Wedding Dress Shopping 101
A few things you should know before you say YES to the dress.
Lovely Bride x Jenny Yoo 'Leighton' Dress | Rebecca Carmel Photography
This is probably the most epic shopping trip of your life—for potentially the most expensive dress you'll ever wear! No pressure, right? *insert nervous laughter here*
But seriously—we've got you covered with some advice on wedding dress shopping so you'll know how to prep and what to expect. And definitely scroll to the end where we give you our top tips on feeling empowered and fabulous during your bridal gown appointment.
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To avoid potential aggravation, it's good to have an overview of how wedding dress shopping—and selling—is typically done. For example, did you know:
- Salons only carry select styles of their featured designers. Often the only way to actually try on a particular dress without ordering it first (read: buying) is to attend a designer trunk show. Even if you call the store ahead of time to find out if they carry Berta or Hayley Paige gowns, don't expect to see the entire line on your visit.
- Pro Tip: Already have your heart set on a particular dress? Send the salon images of that dress or similar styles and ask if they have anything along those lines available for you to try on.
- Stores typically carry sample styles in sizes 8 and 10 (which, to complicate things further, don't correspond to street sizes). It IS possible to shop for petite and plus sizes, too, as more and more stores recognize the value of stocking a wider range but call ahead and be specific—or risk disappointment.
- Bridal fashion has its own vocabulary. You'll want to be somewhat familiar with the terminology of wedding gowns so you can accurately express what dress styles suit your taste. Are you drawn to a basque waist or a drop waist? Tea-length or trumpet? Sweetheart neckline or surplice? Do your homework to figure out your fave styles.
- Pro Tip: It's great to have an idea of what you like to help narrow things down, but be open-minded to other styles! You may think you'd never wear a ballgown, but you could be surprised by what happens when you try one on!
- You'll most likely need an appointment. Most appointments run 60–90 minutes, so be on time, pace yourself, and relax. Chances are you'll need a second or third trip to narrow down "the one", so take the pressure off yourself to make a decision right away.
- Some stores won't let you browse or try on items yourself. Instead, a stylist will be "pulling" gowns for you to try. Rather than being annoyed, think of this as a plus: You'll get an expert opinion and another perspective on what could look good on you…and it's the way aristocrats used to shop! So go ahead and feel extra fancy.
- Once you choose your dress, it could take 6–8 months to receive it. Make sure to plan ahead and order with plenty of cushion for alterations. On a shorter wedding timeline? Then browse the store samples—it's a smaller selection but larger savings, and you get to take the dress home with you that day!
Kleinfeld Bridal | Jamie Levine Photography
Now that we've gone over the basics of how things work, let's move on to your actual shopping experience. Here are our top tips for feeling fabulous and empowered during your dress appointment:
1. Dress for Success
- Get ready like a rock star. Wear some makeup that makes you feel confident. Add a spritz of perfume. And your favorite bra. And Spanx. You’ll want to feel good about yourself that day and maximize the chance that you’ll love what you see in the mirror. Just take it easy on the self-tanner, which doesn’t exactly mix well with white fabrics.
- Do your hair. Considering an updo on the day-of? Then do a quick topknot to simulate the effect. Going beachy wild? Get out the curling iron that morning. A sophisticated ponytail or French braid? This is a good time to practice. Even better: Schedule your bridal beauty trial for the morning of your dress appointment so it can do double-duty.
- Bring along your wedding-day shoes. Not only will they help with judging the length of your hem (especially if you plan to wear heels), but those special shoes will make you feel like even more of a badass.
2. Build Yourself Up
- Practice positive affirmation. At least for the day that you dress shop, commit to talking about yourself in a loving way rather than bemoaning your perceived flaws. They're what make you uniquely YOU! Remember, someone wonderful chose to spend the rest of their life with you so you're obviously pretty fantastic!
- Focus on your best attributes. With so much attention paid to appearance, it's easy to obsess about features you don't like. Instead, celebrate your beautiful hair. Or winning smile. Or graceful arms. Or sensual curves. (And choose a dress that shows off your assets!)
3. Rely On Your Squad
- Only invite folks that make you feel good. A couple of friends or family members who always make you laugh—and whose opinions you trust—make great dress-shopping companions. Leave the Debbie Downers and emotional vampires at home, even if they happen to be related to you. And don't feel badly about it! Many salons limit the number of guests you can bring, which could be a good excuse for not inviting someone along.
- Snap some photos. Ask a trusted friend or family member to take some photos of you in your favorite dresses, from all different angles. Take them in natural light, if possible, since the fluorescent lighting in dressing rooms isn't very kind. Reviewing these pics later will confirm whether you looked as good as you felt in those gowns—and just may help you say YES to the dress!
4. Trust Your Gut
- It's okay to walk away. If you aren't vibing with the stylist, it's okay to leave early or ask the manager for a different consultant on your next visit. Or maybe it's the salon's overall personality that's putting you off—too much sales pressure or an I-could-not-care-less attitude is a signal that it's time to say, "thank you...next!"
- Pick a dress that makes you feel amazing—both inside and out. Finding the perfect wedding dress is a lot like finding the perfect partner—it's all about choosing one that makes you feel fabulous. A gown may be sparkly and luxurious, but if you don't feel like your most beautiful self when you put it on, then keep looking. And if the prospective gown needs a lot of work beyond basic alterations, just say NO. There are plenty of other pretty fish in the sea!
Featured Bridesmaid Dresses | DESSY GROUP
You love your bridesmaids and want them to look gorgeous on your big day, right? Right.
Luckily, Dessy Group knows that bridesmaid dresses should be flattering, comfortable, affordable, and stylish. Whether sleeveless or off-the-shoulder, matchy-matchy or mix-and-match, Dessy Group has a huge array of modern bridesmaids dresses to make your girls look good...
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Filed under Expert Advice, Makeup / Hair, Wedding Dresses / Accessories
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