Bridesmaid dresses get hip

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      There was a time, not so long ago, when the thought of wearing your bridesmaid dress to another function outside of your best friend’s wedding was unfathomable. Sure, you could kick out that salmon taffeta monstrosity for an ’80s theme party, but that was about it. Until now, that is. A whole new batch of designers—Charsa, Kathlin Argiro, and Jenny Yoo to name a few—have started making names for themselves by reinventing the modern bridesmaid. And for some, it’s about time. After all, more often than not bridesmaids are paying for their own gowns. So it only makes sense that if they’re going to fork out 300 to 400 bones for a dress, they should be able to wear it again, right?

      Catherine Staveley and Deb Viccars couldn’t agree more. They own Frocks (2306 West Broadway), the only store in Western Canada that caters specifically to bridesmaids. They carry dresses so versatile that celebs like Christina Ricci and Felicity Huffman don’t look out of place wearing them on the red carpet rather than down the aisle. They also sell a selection of knee-length cocktail numbers so elegant and unassuming that all you have to do is take off the sash, put on some flip flops and a jean jacket, and you’re good to go to a barbecue—not many bridal-wear stores can say that.

      “We’re kind of the anti ­uffle,” says Staveley, who, along with Viccars, sat down with the Straight at their modest Kits boutique, which doesn’t have that sickly sweet feel of a traditional wedding store. “Modern brides want the bridesmaids to pick a style that suits them. It’s not like ”˜I want you in a strapless floor-length sea-foam dress’ and that’s that. The bride wants her bridesmaids to look and feel good, because it comes out in the pictures if they’re wearing something they feel hideous in.”

      Modern brides want the bridesmaids to pick a style that suits them.Modern brides want the bridesmaids to pick a style that suits them.

      What that means is brides can simply pick out the colour of their choice, then leave the design of the dress up to the individual bridesmaids. However, Staveley doesn’t recommend giving the wedding party carte blanche when it comes to which label to wear.

      “If you just throw a colour at someone like red, there are 300 different types of red,” says Staveley. “Some reds are orange-y and some are more bluish. So they [the colours] need to come from the same family. That’s why I think it’s a lot safer to go with the same designer, ’cause your wedding party can end up looking like a real big mishmash.”

      Along with more freedom to choose a cut that’s right for them, today’s bridesmaids also have more choice when it comes to colour itself.

      “Jewel tones are big this year,” says Viccars. “It’s funny, a lot of the moms still think it’s light pink, yellow, green, and stuff like that. And then the girls are like ”˜No, I’m going for chocolate brown or raspberry.’ ”

      And in contrast to the tradition of decking out ’maids in a solid colour from head to toe, two-toned dresses are huge this season. Even the demonized sea-foam green can redeem itself with a little teal trim.

      Saeyoung Vu’s Emma, for example, comes with a sash of your choice. This tea-length silk dress, ($390 when you buy three or more) was what Ricci recently wore to a movie premiere—she chose black on peacock blue. With the sweetheart neckline and empire waist, it’s the perfect style for the curvy, short girl in your party.

      Jenny Yoo’s Scarlet ($420 for three or more), on the other hand, is not. The flapper-inspired drop waist is best suited for women who have very little junk in their trunk. With silk-chiffon layers over silk charmeuse and a gathered-halter neckline that ties on one side, this is one of the most alternative choices out there for bridesmaids.

      Another style you wouldn’t expect to see in a bridal store is the Freda (also courtesy of Saeyoung Vu at $340 for three of more), which is clearly indebted to Carrie Bradshaw. The bustier top, natural waistline, and full skirt, complete with crinoline underneath, screams of Sarah Jessica Parker. And that’s no mistake: after Freda sells out, Vu plans on introducing the sister dress called Carrie. Vu’s campaign features a model wearing leggings underneath this number, but Viccars warns fashionistas not to get too sucked into trends: “You don’t want to look dated,” she says. “There was a time when people were just wearing the style of the time, and then they look back on their photos and cringe.”

      And no bride—traditional or otherwise—wants that.