The evolution of the bridesmaid dress

It used to be that being a bridesmaid was an honor requiring loyalty, friendship, patience and the willingness to wear a clownish taffeta dress that could have been a hit only at a 1980s prom. “There are people who mine the ’80s for inspiration, but they probably didn’t live through it,” said the ready-to-wear and bridal designer Lela Rose, chuckling.

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“It was just bad,” she added, referring to the exaggerated shapes and stiff textiles. “Taffeta to me always said ‘bridesmaid.’ It’s really any fabric that makes that sound when you walk: ‘tsh tsh.’ ”

Bridesmaids today have it significantly better. The niche has spawned sophisticated collections offering attractive, rewearable designs that can occasionally usurp even the bride. Particularly, designers have given wedding parties flexibility in materials, cut and color.

Angela Craig, 29, is a nine-time bridesmaid (she calls her wedding party duties “like a second career”).

“I’ve had some really hideous bridesmaid dresses,” she said, remembering an “ugly cranberry dress, floor-length, made of cheap fake silk.” (Reality television buffs might tune in to TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress,” which features a bridesmaid spinoff with episode titles like “I’m Terrified of This Dress.”)
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