Best & Worst: Bridesmaids' Dresses

updated 07/24/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/24/1995 01:00AM

None of our judges was tickled pink by the dresses Luci Baines Johnson's bridesmaids wore at her 1966 Great Society wedding to businessman Patrick Nugent. "Remember when the Cat in the Hat spilled all the pink paint?" asks Michael Sabatino. "Well, I think this is where it went." Joan Rivers pans the veils. "It looks like a gay nunnery," she says. At least Joely Fisher appreciates the effort: "She was trying! It was the '60s! But I'm not sure even Kate Moss or Vendela would look good in this."

When Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, Princess Margaret's daughter, wed fellow artist Daniel Chatto in London last July, the ceremony was a model of low-key decorum. "This is my favorite wedding," says Bill Blass, deeming the bridesmaids' Elizabethan gowns by designer Jasper Conran "perfect." Martha Stewart seconds the approval: "Really, really beautiful. This kind of dress can go anywhere." Jessica Lundy agrees: "After the wedding, these women could perform Swan Lake."

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How aloha can you go? Tia (Wayne's World) Camie and restaurant entrepreneur Elie Samaha staged their 1992 nuptials in sizzling Hawaii, but the attendants don't look so hot. "Matronly," says Joely Fisher. "The bulky material is very unflattering," says Michael Sabatino. "Plain," adds Jackee Harry, "sort of like usherettes." Usherettes? That's not what Jessica Lundy sees. "They look like they're wearing heavy choir robes," she says. "Was this taken at Weight Watchers?" wonders Joan Rivers. "Lets find a dress that makes us all look chunky."

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Who says bridesmaids' dresses have to match? At the 1994 New Orleans wedding of supermodel Amber Valletta and model Hervé Le Bihan, "the bride let them wear whatever they wanted, obviously," says Martha Stewart. Most of the judges approve. "My God, this I love!" declares Bill Blass. "It's eclectic and shows great imagination." "It's so over-the-top, I think its wonderful," says Melissa Rivers. Joely Fisher raves: "Ifs fantasy-like! Its kooky! Chic, elegant, crazy, fun, how a wedding should be."

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It was 1953 when Jacqueline Bouvier married then-senator John F. Kennedy and that long-gone moment still thrills our judges. "The dresses were perfect, the wedding was perfect, the day was perfect," says Melissa Rivers. "These are gorgeous," says Jackee Harry. Martha Stewart concurs. "Beautiful, beautiful bridesmaids' dresses," she Says. "Faultless."

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The gowns are "really pretty," says Michael Sabatino, but ifs the headgear at the 1947 wedding of the future Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip that catches the judges' eyes. "Tiaras of flowers to complement the queen's tiara of diamonds!" says Bill Blass. "I love their headdresses," agrees Martha Stewart. Joely Fisher is on the same frequency. "They're probably getting good reception on their headdresses," she says.

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Our judges were divided over the attendants' attire at the Jill Goodacre-Harry Connick Jr. nuptials last year in New Orleans. "The lengths are so unflattering," Joan Rivers says. "Never trust a model to pick out your dresses for you." Jessico Lundy disagrees. "It's not a look every woman can wear," she says, "but if you're tall, go for it!" How about the shoes? "I don't like the shoes," says Jackee Harry. "I love the shoes," says Melissa Rivers.

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Some judges got the blues when they sow the bridesmaids at Marlee Matlin's 1993 wedding to L.A. cop Kevin Grandalski. "This is a horrible design," says Michael Sabatino. "It makes all the ladies look squatty, even the tall ones." Martha Stewart knows where they went wrong. "I think they wanted to make a dress that would be okay afterward," she says, "but the color kind of renders it useless." And although Joely Fisher likes the color, she says, "Not a happening length. Sort of an unflattering dress all around."

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She was Grace Kelly of Philadelphia and he was Prince Rainier of Monaco, and at their 1956 wedding, the bridesmaids were, says Bill Blass, "very charming.' Most of our judges share that view, although Jessica Lundy and Michael Sabatino detect an agricultural theme. "They look like gardeners' dresses, like they're going to a weeding instead of a wedding," says Lundy. "They have that impoverished farmwife look," says Sabatino.

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Hockey great Wayne Gretzky married actress Janet Jones in 1988—and our judges put the bridesmaids' dresses in the penalty box. "What are those roses—burn 'em," snaps Jackee Harry. "These dresses say, 1 hate my friends,' " says Melissa Rivers. "I think we need some checking here," says Michael Sabatino. "We need to slam the designer into the boards for this one." The sleeves, adds Jessica Lundy, look like "wadded napkins."

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That's bridesmaid Maria Shriver (with Sen. Edward Kennedy) at the 1986 wedding of Caroline Kennedy and Edwin Schlossberg. "Particularly unbecoming," growls Bill Blass. "To go from Jackie to this?" asks Jessica Lundy. "Something must have been lost between generations." "It's a Polynesian toga," says Michael Sabatino. "She looks like a waitress at a luau," says Melissa Rivers. Adds Joan Rivers: "It looks like Arnold is in there with her!"

