How to Repurpose a Bridesmaid Dress

I believe that we should feel perfectly free to wear everything all the time, and that includes our fancies. Why should our best, spendiest, and potentially most gorgeous items languish unworn? The dress above is vintage, lined with silk, and made entirely from bright red lace. Not something that could pass for work wear? I beg to differ! Throw on a few casual accessories and it’s 100% office-friendly.

To help me further prove this point, the wonderful folks at Flutter Boutique here in Minneapolis lent me a few dresses to play around with.* Flutter’s selection is absolutely mouthwatering, people. Simple, chic frocks in a rainbow of lush colors and sumptuous fabrics. Now, I’ll admit that all three of these dresses are pretty minimal, and might be able to pass for workwear on their own … but since they’re all made from slightly shiny silk shantung and have darned fancy necklines, I’d wager they’d turn a few heads worn solo.

So! Here are my recommendations for dressing down a bridesmaid dress:

FROCK 1

Here’s our first victim, worn alone. It’s a stunning silk sheath with a flattering crossover neckline. And a plunging one at that! This dress is by a company called Simple Silhouettes, and dang, I want everything from their line.


Throw on a bolero sweater to cover up that plunge, and add a kicky scarf and tall boots for a sassy-but-modest ensemble. I’ve matched my bolero to the dress here, but a contrasting color would work just as well!

For an even more modest look, try a blazer. Tuck a longer scarf into the blazer’s opening and add a funky brooch for interest. Tall boots complete the look.

FROCK 2

My, my, isn’t that a lovely dress? Those elegant straps, the fitted bodice, the rich color … I drool. Plus it’s got pockets! Also by Simple Silhouettes.

Add a cardigan in a similarly rich tone and t-straps to match for a fancy-but-fun work look.  A bold necklace is the cherry on top!

Or if you REALLY want to dress it down, layer a straight-silhouette shirt dress on top and belt it. You can barely tell that it’s a formal dress under there, am I right? Yet that rich color and gorgeous fabric still peek through.

FROCK 3

This glorious red dress is clearly the fanciest of the three, with its slightly-off-the-shoulder straps and ruched waist. Worn alone with matching pumps, it looks wedding-ready. This lovely is by designer Jenny Yoo.

A patterned cardigan makes the perfect foil to all that fance. Chunky jewelry and simple peep-toes polish off the look.

Or for something more on the arty-funky side, pick a blazer in a contrasting bright, matching pumps, and a colorful statement necklace.

So! Let’s review your arsenal of dress-down tools:

  1. Cardigans
  2. Boleros
  3. Blazers
  4. Straight-cut shirt dresses
  5. Tall boots (works best for above-the-knee dresses)
  6. Scarves
  7. Casual belts
  8. Fun brooches
  9. Statement necklaces
  10. Chunky jewelry – bracelets, earrings, necklaces in fun shapes and bold sizes

Will these techniques work on a strapless, floor-length chiffon gown encrusted with sequins and beading? No, they won’t. I’ll grudgingly admit that there are a few items that simply cannot be dressed down, and I’m sure a few of you lovely readers have bridesmaid or special-occasion frocks hanging in your closet that no cardigan will transform. But simply cut dresses in solid colors – be they abandoned bridesmaid frocks, cocktail dresses, or general special occasion garments – CAN be made to look utterly appropriate for everyday wear.

Huge thanks to Flutter Boutique for loaning me these aaahhhhmaazing dresses! Oh, how I wish I could’ve kept them all …

Disclosure: I was not given any of these dresses to keep, and returned them to Flutter once my review was completed. CMP.ly/0

  • La Historiadora de Moda

    Fortunately, the last few weddings I've stood up in, I've been able to pick my own dress. I love the "just wear a black dress" that a lot of brides and grooms have been going with lately, as being in a wedding can be an expensive proposition.

  • Carrie

    oooh, seroiusly yummy looks – esp. the red lace and the blue crossover neckline! I don't think I've worn a dress since I got married (how sad – the part about not wearing a dress in decades, not the getting married part, lol) but every time I read your blog I want to immediately go out and start trying on a bunch until I find the one I love!

  • Allie

    Great post – I agree, you should be able to wear anything any time. And right now it's on trend to wear "evening" fabrics during the day, so these looks not only look cute but are trendy too!

    The last wedding I was in, the bride said full length and black, but I could choose the dress. I got a black matte jersey maxi dress that I wore to her wedding with silk kitten heels and dramatic jewelry, and then wore a few months later to a casual wedding with gold gladiator sandals and hoops. I even wore to a backyard party with leather flip flops and a turquoise necklace.

    Oh Carrie, do get yourself a dress, I used to be a pants only gal (even thought I would wear pants on my wedding day) but once I found a dress silhouette that flattered, I started wearing pants less and less because I found dresses so fab! :)

  • Meli22

    This is absolutely genious, Sal. I can't freaking believe how great these dresses look- both for a special occasion AND work wear! I LOVE the variety of looks you can get from them! This probably will give me an excuse to get a dress I have been dying for forever (and have had a hard time justifying, other than for wedding wear lol)! I need to bookmark this post, seriously. Thank you! : )

  • Laurelann

    Thanks for the tips! I love those dresses and combinations more than some of my personal work wear. Now I suddenly feel the need to purchase a special occasion dress… just to dress it down.

    http://one-girl-vs-world.blogspot.com

  • Cecilia

    I loved how you styled the dresses to be able to wear them more often than just at a wedding. Because, seriously, we only really wear the same dress to a dressy event a few times at best, before everyone you know recognizes them. Dressing them down for everyday wear makes them more cost effective! But what I'm seriously drooling over are those light boots with the light blue dress. And how cute is it that your t-straps perfectly showcase your north star? Coincidence? I thinking that it's not!

