We’ve all got one or several lurking in the back of our closets…those dreaded bridesmaid dresses. It may be the only form of festive attire few women look forward to debuting, much less wearing again. But when you’ve already dropped the cash, it’s a shame to give up on a potential party look without first exploring some options. So what’s a stylish bridesmaid to do? An excellent tailor is worth her weight in gold—so if you don’t have one on speed dial, ask your fashionista friends for recommendations. Then revisit those dresses and really think about what you love, what you hate about them and where you see room for improvement. With a little creativity, it’s surprisingly easy to reimagine and revamp a so-so frock into a fabulous wardrobe gem.
SIMPLIFY IT It’s amazing how many chic little numbers are buried beneath an overabundance of frou-frou. Luckily, many of these embellishments are quite easy to remove without damaging the garment. Ruffles are often attached along seams, making them a snap to cut off and rehem. Flowers and sequins can be stitch-picked off in just a few minutes. If you’ve always wanted to learn about sewing, this could be the perfect starter project. After all, who cares if you ruin a dress you were never going to wear again anyway? Or just take it to your trusty tailor—simple alterations like these are generally quite inexpensive.
DYE IT It’s pretty much a given that a bridesmaid dress will be a color that you would never choose for yourself. So why not dye it? Most craft and fabric stores carry simple DIY fabric dye. Always check the fiber content ahead of time and choose your new color wisely. You’ll get better results if you stay in the same color family—pinks and oranges can go red or brown beautifully but green over rosy tones could be a sickly-grey disaster. If you’re starting with a light color, you’ve got tons of options, while darker shades are trickier to change—when in doubt, you can’t go wrong with basic black. Try Rit or Dylon for natural fibers and blends or Jacquare iDye for synthetic fabrics. If you love everything about the dress but the color, it may be worth investing in a professional service like Metro Dyeing or Intimate Dyeing.
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DECONSTRUCT IT Does your frock have a split personality? A gorgeous bodice with a stunning neckline anchored to an atrocious hoop skirt? Or a spectacular curve-hugging skirt topped off with a gaudy, ill-fitting corset? Think separates! In most cases, dividing a dress into two pieces is a fairly easy and inexpensive alteration. Unless you are an experienced sewer, this is best left to a professional.
HEM IT Let’s face it, floor-length gowns have a limited range, especially in the life of a busy mom. Raising the hem a few inches to tea-length makes for a more versatile evening look. Bring it up a few more inches to knee-length and you’re ready for cocktails or lunch with the girls. Or go all-out and make it a mini. When in doubt, remember that you can always go shorter so just cut off a few inches at a time until you reach the perfect length (and be sure to leave an extra inch or two to turn under for the hem).
ACCESSORIZE IT Great accessories can fix a multitude of sins. If you don’t absolutely hate the color and fit but enjoy the feeling the dress—get creative: add a pop of color, belt it, try a statement necklace, a brooch, a jacket, a pair of killer heels. Mix and match and try lots of different combos, you just might fall in love in the process.