental so they arrive well ahead of time. Rent the Runway automatically sends a free second size for every dress you order—if neither work sometimes the company will work to send you a replacement, but then you're depending on what they have in stock.
For a bride, stopping in the Nordstrom Bridal Suite (not every location has one, but the Houston Galleria store does) can mean dropping some coin for a dream gown by Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera or Reem Acra. The bridesmaid options, however, are relatively down-to-earth. Classic, gauzy styles from Jenny Yoo, Paper Crown by Lauren Conrad and Amsale top out around $300. Search online for even more options under $200, many of them pulled from Nordstrom's many racks of non-bridal occasion dresses.
You should already know, at this moment, if a J.Crew dress is the right choice for you. This brand is incredibly consistent in their cuts, which are tailored to a more narrow, athletic body type. If that's you, and you're looking for something that's either traditional, preppy or maybe even a little beachy, J.Crew has you covered. The dresses run about $200-$300, but can often be found on sale for a lot less, especially the not-so-coveted colors.
Only the company that brought us Anthropologie and Free People could make sequins, crop tops and prints look so beautifully bridal. Bridesmaids dresses here start around $250 (though, again, watch the sales) and are all about bringing the pretty, even in their more unconventional styles. They also carry most sizes in store, so you can try on and order in confidence. If we're talking about your best friend's wedding and you really want to nail it, go here.