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How To Rent Bridesmaid Dresses


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by Maddie Eisenhart, Managing Editor

If there’s one thing the internet has done well for weddings, it’s making the bridesmaid dress shopping experience a little less painless. As little as three or four years ago, before the blogs and Pinterest, bridesmaid dresses were long satin things you bought at David’s Bridal and they all matched, except one probably had a special sash. And while this setup is totally fine, not having many other options if that wasn’t your bag, well, kind of sucked. So when the internet re-introduced the idea of mismatched wedding dresses or letting bridesmaids choose their own dresses, it seemed like we’d stumbled on the perfect, lazy, laid-back answer to the overly fraught process of dressing our friends. And yet, what I’ve learned from observing your wedding planning process these past few years, is that too much freedom, strangely, can make a large group of people feel very anxious (who else is always the person worried they didn’t read the memo right?)

Enter Little Borrowed Dress, the happy medium. Longtime APW sponsor Little Borrowed Dress specializes in rented bridesmaid dresses. Which means that for as low as $50, you can get a bridesmaid dress that fits, that matches everyone else, and that you don’t have to hang in your closet for years pretending you’re going to wear again. And because LBD’s styles can be mixed and matched within the same fabric and color, you can even do mismatched bridesmaid dresses, but with a little more reassurance than “Wear what you want” would permit.

But the real magic of Little Borrowed Dress (other than the price, and the selection of dresses, and everything else about them) is that the process of actually renting a dress from Little Borrowed Dress might just be the easiest part of wedding planning outside of deciding you love your partner forever. Here’s how it goes:

  • First, choose your dresses. Since Little Borrowed Dress isn’t one of those sites that requires you to sign up before browsing (because, no thank you), you can tweet or pin your favorite dresses and crowdsource your wedding party for opinions. In the meantime, feel free to order a free fabric swatch to make sure you’re getting the color you want.
  • Next, try it on! (Or don’t!) Little Borrowed Dress has a showroom in NYC if you want to try on their dresses. But if you’re not local, don’t worry, because Little Borrowed Dress includes a backup size in every order they send out.
  • Then place your reservation online and wait for your dresses to arrive. They’ll be there two weeks before the wedding, professionally cleaned and ready to go!
  • Dance the night away.
  • Drop your dress in the mail using the prepaid envelope provided by Little Borrow Dress and never think about it again.

See? Too easy. Plus, Little Borrowed Dress designs are created with the express purpose of fittings lots of shapes and sizes, so if you’re worried that your diverse group of ladies aren’t going to look good in these styles, rest assured (I actually just photographed a wedding a few weeks ago and was really impressed with how one dress looked totally different and totally awesome on two very different women. Ladies with boobs? These dresses have a boob panel. All I’m saying.) And because of the way that the dresses are made (to be a little more flexible in fit) Little Borrowed Dress is a great option for bridesmaids who are pregnant or might become pregnant during the planning process (a circumstance the ladies at LBD told me they hear about all the time.)

Little Borrowed Dress founder Corie let me in on a the secret that if you’re thinking of doing your bridesmaids dresses through Little Borrowed Dress for your fall wedding, be sure to book now because their calendar is filling up fast. So get to it!

All photos by Elizabeth Messina

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  • http://www.PlumPrettySugar.com PlumPrettySugar

    Thank you for sharing! Adore!
    xo
    http://www.plumprettysugar.blogspot.com

  • MOE

    these dresses are really fabulous, and flatter everyone. all of my bridesmaids including the well-endowed ones looked great. when one of the girls had questions about what size to order she simply made a quick phone call to LBD and had her questions answered quickly.

  • http://www.smittenchickens.com SarahHoppes

    I was just in a wedding and am still a twinge sad we didn’t use LBD.

    Our dresses were a total pain from beginning to end -getting fitted, paying a lot to order them, then paying for shipping, then going back for expensive alterations. And they still never fit quite right and were clearly of really poor quality because they started ripping and fraying before the day was half over. The traditional process of getting bridesmaids’ dresses really, really sucks.

    Being able to rent them, adjust them without alterations, and drop them in the mail sounds like the best idea EVER.

    • Maddie

      I just want to give a shout out to the adjustability. I was recently shooting a wedding, and one of the bridesmaids was unsure if her LBD dress looked good on her. I gave it a few tugs here and there and it looked AWESOME. You really can adjust them super easily to fit.

