I was thinking the other day about how there are so many beautiful cocktail dresses out there and it totally made sense to me that they can make wonderful bridesmaid attire. For the most part, many of these dresses are available at a much cheaper price and you can wear it over and over again. I found this great article that talks about dresses for less $100. Practical, I say. Here is the link: http://fashion.about.com/od/specialoccasions/tp/formals100.htm
Moreover, many retailers are now offering great discounts, since times are bad and Christmas is just around the corner. So, you should be able to find some good deals out there.