  • bubu

    Great ideas! I have fewer bridesmaids dresses (and the ones I do are floor length) but an endless array of cocktail dresses, mostly black (often bought for weddings), that I am seeing now I can definitely put to better use as office wear.

  • eek

    Fun post!

  • Future Lint

    How fun! It's like playing dress-up! These are all cute looks, I unfortunately have been the maid of honor in two weddings and neither of them can be worn again… guh.

  • Work With What You’ve Got

    So impressive, Sal! You are really so very talented at re-mixing things. (psssst. I am totally wearing a party dress at work rightthissecond. With moto boots.)

  • gina

    Lovely looks, all. Great suggestions!

  • Mrs.M in MI

    I have the J. Crew Bow Monde dress and, though I haven't worn it this way to my fairly casual office, I do put a pencil skirt and cardigan over it and wear it as a very fancy top. It's a good solution for all those "festive" holiday parties!

  • Psyche

    How inspiring! I have an overpriced bridesmaid dress that is calling for this kind of repurposing.

  • Jenny

    Gosh, I love ALL these looks! I have always liked the iconic Carolina Herrera button-down-and-ballgown-skirt look; seems to me that if you re-accessorized and wore a more casual (but still long) skirt, you could make it work for the office.

  • rb

    Personally, I think you should get that darker blue dress and wear it all the time with that purple cardigan. It's gorgeous and fits you perfectly. And did you say it has pockets??

  • Fabuliss

    Hi Sally! Great dresses and great ideas for mixing them up to be functional past the wedding.

    –Sasha

  • Kelly

    Thanks Sal! I constantly struggle with dressing things down – just in general, it's not a bridesmaid-dress-specific problem for me! I will definitely remember these suggestions next time I'm standing in front of my closet!

  • Daily Joy

    That second dress is GORGEOUS!

    thanks for the tips, they're super helpful.

  • Nubby Tongue

    Great tips! Who would have thunk a scarf and cardi could tone a look down so much? An item on my "List" is to learn how to wear dresses and not look "dressy". I love the way they fit and the femininity but for some reason i always feel overdone in them. =/

  • The Raisin Girl

    I beg to differ on the last part! Anything really can be dressed down. Work-appropriate? Maybe not. But take it from someone who's worn a floor-length, sequin-encrusted ball gown with a black leather jacket and Converse tennis shoes…or just kitten-heeled flip-flops and a denim jacket…it can be done!

    I of course given the credit for this idea to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie.

  • Lucy Starcrest

    Amazing! I would never have thought these would work so well. I especially love the blue sheath/blazer combo.

  • orchidsinbuttonholes

    Brilliant post, Sal! The thing about bridesmaid dresses is that they're usually very basic and simple and very not "look at what I'm wearing!" But in all of these remixes, you've brought quirk and style and sass to those basic dresses, and made them very you. If you had just posted any one of these Sal-ified looks, I would not have thought you were wearing a bridesmaid dress. Inspirational – thank you!

  • Almost 40

    Beautiful, Sweet Sal! If only I was allowed to wear bridesmaid dresses that were THAT fabulous! Not a chance. I got stuck with not so awesome floral chintz and a navy blue flowy thing. Oh well! Great ideas though!

  • becky f.

    These are great looks! And those are all gorgeous dresses.
    My bridesmaid dresses are not so easily adapted, I don't think. Part of the problem with my most recent — a beautiful blue (sort of like the deep blue featured here) taffeta — is the giant bow that ties in the back, and I have a hard time imagining how to ever wear it again when it has such an obviously bridesmaid-y detail.

  • Lorena

    I totally agree you should be able to wear things anywhere you want to, plus get your moneys worth.
    Its a fabulous idea to dress them down… you are a genius !

  • Ann M.

    Gorgeous post and I love the idea of dressing down fancy clothes to integrate them into the every day wardrobe.

  • Suzanne Sergis @ TCOYou.com

    Sal, this should be one of your Top 10 "I did it and so can you" kind of posts. I know we don't all have your fabulous creativity and shopping skills (to obtain all of the other pieces that really made these transformations into WOW!) but it still seriously inspired me to think beyond.

    Just yesterday I lamented that I have nothing fancy enough to wear to a work event coming up this month. I just don't. Now I'm daydreaming of going through some charity stores in the area and not only looking at the dress as it is but also as what can it become if layered or accessorized! Thanks so much for the fun inspiration. What timing! :-)

  • Luca

    that second blue dress looks so AMAZING on you, that i actually gasped out loud. you should seriously consider stealing it:)

  • fashion herald

    Love this, what a great idea and adorable results!

  • Emma at Daily Clothes Fix

    Great post. Strapless dresses can also be dressed down by adding a T-shirt or shirt underneath. I've done that a few times with a black cocktail dress (like this: http://dailyclothesfix.blogspot.com/2010/08/dressing-up-is-new-dressing-down.html)

  • melina bee

    wow, love your blog and agree with you 100% that you should wear anything anytime. (linked here from elegant musings).
    however, I have to point out that these bridesmaids dresses are all pretty cute, esp the red one. Most of the ones I've seen are just atrocious, ssooo long and old-fashioned. what's up with that? what is one to do with such a garment besides submit it to project runway?

  • cailean

    Wow, these are great! In the version with the blazer, what are those grey boots? What brand, etc.? Thanks!

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      Diesel Go-go. They are from 2009 and no longer available, but sometimes show up on eBay.

  • http://deecay.blogspot.com/2012/06/no-traditional-chinese-handwriting.html Jaime

    Great info. Lucky me I ran across your site by accident (stumbleupon).
    I have saved as a favorite for later!