  • Lindsay

    perfect timing! i’ve been slightly stressing about needing to buy a purple dress for my friend’s wedding at the end of september, and this post reminded me that LBD exists and can save me! woohoo, thanks APW….as always, you guys are the best :)

  • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

    This still makes me extremely nervous, to rely on this without trying it on in advance.

    I think I’m a size. But what if I’m really bigger and it’s too small. Or really smaller and it’s too big. Or if the chest is too big and the butt is too small at the same time because I’m a super-pear-shaped lady?!

    The idea of relying on something arriving a couple days before a wedding and me going into it with no idea how it fits would give me night terrors.

    • ANOTHER MEG

      I’m having my ladies wear these, and one of the reasons is that they send you 2 sizes. So if you think you’re a medium, but maybe a large, they will send you both. And if it turns out you’re a small, and another bridesmaid has an extra of that, you can use it. You just cut off the tag of the one you’re actually wearing, and let them know. BAM.

      • Maddie

        What Another Meg said. Also, we used them for a photo shoot with APW with basically the same concerns and it all worked out better than we could have expected (and that was with pregnant Meg too). That said, they also make sure the dresses get there two weeks early, so you’ll know more than a few days in advance if there’s trouble. That’s a HUGE plus for me.

      • http://spaceysteph.blogspot.com Stephanie

        I suppose it does help that there are only like 5 sizes, cuts down on your chance of being really off the mark. I probably can commit to being between a size 8 and size 14 better than I could commit to a smaller range.

    • Stalking Sarah

      And what if it fits, but my bra totally shows through the side arm holes?

      • Emily

        Safety pins & double stick tape! Also each size is a range – ie 0-2, 4-6, 8-10, so you’re really getting in two dresses the range of 4 store sizes.

  • http://teastrumpets.wordpress.com/ kyley

    If they had black, I would *totally* get the Hillary Jane or the Julie Elizabeth for a wedding I’m in in October.

    • Kirstin

      Agree!

      I was just about to pass this on to the women standing up in my wedding as an option, but there aren’t any black dresses. Sad.

      I wonder if it is because black dresses are pretty easy to find outside of the wedding industry?

  • Stalking Sarah

    I have to say, I absolutely love this business concept and the whole process, but…

    I’m still really unsure about how some of these styles would look on MY body. And I’m not confident enough to commit to something I might not like at all. I wish that LBD had more pictures of each dress, on a variety of body types — perhaps hourglass, “plus” sized, larger on bottom, larger on top, etc. (Maybe with some information on those women’s measurements?)

    Would also be a great opportunity to stray from the mostly-white, traditionally-sized models currently being used. Can we get a woman of color or someone with a dykey haircut or something?

    • Hintzy

      I have similar feelings – being able to see better how versatile the dresses might be is valuable. For me it’s especially because my ladies have put their collective foot down on being able to wear a bra with straps, and I totally 100% support and agree with them on that. Unfortunately none of the designs available will allow for a non-strapless bra and so much as I love the concept, that’s that.

    • Alyssa

      I have a happily homo “alternative lifestyle haircut” and am wearing one of these in September for a wedding! Because I sure as hell don’t need to own a floor length navy blue dress, thanks. I’m hoping it turns out well, but even if it’s not *perfect* on me no floor length navy blue bridesmaid dress was ever going to be. I would also appreciate some more photos and more model diversity though. That would have helped my ordering process. But in the end, still way better than paying more for a dress I don’t want! Maybe I’ll send LBD a photo and they’ll post it on fb or something.

    • meg

      They’re working on it, but let me lay it on the line for you guys: they’re a small business, and all of the things that you’re asking for are things they really want to do, but are really expensive. IE, we’re all used to huge retail conglomerates with tons of cash, who make things in non-ethical dirt cheap ways, and are able to provide all of these things. LBD is owned by one woman, and is ethically making all of their dresses in NYC (way more expensive), in small batches (way way more expensive). So, the deal is are, that the R&D needed to create sizes for more body types, and particularly plus sized body types, is actually very pricey. (Size development for Plus Sized bodies is famously the hardest and most expensive thing in the business.) Corie really wants to do it, but she has to grow to that point to make it possible, and she has to know there is demand in that area (because you can’t make these choices based on hopes, or you’ll bankrupt yourself).

