The Frock Finder
Stacey Kraft on how to say “yes” to the dresses you want and “no” to the bridesmaid drama.
No bridal party is too high-maintenance for Flair Brides & Maids owner Stacey Kraft, whose fascination with weddings started when she was just old enough to be a flower girl. After spending two years as a consultant at Flair, the California native jumped at the opportunity to buy the business in June 2012—the same month she got married herself. “Since I’ve just been through the wedding-planning process,” she says, “brides feel like I understand what they are going through—and I do.”
Her secret weapon? A degree in psychology from UMass Lowell, which comes in handy when tackling body issues, defusing bridal disasters, and pacifying fussy ’maids. “We tend to do a little bit of therapy in here,” she says with a laugh.
Is it a good idea to bring all 12 of your bridesmaids to an appointment?
No. We usually tell girls with bigger bridal parties to bring their maid of honor and one or two bridesmaids to the first appointment to get an idea. It can be extremely overwhelming if you bring everyone in at once. It’s a lot of opinions, and sometimes the bride’s opinion gets stifled. Have the rest of the girls come in for a second appointment so they can do fittings, try on, and even choose their dresses—but narrow the selection down without them.
How should brides deal with picky bridesmaids?
Carefully. Keep everybody’s body-image issues in mind—understand that they are your friends, they are your family, and remember that we all have something we don’t love about ourselves. Playing up their best assets and making them feel good about themselves is important. It’s a delicate balance, and that’s why it’s good for brides to come in alone the first time, or just with a few people.
What if your bridesmaids have drastically different body types?
It’s best for the bride to choose the fabric and a color and then let the girls pick what kind of style fits them.
Do most brides still choose uniform gowns for their ’maids?
It’s probably a 50/50 split, and it’s changing every year. Fifty percent go with everyone in the same dress, and 50 percent let the girls choose between two or three styles, or even a complete range—everyone in something different, same color. I have very few that will do a palette—dresses in several styles and colors.
Are long dresses still in?
We’re definitely seeing a resurgence. I think it has to do with the dates of weddings now. People are having them year round in New England. And if you’re having a winter wedding, it doesn’t really make sense to have your bridal party in short dresses. I did long for my wedding, and that was in the middle of the summer. It’s nice to get dressed up—I think bridesmaids like it. It’s just fun to feel glamorous and red carpet–ish, and long gowns tend to be made of chiffon, which is always a little more flattering—you have more room to hide what you don’t love. But hands down, short is still the most popular.
How many weddings have you been in? What was your favorite dress?
I’ve been in four weddings. One of my friends let us each pick the style and the fabric for our dresses, which were all navy blue. I chose a hammered-satin dress, short and one-shoulder with some pleating at the top, really modern. It would be pretty easy to wear again with a chunky necklace and a bright blazer.
What runway looks are you seeing in bridesmaid wear?
One-shoulder is one of the biggest trends right now because it works on every body type—especially people with big busts. You still get a strap without looking matronly.
Which colors are universally flattering?
Black, navy, dark gray—those are the best and most flattering, and most popular. With these, girls can do so much more with their flowers and decorations. Especially if there are a lot of bridesmaids, we tend to push people more toward neutrals.
Do an attendant’s shoes need to match her dress?
No. I love doing nude shoes with a short dress, or really neutral shoes. It makes girls look skinnier, taller, and keeps the attention on the dress and the girl in it. For longer styles, I suggest doing something fun with a pop of color under the gown.
How much is too much to ask your bridesmaids to spend?
It depends on the wedding, but I think under $300 is totally acceptable. The trend I’ve been seeing lately is brides contributing a little so their bridesmaids can get a nicer dress. I always tell girls: You want what you want. You have to look at these pictures forever. If it ends up costing you 200 bucks in the end but the bridesmaids are in the dresses you love, that’s great.
Can you really wear a bridesmaid dress again? Be honest.
Yes, I swear to God it can happen. If the bride picks a good color, you can 100 percent wear it again. Think about a navy-blue dress—you live in New England. Wear it out to dinner, or on the Cape in the summer. My sister-in-law and I are the same size, luckily, and after my own wedding, I was like, “Okay, I’m going to keep your bridesmaid dress, because I really want to wear that to a wedding.”
Flair Brides & Maids, 10 Newbury St., Boston, 617-247-2828 (by appointment), flairbridesmaid.com.
Stacey Kraft’s pointers for a painless dress hunt.
Avoid Store Overload
Visit only two or three boutiques—otherwise, it can get overwhelming. Once you start considering too many options, you’ll lose your original vision.
Have an idea of what you want. Bring pictures, folders with cutouts from magazines, or images from your Pinterest page.
Choose Your Dress First
Buy your gown before you shop for the bridesmaids’ attire (and bring a picture of it to the appointment). You want everybody to look like part of the same wedding.
Order bridesmaid dresses six to eight months before the wedding to allow time for alterations.