Thursday, April 02, 2009

Picking Out the Bridesmaids Dresses

So in a twenty-two month engagement, when do you start looking for the bridesmaids dresses? Oh, immediately. Bridesmaids dresses are one of the easiest things to look at online I think because almost every designer, from David's Bridal to Watters, shows the full bridesmaid collections online and while color isn't as easy to determine on a computer screen, the details tend to be less fussy, so I think it's easier to get a good feel for the look of the dress on the screen.

After hearing about a friends debacle with custom-made, nude, satin bridesmaids gowns, I knew I needed to make the whole process as easy on my lovely ladies as possible. After a little looking, I knew my top two priorities, fabric and price.

I love the look and feel of raw silk, aka shantung or dupioni. I also think the stiffness and characteristic body of the fabric makes it a little more forgiving wear. Since I was also concerned with price, I ended up selecting Aria Dress for the gowns as they offer the most options, best quality, for the best price as far as I could see. Unfortunately, I did much of my research over a year ago, so I can't site specific vendors, but I do recall that most silk dress were in the $250 to $300 range. Aria silk dresses start at $195 for knee-length styles.

I was still concerned about the price, so I spoke with each bridesmaid individually and asked for input on the fabric, price, and all. Everyone seemed pretty happy (hopefully they were telling the truth!), so I made an appointment at the Aria boutique in Dupont for the first round of try-ons.

We're really lucky that we have a boutique here in DC. Karen, the Aria contact here in DC, is lovely and extremely helpful. We were able to try dresses on to our hearts desire, with just us in the salon, and take lots and lots of pictures. We also used the Aria try-on program. Aria's LA shop will mail you up to three dresses to try on if you aren't near a boutique. One of my bridesmaids is out of state and just did this last week. Downsides are that it's does cost $15 per dress, but hey, it's cheaper than flying the person to the shop right? You also receive dresses on Monday and they must be returned by Friday of the same week or you are charged a late fee. Boo. Nonetheless, it worked out and my bridesmaid found a dress she loved that she doesn't think will need to be altered at all.

So let me get to the good parts...here are a few photos from our Aria excursions.

On the first trip with bridesmaid K, we tried on A LOT of dresses, and took pictures so we could show the other girls.

Above is K in style 107 in slate. This was my very favorite dress. I love the sweetheart neckline and the shirring across the bust is really cute too. The skirt is A-line and overall the dress is very flattering. K is very petite in slim and I'm taller and a little more um, filled in and I thought it looked quite nice on both of us. Here I am in the same style in tangerine.

K's dress is in shantung, my dress is actually in satin. While the Aria Boutique is just PACKED with dresses, since they offer so many styles, fabrics, and colors, the options are limitless and they can't carry every combo in the shop. Typically, when you visit, Karen will pull all the styles you like and then pull one or two in the colors you like so you can see the color. Below is bridesmaid K in her brown dress.

You'll notice it looks quite large, I think it was 2 sizes to big, and she was clipped into it.

Here's bridesmaid A in one of Aria's newest styles, 191, with a keyhole neck and a tie at the back of the neck. K actually got to try this dress on when it was still in the experimental phase...we didn't take any pictures, though. We loved this dress on A because it was a little less bridesmaidy, and super fun. This dress also comes with three skirt options: shirred (above), box pleat (below, style 173), and A-line. Most of the other styles have A-line and column as the skirt options.

A's favorite style was the dress shown below:

This is style 185 with a box pleat skirt. We thought the shirred skirt was a little too much skirt and preferred the look of the box pleat and the A-line skirt. Below is bridesmaid K again. This was her favorite style, 106, in eucalyptus.

She's pinching it back just a little bit where it was a little too big. I really liked this dress a lot as well. The neckline was very flattering and the halter ties in the back and there is enough fabric in the back to tie a nice bow if you want. In fact, this was the favored dress by 2 out of 3 Fairfax bridesmaids! Bridesmaid E received this dress from LA and this was her favorite as well.

I'll share just a few more so you can see a couple more styles:

Me in Style 160 in Midnight. This is just a basic strapless, but it has a more defined waistline with the band of fabric rather than just a seam.

This is style 181 in magenta on K. This was very cute and the skirt has a nice swing to it.

Here's the last one. I think this is the only dress we weren't crazy about. There was just too much dress for K, it kind of looked like it might creep up over her neck and eat her! The color is pretty amazing though. The style is 183 in burnt orange. This is the orange that is offered in the shantung fabric, while the tangerine I'm wearing in the photo above is the orange in the satins.

So far I've been quite happy with Aria. I've interacted with Karen in the DC Boutique and made a couple appointments, called to ask questions etc. I've also spoken with the LA office to ask about the try-on program, actually order the try-on dresses and ask about sales tax. They've been great every time.

The dresses are custom-made upon order so Aria recommends ordering at least 4 months in advance of the wedding. My plan is to place our orders the first week in May, though I've been told we could order as late as June 1. Most of the reviews I've read online have noted that the orders came in about a month early.

As far as the need for alterations, I've seen mixed reviews. I've seen some reviews where the dresses were perfect on delivery, and others that said that the whole bridal party needed alterations! I'm pretty confident that we'll be good to go. All the girls seemed to feel the dresses fit quite well in the store.

If you have any questions about my Aria experience, please feel free to e-mail me at fairfaxmiss@gmail.com!

How was your dress selection process? Did you have a good experience with the company you chose?

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Blogger Unknown said...

I was a bridesmaid who had a dress from Aria and overall it was great, I've gotten lots of compliments on the dress (which I have worn to other events). One thing to note though is that when I tried it on in the store it fit me like a glove (even a bit tight), but when I got that same size in the mail, I noticed that the fabric was thinner (didn't seem as high quality) and the dress needed to be taken in A LOT. I didn't lose any weight, it was just a lot bigger. Just be prepared- even though it fit in the store, you may still need alterations. Overall a great dress though. I love the silk shantung too!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009 8:55:00 AM  

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