Whether you've dreamed about it for years or never gave it a thought, here's how to find a dress that reflects your personal style.
Your wedding gown provides a chance to dress completely differently than you do on any other day in your life, so feel free to pursue your bridal fantasies when you start shopping. Even if you don't choose an ornately styled gown, it can't hurt to try one on; many brides report being talked into trying on a more elaborate dress than they'd envisioned and then falling in love with the look. Experiment with different styles to see what suits your figure, and don't rule anything out based on how it looks on a hanger ? many gowns look odd without a figure filling them out.
Is it a Formal or Informal Wedding?
While selecting your gown the first thing to consider the formality of your wedding.
Generally, the more formal the wedding, the more formal the bride's attire. And keep the season of your wedding in mind, since some fabrics might be too heavy or light for certain times of the year.
Are you going to feel comfortable on your wedding Day?
Also consider your comfort, both physical and emotional. All eyes will be on you throughout your big day, so this might not be the best occasion to wear your first strapless gown (you don't want every picture to show you looking down to make sure your cleavage hasn't shifted!).
And a body-skimming sheath won't let you kick up your heels on the dance floor as freely as you might like. During fitting, try sitting, dancing, and hugging. Wave your arms around to make sure the shoulders and sleeves aren't binding. Pay attention to weight ? will wearing pounds of beading leave you exhausted? Will a full skirt present a tripping hazard? Does the gown's shape cry out for a higher heel than you care to wear?
In general, try to visualize yourself wearing the dress throughout your ceremony and reception. When the picture is right, you'll know it.
Flatter Your Figure
Finding the perfect gown style is easy when you know what flatters your figure. Whether you're pear-shaped or petite, top-heavy or tall, wearing the right cut for your body type can highlight your best features and downplay those you're concerned about.
The Triangle (small on top, heavier on the bottom)
The key here is to balance your proportions. Broaden and emphasize your top half with full sleeve treatments, padded shoulders, or pouf sleeves that extend your shoulder line, and a textured bodice accented with lace overlays, appliqués, and beadwork. Elongated bodices and skirts with controlled fullness will emphasize your waist and de-emphasize your hip area. Avoid set-in sleeves and narrow shoulders, skirts with side panels or excess fullness, and body-hugging sheaths ? they'll make you look disproportioned.
The Inverted Triangle (fuller on top, narrow hips)
In order to de-emphasize your shoulder area and give more width to your lower body, look for gowns with minimal shoulder details, simple sleeves, moderate padding, and natural shoulder lines. Simple bodices, with accents kept to a minimum, will draw less attention to your top. For better overall proportion, wear a full skirt or a style with skirt details such as peplums, bustles, sashes, and bows. Avoid gowns with full sleeves, slim, straight skirts, empire waistlines, and plunging necklines.
The Rectangle (nearly equal bust and hips, minimal waist definition)
To create the illusion of curves, look for full, voluminous skirts with jewel or bateau necklines. Horizontal detailing will draw the eye across the body and combat vertical body lines, and oversized shoulders and sleeves will add width to your top and shape to your overall appearance. Avoid slim silhouettes or gowns in soft, clingy fabrics that will only make you appear too thin and narrow.
The Hourglass (small waist, full hips and bust)
To maximize your curves and maintain balance, look for gowns with simple, classic lines like sheaths and mermaid styles. Too much detailing can make you look heavier than you really are. Show off your shoulders with off-the-shoulder sleeves, v-necklines, and strapless dresses. Avoid gowns with very full or ruffled skirts, pouf sleeves, highly detailed bodices, and high necklines that cover the shoulder area and minimize the bust.
Petite figures are lengthened in controlled-but-full skirts with minimal details. Basque waistlines, simple sleeves, modestly detailed shoulders, vertical pleating, and a-line or princess silhouettes elongate the torso and add height. For slim petites, the sheath or mermaid style is ideal.
Full figures look best in fitted v-neck bodices and dropped v-waistlines. Full skirts camouflage hips and thighs and shoulder pads make waists look smaller. Styling details around the neckline draw the eye up. Long sleeves tapering toward the wrist slenderize arms; avoid strapless or sleeveless gowns which only emphasize fullness. Opt for dresses where the fabric drapes gracefully to the floor instead of ones that are form-fitting, body-hugging.
Minimize a thick waist with an empire waistline. Princess-style dresses elongate a short waist and lengthen the torso. Long waists look shorter when the waistline is cut above the torso, as in a basque-waist gown.
To slim heavy hips, try a full-but-controlled skirt without bows, flounces, or ruffles.
A full bust is flattered in an off-the-shoulder portrait or v-neckline with minimal detailing. Small busts look larger when accentuated with intricate details and on-the-shoulder necklines.
Once you've chosen a gown, the salon will either order it for you and then custom-fit it to your body once it arrives. Typically, you'll require three fittings before your gown is ready. It's best to bring the lingerie and shoes you'll wear with your wedding dress to your fittings so that you can see how the entire ensemble looks together. (If you're not sure what kind of undergarments your dress requires, ask your fitter for advice.) It's also a good idea to bring your mother or maid of honor to your second or final dress fitting so she can learn how to help you get into your gown and how to bustle your train, if necessary.
Even if your dress is ready well in advance, resist the urge to pick it up until the week of your wedding. Your bridal salon is better equipped to store your dress properly than you are, and you wouldn't want it to get wrinkled or crushed in your closet.
No Regrets: Finding THE Dress
- Don't make up your mind for or against any dress without trying it on. Hangers just don't do justice to some gowns, and others may not flatter your figure as you'd hoped.
- It's nice to bring your mother or maid of honor along for a second opinion (and some major bonding) while gown shopping, but make sure you stay true to your own style and aren't swayed by their comments, or by those of the salespeople. Do not allow yourself to be talked into anything ? if you're not positive about a dress, keep looking.
Don't worry if you feel a touch of buyer's remorse after you choose your dress ? it's a big commitment and it's natural to wonder if you made the right choice. Focus on how you felt when the dress was on and you realized it was the one, and the doubts will fade away.