Is there a bride who doesn't look beautiful? Probably not, for love, and
her special day give her a glow that makes her look lovely . . . almost
no matter what. All of which doesn't mean that the delightful task of
finding the dress of your dreams should not be approached in the same
organized way with which you will address all the details of your wedding.any prearranged details, such as additional services and/or charges
BEGIN THE PROCESS EARLY
Whatever you do, you don't want to make a
decision under pressure. This is one of the most pleasant aspects of
your wedding, so make and take the time to enjoy it. In most cases
you will need to order your gown anywhere from four to six months
before your wedding date. Most consultants suggest that you begin your
shopping at least nine months in advance of your wedding date.
It usually takes twelve to sixteen weeks for the gown to be made.
Then it comes to the salon where two or three fittings will be required.
Since fittings "happen" up until right before your wedding, give
yourself as much leeway as possible. The only glitch in ordering so
far in advance is any severe change in weight (up or down), but
dressmakers do wonders within normal weight change ranges. Do not
make the error of ordering a gown a size smaller based on your
promise to yourself to loose weight. It's still generally less
expensive, and safer, to take the gown on a bit rather than making
USE THIS CHECKLIST FOR SELECTING A BRIDAL SALON
1. Is the shop clean and well lit?
2. Is the shop well lit?
3. Who will be assisting you?
MAKE APPOINTMENTS TO TRY ON GOWNS
So that you will have all the time you need, most bridal salons recommend
that you allow an hour and a half for gown selection and that you make an
appointment, in advance.
USE THIS CHECKLIST FOR YOUR FIRST APPOINTMENT
1. Ask questions. You're paying not only for the gown itself but also for the expertise and advice of the shop.
2. Don't be bashful and don't be embarrassed. Try on as many gowns as you like. Dresses on the hanger always look different on you!
3. Set a budget maximum before you go shopping. Tell the consultant or shop owner what your budget is. With all the gowns there are to choose from, there is no reason why you can't find the perfect dress and still stay within your budget.
4. On your first visit to the bridal shop, you'll do well to pare down the many choices you'll be given to just three. Have your choices recorded in the shop and then go home and think about your exciting day. When you return a second time, try the three gowns on again and try again to narrow your selection. If you start well enough in advance of your wedding date, you can even take three trips to make your decision. This is probably the most money you'll ever spend on a dress, so don't let anyone rush the experience for you.
5. If you can, bring a friend or two, whose opinion you trust, along with you. More than two may actually make your choice more difficult and the process frustrating.
6. When the gown you have ordered arrives at the shop, go to check it out
immediately. Mistakes happen and so you'll want to make certain that the
style and the size are correct. If there's an error, delaying may be critical.
START YOUR SEARCH BY "WINDOW SHOPPING"
Now is the time you get to buy all those fabulous bridal magazines,
just waiting for you on the newsstands. What young woman has not eyed
those and thought . . . one day I'll get to buy a bunch. For the more
frugal prospective bride, the library is a less expensive, and perfectly
acceptable alternative. It will be very helpful for you to thumb
through the pages and see what gowns draw your eye and appeal to you.
When doing your "window shopping" make note of the names of manufacturers,
and page numbers. Making photo copies of gowns you like and writing notes
on the copies is a good way to develop a portfolio. This, of course, is
particularly helpful with borrowed magazines.
CHOOSE A STYLE FOR YOUR GOWN
You will need to decide what style is appropriate for your gown,
because there are so many different kinds from which to choose.
When you go through the delightful process of looking for your
gown, bear in mind that hand-beading adds charm and a decorative
flair. Bows are important style elements that add sophistication
to the look of your dress. They may be small and appear on the
shoulder or headpiece, or larger at the top of your train or in the
back. Lace used throughout the design of a gown can provide a more
ornate or classic look. Beware of cheap lace. Here are just some of
the style issues, accompanying terms . . . and some tips to go along
If you have a long neck and attractive shoulders, an off-the-shoulder gown may help to highlight these good features. The style of your neckline serves to frame your face, so it should draw attention there and not to itself. Interesting detailing at your neckline will also draw attention away from a heavy waistline and will create a more balanced look. It is essential that your neckline not only be flattering, but comfortable as well. Make certain it sits well no matter which way or how you move. Pay special attention to how the neckline fits when you bend over. Nothing is more unpleasant than having to hike up a drooping neckline or fit one that buckles. Now some neckline terminology:
The sleeve style you select for your gown need not follow the seasons as do street clothing. If your arms are attractive, sleeveless or cap-sleeve is flattering options for you. If your elbows will be visible, make certain to follow a beauty routine that will have them looking their loveliest at your wedding. If your arms tend to be on the heavy side, it makes sense to avoid form-fitting or body-hugging sleeve styles. Brides with wide shoulders should avoid puffy sleeve styles. Whatever style suits you and meets your personal taste, makes certain when trying on your gown that you move "every which way," raising and lowering your arms into a variety of positions. You will serve yourself best if you predetermine that movements are comfortable (enough room in the sleeves)
and that moving around will not split your seams. Now for some sleeve terminology:
- Bateau: slightly curved \below the collarbone from shoulder to shoulder
- Bertha: attached fabric or lace panel around the neckline
- Decolletage: cleavage revealing, plunging neckline
- Fichu: fabric of the neckline wrapped around the shoulders to look like an attached shawl
- Jewel: sits so as just to circle the base of the neck
- Portrait: rests just above the shoulder and gathers at a point in the center, just above the bustline (flattering to most women)
- Queen Anne: covers the nape of the neck, plunging in the front, high at the back and neck
- Sabrina: straight neckline that starts about two inches inside the shoulder (somewhat higher than bateau)
- Scoop: low and rounded
- Square: square shape at the neckline (particularly flattering for small busted women)
- Sweetheart: begins at the shoulder and dips into a heart shape at the bustline
- Balloon sleeves are puffy from shoulder to elbow.