      So, I just want to point out that the things that we ask for are not always feasible for small businesses, and we’re used to operating in a world where things are not ethically made, and companies are not ethically run, and there is more disposable income because of it.

      As for diversity of models, I think that’s a great point, particularly on model diversity. To add some of the complications to that, I’ll will give you this: I’m sure Corie is working with her limited resources to try to create photoshoots that she feels are going to appeal to the widest variety of her potential customers, and it does become a little bit of a chicken and an egg situation. If you want people with dykey haircuts, but you’re not going to be a customer because you don’t have what you need, it can be really complicated as a business owner to figure out how to allocate resources if you can’t get the customers in the door.

      So that’s some of the back story for you to consider. Running a small business is terrifically difficult, and the realities of the cash flow you need to run a business ethically, sadly don’t always match what people would like your business to be. I deal with that every day.

      • Jess

        I get the plus size thing, I do, I really do. But I do wish that they had at least one style that didn’t require a strapless bra! Strapless bras are torturous for me and cost tons of money in my size. I think that another style with thick enough straps to accommodate a normal bra would be easier and cheaper to do than plus sizes.

        Otherwise, I love this concept!

    • meg

      Edited to add: LBD totally does have ethnic diversity in their photoshoots, it was 100% our bad for not including those photos here. I think we were selecting for photos we hadn’t used before on the site.

      • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

        These responses are both great. Especially because I remember seeing more diverse models in the past. (PS. I’m not sure if their vendor page has been updated with all the times they’ve been featured here. Ie, I don’t remember which photoshoot Meg was pregnant for.)

      • Maddie

        I just wanted to chime in and say this is *exactly* what happened. I actually had a lengthy conversation with myself about it when putting together the post because I REALLY wanted to feature an ethnically diverse set of models, but ultimately sided with showcasing dresses and colors we haven’t used in previous posts (and making sure there were enough photos of a particular color to put together this post editorially the way I did (i.e. there was only one “dancing” photo in the set, so I was kind of stuck there.)

        But it is totally something we think about, and that we think about often. Not always to perfect results, of course.

  • Class of 1980

    I love the way that dress in number 4 is configured in the back!

  • theemilyann

    Oh my gosh I love LBD. I cannot wait to use their dresses at my wedding next May! My girls are super excited too!

  • Bubbles

    I would *love* to use LBD, but a couple of my girls are plus-sized, and LBD only goes up to a size 18. I’m certainly not going to ask anyone I love to lose weight for my wedding, so LBD is out, sadly.

    • ANOTHER MEG

      Here’s what I did, your mileage might vary:

      I picked four colors from LBD, hooked up my ladies with the site, and let them know that they can get swatches and just match a dress if they didn’t like what LBD had.

      I know at least one of my sisters ordered the swatches and is taking them to her fall-back place for good dresses since she didn’t think what was available would work for her.

      • Bubbles

        I’d like to do that, but I almost feel like that’s punishing my ladies for their bodies, you know? Like, “Oh, you don’t fit this particular societal standard of beauty, so you have to go through the trouble (and expense) of finding something that works for you. Everyone else can take it easy, though!”

        It’s fully possible that that’s just a result of my brain being a jerk, though. When the time comes, I may run that idea by them.

        • ANOTHER MEG

          No, I kind of agree with you. My sister’s main issue was just that she didn’t like the type of dresses and wanted to go more vintage-y, not that they didn’t have her size. Hmmm…

    • meg

      I left a comment above explaining a little bit about why they don’t have plus sized dresses yet, though they want to. Just in case you’re interested!

      • Bubbles

        Thanks so much! My wedding isn’t for some time yet, and I really super-hope that LBD can add some plus-sized styles before then. I adore the concept, the dresses, everything! I just don’t want to make any of my favorite people feel bad about themselves, you know?

  • SJ

    I’m thrilled to be using LBD for my wedding next May! My girls almost fell over when I explained the process…particularly the one who wanted us to spend hundreds on a formal gown we could wear once. Who feels like a sane bride? <—this gal!

  • Elizabeth

    I can’t wait to use little borrowed dress for my wedding next June! All of my maids love the idea, as well as everyone else I’ve told. My mom also loves it, the first time that she’s immediately liked an idea I’ve had about the wedding.

