In our latest column, "Ask a Fashionista," you can solicit our strongly held opinions on everything from how to wear a midi skirt without looking like a tree stump to whether a certain retail CEO should go ahead and resign already.
Q: I'm at that age where all my friends are getting married -- I'm in three weddings this year alone. I love my friends, and I'm happy to be a part of their big days, but those dresses aren't coming cheap. How can I get my money's worth out of them? —Bethany, Los Angeles, CA
A: Ah, the bridesmaid's dress -- it's got quite the bad rap! And when you're dropping $200+ on a dress, you definitely want to be able to wear it more than once. We hopped on the phone with Rachel Leonard, fashion director of Brides magazine, to get her tips and tricks on recycling that pricey getup.
The first option, of course, is just to re-style it with clothes already in your closet. "If it was a strapless dress and you wanted to wear it to the office, you could put a cropped sweater over it," Leonard suggests. A floaty chiffon dress could become date night material with a cool moto jacket; a cotton style gets a weekend makeover with a jean jacket and sandals.
Next, you could take it back to the tailor (round two, if you had it fitted!) or alter it yourself if you're skilled in that area. Long dresses can be shortened, necklines can be tweaked, and if you've got a sheath dress, you could have it turned into a skirt.
If you just really, truly hate the dress, sell it. "There's several websites, like Tradesy.com, WoreItOnce.com, and NearlyNewlywed.com," Leonard says. "You can get back some of your hard-earned money and feel better about spending money on a bridesmaid's dress."
And finally, if you're feeling charitable, consider donating the dress. If you know it's just going to languish in the back of your closet, it's better that it end up with someone who can use it. Leonard recommends organizations like The Princess Project and Donate My Dress, which give prom dresses to girls who can't otherwise afford them.
For brides looking to make this easier on their bridesmaids, Leonard suggests picking a color from a brand and letting each woman pick her own style -- companies like J.Crew are great for this. "And keep the colors fairly neutral," she says. "Black, navy or any kind of dark color is easier to wear again than going with a raw color or a bright color."