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Published: Tuesday, March 6, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

New bridal fashion star: bridesmaids

  • Pippa Middleton's showstopping bridesmaid dress.

    Associated Press/Paul Rogers

    Pippa Middleton's showstopping bridesmaid dress.

When Mandy Case recites her vows in March 2013, her bridesmaids will stand beside her in above-the-knee yellow and blue dresses with cowboy boots.
The 26-year-old elementary school teacher has booked a renovated dairy barn in Fort Mill, S.C., for the ceremony, so the rustic attire seemed fitting. Yellow and blue are the colors of Fort Mill High School, where Case and her fiance met.
After last spring's British royal wedding, the bridal industry was watching for a possible "Pippa Middleton effect" after Kate Middleton's sister turned heads in a show-stopper of a gown. Website fashionista.com declared Pippa's ivory satin-based crepe column dress with cowl neck and cap sleeves "the first bridesmaid dress that anyone ever wanted to knock off."
In response, bridal boutiques rush-ordered replica Pippa dresses. But the replica dresses didn't sell. What store owners learned, they say, is that brides want to set their own trends on their big day. Individualism, a strong trend in the past few seasons, seems to trump the celebrity wedding effect.
The bottom line is it's almost anything goes when it comes to bridal party fashion. Bridesmaids are no longer limited to the floor-length jewel-toned satin gowns with matching hairdos, shoes and jewelry.
"The one rule is that every bridesmaid should be in a dress that flatters them and that they like," said Carrie Goldberg, assistant fashion editor for Martha Stewart Weddings magazine. "There's more of a focus on working with a palate than working with the same color. Not every color flatters every girl in the bridal party."
Buyer Lucie Winters of A Bridal World in Raleigh, N.C., said that while there are "no major no-nos" brides need to heed when picking out attendants' attire, there are several hot trends.
Shorter dresses are big now for bridesmaids -- "short has exploded," she said -- and more brides are letting their attendants pick out their own dress style, so long as they stay within the same designer and color scheme.
Dresses with pockets are popular.
But for all the democracy a bride may want to offer her attendants, Vicki Jeffries of the Gastonia, N.C., boutique Poffie Girls reminds us that there is still one simple rule: Bridesmaids should never outshine -- or overrule -- the bride.
"She is the center of attention, and they are her court."
Story tags » Fashion

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