Online bridesmaid dress business founder Daphne Chan shares her tips to picking the right bridesmaid dress
THE bride is the queen of her wedding day, while the bridesmaids are just like the princesses.
Usually consisting of her closest friends and siblings, bridesmaids become the supporting pillars of strength for the bride on her big day.
While the bridal gown is the one piece of apparel that everyone awaits with bated breath, the bridesmaid dresses can also draw attention.
For instance, Pippa Middleton’s bridesmaid dress, which she wore on Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding day, caught the eyes of many.
It’s very tricky to find the perfect bridesmaid dress, as it should look beautiful – and yet not overshadow the bride on her special day.
The gown has to complement the theme and fit the occasion and the environment while catering to various shapes, sizes, and personal styles of each of the bridesmaids.
This could cause much stress for the bride, especially in terms of her relationships with her bridesmaids
Remember the bridesmaid dress shopping scene in The Bridesmaid movie? Everyone has a different style.
We decided to approach Daphne Chan, the owner of ELEVENTH Gown Studio (www.eleventh.com.my), a made-to-order company for bridal outfits, to learn some insights for future brides.
Chan said: “Celebrating friendships is at the heart of what we do. Making sure the bride squad looks just as fabulous as bride does coming down the aisle is important.
“But bridesmaid dress shopping is no easy feat, and chances are, you are dealing with different budgets, body types, and style preferences.
It can all be a little bit too much. But while it is a challenging process, it doesn’t have to be a stressful one.”
The right material
According to Chan, choosing a bridesmaid dress isn’t easy, as there is a lot to consider before picking the right one.
“The style, of course, and the fit is most important. The length, whether midi or to the floor is vital, and the colour is obviously a big deal,” she explained.
“To create the perfect bridesmaid look, the fabric is truly what gives the dress life. Chiffon and tulle are the most common fabrics used to create bridesmaid dresses.
“Tulle is a light, netted material that has a dreamy, ethereal vibe. Chiffon is airy and lightweight, making it ideal for daytime or warm-weather weddings. Chiffon fabric is typically offered in more styles due to popularity reasons.
“Our latest Crepe collection is a soft, stretchy, and textured fabric perfect for any year-round celebration.”
Here are some tips for the bride:
1. Start with online research
Know what type of bridesmaid look and wedding palette you are going for before reaching out to any wedding vendor, and it will make the process so much easier. Research is easy (and fun!) to do via Pinterest or blogs to get some inspiration about the bridesmaid trend.
2. Start shopping ahead of time
Start thinking about bridesmaid dresses at least six months before your wedding to allow enough time to decide on, order, and fit the dresses. Not only will this make it less stressful for everyone, but you are also able to have more choices and without any last-minute rushes.
3. Wedding theme and venue
Is it a chapel or garden? Indoors or outdoors? The location of your wedding probably helps to dictate your wedding attire as well your decor, so it should also influence how to pick bridesmaids’ dresses. Keep your venue in mind when choosing dress silhouettes, fabrics, and accessories.
4. Bridesmaid’s tastes and body types
If your bridesmaids have an array of different body types and you are having trouble finding one dress style that will work for all of them, consider picking a colour or range of hues and allowing them to choose their personal favourite silhouette. Keep the look cohesive by incorporating the same fabric or colour theme.
5. Dare to be different
Once upon a time, bridesmaids wore only a single, solid head-to-toe hue. Not anymore. For a fresh feel, play with a mix and match look. Nowadays, it is all about embracing individuality. As long as you keep dress shapes simple and necklines demure.
The latest trend
If you still don’t have a clue, perhaps, you could just pick Chan’s personal favourite bridesmaid dresses.
“I particularly love the most versatile style among the range of gown offerings is found in the convertible style dresses, which can be worn multiple ways. The bride can pick a convertible gown, and her bridesmaids can choose their most flattering way to wear it,“ she said.
The bridesmaid dress trend keeps changing all the time, and the new fashions are always better and more beautiful than last year’s.
