Ideas for Informal Bridesmaid Dresses

Amy Hoover
Bride with bridesmaids wearing informal black cocktail dresses

Choose informal bridesmaid dresses to go with an informal bridal gown and casual wedding.

Seasonal Dress Options

The first consideration for any bride is if their bridesmaid dresses will be comfortable. An outdoor wedding in July almost everywhere in the United States will call for a material that is light and airy, such as chiffon. Other lightweight materials for summer include:

  • Silk
  • Organza
  • Shantung
  • Linen
  • Charmeuse
  • Crepe

A wedding in the Northeast in February can be frigid and snowing, so a bridesmaid dress made of a heavy satin is more appropriate. Heavier fabrics that are appropriate for a winter wedding include:

  • Velvet
  • Brocade
  • Faux fur
  • Polyester
  • Velour
  • Cashmere
  • Dupioni

Length of dress matters, too. A tea length dress or short bridesmaid dress looks lovely at a garden outdoor wedding. However, that same dress can look out of place at a Christmas themed wedding or a rigidly formal affair.

Informal Bridesmaid Dress Designs

Choosing informal bridesmaid dresses often means the girls will be able to wear them again. While most formal bridesmaid gowns are floor-length and plain, informal can have different hemlines and often have a patterned design.


Informal dress hemlines can be almost any length you choose. After taking into consideration the various seasons, you can also choose almost any hemline style you like. For example, an informal dress for western themed wedding can have fringe along the hem, or a garden wedding may have a lace hemline.

Asymmetrical, handkerchief, and diagonal hemlines are other popular options for bridesmaid dresses.


Bridesmaid wearing an informal dress at a beach wedding

An informal bridesmaid dress may also have a pattern in the fabric. Patterned dresses can be overbearing, so stick with simple patterns and only a few colors. Common patterns in dress design include:

  • Gingham
  • Stripes
  • Polka dots
  • Florals
  • Plaids
  • Checks
  • Eyelet
  • Butterflies
  • Seersucker

A patterned dress looks excellent when done in combination with simple round or nosegay unique bridesmaid bouquets in one color family.

Bridesmaid's Choice

Another option for informal bridesmaid dresses is to let the girls pick out their own dress. You can dictate as much or as little about the dress as you want. Dresses the 'maids pick themselves should be plain, as having multiple patterns can look busy in bridesmaid photographs.

Common guidelines for letting the girls pick out their own dresses include any of the following:

  • Color(s)
  • Material
  • Length
  • Sleeve (shoulder, spaghetti, strapless)
  • Neckline
  • Designer

If your bridesmaids are all friends, they might be able to shop together and find an informal dress at a department store like Nordstrom or JCPenney. The evening wear and misses/women's sections will have a number of options that can work for an informal wedding.

Let the bridesmaids know that you will retain the final say over the dresses. This way, you can be sure that the dresses all fall within the guidelines.

Pros of Informal Bridesmaid Dresses

Even a more formal bride should consider letting her bridesmaids wear informal dresses. Plain, simple informal looks can be dressed up with a sash, bolero, hairstyle, jewelry, and other accessories. Reasons to let bridesmaids wear informal dresses include:

  • Cost: Informal dresses often cost less than their formal counterparts and is very considerate for bridesmaids who are on a budget.
  • Body Shape: Informal dress choices often offer more fabrics and cuts for women who have hard-to-fit bodies.
  • Future Use: An informal dress, especially ones the bridesmaids had a hand in choosing, will lend themselves to being used at occasions after the wedding.

Bridal Party Looks

Just because a bridesmaid dress is informal does not mean the women in the bridal party will look out of place. Similar bridesmaid hairstyles, classic makeup, and matching jewelry and bouquets are perfect accessories for bringing the entire party together. Bridesmaid shoes that are similarly styled and colored can also help unite the bridal party look.When the women are more informally styled, the men should also follow suit. Instead of a formal tuxedo, the groomsmen may wear matching jackets and dress slacks. Very informal weddings held on the beach or outdoors might call for khaki shorts and matching short-sleeve polo shirts.

Informal bridesmaid dresses are a great alternative to glamorous expensive dresses that will only hang in the closet after the big day. They can also help make the bridesmaids feel more relaxed for photos and at the reception, and show the bride's consideration for her closest friends.

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Ideas for Informal Bridesmaid Dresses