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iReporters fear ugly bridesmaid dress, seek alternatives

By Katie Hawkins
CNN
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(CNN) -- When Katy Milane was asked to be in her college roommate's August 2007 wedding, she expected the bridesmaid dress to be simple and sporty, just like the bride's taste in clothes.

Chandi Brooks decided to let her bridesmaids pick their own black dresses for her 2007 wedding.

Katy Milane, right, said none of the bridesmaids in her friend's 2007 wedding liked this hot pink dress.

It wasn't. Milane and five other bridesmaids wore hot-pink floor-length satin dresses. One wedding guest commented that they looked "like a row of Pepto Bismol bottles."

"I don't think any of us were happy with the dresses," said Milane. One bridesmaid had to be sewn into her gown when it ripped the day of the wedding. Another left her dress in a Cincinnati, Ohio, hotel room after the festivities had ended.

"We all tried to be very positive about it because the bride really loved them," said Milane. "We would have worn anything to make her happy."

Such is the case at countless weddings. Bridesmaids are stuck in matching dresses that they will likely never wear again.

Some say that brides choose less-than-attractive dresses for her attendants to keep everyone's attention on her. Whatever the case, there are plenty of women with bridesmaid-dress horror stories. Photo Check out some ugly bridesmaid dresses and pretty alternatives »

Kimberlee Norbury of Orland, California, was aghast at the bridesmaid dress her cousin chose for her saloon-themed wedding in July 2006. Norbury and three other bridesmaids were asked to wear "saloon girl" dresses purchased at a nearby costume shop.

The dresses, complete with lace garters and corset tops, were so short that some of the bridesmaids added fabric to make them longer. Even with the additional fabric, Norbury walked down the aisle with her bouquet strategically placed in front of her.

"Everyone knew what I was doing," she said. "I can laugh now, but I was so horrified."

As soon as the wedding ended, Norbury changed out of the dress. "I was running for my clothes as fast as I could."

"Afterwards I did explain that I loved her very much," she said. "That's the only reason I wore that."

Freedom of choice

Chandi Brooks knows how expensive bridesmaid dresses can be. She's been in five weddings -- as a bridesmaid three times and the maid of honor twice -- and has never worn any of the dresses again.

According to Conde Nast Bridal Media's American Wedding Study, the average price of a bridesmaid dress in 2005 was $138.20.

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"It's money down the drain most of the time," Brooks said.

That's why she decided to let her bridal party choose their own dresses for her June 2007 wedding. Brooks' attendants picked black dresses that ranged from $20 to $100. The bridesmaids, all different sizes and ages, were pleased and so was the bride.

"I didn't have to shop around and didn't have to hear any griping. Everyone was happy," said Brooks.

Other brides also are giving their attendants the freedom of choice. Celia Stangerone of Windsor, Connecticut, asked her bridesmaids to pick tea-length lavender dresses. The length and color were the only restrictions she placed -- the shade of lavender, style of dress and type of shoe were up to each individual bridesmaid.

Stangarone said she's close to her bridesmaids, which factored into her decision to let them choose their own dresses. "I knew the type of personalities I was dealing with and I also knew that they were all different sizes and shapes," she said. "I had to let them pick whatever style they felt beautiful in."

The final result was perfect, Stangarone said. Her bridesmaids chose dresses in varying shades of lavender that complimented each attendant's body type and skin tone. "They all looked beautiful and were all really happy," she said. iReport.com: See the bridesmaids' lavender dresses

Keeping bridesmaids happy

Many of those who lived through their own bridesmaid nightmares hope not to put their friends through the same pain.

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Milane, who remains friends with the bride, is not planning to have a wedding anytime soon. When she does she intends to choose a dress that her bridesmaids can wear again.

"I want my bridesmaids to like what they're wearing," she said. "I feel like if you choose something they can wear in their daily lives, they're going to be a lot happier in the end."

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