• Try on a variety of dresses. A completely different style just might surprise you!
  • Clip pictures from bridal magazines and shop online first. Find dresses that have features that you like and begin to form an image in your mind of what you might like: for example, if you narrow down the neckline, length and amount of beading before you set out to the stores, and you’ll be able to limit your selection to dresses that meet your needs.
  • If you're shopping at a bridal store, bring along a friend whose opinion you trust. Include your mother if appropriate.
  • Bring the same size heel you expect to wear at the wedding.
  • Don't skip looking checking out "on-the-rack" stores, outlet stores or trunk shows. You could find the dress of your dreams and save a boatload of money.
  • Take home a fabric swatch to match with your shoes, veil and accessories. Carry it with you in a baggy in your purse so you’ve always got it on hand. You never know when it might come in handy.

Made to Order

There are a variety of reasons why a bride would choose to have a dress custom made: she knows what she wants and apparently no one else does, she wants to design it herself or have someone she knows design it, she wants more control over the final outcome of the dress, she wants more flexibility in the construction of it, she appreciates the ability to customize any portion of it, etc. The reasons are endless, and they’re good! If you plan to have your dress made for you, be sure to allow at least six months for the process. Get in touch with the seamstress or designer as soon as possible to avoid last minute time crunches and panic.

If you’re looking for a seamstress or designer, your best source of references is friends and family. Also, be sure to work out a payment policy and schedule up front and get it in writing to ensure that there is no confusion.

Body Type

Finding a dress that you love AND that flatters your body type is a battle and a half. But it’s one worth pursuing, because a dress that looks great on your will make you feel like a million dollars.

This guide will help you determine your body shape, and what features can best flatter what you’ve got.

Triangle - hips are wider than bust and shoulders. The goal: minimize lower body and create the illusion of additional upper body width.

  • Create height with an elongated waistline.
  • Wear full sleeves to create the appearance of wider shoulders.
  • Full skirts hide heavy hips and legs.
  • Draw the eye upward by selecting a decorative bodice or details at the neckline.
  • Avoid bulky or straight skirts.

Reverse Triangle - upper body is wider than the lower body. The goal: emphasize lower body width.

  • A simple bodice will minimize the upper body width, so will unadorned sleeves.
  • Avoid high necklines and narrow skirts.
  • Choose a detailed skirt to draw the eye downward.
  • Create additional height with an elongated waistline, for example, a dropwaist.

Hourglass - larger bust and hips, small waist. The goal: balance.

  • Avoid high waistlines and necklines.
  • Emphasize a small waist with a fitted waistline.
  • Soft gathered skirts disguise hips and draw attention to the waistline; A-line dresses also work well.
  • Use details or embellishments wisely: bodice detail such as beading or lace will bring the eye upward and emphasize the upper body.
  • Consider an open neckline to flatter the shoulder line and bring the eye upwards.

Rectangle - long and narrow without a strongly defined waistline. Emphasize width and avoid long vertical lines.

  • Detailed sleeves will draw the eye outward.
  • An open neckline or off the shoulder look will broaden the shoulder line.
  • A full skirt with horizontal details, for example horizontal ribbon trim from the waistline to the hem.
  • Avoid high or drop waists, instead go with a fitted waist.

Below the Neck

The neckline you choose should flatter your face and body shape. If your shoulders are narrow and you want them to appear wider you will want a wide neckline that will broaden. If you have broad shoulders that you would like to appear narrower then you should select a neckline that is narrow. Here are some guidelines on the best necklines to suit the shape of your face:

  • Square - Scoop, round or V-necklines are best.
  • Round - Scoop, angular or V-necklines. Avoid high necklines.
  • Oval - Any type of neckline works well.
  • Oblong - Round or square necklines. The objective is to widen the face.
  • Heart - Any type of neckline works well.
  • Diamond - Wide open necklines and rounded necklines. Avoid V-necks.
  • Pear - V-neck. The goal is to lengthen and narrow the bottom portion of the face.

Other Figure-Flattering Tricks

If you want to:

  • Appear taller - High neckline, empire waist, short-sleeved or sleeveless dress with gloves.
  • Appear slender - High waistlines such as princess style or A-line; utilize vertical lines in fabric or trim details; scoop necks are also affective. Avoid ruffles, puffy sleeves and clingy fabrics.
  • De-emphasize the bust line - Scoop necks, high necklines and v-necks. Avoid empire or cinched waists.
  • De-emphasize height - Drop waist, wide belt, waistline adornments. Your height enables you to wear a hat or dramatic veil without being overpowered.
  • Appear less slender - Heavier fabrics, bodice details, gathered, large sleeves.

Plus Size Considerations

Plus size women look their very best on their wedding day when they find a style of gown that flatters and fits their body type. Look for a style that slims the body. Don't worry about ordering a particular size. Order by measurements so that the dress doesn't pull or bind anywhere. When a gown pulls and forms wrinkles, it's a sign the dress is too tight and it will make you look larger.

Princess seaming will elongate the body and lace placement will pull the eye away from problem areas. If your bustline is an asset, by all means, play it up with a sweetheart or V-neckline. If you have beautiful shoulders, consider an off-the-shoulder gown. If you’ve got a small waistline but large hips, try on some ball gowns with a basque waistline.

A Note About Undergarments

Searching out wedding day lingerie isn’t just a luxury, it’s a necessity. It can make or break how your dress fits you. This day, perhaps more than any other, calls for a properly fitted bra or complete underwear set to reduce unsightly bulges and pinches. And the wedding day is not a good day to first wear this lingerie. As silly as it might feel, wear it around in advance, so you know before the big day whether it feels comfortable and isn’t poking you somewhere.

Oh yeah, and make sure it’s pretty. After the wedding, there’s always the “wedding night!”

Original article by Karen Rheault.

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