1. Respect the color palette
The thing to remember is that every color comes in a variety of hues. If wearing peach completely washes out your pale complexion, opt for a more saturated version, say something closer to coral. The bride might even like this pop of color. As long as you don't show up in a dress of some random color (unless approved by the bride), it's all good.
2. Consider accessories
"Be practical with your dress purchase," says Vizcaino-S. "Opt for a simpler dress that can be accessorized to change the formality of the dress." A bejeweled belt or a sparkly bib necklace can elevate even the most basic style. To play it safe, ask the bride for shoe and jewelry guidance, recommends Rothman. The bride might want to gift all the bridesmaids the same necklace.
3. Match the formality of the event
"Be mindful of the overall atmosphere," says Vizcaino-S. "The time of the event doesn't necessarily dictate the formality of the event." Be sure to ask whether you should look for a more casual cocktail dress or a fancier gown. Still, there is no hard-and-fast rule that the length of the gown dictates the type of the event. There are plenty of casual maxi dresses that will be perfect for a beach wedding and shorter silhouettes made of rich fabrics for upscale weddings.
4. Pay attention to the location
You may love how strapless dresses fit you, but if the wedding party is on the conservative side and the event is taking place in a house of worship you might encounter a certain "dress code" that requires higher necklines and sleeves. The last thing you want to do is find the ideal dress and spend the whole night wrapped up in a pashmina.
5. Think outside the bridal boutique
"Be open about where you shop," says Rothman. "Choose your favorite brand and see if they have wedding appropriate dresses. This way, you improve your chances of buying something you truly love." Want to step it up for a formal affair but don't have the budget? Rent the Runway, which has stores in New York City, Chicago, Washington D.C., and Las Vegas, in addition to shipping nationwide, lets you borrow designer names at a fraction of the retail price. Keep in mind: now is not the time to find your inner Carrie Bradshaw—simply put, don't upstage the bride.
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6. Check in … periodically
One of the reasons the bride passed the bridesmaid dress search on to you is because she has plenty of other projects to juggle. While you don't want to bombard her daily with links to every dress that comes your way, you do want to ask questions about fabrics, colors and length. "Keep her in the loop and be sure to get approval before charging your card," adds Vizcaino-S. "Even if she's laidback, it is still her wedding day and she should have a say." Trust us, she does not want to see your dress reveal on her wedding day.
7. Commit to it
The biggest perk of choosing your own bridesmaid dress is that it's not forced upon you. Don't let guilt (or other bridesmaids) pressure you into buying something you don't absolutely love. "Select a dress you would want to wear again," says Rothman. Think of it as an investment, not a mere bridesmaid dress.