There she was, the former Miss America Vanessa Williams, at her January 1987 Manhattan wedding to Ramon Hervey. "Wonderful for a winter wedding," says Joan Rivers. "It's a great color and choice of fabric." Jessica Lundy sees another winter connection: "Ifs like Christmas wrapping." Melissa Rivers isn't wild about the style but tries to be kind. Til bet when they're standing, they don't look bad," she says.

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The entire bridal party wore Versace at Sting's 1992 wedding to Trudie Styler. "I would never go against Versace," says Jackee Harry. Neither would Martha Stewart, love this," she says. "I think it's beautiful." Michael Sabatino agrees. "The material is gorgeous," he says. "Very original," says I Blass. But Joan Rivers is skeptical. "It's a great dress," she says, "but it has nothing to do with being a bridesmaid."

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Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood were married in 1957, but, says Martha Stewart, "this could be today—those dresses with the princess waist and the wonderful drop shoulder." And Jessica Lundy calls the look "classic, classic, classic." Bill Blass is unconvinced, however. "There's no connection between Natalie's dress and her bridesmaid's dress or her flower girl's," he says. "That's bizarre." And Jackee Harry isn't bowled over either, calling it only "okay-ish."

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Bill Blass says he is "disappointed" by the bridesmaids' gowns at Diana Ross's 1986 church wedding to Norwegian shipping magnate Arne Naess: "She's always had an interest in clothes, and she doesn't get married that often." Michael Sabatino deems the look too "on-the-windowsill." But Jackee Harry says, "The color is feminine and fresh. It looks like a fairy-tale wedding."

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Pop diva Mariah Carey married Sony Music boss Tommy Mottola in a Chuck-and-Di-influenced 1993 Manhattan ceremony. "I think the bridesmaids' gowns are better than the wedding gown," says Melissa Rivers. Martha Stewart calls the whole thing "fabulous; very, very formal." And Bill Blass says, "This is great."

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Television met rock and roll when Valerie Bertinelli wed Eddie Van Halen in 1981 The result: "It looks like a Catholic high school graduation," says Melissa Rivers. "Very promlike," says Jessica Lundy. "No!" proclaims Bill Blass. "I know what they were going for," suggests Joely Fisher, "that early-'80s thing."

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Maria Shriver's 1986 wedding to Arnold Schwarzenegger was a bow jest, according to our judges. "To make the bridesmaids wear bows is flat-out mean," says Melissa Rivers. The bows are "unnecessary" (Jessica Lundy), "outdated" (Jackee Harry), "too perky" (Joely Fisher), "too schoolgirlish" (Michael Sabatino). "Somewhere in Hyannis Port," says Joan Rivers, "there must be an ugly dress shop for bridesmaids."

Shirley Temple was a 17-year-old star when she married Air Force Sgt. John Agar in 1945. "Even the flowers look scory—like cauliflowers," says Jessico Lundy. "I hate the whole thing, it's absolutely awful," says Bill Blass. "These were designed not just to complement the bride but to shame all those poor women," says Michael Sabatino. "They're Little Bo Peep dresses," says Melissa Rivers.

Wayne Newton's 1994 wedding to Kathleen McCrone was aptly set in Las Vegas, so what's to criticize? "I hate bridesmaids in black—it's funeralesque," says Melissa Rivers. No, argues Joely Fisher, "black is always chic—if the buttons aren't white." Michael Sabatino has a different point of view: "If I owned the casino where Wayne was singing, this is what the hostesses would wear."

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It was love and money in 1993 when Maria Maples married Donald Trump. Maid of honor Janie Elder looked "gorgeous, elegant and chic," says Joely Fisher. Bill Blass knows why. "Ifs a Carolina Herrera," he says, "and they are wonderful." Jessica Lundy isn't so sure. "I know Maria doesn't want any competition," she says, "but why can't she let this girl show some skin?"

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Nineteen-year-old Deanna Durbin's 1941 Hollywood wedding to producer Vaughn Paul was the young screen star's first, and the marriage lasted just two years. "I absolutely love the dresses," says Jessica Lundy. "The hats are a hoot." Bill Blass loves them too. "This is marvelous," he says, "and it shows how seriously people took weddings in the '40s." Maybe. Melissa Rivers says, "Ifs an MGM musical. Ifs an Easter egg hunt."

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Before Larry Fortensky was born, Elizabeth Taylor was an 18-year-old bride walking down the aisle with hotel heir Nicky Hilton in 1950. "The dresses are becoming," says Bill Blass. "They would be equally pretty today." Jessica Lundy doesn't care for the shoulders. "They look like the Flying Nun," she says. And Michael Sabatino labels the look simply "weird."

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They were made for TV and for each other: Delta Burke married Gerald McRaney in 1989. "Awful, it looks like Gunsmoke," says Joan Rivers. "It's Delta and the cast of the can-can revue in New Orleans," says Melissa Rivers. "It's all too much." But Jessica Lundy loves it. "Totally Scarlett O'Hara!" she says. "Just right for a Southern belle."

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