Westchester Wedding Fashion: Black and White Bridesmaid Dresses

When Pippa Middleton followed her sister into Westminster Abbey wearing a slinky white Alexander McQueen, American blogs predicted a blizzard of white bridesmaid dresses lasting well into 2013. But, rather than a storm, all that materialized across the pond were a few bright flurries and the Kardashian sisters. Instead, brides here are embracing their darker sides—and giving their bridesmaids a bigger bang for their buck.

Heather Graham, co-owner of Chamonix Bride in Rhinebeck, has heard a few customers talk about going with an all-white color scheme, but says none have actually pulled the trigger. It’s a sentiment echoed at New York bridal shops from Westchester to Columbia Counties. “For Americans in general, the bride wants to be the star,” says Heather. “They want to be the one in white. They want to stand out.”

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Once frowned upon as inappropriate attire for such a joyous day, black dresses are no longer taboo for wedding guests—and certainly not for the bridal party.

“It’s so hard for me to grasp that black was such a faux pas since to me it’s such a classy, formal look,” says Somers resident Lisa Foster, who got married in May at the Sleepy Hollow Country Club. While some guests had trouble shedding that old rule of etiquette, Lisa dressed her eight bridesmaids in floor-length ebony. “The guys have gotten to wear black tuxes for years and they look pretty sharp—even with those plastic rental shoes.”

Paired with white bouquets, the black dresses pulled the entire bridal party together without making them look overly “matchy-matchy,” says Lisa. Plus, they looked great with every complexion. “I have some fair-skinned bridesmaids who went out of their way to thank me for choosing it. I feel that black really flatters all skin types. Black is also great because they can wear the dress again. If I had put them in an aqua, I don’t know how often after the wedding they’d be able to pull that look off.”

Versatility is another reason black bridesmaid dresses have heated up in recent years. Consider it a figurative bright spot in an otherwise bleak economy. “Brides are being conscious of their friends’ spending money,” says Ruth Resciniti of Letitia’s Bridal in Monsey. “If they do color, it’s not likely that they’re going to wear the dresses again.”

Michelle Gorman, who spent a small fortune of her own on bridesmaid dresses in the past, took this into consideration while planning her wedding. When she said “I do” at Gorman Farm in Parksville last September, her bridesmaids wore strapless black cocktail dresses that they picked out together. (One already owned the same dress from another wedding, and only had to pay the cost of having it dyed!)

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Photo by Ulysses Photography (ulyssesphotography.com)

Photo by Stripling Photography (striplingphotography.com)

The black was the perfect complement to the beautiful fall foliage, and Michelle gave each woman her own additional pops of color—in the form of red, green, orange, and yellow shoes, bouquets, and hair flowers. “People loved it,” she says. “They thought it was really cool and it worked really well.”

Jenni Ashton, of Ulysses Photography in Middletown, New York, has shot several great-looking weddings featuring black bridesmaid dresses. But just because the all-white ensemble hasn’t hit the big time yet, that doesn’t mean it won’t. “Today’s modern bride is not afraid to take risks and show her personality in her choices for fashion and décor,” she says. “And white gives a clean palette for flowers of any color.”

Just as Michelle used color to distinguish her bridesmaids, brides-to-be who want to dress their friends in white needn’t worry about losing their spotlight. From sash colors to necklines to dress length, the possibilities are endless.

Danielle Feriola, who dressed her bridesmaids in cream-colored frocks in January (a decision that had nothing to do with any British royals), let each bridesmaid don a completely different style of knee-length dress. “I wanted each and every one of my bridesmaids to look, and thus feel, like a million dollars,” she says. “And they did.” The bride’s attendants stood apart from each other based on their unique choices, but despite the similar palette, everyone knew Danielle was the real star by her crisp white, floor-length A-line gown—in case the ring, smile, and loving eyes of the groom didn’t give it away.

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