Bridesmaid dresses have all sorts of dreaded connotations. Just the mention of them bring to mind bright shades of ruffled taffeta and dangerously large puffed sleeves. The cliche that you can wear this dress again is rarely true, because, unless you belong to the magical "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants", rarely do the same clothes look good on everyone. There are a few ways to avoid being don't on a bridesmaid fashion list. Here's how:

Be a friend.

Don't limit your bridesmaids to one dress. Seven of your eight bridesmaids might very well be a size two, but your groom's less wispy sister may not want to wear the micromini that everyone else has pronounced hot. Offer several dresses in different lengths, cuts, or sleeves, so that everyone can feel free to pick a dress that makes them feel beautiful. Because this is such a popular trend, many boutiques have options in the exact same fabric, so you still get the effect of a matching bridal party.

Have your maid of honor run interference for you.

Your bridesmaids may be hesitant to tell you the dress doesn't flatter them or costs too much, but sending your maid of honor to run diplomacy missions is never a bad idea. Well, so long as you can constructively listen to the feedback and be sensitive to their thoughts.

Consider different stores.

Shop at places that are less "wedding party" and more "cocktail party". Avoid bridesmaid cliches by shopping for cocktail dresses at department stores and boutiques. Pick colors that truly flatter. A lime green dress will stay in the closet. A hot navy number? Not so much.

Don't forget your theme.

If your wedding is a little outside the box, don't limit your dress choices. One of my favorite vintage weddings had the bridesmaids in completely different, but all 1940s semiformal vintage dresses in different black and white patterns. This takes more research and time, but having dresses that truly fit your theme can be well worth it.

Photo Credit: Vallentyne Photography