Every bride says it: "You can wear it again!" It's usually the third part of the bridesmaid-dress sales pitch, along with "It looks great on you!" and "It's a really good price!" To determine the criteria necessary for a dress to meet the oft-stated, rarely achieved "wear again" standard, we reviewed hundreds of photos of real bridesmaids, then reworked the outfits of a select few to show you how to choose a dress that can be worn a second (or 10th) time.

As the maid of honor in her sister Angela's summer wedding in New Jersey, Regina says her dress by Vineyard Collection was a great choice: "Since there were 10 bridesmaids total, when we all stood together, the gray looked sophisticated but not overwhelming."

Why this dress works This neutral but stylish color, combined with a drama-free fabric and flattering silhouette, means an easy makeover for future wear. Having a pro alter it to cocktail length was an easy call—chiffon is a classic eveningwear fabric, very appropriate for any swanky event.

The dress also succeeds in its shorter form because of the empire waist and straight, loose-fitting skirt. In general, a long A-line gown might also work as a short dress, but would likely require much more in the way of alterations to make it fall correctly.

On Regina: Sequined ribbon and gunmetal chain necklace with crystals, $165, Wendy Mink Jewelry, 212-260-5298; Salvatrice sterling silver and 15-carat cubic zirconia cocktail ring, $450, donnadistefanoltd.com; Lace Leather Strappy shoes, $654, Burberry, couture.zappos.com

Joel Greenberg & Wendy Stewart Photography (left), Robert Mitra (right)