It’s true. Puffy sleeves are back in style but they’ve been reinvented to fit modern times. Instead of the oversized, voluminous sleeves featured on all ‘80s bridesmaid dresses, sleeves are being exaggerated in a more stylish and subtle way. The keyword here is subtle, but not so subtle to be overlooked.
With the '80s came big hair and the infamous shoulder pads, which were attached at the top of sleeves to extend the shoulder into a more masculine and powerful shape. Fluffly sleeves on bridesmaid dresses were a natural extension of this trend especially because of how it drew attention upward and defined the silhouette.
We won’t deny it, -- we love a good floral arrangement, but less is more when it comes to bouquets. Nothing looks gaudier than a bridesmaid holding an entire garden of peonies. The bride should be the focal point of the wedding from the white dress, ultra-long veil, and giant bouquet.
This particular wedding tradition began way back to the Roman Empire when flowers symbolized new beginnings, fertility, and loyalty, so the ancient brides wore flower garlands. Fast forward a few thousand years to the Middle Ages when flowers were seen to protect the bride from spirits, bad health, and smelling funky on her big day. The trend of symbolism affects the size of modern bouquets because with more room comes more opportunities to incorporate a bunch of different flowers with a range of meanings.
Retro bridesmaid dresses often have cap sleeves to compliment the bride's look. It’s a trend that makes a comeback every few years because it’s one of the most universally flattering sleeve shapes for women because the sleeves create an illusion of broader shoulders, making the waist look thinner. What’s not to love about that?
Modern wedding gowns are typically strapless and sweetheart or have a high neck like Kate Middleton; thus, cap-sleeved bridesmaid dresses are intentionally low-key and complementary. However, many brides are allowing their wedding parties to choose from a variety of dress styles as long as they stick with the color scheme. How the times have changed!
White Satin Gloves
We're still in utter disbelief. There truly were brides that forced their friends to wear white satin gloves with their bridesmaid dresses, which honestly rarely looks great unless you're Audrey Hepburn. They looked like they were attending a debutante ball rather than a wedding… And we suppose that was the point?
Modern brides opt for gloves as a matter of aesthetics, but gloves represented much more at classic ceremonies. On top of signifying modesty and status, white gloves also pointed to the purity of the bride. This tradition is similar to the practice of purity and debutante balls, which is rooted in pretty sexist ideology.
Flower crowns first became an extremely popular wedding accessory in the ‘60s and again in the early 2010s. Flowery fashion accessories were already on the rise due to hippie culture and exacerbating themes of peace and free love. They can totally be adorable, and they were at first, but now the classic style is simply outdated.
Whether you’re the bride or the bridesmaid, avoid donning an oversized floral hairpiece—opt for dainty and petite blooms in your updo instead! Like we mentioned earlier, classy brides revamped the trend in the 2010s but made sure to avoid a floral overload by limiting the accessory to just the bride's outfit or just the bridesmaids, rarely both.
It’s 2020 and we’re obviously all fans of shorter hemlines, especially during the warmer months. But in the ‘70s and ‘80s, bridesmaid dresses were typically no shorter than tea-length. So, when brides had their friends wear dresses that revealed more than their ankles, it came as a major shock to conservative guests!
Hemlines crawled up to the thigh and beyond with flappers in the '20s as the economy boomed and everyone chased after a good time. The '30s and the Great Depression set hemlines back to the floor but were quickly ramped back up to the knee in the following decades with ultra-popular Mod fashion, which singled ladies out for being unstylish if their hemlines weren't a certain length. After the '70s, brides felt freer to wear whatever dress length they desired, but short skirts solidified themselves as a high-fashion choice.
It's basic knowledge that the bride is supposed to stand out on her wedding day.; all the attention should be on her and rightfully so! But when bridesmaids in the ‘60s and ‘70s were dressed in bold patterns and bright florals, it was hard to pay attention to the star of the show.
Patterened wallpaper was already hard enough to look away from in the home decor realms, so the floral fabrics used in bridesmaid dresses across the country weren't exactly the subtle choice that the brides might have aimed for. Brides are embracing the patterned dresses once again but are straying away from 'grandma chic' in exchange for 'classy boho.'
