Hillary Thomas, an attorney and real-estate developer who was married in Sagaponack, New York, last June, was drawn to J. Crew’s bridesmaid dresses for another reason: They offer a happy alternative to the so-called identical twins look. She let her attendants pick any style they wanted, as long as it was available in the navy cotton she selected.
The result? Five varying silhouettes, from halter to strapless. One of Thomas’s bridesmaids, Jenya Green, went for a deep V-neck A-line with a satin sash, which she ended up removing. Green says the dress was an easy, obvious choice because it works with her current wardrobe. “It would fit a big range of dressiness. I’d wear it to a casual outdoor wedding or to work with a cardigan,” she notes.
While Liz Burke, a kindergarten teacher, had only two bridesmaids to outfit for her July wedding in Evanston, Illinois, she was faced with a different predicament: finding a dress that would suit both her 36-year-old and 15-year-old sisters. Her solution—a sophisticated strapless style for the older sibling and an Empire-waist ballerina version for the younger, each in chocolate brown silk taffeta. “I needed options, and J. Crew gave me options,” says Burke, who sourced the dresses on the company’s Web site. (They are also available via catalog.)
That said, some brides are fearful of shopping from a photo for such a significant element of their big day and prefer the traditional brick-and-mortar approach to finding bridesmaid dresses. Such women can ask a J. Crew retail associate to order select styles for delivery to a store for try-on, without charge. Others have different shopping issues. Such was the case with Jennifer Anderson, one of 10 attendants in Lea Morrison’s Sun Valley, Idaho, wedding, who tried to place her order on the late side and was told that the light blue cotton item was out of stock. “It became this whole thing, like, ‘Should I tell Lea I can’t get the dress and I’m not going to be in the wedding?’” Anderson recalls. Luckily J. Crew came to her rescue, delivering enough fabric—for free, no less—so she could have the frock made on her own. “They spent a week looking through all the inventory,” she says. “I was very impressed.”
To avoid situations like the one Anderson found herself in, J. Crew offers its Ashley service; clients can e-mail or phone the company’s in-house wedding specialist, Ashley Drinkard, and her team of 23. They create customer profiles for bridal parties while gathering measurements, size and style information and, most important, ensuring orders are ready for the big day.
Though he won’t divulge details, Drexler says he and his team have talked about opening J. Crew’s first bridal atelier on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. But perpetual bridesmaid Anderson isn’t taking any chances. After her close call with that light blue dress, she planned ahead for her latest wedding appearance, in October, when she again wore J. Crew, only this time in the style of her choice. “I ordered eight dresses,” she says, noting that she returned the extra ones once she found the perfect fit. “It was like $2,000 on my credit card, but this time I wasn’t without a dress!”