In their simplest sense, flower girl dresses are dresses worn by young girls playing the role of flower girl in a wedding. Not all weddings have flower girls; the tradition is most common in North America and parts of Europe, and is usually designed to incorporate a child who is either related to or otherwise important to the bride, the groom, or both. There aren’t usually strict rules about what the dress has to look like or its styling, any more than there are rules about what the bride or any other member of the wedding party wears. It’s common for the flower girl’s dress to be formal, and it’s usually in a shade that matches the overall color scheme for the ceremony. Sometimes it’s intended to look like a miniature version of a bridesmaid’s gown, but not always; it can also be common for the flower girl to dress in white, parallel to the bride. A lot depends on the preferences of the people involved. The dress is commonly accessorized with sashes or child-appropriate jewelry, and depending on the age of the flower girl she may be invited to give her opinion when it comes to the style and overall feel of the garment.
The Flower Girl Tradition Generally
Flower girls are a decidedly Western tradition. Most scholars believe that the custom of incorporating young girls in wedding ceremonies began in Ancient Rome, though the modern idea of a girl strewing petals or carrying blossoms is almost decidedly English in origin.
The exact meaning of the tradition is a subject of some debate. To some the flower girl is meant to symbolize the bride as a child and to mark the passage of time and the transition from youth to maturity, marriage, and motherhood. In other places the flower girl is meant to invoke fertility. It’s common for the girl to lead the bridal procession with a basket of flower petals that she scatters along the aisle, creating a path for the bride and other members of the wedding party. Sometimes the variety of petal is chosen for its symbolic meaning, and the flower girl may also carry things like herbs or wheat, both of which have a more archaic traditional significance. The dress she wears while performing these duties is, by default, a flower girl dress.
In most modern weddings, the flower girl’s dress is designed to coordinate with or resemble to dresses of the other wedding participants. If the bride and groom have chosen set “wedding colors,” it’s also common for the dress to fall somewhere along this spectrum, but it’s also quite common for this dress to be white. White dresses are usually worn with a sash or shoes in the wedding color, but not always.
Specific styling is usually a matter of personal preference and the intended “look” of the bride and groom. Many different retailers sell dresses intended for flower girls, and they’re often really different from each other. Some feature ornate beadwork and large tulle-filled skirts, whereas others could pass for ordinary formalwear, as would be appropriate for a child attending a formal event even if not actually participating in it. Some are simple frocks whereas others are works of art unto themselves.
In many weddings, the thing that sets the flower girl’s dress apart from a standard piece of formalwear is its accessories. A simple dress can immediately coordinate with the others in the wedding party with the addition of a colored sash or ribbon, for instance. Floral crowns are also common. Of course, the accessory that most easily identifies the flower girl is her basket or bouquet, as well as the color and style of any petals she drops.