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But for some brides, the long-standing tradition of uniformed friends is sacrosanct. So much so that's it's become a bridal decree even before the wedding day — just in time for the bachelorette party. That's right: Bachelorette parties with strictly enforced dress codes are now A Thing.
It's been standard practice to purchase and wear matching T-shirts during what the British call "hen nights," but the new trend takes this a step farther with wigs, tutus, shoes, and of course, matching dresses. And not the kind of matching dresses that your Catholic high school would have demanded you wear; for one thing, the fingertip rule is a totally different, and you can't tell Marcy's fiancee anything about the friendly stripper.
We talked to a variety of past and future Bachelorette party attendees about these coordinated outfits. Names have been changed to protect the friends and bridesmaids.
Priya, 28, recently attended her cousin's Miami bachelorette party, which had not one but three occasions requiring a dress code. Aside from the traditional T-shirt-that-says-something-cute-about-the-bride brunch, two nights on the town meant the rest of the party had to dress to make the bride stand out. "One night, we all had to wear a black dress, and the bachelorette was going to be wearing a brightly colored dress," Priya says. "Then, the other night, we had to wear a pink dress, preferably hot pink, or neon, and she would be wearing a metallic dress."
This task wasn't easy for all of Priya's cousin's friends and relations, especially the colorblind member of the party. This woman sent image after image of pink dresses to her friends in advance, only to be told they were emphatically not pink. "After all that, she brought a dress," Priya remembers, "And we were like, 'That's red.'"
"People don't really own pink dresses," Priya points out.
Much like the classic bridesmaid's dress dilemma — "And you can totally wear it again!" said every bride ever — these special getups aren't something partygoers can necessarily get much use out of.
"People don't really own pink dresses," Priya points out. She had a Miami-ready black dress ("I feel like every bachelorette party is in Miami"), but she didn't want to buy a pink one. So she borrowed one instead, "I think most people had to spend at least 100 bucks."
Jessica, 24, says that stepping out of their sartorial comfort zone is part of the point for her sister and her sister's friends, the group of women she'll be going with to — guess where! — Miami later this year. The whole group will be dressing in an homage to their host city, wearing "white dresses with cutouts" to a popular local club. "We're embracing the style of what we think Miami is like," Jessica explains, saying that she does not currently own anything that fits that particular bill.
Jessica is relieved, at least, that the chosen color is white. "It's not like saying like let's all wear pink dresses and it's like what shade of pink?"
While some of her fellow travelers will be getting dresses from Rent the Runway, Jessica plans to hit up Zara or H&M for her outfit, and hopes to not spend more than $50. "If it's going to be tight, I want it to not be Forever 21," she says, "They don't usually have enough support."
Jessica is relieved, at least, that the chosen color is white. "It's easy to match," she explains, "It's not like saying like let's all wear pink dresses and it's like what shade of pink?"
Somewhere in Miami, a woman in a red dress weeps.
The allure of a destination is what convinced Josie, 27, that organizing a bachelorette in Austin meant cowgirl boots and... tutus? She explains: "Everyone had the cowgirl boots and tutus. Everyone had a pink tutu except for Marissa [the bride, who] had a white tutu. We had pink tank tops, except Marissa, hers was a white tank top. On the front in the tank, it said, 'Marissa's last ride before she's a bride.' I think it had either a cowgirl hat or a horse on the front. In the back it would either say 'bride-to-be' or it said 'maid of honor,' or 'bridesmaid' and if not, it said 'entourage.'"
Josie and her co-maid-of-honor organized a group of 12 women in these identical outfits for her best friend's day, where they went on a wine tour. While tutus may not be an ultra versatile everyday item, that was part of the fun. "You can never wear tutus on an average day," Josie points out, and she thought wearing them would be "a cute memory you could have." Months later, she's right. "To this day, I always think, 'Oh, our wine tour day with our tutus and our cowgirl boots.' That was for sure the highlight of the trip."
Callie, 25, sees Josie tutus and raises her wigs. Callie attended a Vegas bachelorette party so fun and debaucherous that, frankly, it made me rethink my personal position on matching ensembles and large groups of screaming drunk women. Her one regret: They never wore the wigs. "It was like, once we got to Vegas we were all really too drunk to coordinate the dress code that had previously been important."
"It was like, once we got to Vegas we were all really too drunk to coordinate the dress code that had previously been important."
Besides the wigs, Callie's group did manage to wear all black outfits (to the bride's white), and Beyonce-themed shirts — the bride wearing a tee that said, "Feyoncè" and Callie (who got to pick first, she proudly reports) in a shirt that said, "Bow Down."
It was, she insists, always about fun. They were never meant to be "a parade or militia of bridesmaids," Callie says. Instead, the thinking behind the coordination was that it would be "a fun way for us all to look stupid together, as if we aren't going to make that happen born purely of our personalities, which we were clearly destined to do."
As for the wig (a multicolored red), Callie considers it "an investment piece."
But what happens when you're not 26 and great at drinking anymore? Some bachelorette parties for 30+ brides are experimenting with this concept too, albeit with a slightly different edge. Elaine, 30, will be attending a pre-bridal weekend where only one event requires specific attire: Bachelorette Paintball in old bridesmaids dresses.
Amy was also invited to a Bachelorette party with a sartorial directive, only to have it vetoed by the bride herself: "She thought it was too gimmicky."
"I've already purchased my tacky bridesmaid's dress for the paintball excursion and I look like a young Bea Arthur in it," Elaine tells Racked. She bought the dress for $5.99 at a local Goodwill (and photos confirm it has a distinctly Big Love-ian bent, as Elaine wisely chose a paintballing dress for maximum coverage). Elaine says that while the cost was not onerous, the prep was.
"At age 30 my time is actually worth something now," she says, "As opposed to in college when it was free and copious and I could spend hours looking for crazy Goodwill dresses."
Amy, 33, was also invited to a Bachelorette party with a sartorial directive ("wear white"), only to have it vetoed by the bride herself. "She thought it was too gimmicky," Amy explains, "which I agree with." For her own upcoming lady stag party, Amy recommends leggings (ideal for her chosen activities: Hiking, cooking, and hanging out) but won't be making any formal edicts.
While Amy isn't excited by the thought of dressing alike, she finds huge value in the sisterhood that sprung up around her after she announced her engagement. "What nobody really tells you about getting married is that there then is this just coalition of women around you. I just feel so supported by and deeply appreciate the women around me. Things like bachelorette parties and bridal showers can really just feel like a way to celebrate all of the incredible women in your life."
So is sisterhood the point of all this identical fun? Maybe! Or maybe there's something a little more outward facing at work. Priya points out that identical ensembles made it obvious they were at a bachelorette party, which broke down some normal social walls — and made talking to obvious bachelor parties easier. When she returned to New York, she ended up going on a date with a bachelor she met in Miami.
Callie says the amount they got hit on while dressed alike "went up at least 33 percent."
Callie concurs, saying that the amount they got hit on while dressed alike "went up at least 33 percent." Josie found that her group got increased attention, too, with other wine tour groups asking them for pictures and telling them how cute they were.
While some of the bridesmaids and friends I spoke to say that they would be hesitant to impose a dress code for their own bachelorette parties, they're unwilling to say "never." "Maybe when it's you, it's different," Priya says. Jessica explains that while being indistinguishable from her friends isn't "her taste," she wasn't upset about the dress code. "I know who my sister is as a person," she says, "I know she would do the same thing for me."
Ultimately, Priya says, "It was just a lot of pictures."