March 15, 2017
When I went shopping for my wedding gown seven (!!!) years ago, I told my Mom I’d be happy buying the first gown in the first store. I felt overwhelmed with the entire process, the cost, the expectations of what it should feel like when you know you’ve got the right one. Long story short, after trying on dozens of gowns at different stores, I really did buy the first gown from the first store. #winning I felt like a rock star when I was wearing it, some random fella said, “Wow!” when I walked out of the dressing room (sorry dude, TAKEN) and my Mom and Aunt Trish choked up when I stood in front of the triple mirror. I felt confident it was the right one….until the seamstress pulled it out of the bag and said, “Oh, I’ve seen this gown a lot this year!”
How could that happen!? I thought for sure I had the most unique gown out there. It was so different. (Cut me some slack, this was in 2011 before Pinterest was the wedding juggernaut it is now. I had a handful of bridal magazines and the opinion of my aunts to go on.) I asked her what we could do to change it up a little bit so it wouldn’t look like the rest and she suggested we pull the shoulder straps down to make cap sleeves. I loved it!
Until I had to actually wear it on my real wedding day for longer than 15 minutes. To keep the cap sleeves from sagging, they had to be taped to my upper arms. I learned the hard way that meant I wouldn’t be able to lift my hands above my head and all of my movements made me feel like a T-Rex. Dancing was awkward not only because I couldn’t figure out how to move without looking like a dinosaur, but because the skirt was so thick and so heavy I immediately overheated and started to feel sick. I opted to wear taller heels to avoid taking up the hem and my feet were killing me all day long. We were late to the reception trying to figure out the ultra-complicated bustle – you match this button with that hook, this color thread with that color loop – it was stressful!
So now that you know what NOT to do, here’s my five best tips for choosing the perfect gown!
Make Sure You’re Comfortable
It can be hard to get a gauge on this when you’re in the bridal salon and you’ve only got the gown on for a few minutes, but really think about it. Does it itch anywhere? Does it feel too constricting? Is it too heavy? Can you easily walk? Easily sit down? Lift your arms up? I’ve had more than one bride with a dress so tight she couldn’t even bend over – you might love that snug silhouette when you’re standing still, but keep in mind you’ll be walking, moving and dancing all day long. Consider the season when you’re getting married – you might love those Kate Middleton long sleeves, but if you’re getting married in August, you’ll be sweating like crazy. On the flip side, you may not want to go sleeveless in January – brrrrr.
Ask for a Simple Bustle
I’m not a seamstress, and this article explains it better than I can, but my own bustle was waaaay too complicated. None of my bridesmaids knew how to pin it up, and when we finally did get it, it didn’t look right. The fabric wasn’t laying the way it should and it looked boxy. We didn’t have any more time to work on it and I cringe when I see the back of it in my reception photos. Make sure you and at least two other people know how to string up your bustle and practice beforehand!
Check the Hemline
As gorgeous as those jewel-covered stiletto pumps are to photograph on a wedding day, I seriously wonder how my brides wear them! I’m a bit of a klutz, and I picked the most ridiculous open-toe high-heels for my wedding. I needed the extra height to avoid paying for an adjusted hemline. My feet were aching by the end of the ceremony and, when I switched to flats for the reception, my dress was dragging a good 3 inches. Most brides have their gowns cleaned and boxed after the wedding, and if the bottom is snagged and stained, it can be hard to get out.
Keep an Open Mind
The dress you found online and set your heart on may not work for you. Try on a variety of dresses in different cuts and styles – you might be surprised what looks flattering and what doesn’t! It’s a common thing for everyone to tell you that you’ll “just know” when it’s the right one and you try on a dozen gorgeous gowns waiting for some magical feeling to hit you. Ladies – it doesn’t always happen that way. You could feel incredible and gorgeous in any number of gowns. It doesn’t have to be the one all your bridesmaids like, or the one you thought you would get, and there’s not necessarily a wave of wisdom that hits you when you’ve got the “right” one.
Mind the Neckline
This is especially true if you think you might want to go strapless! Strapless dresses tend to be a better choice for brides with smaller chests – they are tighter around the natural waist and bust because you need that extra support to hold it up. If you find yourself worrying about a Janet Jackson-style nip slip every time you lift your arms above your head, try on a gown with sleeves. You need a gown that works for you and doesn’t make you nervous about showing too much every time you move. I LOVE sleeved gowns – they are universally flattering on every size and shape, brides don’t worry as much about their movement throughout the day, and they photograph well on the hanger during detail time.
I hope that helps! Happy shopping, brides!