Though white bridesmaids’ dresses probably won’t eclipse more colorful palettes anytime soon, the trend of putting attendants in white or ivory gowns has become increasingly more popular and has given bridal party fashion a chic, modern update. “It really trended with a shift toward a more minimalist look for the bridal party,” says Erin Casey Wolf of Bella Bridesmaids. “We were selling a lot of heavily pleated chiffon or bohemian-looking dresses, and that shifted along with the bridal trend to be a little bit more streamlined, a little bit more contemporary, a much more clean-lined aesthetic.” If you’re thinking about asking your ‘maids to wear white dresses on the big day, consider these dos and don’ts to help make the look work for you.
Don’t: Buy off the rack.
“White” seems like the kind of shade that would remain consistent regardless of the designer or fabric you chose, but that’s not always the case—and letting your bridesmaids source their own off-the-rack gown can lead to a collection with competing undertones that undermine your minimalist aesthetic. Off-the-rack dresses also might not have a key feature your attendants will really want: A double lining. “Designers who are used to the bridal industry proactively double-line ivory dresses to make sure there’s no concern with transparency or that see-through look in photographs the day of,” says Wolf. “When you buy something ready-to-wear off the rack, the designers aren’t thinking through that these dresses are going to be photographed in different lighting.”
Do: Try the gown on in person.
White isn’t known for being the most forgiving color, and Wolf encourages women to try their gowns on in person to make sure they’re happy with the fit and fabric. “With the trend shifting toward more clean-lined dresses, a lot of times that reads toward something that is more fitted. Sizing is not always about what the measurements match up to—it’s so much about the psychology of how you like a garment to fit you.” One bridesmaid might prefer to size up and get the gown altered, while another may prefer to buy a more fitted size than the one that matches her paper measurements. “You don’t want to buy a white or ivory dress online and hope that it works. That in-store experience is more paramount for a white or ivory dress than it is for a black or burgundy or anything else,” says Wolf. “Giving your bridesmaids access to trying on the dress, or at least a variety of samples in a number of sizes, really helps manage expectations so they feel great the day of.”
Don’t: Be afraid to incorporate color elsewhere.
White or ivory gowns create a flawlessly neutral background that lets you incorporate other colors and patterns in a variety of ways. “It allows all of your other accent colors to pop,” says Wolf, “and just allow themselves space, place, and time as opposed to having all of your colors anchored in just the apparel.” Wolf has worked with brides who paired short white bridesmaids dresses with hot pink heels; accented a white palette with floral arrangements in pink, purple, and orange, or bright yellow and green; put the groomsmen in summery seersucker suits; or kept the look modern with metallic accents and cream-colored bouquets.
Don’t: Worry too much about stains.
Wolf says it’s not often that a white dress gets any dirtier than a pale blue or blush dress, but you can still head off stains with a few simple tricks: “Keep the gowns under plastic in transport, and keep them away from the makeup and coffee station,” she says. Having a stain stick or wipe at hand can clear up some small marks—just make sure you test it in an inconspicuous spot first—but leaving a stain alone may be your best option. “Strategically placing a bouquet or asking the photographer if it can be airbrushed out later is sometimes a better idea than attacking a stain, because you don’t want to make it look worse,” she says. “The reality is, be careful, but no need to overthink it.” You may want to stock your getting-ready drink cart with lighter-colored beverages, though; says Wolf, “Prosecco is an ivory dress’s best friend!”
Do: Stand your ground
As with the rest of your wedding day decisions, you may end up defending your choice of white bridesmaids’ dresses to more traditionally-minded friends and family members who would never wear white to a wedding. “It takes a confident bride with a specific stylist point of view,” says Wolf. “Oftentimes the pushback will be, ‘Oh my gosh, you can’t put your bridesmaids in white or ivory, that would absolutely take away from you being the bride.’ But truly, no one takes away from the bride on her wedding day.”