Lace is a bridesmaid trend that’s still popular and here to stay. Instead of purchasing dresses made of traditional materials like satin, charmeuse, or chiffon, brides are opting for intricate lace gowns. On top of being a fun and playful way to change things up, they have a classic feel to them that will never go out of style.
The only issue with lacy bridesmaid dresses is that they rain on the bride's parade if they're not careful. We suppose that if the bride OKs a set of white lace dresses for her main gals, then all is well. But why would you sell yourself short like that? White lace definitely looks the best, but there are so many other worthy shades.
Unfortunately, there was a time when bridesmaid dresses resembled ball gowns fit for a princess. If you’re a bride who loves voluminous dresses, buy yourself a Cinderella-style gown — not your bridesmaids. No wedding party needs to subject the guests to that much tulle. Not only does it take up a lot of space, but increases the likelihood that a bridesmaid will trip down the aisle.
Tripping isn't the end of the world and won't ruin your wedding, but it's nice to keep an eye out for your friends' safety. We must say that we wouldn't be opposed to a revamp of this trend because modern ceremonies are flooded with the same old A-line silhouette across the board.
For some reason, vibrantly colored bridesmaid dresses had a lasting moment in the wedding world. Not only would bridesmaids wear all shades of the rainbow (including bright pinks, yellows, and oranges), but they’d wear all of these shades at once for the same ceremony. This isn't Easter, people! Talk about attracting the wrong kind of attention...
Some brides chose different colors for each dress so they could wear the same style of dress as the bride without the pictures getting muddled or boring. Unfortunately, the color mixing here wasn't an exact science, and the addition of floppy sun hats, gaudy ribbons, and ill-fitting cardigans ensured that nobody could look their best.
Most brides want to be unique and stand out on their wedding day, which is why they choose bridesmaid gowns that are subtle in color to avoid overshadowing the white gown. Yes, bridesmaids' dresses have become brighter and more daring in recent years, but the majority of bridesmaids continue to wear pretty pastels.
Most of the time these pastel hues were directly linked to the trend of alternating the colors of each dress. Modern ceremonies don't ditch that idea entirely as some recent weddings show how bridesmaids have control over both the style and color of their dress. That takes a lot of trust that many brides (understandably) don't have!
Thankfully, two-piece dresses were just a fad and they continue to be a fad every time they pop up in the fashion scene. In a moment of weakness, brides thought it best to put their friends in floor-length skirts and modest blouses; instead of looking fashion-forward, bridesmaids looked dowdy.
2015 saw the rise of the two-piece dress once again, especially in the high-school homecoming and prom scene, which naturally transitioned over to wedding parties. Because teenagers primarily dominate the trend, adult bridesmaids who shimmy into these tight skirts and skimpy tops look more like budget actors playing teenagers in an indie movie than a Maid of Honor.
Having your closest friends by your side on your wedding day isn't just special, it's necessary. But it can also be overwhelming. Every person is different in terms of hair length, body type, and skin complexion, so it can be frustrating trying to accommodate everyone. Therefore, many brides allow their bridesmaids some input on their outfits instead of dictating everything from matching hairstyles, lipstick color, and shoe choices.
Bridesmaid dresses are often the butt of jokes because they have been so used and abused throughout wedding history. Attempting to erase your bridesmaids' unique features by squeezing everyone into the same stuffy dresses rarely turns out well. Think of your wedding photos... Wouldn't you rather everyone looked and felt their best? Conformity isn’t as crucial as it once was!
For a brief period of time, dresses with collars were considered the trendy move for everything from sundresses to bridesmaid gowns. But looking back now from 2020, we can’t help but see the resemblance to James Dean’s upturned collar in Rebel Without a Cause. And that's not a good thing in this context.
Some of you may be protesting: "Hey, you just said high-neck dresses were chic a few slides ago!" That's a valid point, but it wouldn't have even half a leg to stand on in court. Take a brief moment to Google modern high-neck dresses -- Duchess Kate Middleton is always a good reference -- and you'll see more than one glaring difference between that trendsetting gown and these retro atrocities.
