Bridesmaid dresses you really can wear again

By Cara Kelly, The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Brides have long told their closest friends and family a little white lie when asking them to be part of their bridal party.

"Don't worry," an infinity of women have uttered to their bridesmaids, "you'll be able to wear the dress again."

In truth, most women of a certain age have yards of pastel chiffon shoved into the far corners of their closets, never to be seen again.

Thankfully, designers have begun shifting the aesthetic of bridesmaid dresses to more closely mirror ready-to-wear pieces, says Julia Lichtman Kepniss of Hitched bridal salon in Washington.

Neutral shades like charcoal, black and tan are pushing out the lilac and cornflower. Choices in fabrics have expanded past the crinkled chiffon and silk satins that dominated the last decade. Their prevalence has made it nearly impossible to re-wear the garments without being immediately recognized as coming from a bridal salon. Lace, tulle and jersey have emerged as more versatile options.

Restyling these dresses so they may be worn to other events is possible. It all comes down to accessories, says Michele Lopez, a stylist with the Fifth Avenue Club at Saks Fifth Avenue in Chevy Chase, Md. Large earrings or a dramatic heel can change the entire feel of a dress.

Tailoring an item is also key. Slimming the silhouette of a skirt, taking up a hemline or removing straps and embellishments can help make a begrudged purchase into a treasured staple.

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Outfit details:

Jenny Yoo's "Coco" in metallic dot jacquard, $275, from Hitched Bridal Couture, Washington, http://www.hitchedsalon.com, and Shop.brideside.com. Includes removable sash. With Valentino Rockstud block-heel sandals, $995, from Shop.Nordstrom.com; Ciao Nina violet hydrangea fascinator, from ciaonina.com; Elizabeth Cole earrings, $170, from Wink boutique, Washington.

The Amsale charcoal jersey dress, $260 at Hitched Bridal Couture. With Antik Batik "Adonis" thong sandals, $278 at Shopbop.com; Love Rocks necklace, $240, and long necklaces by Jenny Bird, $75 each, all at Wink boutique.

Jenny Yoo's "Harlow" in black metallic swirl lace, $295 at Hitched Bridal Couture and Shop.Nordstrom.com. Also available in sandstone. With Fendi "Iridia" sandals, $695 at Hu's Shoes and husonline.com; Vintage Lately earrings, $150 at Wink boutique; Lauren Merkin "Mini Caroline"clutch, $225 at http://www.laurenmerkin.com; a Helmut Lang jacket, $460 at Hu's Wear; Lanvin bicolor calfskin pumps, $695 at Hu's Shoes and husonline.com.

Alfred Sung dress, style D660, is on sale for $107 at Victoriasbridalcouture.com; available in a variety of colors and lengths. With Lanvin pumps (see above); Vince frayed-edge scuba jacket, $475 at Saksfifthavenue.com; Manolo Blahnik pumps, $595 at Hu's Shoes and husonline.com.