Updated: Aug 22, 2021
So it's super exciting when you make that decision to make a start on your wedding dress shopping!
It can also be a bit stressful if you don't know what style, colour or size to go for.
To help you find The One! We have Sara from The Image Tree here to give you her advice on picking the perfect dress! https://www.the-imagetree.co.uk/
Sara is an award-winning image consultant and coach, she says it's time to Rock What You've Already Got!!!
Wedding Dress Shopping? Useful Tips!
By Sara Marsden-Shreeve
So, after lending a styling hand at a great local bridal boutique, I felt inspired to share.
It was so fulfilling to see a happy bride-to-be get all choked up over her new princess-like image surrounded by cooing friends and family. Not only that but I too got all teary-eyed and blubbered in the corner with them as I remembered my 'dress' moment.
You see my lovelies, to find THAT DRESS is a fabulous feeling and it’s all in the style, the fit, the colour and the finishing touches which gives your look that extra oomph that’ll knock your soon to be hubsters socks off.
So I’m going to donate some styling secrets and a bit of prep so that you’re armed and ready to do a streamlined dress shop and not need to try on every gown in the shire...Here goes!
Do you have a dress in mind?
I know, most of you will have had it planned in your head since you were a little girl and still have that dog eared clipping glued to the front page of your scrapbook or planner.
Well I don’t mean to pop your bubble but I feel it’s my duty to gently say -It may not suit you! Ooh, there I’ve said it…so keep an open mind and be prepared to try on a different style, it could still have similar features you like.
The Big Day. Where and When?
This is important, if you’ve booked the place or church you need to think practically, if there are a million steps, then a fishtail dress is not a good idea, sidestepping like a penguin is not a good look and your fella won’t wait all day.
Can you sit in it, walk in it? Dance in it? It’s a long day…Remember your wedding breakfast too, big frilled necklines and gravy don’t mix
If it's winter, think arms/sleeves and generally keeping warm. A heavier fabric or even a layered frock will help with the body heat and think about a lace shrug, jacket or bit of winter fluff around the shoulders.
Getting married abroad? Then don’t buy an enormous meringue ball gown it won’t travel well or cheaply and you’ll sweat in all those layers if it’s hot, there are plenty of destination dresses available and some boutiques will pack it for you, just ask!
What’s your Style?
Be true to your personality, from steampunk to vintage or classic to ethnic if it’s what you love then reflect this is in your dress. Whatever it is that defines you, stick with it because if your dress doesn’t reflect you, you’ll feel uncomfortable and your photographer can't photoshop a smiley face on all your pictures.
What are your best features?
I’m talking honesty here! What bits of your body do you LIKE because these are the bits we want to show off and make you feel a million dollars? Use your hair, jewellery or dress details to create focal points to enhance them, it could be your neck, shoulders, boobs, waist or anything.
Don’t worry about the size of the dress nor the bits you don’t like they will be ignored or unseen in the right dress/look and remember the fabric rules; fluid fabrics show off curves, stiffer fabrics hold you in and create a more structured look.
Also, think about your overall scale, the taller you are the bigger your ball gown skirt can be and the more fuller-bodied bride can upscale on the embellishment areas and go for heavier fabrics. If you're petite think petite, you don’t want to drown in fabric or look like that toilet roll doll cover in your nan's bathroom.
If you like...
Neck & Shoulders
Then definitely try a strapless number and show off that swan neck too with a side chignon, if you’re broad-shouldered try an asymmetric or halter neckline.
If you like your boobs then go for dresses with embellishment in that area, maybe a strapless bodice or sweetheart neckline, but think support too.
Tiny straps on a big frame will get lost!
Alternatively, if you’re smaller chested give them a boost by going for pleats, overlays, ruffles or added texture to the upper body area and the ‘girls’. Bodices are very flattering and most quality dresses come with inner support or even moulded cups.
Got a small or well-defined waist, then go for waisted detailed dresses to show it off for goodness sake, seeing a wasp-like waist will enhance your curves.
Dresses don't have to be floor length so if you have a great set of pins let's see them, tastefully of course! A fishtail dress can flash a bit of a shapely limb too.
Don’t like the tops of your arms? Then don't be afraid to try a sleeve, bolero jacket or cape. Sleeve lengths to the elbow are a flattering choice or a long sleeve with some cuff interest or shape will balance out the fleshy bits.
A bodice on a dress can be your new best friend or try an empire line shaped dress. A crisper more structured fabric in a dress will hide any bumps and hold you in. Just be wary of pleats and ruching in this area, they can draw attention to it. If it's more of a comfort thing or if you're pregnant an empire line has a high waist and sits under your boobs.
Hips & Bums
For larger hips and bums try an A-line dress or an empire, keeping any focal point or embellishment up the top end. Don't go for a fishtail unless you can balance your top half out.
If you’re curvy a shift dress just won’t cut it and you’ll look like a sausage and we won’t see those curves unless the fabric is fluid. Ball gown styles work too but you may need to go wider on the shoulder lines or have embellishment/focal points there to balance you out if you’re narrower up top.
Fifty shades of white
There are loads of versions of ivory, white and so on, keep your colouring in mind.
If you’re fair or red-headed keep to warmer hues like creams and ivories, if you’re tanned or darker-skinned you’re more likely to look good in a brighter, clearer white. If you’re having a fake tan on the day, bear this in mind too.
It doesn’t have to be white, this is the 21st century and anything goes, mocha, antique cream, pinks or more.
If this is the case don’t forget some bridesmaid gowns might just be the ticket and a little cheaper if you’re looking for more colour.
The finishing touches can make or break a well-chosen dress so take heed. Look at it, if it's simple you can go more glitzy with the adornments in your hair or go for a bit of interest or sparkle on your veil, whereas if there’s already a lot going on, go a bit simpler on the rest.
Think about the back of your dress too, if it’s plain, go for a train, veil with added interest or sequins. If it’s got a lovely back fastening with ribbons etc. show it off with a veil that’s shorter or indeed you can see through.
Ultimately, your choice should be in keeping with your height and line/style of your dress.
Veils come in different sizes from short and fly-away to the full-on cathedral and they can be expensive, 100s of pounds in fact, so if you find one you like, see if you can hire it somewhere else.
The All-Important Shop!
Remember it’s your day, your rules, don’t be bullied into a dress you don’t feel comfortable in, your disappointment will show in the pictures.
Go to fittings in your best fitting nude/white bra if you can, strapless is even better, that way it's easier to see the lines of a dress and that your boobs are in the right place.
If you’ve been a bit keen and already have your wedding undies sorted, wear them at fittings so you can see if they sit well under the fabric. No VPLS's please girls.
Be practical! Can you walk, sit, dance and go to the loo in it without an entourage?
It’s a good idea to try gowns on with heels, most shops should have them.
In most shops, they will have a selected range of sizes and might not have yours but don't be disheartened, they will probably be able to pin you into a bigger one or have a similar shaped one.
Don’t worry too much about your size it’s just a number and they will range from shop to shop anyway and they’ll order your size in once you pay a deposit.
Take photos of the ones you like when you’re wearing them so you can see how they look and can help you make up your mind later. There's no need to rush, take your time and don’t be too hasty and visit more than one shop.
Right then my lovelies, hope these pointers have helped form a pre checklist in your head or at least given you an idea of what to look for. Just remember you are beautiful and your dress needs to do you justice! Most bridal shops have very helpful staff so just ask lots of questions.
Once you find that dress you’ll know.