Bridesmaids have never been happier when it comes to the dresses they'll wear. Bridal fashion has come so far since the days of shiny satin dresses of the 1980s; they were dresses that most bridesmaids of yesteryear bought with great resentment and never wore again. Now bridesmaid dresses are fashion-forward, often incorporating some of the same pretty trends as wedding dresses, and bridesmaids are now welcome to pick out the style of bodice (from strapless to strappy to halter) and skirt (A-line or more fitted) that flatters their particular body shape and personal style, in coordinating colors that make the bridesmaids group look gorgeous without being matchy-matchy. These are dresses that bridesmaids are wearing again and again, with The Wedding Report's recent survey saying is an average of two to five times after the wedding day. That's a great use of the money spent on buying a fantastic bridesmaid dress.
Here are the top styles in bridesmaid dresses for 2013 weddings:
--1920s-inspired flapper style. "1920s style was all about glamour, sass and romance. When the film 'The Great Gatsby' was rumored to be in the works, our team at David's Bridal knew this time period-inspired look would be the hot trend of the year. Dresses that exude 1920s appeal combine modern sensibility with exquisite vintage detailing, such as lace and feather textures, beautiful ribbon trims and intricate hand-sewn beading. At David's Bridal, many of our brands like the romantic Melissa Sweet, sophisticated Galina Signature and fun and flirty DB Studio are capturing this nostalgic feel for 2013 by incorporating design elements that speak to eras past," says Robert Barnowske, bridal Design Director of David's Bridal. Bridesmaid dresses often feature just a touch of fringe at the bottom hem for a subtle nod to this style.
--Fancy elegance. For formal weddings, bridesmaid dresses feature drama and flair with colorful or metallic-colored sequins at the bodice or crystals sewn into the top and bottom hems for extra dazzle and sparkle.
--Peplum. This style of dress features a flirty little flair of fabric at the bottom of the fitted waist, with a slight ruffle and a delicate extension outward. Elie Pitts, wedding and proposal planner at The YES Girls (TheYesGirls.com), says this waist-flattering style is her personal favorite trend this season. "I, along with every woman in America, have that tiny little muffin top under the bottom of the belly, and the peplum is the perfect way to hide it. The architecture that goes into designing a peplum dress has to be so precise. It can't be too long; it can't be too short. ... And it has to be poofy enough to make a statement, but small enough to not add 15 pounds to your hips! I am in awe every time I see a beautiful peplum."
--Bold florals. Bridesmaids don't have to wear solid colors. Now, bridesmaids might wear dresses featuring brightly colored floral patterns and carry bouquets design in a monochromatic color to let the hues of their dresses stand out.
--Romantic ruffles. Delicate ruffles of soft and flowy fabric can give the dress a romantic look, or a sleek sheath dress can feature a full-length romantic ruffle down the back. There's no contrast to the dress color and ruffle color; it's all the same fabric, and colors may be soft pastels or deep jewel colors like wine or sapphire.
--Illusion necklines. The sheer material of an illusion neckline provides a delicate covering that shows a subtle amount of skin. While brides often wear this style in white or ivory for today's higher neckline style, illusion necklines for bridesmaids may be in a soft pastel color.
--Lace. The bridesmaid's dress may have an all-over lace overlay effect, with today's ultra-decorative larger lace designs or delicate, smaller-pattern romantic lace in a soft pastel color. This style is perfect for romantic garden weddings or a more rustic, country-style outdoor wedding. "Lace is a new and fresh take on bridal party fashion, while still giving a nod to vintage style. Incorporating accents like lace and embroidery into the ensemble of your maids is feminine and gives a chic cocktail-party-ready look. Plus, it's a perfect way for women to wear the dress again!" says Juliana Chan, senior Dress Designer, David's Bridal.
Style aside, color is the thing when it comes to stylish bridesmaid dresses. In pastels, the top colors are mint, lavender, coral and light yellow, with pink always in demand for romantic and feminine hues. In brights and deeper jewel tones, 2013 is all about Emerald, the PANTONE color of the year, with deep purple, merlot and sapphire leading the way. Bridesmaids are also wearing shimmering neutral metallic, like copper and bronze that may be flattering to their skin tone. Are bridesmaids all in one color? Often, yes. But a growing number of brides are allowing their bridesmaids to wear different pastel colors to make up a "bouquet" of pretty looks that coordinate beautifully.
Sharon Naylor is the author of "The Bride's Guide to Freebies" and three dozen additional wedding books.