Choosing a style is one of the biggest challenges in the choice of bridesmaid gowns. Because body types can vary so much, it may be hard to find a single dress style that will flatter every woman on your list.
Gown manufacturers have tried to make this easier by providing dresses in different styles that have unifying aspects in common, like fabric, color or accessories. You can choose individual dresses that will flatter the wearers but still look similar enough to present an attractive and unified whole for the wedding ceremony and photo ops afterward. Just be sure to order all the dresses at the same time. Fabrics can look very different depending on their associated dye lots, so make sure the bridal shop knows they're all for the same wedding.
Accessory cover-ups can be lifesavers, too. A strategically placed shawl, scarf or even bolero can make a body-conscious bridesmaid more comfortable with a dress style that works for everyone else in the party.
Bridesmaid dresses are sized differently from manufacturer to manufacturer. Each bridesmaid will have to be measured for her gown and then wait to have the gown made or fitted to those unique measurements. This can take time and may require more than one fitting. Depending on the shop, dress manufacturer and time of year, lead times can vary from a few weeks to a few months. A good approach is to start the process as soon as you've selected the dresses. So, plan ahead and hold onto your sense of humor. If a bridesmaid goes on a diet, discovers she's pregnant or decides gelato is the best breakup comfort food, you may be in for a little extra drama.
We'd like to tell you that if you pick the right style and fabric, those bridesmaid dresses can be worn on multiple occasions. But we don't want to lie to you. Bridesmaid dresses perform a unique and specific function, so they're often hard to repurpose for everyday (or evening) wear. It's only human for bridesmaids to want their investment to do double duty, but realistically it's a long shot.
Now that you've taken care of arranging for bridesmaid dresses, you can move on to the next step in planning your wedding. There are probably another thousand details to take care of, so relax and enjoy the moment.