The women of your wedding party may all have close relationships with the bride and groom, but that may be the only thing they all have in common. When it comes to organizing a coordinated look for your bridesmaids, you'll have to consider that each woman may wear a different size and, more importantly, will have her own sense of style and beauty. Start making fashion and beauty plans well in advance to allow lots of time for experimenting, discussions, fittings, and deliveries.
As soon as you've decided on your wedding gown or the theme of your wedding, you can start seriously looking for your bridal party's outfits. As a first step, consider hosting a casual get-together so that your bridesmaids can meet each other, brainstorm about wedding ideas, and talk about dress styles. Get a general consensus of their tastes and budgets. Be up front about what you will pay for and what you expect them to cover to avoid misunderstandings or hurt feelings later on. Be prepared to compromise. If any of your bridesmaids finds the financial responsibilities too much, don't pressure her; if you can't help her with the cost, tell her that you still value her participation and give her a role to play, either in the ceremony or wedding planning, that does not require her to be a member of the wedding party.
Make a list of all the bridesmaids' sizes (dress and shoe sizes as well as bust, waist, and hip measurements) for your preliminary shopping trip, which, for expediency's sake, is best done without all your bridesmaids. Your bridal salon is a good place to start; the consultant will be able to help you select styles that coordinate with your gown. Bridesmaids' gowns from a salon are usually custom-ordered, just like wedding gowns, so allow plenty of time.
Once you've found a couple of styles you like, it's thoughtful to have your bridesmaids help you make the final decision, especially if they will be paying for the dresses themselves. Try to find your preliminary choices in just one salon or store for the sake of efficiency: your bridesmaids can see all the styles at once
and try them on if they want.
Bridal designers are aware that bridesmaids come in a variety of sizes, so they design styles that flatter a range of figures. A good case in point is the sheath style, often featuring princess seams, that suits small or large, short or tall women equally well. Dresses with elbow-length or long sleeves, V-necklines, basque or dropped waistlines, and full skirts are also good choices for a group of women with a range of sizes. An ensemble that features a jacket adds versatility, and is a good choice for larger sizes.
If being able to wear the outfit again is a major concern, consider a suit style (skirt, jacket, and coordinating blouse or camisole, for instance). A floor-length skirt can later be hemmed to knee-length for greater wearability.
Identical earring-and-necklace sets are very popular gifts for bridesmaids (today's large selection of fashion jewelry makes this a very affordable option), and are the perfect finishing touch to a coordinated look. Alternatively, discuss jewelry with your bridesmaids and agree on a look that everyone can comply to.
Shoes dyed to match their dresses produce a stylishly coordinated effect. However, if the budget doesn't allow this, ask your bridesmaids to wear the same color and style of shoe (black pumps, for instance).
A nice gesture is to supply your maids with hose in the proper color; they will appreciate having one less thing to buy, and they'll all match. Buy two pairs for each woman
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and when it comes to makeup, this is especially true. Finding a pretty beauty look for your bridesmaids can become a fun occasion if you schedule appointments for makeup consultations or makeovers at your beauty salon or your favorite beauty counter. Another option is to have a makeup artist come to your home for a makeup party. Either way, the result will be a group of woman with equally flattering looks and the same degree of intensity to their makeup. Be sure the consultant or makeup artist knows the style and color of the bridesmaids' dresses and the degree of formality of your wedding.