  • E

    I looked into dress rentals, but my maids ended up buying dresses of their own choosing within a color scheme (or using their own dress). The average they spent was $46, and the median was $24. It was actually some effort to make sure the dresses would look good together, but in the end it looked so perfect, effortless, and the maids all have already worn their dresses again.

    LBD is probably easier but not necessarily cheaper or prettier. But easier can be worth it.

    • ANOTHER MEG

      Amen. I have 14 women to please, and DAAAAMMMMNNNNN is that difficult.

      I tried doing the whole just get whatever you want in this color scheme and was met with cries of too much choice! Then I tried picking one dress but everyone had vastly different price points. Then I was told it didn’t matter, they’d never wear it again because they’d always associate it with our wedding. Sweet, but useless…And one person is only cool with this because she can get a swatch and use it to pick out her own dress from wherever she wants.

      UGH. As long as they aren’t naked and no one else yells at me, I really don’t care anymore.

      Bonus- I think it’s actually going to look pretty cute.

    • meg

      I will say, however, with LBD you’re paying for ethically made clothes. With $24, for sure those were made in terrible conditions in the third world. Now, all of us have cheap clothes made in the third world (sadly), but often we don’t have options for other things. With LBD you do. But I want to make sure we’re not comparing appels and oranges on prices. Those dresses are cheap because people were paid $0.10 an hour to make them. These are less so, because they were made paying people a living wage in the US.

      And LBD is super pretty. I’ve worn them, so I can say that :)

  • Jess

    I am a lady with boobs, but I have no idea what a boob panel is?

    Also I desperately want to be a bridesmaid in a wedding that uses LBD!! I love the whole concept & just SO pretty!

    • Amy March

      I’m wondering the same thing?

  • Daisy6564

    I love, love, love (LOVE) this idea. I am dead set on making this process easy and cheap for my bridesmaids. This seems like such a perfect idea, and so in line with my values of conservation and financial responsibility.

    That said, I don’t like the dresses (there I said it). When I first heard of this I spent 30 minutes on the website going from style to style trying to make one of them work for me. I don’t like chiffon or pastels/earth tones. The dresses are very one style (J Crew Lite?), which I’m sure allows them to be mixed and matched well, and adjusted easily, but if that’s not your style then they’re not for you.

    I finally decided that it was ridiculous of me to try and pick dresses I don’t like just because I love the concept. I realize, as Meg said above, that they are a small company just starting out so they can’t have all the options yet. Any chance LBD might roll out a more structured line in jewel tones by next spring?

  • Emily

    I need to add another big YAY for Little Borrowed Dress! I used them for my 6/15 wedding and couldn’t have been happier. The dresses got so many compliments. Here’s a pic!
    https://fbcdn-sphotos-f-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/999671_932801815558_2071786080_n.jpg

    One recommendation would be to bring safety pins and double stick tape – just in case. We made minor adjustments. Everything was on time, the staff is super responsive. Some of my bridesmaids tried on in NYC, some did not. All good. I am wearing LBD for a wedding in August!

  • Karla

    I LOVE the concept. I have two bridesmaids dresses that while I adored getting an enjoyed wearing for the weddings I was in, they’re just sitting in my closet. Being able to rent them and having them hand made by someone and not being made by someone making .5 a day is wonderful.

    I’ll definitely pass this on.

    I’m hoping to use LBD for my Oct 14 wedding and hopefully they will have plus sizes then. If not, may just order the ones that are available and find something for my plus sized bridesmaid.

    Thanks for sharing :)

  • Helen

    I wish there was something like this for wedding gowns. I have no emotional attachment to a gown as a keepsake, I just like to wear something awesome. I’d pay handsomely for a single wear of some beady-sequiny thing

  • Zoe

    LBD is amazing! My bridesmaids actually gave me a little pushback on going with them because they were super nervous about going with dresses they couldn’t try on first. The dresses came in the mail this week (actually almost three weeks before the wedding!), and they look phenomenal.

    Seriously, use LBD. Do you really need another stressful thing right now? I didn’t think so.

  • Anjali

    I can’t even get over how glad I am that a company like LBD exists (and how glad I am that they custom make all their dresses in the US!), and I’m hopeful that by the time I’m ready to get married, the plus-size thing might not be an issue anymore :) They seem like a really, really rad company!