Single Color Palettes
Single color palettes for bridesmaid dresses are an ongoing trend probably because it's the easy option and stressed-out brides have enough to deal with when it comes to wedding planning. Only the boldest of brides experiment with the aforementioned multi-colored bridesmaid gowns (for better or for worse), but if you prefer conformity, a single color palette is the best way to go.
Countless brides and wedding planners spend months picking out the best flowers and decor that fit into their color scheme, so there's no point in making bridesmaids carry the weight of brightening up your wedding with gaudy gowns. Instead, let your bouquets and floral arrangements add color to your wedding like they're meant to do. You're already paying a fortune for those bad boys!
You probably have been told two fashion rules regarding white clothing: don’t wear white after Labor Day and never ever wear white to a wedding (unless it’s your own). White shoes or a white blouse might not be that big of a deal, but any sort of white dress is an absolute pass. Otherwise, you'll end up looking like an attention-seeking MOTB who lives vicariously through their daughter.
As we discussed for the lace trend, we're still not sure why brides purposely dress their bridesmaids in white. To each their own, of course, but you can't convince us that it's not a counterproductive choice. If the veil is the only accessory that differentiates the bride from her bridesmaids then there's something fishy going on.
There was a time when brides thought their bridesmaids should accessorize with headpieces. As much as I love their creativity, bonnets and hats should’ve never been bridal accessories. Not only are they far too big, which makes them distracting, but they also rarely compliment any of the bridesmaids. Plus, it's safe to say that bonnets were never cute and should stay with the kiddos.
On top of flattering silhouettes, you know all those brides look back at wedding photos and realize that whatever fashion columnist recommended this trend was seriously disturbed. This isn't a gardening event or a fishing tournament, people! The only guest who has permission to wear a hat is the mother of the bride because she's the only one who can pull it off, oddly enough. It just makes sense!
Capelets were definitely one of the chicer trends when they shot to fame because they came in a range of fabrics and styles while remaining a modest addition to any bridesmaid dress. The sheer overlay covered the shoulders, back, and chest but still allowed guests to see the rest of your dress with ease. Honestly, we wouldn’t mind if this trend resurfaced (but without the ‘70s patterns).
Crocheted capelets were popular for a casual day out while silk and chiffon capes continue to be paired with high-fashion pieces on the runway. Modern bridesmaids may not be caught dead in these pieces, but they remain an adorable addition to a flower girl's dress or draped over the MOTB's shoulders.
Strapless dresses are either loved or loathed. Brides who love strapless silhouettes are quick to agree to a strapless gown for their bridesmaids without a second thought, but what they don’t realize is how much the dress will be tugged, pinched, yanked, and pulled by the peeved bridesmaids, especially while on the dance floor.
Strapless dresses are not a one-size-fits-all style. Only a select few can deal with how annoying they are to keep in place, but even fewer women are comfortable wearing them to such an elaborate ceremony. Strapless wedding gowns have always been popular, but straps and sleeves are back in style, so make sure to keep that in mind when deliberating what style of dress you'll make your closest friends wear down the aisle in front of all of your friends, family, and obligation guests.
Hair trends frequently come and go, and sleek updos are just one of many popular bridal party hairstyles. In the last several years however, many brides have allowed their bridesmaids more freedom regarding hair and makeup on top of their gown silhouettes, which is why lots of bridesmaids have started wearing their hair down for weddings.
We have no problem with letting down your natural hair or pinning it up into a tight twist, but the updos definitely give off a fancier feeling than loose, beachy waves. While it might make you the hip, cool bride to allow your bridesmaids to wear it however they want, you are the one paying for the pictures (plus the entire ceremony), so always give your friends some guidelines or someone will show up with a sporty ponytail while everyone else has a gorgeous blowout.
The ruffle trend came from the idea in the ‘80s and early ‘90s that bigger was better. Bigger hair, bigger dresses, bigger flowers all meant a better wedding. And while those weddings probably were a ton of fun, there’s no denying the dying trend. It even snuck its way into the 2011 film Bridesmaids.
Big, Teased Hair
Just remember Rachel Green’s giant pink bridesmaid dress from Friends!. Big. Pink. Poofy. This is not exactly what we are seeing walking down the aisle these days. Brides of today are wanting their bridesmaids to actually be able to sit down in their dresses.