The old idea that bridesmaids have to be a matched set is definitely out. Most brides today prefer to allow their attendants to express a little more individuality rather than making them conform to a mold. A pretty way to do this with bridesmaid dresses that are in a spectrum of shades instead of all one color.
For a while now, brides have been choosing dresses for their attendants that are in the same color, but in different cuts or silhouettes. This is a fantastic idea when you have bridesmaids of all different shapes and sizes. The truth is that a group of women will not all look fabulous in the same color, any more than they would in the same style of dress. Picking a color theme and allowing each bridesmaid to choose a version of it is a wonderful way to make sure that they all look stunning.
Having a main color theme will be enough to tie your bridesmaids together visually, while not getting into the cookie cutter look. Designate one base color, such as pink or blue, rather than going for the rainbow effect where each bridesmaid wears a different pastel (as was often done with hideous results in 1970s weddings). If your style is eclectic, give your attendants the freedom to choose any shade of your main color that they like. Brides who prefer a more coordinated wedding party might want to assign a particular flattering shade to each bridesmaid. Alternatively, you could get a few of those color palette cards at a paint store and request that your bridesmaids pick out a dress within that range of hues.
When you are using a spectrum of colors, you may decide to have each bridesmaid wear the same style of gown, but really, it is more chic for each bridesmaid to wear a unique dress. You might give them a general theme or mood to shop for in a gown. You could say "pink dress, garden party" or "blue dress, black tie". One thing that can be wise is to ask your girls to avoid any electric versions of the designated color, otherwise one bridesmaid will stick out like a sore thumb in the photographs.
You may wonder how to choose a bridesmaid jewelry gift that will look pretty with an eclectic group of bridesmaid dresses. The easiest way is to choose bridesmaid jewelry that does not have a color, such as necklaces or earrings that are created with clear Swarovksi crystals or classic white pearls. Another versatile option for your bridesmaid jewelry gifts is a set of modern and elegant silver jewelry. Besides coordinating with a wide range of gowns, these pieces of jewelry will be very easy for your bridesmaids to wear with the rest of their wardrobes.
To tie all of the various hues together into one harmonious bridal party, have each bridesmaid carry a bouquet that is made up of flowers that cover the whole spectrum of shades. This works especially well if your color is pink, purple, or yellow, because there will be wonderful flowers available in every possible variation of these colors. The bouquets are a simple and graceful way to give your wedding party a unified look while still allowing each of your bridesmaids to express her personal style and to wear a dress that she truly loves.