The Bridesmaid Buff: Brittan Brilly of Bella Boston

Brittan Brilly on the most flattering styles, ’maid drama, and why the bride shouldn’t always be in charge.

Photographs by Jim Brueckner. Hair and makeup by Laura Dillon.

When Brittan Brilly’s friend Kelly tied the knot several years ago, Brilly never imagined that her pal’s struggle to find suitable dresses for her ’maids would be the catalyst to starting her own business.

Brilly had heard of Bella Bridesmaids, a national chain of franchises, and told the Chicago-based bride she’d stop by the Boston outpost to have a look. There was just one problem—there was no Boston outpost. So the former account manager took it upon herself to bring the store here, opening a location in the Back Bay in October 2009. Now Bella Boston welcomes as many as 30 bridal parties per day to sift through sophisticated gowns from such designers as Hayley Paige, Theia, and Monique Lhuillier. “Bridesmaids dresses have come a long way since I started,” Brilly says. “It’s really neat to see how every bride makes them their own.”

“Bridesmaids are brought to an appointment for a reason, so it’s totally okay for them to be honest.”

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How far in advance should you start shopping for bridesmaid gowns?

A year out is ideal, and eight months ahead of the wedding is a great time to order. It gives everybody plenty of time to address anything unexpected when the dresses come in. Check it off early—it’s expensive to be a bridesmaid! When you figure it out way in advance, the dress is already paid for and you don’t have to worry about it.

Any advice for choosing styles that are flattering on everyone, regardless of skin tone or body type?

Ask the stylist! We know which dresses in the store look great on everybody. Let us show you, because we’ve seen the dresses on, not just online or on Pinterest. And there are a lot of really good options that do work for many different figures.

So what looks can’t you go wrong with?

There’s not one perfect style. We have a Monique Lhuillier dress that we call the “magic dress”—it works on everybody. Amsale has another silhouette that has this interesting inverted-V neckline. We keep those dresses in sizes 6 through 22. If you want everyone in one dress, we’re going to make it happen so they look really good.

What’s trending in bridesmaid dresses right now?

We’re seeing blues and deep reds. We’re also seeing more mix-and-match—lots of different textures, fabrics, beading, and sequins—as well as fitted silhouettes.

Speaking of trendy: Does a bridesmaid dress need to be timeless, or is it okay if it’s a little more fashion-forward?

I think it’s okay to be trendy. You want to look back and be like, “I loved that dress at that time!”

What are common issues that bridal parties run into during appointments?

I think our biggest challenges come when somebody can’t get something specific out of their head that may or may not exist. Also, everyone not speaking up as much as they should, which kind of sounds contradictory to “the bride’s always in charge.” But the bridesmaids are brought to an appointment for a reason, so it’s totally okay for them to be honest.

How do you deal with power struggles among friends?

Ultimately, we feel like it’s up to the bride to make the final call on something and we’ll always side with her, but we will do our best to try to present both sides. For example, we had a bride select one dress for everyone to wear, and then a bridesmaid came in and said she was going to be pregnant. In that case, we actually reached out to the bride directly, because the bridesmaid didn’t want to make an issue of it, but her alterations were going to be an expensive situation. We gave the bride immediate options that we felt would not look much different than the existing dress. So, you know, we always have everyone’s best interest in mind. I’ve been a bridesmaid 13 times, believe it or not, and most of them were before I had this store. So we put ourselves in everyone’s shoes and try to handle it the right way. We don’t want to sell a dress just because we can sell a dress.

Is it a good idea for the maid of honor to choose a different style?

Totally! There are so many cool options to do that, whether it’s a different neckline, a beaded sash that we can add to a dress, or sequins.

Tell us about some of your favorite designers.

We just got Jenny Yoo here in our store in Boston, and the excitement that’s bringing is great. I’ve also always been a big fan of LulaKate. She’s a designer from South Carolina who makes more of your preppier, classic, short dresses—not a ton of what you’re seeing anymore, but she actually just came out with this really gorgeous high-low skirt that is so fun. What else am I loving? Amsale’s palette is probably one of the best because they have so many different fabrications and colors and prints, so you can create the coolest mix-and-match look.

What should bridesmaids have on hand on the big day to address any wardrobe emergencies?

With certain styles, we always say have some two-sided tape just in case. But you really shouldn’t need anything as long as you have your undergarments and your accessories ready to go.

715 Boylston St., Boston, 617-424-7231,


Brittan Brilly shares her no-fail solutions to common bridesmaid conundrums.

PROBLEM: I want my squad to choose different dresses, but they’re all gravitating toward the same style.

SOLUTION: We recommend having them rank their favorite looks using the voting tool in our virtual showroom. You know your bridesmaids and who would be okay with wearing their second choice.

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PROBLEM: My ’maids and I fell in love with a dress, but it’s out of the budget.

SOLUTION: Let’s look at comparable styles that fall within your price range. If the first still wins, we’ll let you know about any group discounts or promotions.

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PROBLEM: I’m overwhelmed by the idea of my enormous bridal party shopping together.

SOLUTION: Schedule a preview appointment so when you do come in with the full group, we already know what you like.

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