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The aisle leading to the altar is where you’ll find the summer’s best runway show.

Of course, the bride and her gown will elicit plenty of oohs and aahs (and some inevitable tears), but some new trends in bridesmaid dresses are also turning heads. (Hint: Don’t expect the leading ladies to be another pastel parade of one-size-fits-all taffeta this upcoming wedding season.)

Yes, brides are getting bonus points for choosing bridal party dresses that are not only flattering but actually can be worn beyond the wedding date. And one of this year’s best trends is breaking from uniformity and playing with different color palettes and patterns to carefully mismatch bridesmaid dresses, according to the experts.

Best dress trends

Juliana Chan, design director for bridesmaids at David’s Bridal (DavidsBridal.com), says the new “it” fabric for bridal parties is lace.

“We’re seeing lace everywhere,” she says.

The feminine fabric will continue into the fall, she predicts, with jewel tones being especially popular at autumn weddings. A standout at David’s Bridal is a “short strapless contrast corded lace dress” that comes in rich colors such as marine blue, a deep green tarragon and “garnet,” a rich, ruby red – as well as elegant classics in black or mercury.

Hollywood’s A-listers walking the red carpet at this year’s award shows also have inspired bridesmaid dresses with sheer “illusion” cover-ups in the front on sleeves and necklines, balanced with sexy, low-cut backs, Chan says.

From blush to begonia, shades of pink have emerged as a dominant color in 2014.

When it comes to shoes, “the new neutral is metallics – like gold, pewter and silver,” Chan says. Champagne or nude shoes continue to be on trend as they create the illusion of longer legs. Jewel-embellished shoes are also a noteworthy trend for 2014, Chan adds.

Intentionally mismatched

Stylists at Nordstrom (Nordstrom.com) say mixing and matching dresses within the same color palette creates a unique and coordinated bridal party.

The Nordstrom bridal shop features bridesmaid collections from designers like Jenny Yoo and Donna Morgan.

Among the charming, but unexpected: Popping in patterns, like a botanical blossoming print on the skirt of Ted Baker London’s Beula floral-print chiffon maxi dress or metallic dots that glam up the Adrianna Papell foiled dot draped mesh dress.

The key to masterfully mismatching bridesmaid dresses? Stay within the same color family, mix lengths and silhouettes to add dimension and use patterns on a couple of dresses while the remaining bridesmaids are in solid-colored dresses. For the color shy, champagne and blush color dresses come together easily and play well with white wedding gowns.

Bridesmaids will appreciate the one-size-does-not-fit-all philosophy. After all, the average bridal party numbered five in 2013, according to a survey conducted by TheKnot.com, a leading wedding-planning destination. Chances are, that’s five different body types – so letting the leading ladies choose cuts that best flatter their figures is a smart move.

Hair and nail trends

Julianne Bryce, senior stylist at George the Salon (GeorgeTheSalon.com) in Chicago, says bridesmaids are keeping their hair more natural this wedding season.

“As opposed to classic French twists and classic buns, they’re really into more natural, softer hair and braids this year,” Bryce says.

Among the favored braids: Fishtails and looser French braids that incorporate natural texture. Crowns of braids are also popular this summer. Hairstyles are looser and more piecey – in an intentional way, Bryce says.

Need extra bulk for an up-do? Bryce suggests women with shorter or finer hair incorporate clip-in extensions.

As far as nails go, minimalistic manicures in beige and crisp whites have been dominating the fashion week runways. A trend that plays well with weddings: The half-moon design at the base of the nail (think of it as the reverse French tip) with a glittery gold or metallic polish on a clear or beige nail.

Where to find affordable bridesmaid dresses

Saying yes to the bridesmaid dress doesn’t have to break the bank, as many retailers offer affordable lines.

• Under $100 at David’s Bridal: Shop from dozens of bridesmaid dresses in the under $100 category, including some from the “White by Vera Wang” collection. Online: www.davidsbridal.com

• Tevolio at Target: Tevolio is inspired by the phrase “Ti voglio,” which is “I love you” in Italian. The bridesmaid dresses in the Target collection start at just $69.99. The collection features dresses in chiffon, satin, taffeta and shantung, and come in a variety of cuts and shades of color that range from Bayou Teal to Guava Berry. Online: www.target.com

• J. Crew: The collection features a range of dresses that could work for everything from formal weddings (the silk chiffon and silk dupioni collections) to more laid-back beach or backyard garden party weddings; take note of the crepe, chiffon and seersucker dresses. Online: www.jcrew.com

• Anthropologie: Ethereal and feminine bridesmaid dresses in Anthropologie’s BHLDN wedding collection start at $200. The showstoppers of the wedding collection, though, are the halos, headbands and hairpieces. Online: www.bhldn.com

Find more fashion and beauty stories and deals on The Online Shopping Report at ShopAtHome.com.