“Today, brides are mixing it up with mismatched bridesmaid dresses, creating truly unique ensembles featuring gorgeous dresses with different styles, fabrics, hemlines and colours,” Chan added.
“The trend allows you to highlight each individual woman, and ensure she is wearing a dress that makes her feel great. As for colour palettes, we have seen an upswing in requests for cooler tones, ranging from dusty rose to sage green to dove grey.”
Apart from the dress, the bride can also include bridesmaid robes, which is becoming a popular trend overseas. The robes are worn before the wedding and are perfect for a photoshoot.
Bridesmaid in traditional weddings
Nowadays, the idea of having bridesmaids is not limited to Western weddings, in fact, it is becoming a trend to include bridesmaids in traditional Chinese, Indian, and Malay weddings, too.
For instance, an Indian bride can include bridesmaids wearing the same coloured sarees in a traditional Indian wedding to make it different from others.
“Cultures give and take from one another in a multitude of ways. The age-old tradition of bridesmaids at Western weddings is no different. Nowadays many brides have openly admitted to including bridesmaids in Malaysian weddings. A lovely and very modern mix of the two worlds,“ she said.
Wedding amidst the pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we live our everyday lives, including weddings.
In Malaysia, only a small number of guests or immediate family members were allowed to attend during the MCO and an aesthetically-pleasing wedding mask is a must-have for the bride and groom. They also make a great gift for guests.
However, we wonder if brides can still choose to have bridesmaids at their wedding, or should they drop the whole idea of having bridesmaids in order to comply with SOPs?
“There is no doubt that Covid has changed the way we celebrate weddings, at least for the time being. Right now, we are seeing a rise in micro weddings of 50 people or less,” Chan said.
“Despite the restrictions in the number of guests, most brides still prefer to be surrounded by their best friends whom they love, instead of dropping the idea of having bridesmaids.
“For a smaller wedding now, it generally has less than four bridesmaids. Before the pandemic and for larger weddings, a bride could have more than 10 bridesmaids if she wanted.”
The small number of weddings and even smaller numbers of bridesmaids in the current pandemic situation could pose a challenge for businesses like Chan’s, which cater to the niche bridesmaid dress industry.
Chan admits that many couples had to make the incredibly difficult decision to postpone their wedding during the lockdown period.
“The sadness over the lack of celebration, struggling with their wedding plans – we feel for them. [But] love is not cancelled, neither is the wedding planning.
“Our purpose at such times is to be a helping hand and a cheerleader for brides, bringing even greater joy and support to their wedding planning journey.
“Our online store remains always accessible during the pandemic. Whenever there are new inquiries or concerns from our brides, we continue to attend to them mostly via Instagram, emails, and WhatsApp messages.
“In fact, I found that we have forged deeper connections with brides as we exchange tips and advice.”
Who pays for a bridesmaid dress?
Despite the tips and tricks on bridesmaid’s dresses, one question still lingers in the mind – who is supposed to pay for the bridesmaid’s dress.
Chan said: “Many Western cultures expect the bridesmaids to pay for their own accessories and dresses. These expenditures are added onto to the cost of the bridal shower, wedding gift, and bachelorette party.
“In Asia, especially in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Indonesia, the groom’s family is expected to pay for the entire wedding.
While for Malaysia, Japan and South Korea, the two families will discuss who pays for the cost of the bridesmaid’s dresses and accessories.
“As a bride, you do not have to choose to follow tradition. Make the decision that works best for you and your spouse on your big day.”
Being a bridesmaid
After listening to the different advice and explanations from Chan, one wonders if Chan herself has ever been a bridesmaid, and what was it like for her.
Speaking about her experience, she said: “Standing up beside your best friend while they marry the love of their life is an honour that many people cherish. I got the idea to start ELEVENTH after having been a bridesmaid for 10 times, the first time in my mid 20s.
“I always find it helpful when someone in the group (typically the maid of honour) delegates various tasks for the bridal shower and wedding ceremony, so that everyone feels like they are contributing, and no single person feels like they are carrying all the weight.”