- Bishop sleeves are somewhat full from shoulder to cuff.
- Cap sleeves are short, fitted and cover just the shoulder.
- Dolman sleeves extend from a wide width under the arm pit to a fitted width at the cuff.
- Fitted point sleeves are long and fitted and extend to a point on top of the hand just below the wrist.
- Gauntlet sleeves are detachable. They cover the forearm line an elbow-length glove with no hand.
- Juliet sleeves puff somewhat at the top and are fitted toward the bottom of the arm.
- Leg-of-mutton sleeves are full and rounded at the top, fitted at the bottom of the arm, like the Juliet save for the fact that the sleeve is tapered from the full to the fitted part.
- Pouf sleeves are very short, full sleeves that may be worn off or on the shoulder.
The design of your gown's waistline can serve to emphasize the positive and detract from the negative aspects of your figure. Brides who wish to look slimmer should, as a rule, look for gowns with vertical slants at the waistline. Now for some waistline terminology:
- Asymmetrical: begins at the natural waistline and angles to one side (best for curvaceous figures)
- Basque: dips to a point in the front center of the gown (helps to hide a stomach bulge)
- Blouson: fabric gathered at the waist to create a fullness above it (adds dimension to a straight waistline)
- Dropped: waistline falls several inches below the natural waistline (makes brides look longer and thinner and waistline slimmer)
- Empire: waistline begins just below the bustline
SILHOUETTES: The general shape or overall look of your gown, or silhouette, should be one that is particularly flattering to you. Deciding what best suits you is a trial and error process that involves your trying on different style gowns and seeing what looks best on you. No matter what your build or figure you will ultimately find that several styles are most appropriate for you and bring out your best features. Now for some silhouette terminology.
- Ballgown refers to the classic wedding gown silhouette. There is a natural waistline, well defined across and full skirted. This style looks good on most brides.
- Basque is similar to the ballgown, but has a drop waist in a V shape.
- Empire has a high waist and a shirt that starts just below the cropped bodice.
- Mermaid is a narrow gown that fits tightly to the body, with a skirt that flares at the knee of somewhat below. This is probably one of the less comfortable of all the styles.
- Sheath is a body-fitting gown with no defined waistline, similar to mermaid it does not flare at the knee. This style is comfortable to wear. Because it creates a clean, horizontal line, it is particularly flattering to the short bride who wants to appear taller.
DRESS LENGTH: The length you select for your gown is determined primarily by the formality of your wedding . . . from floor-length which is most formal to street-length which is most informal. Make sure you try your gown on with the shoes you will be wearing. Nothing is more annoying that catching your heel in your hem. Now for some dress-length terminology:
- Ballet length falls just at or slightly above the ankle.
- Floor length falls about an inch above the floor.
- Intermission falls somewhat shorter on the from (about mid-calf) than at the back, which is floor-length.
- Street-length falls just above the knee.
- Tea length falls below the knee, yet above the ankle.
TRAIN LENGTH: The length you select for your train is also determined primarily by the formality of your wedding. Keep in mind that a long train is inappropriate for an informal wedding, but a short train can be worn at any level of wedding formality. It is important when you select your train length that, if it is long, that it either is removable or has a bustle that can be lifted after the ceremony, so you will be comfortable dancing. Make sure you like the appearance of the gown when it is bustled, as well as when it is down. Keep in mind the option of having a two-for gown, with an overskirt that is removable after the ceremony. Now for some train length terminology.
- Chapel length . . . shorter train
- Cathedral length . . . long train
- Semi-cathedral . . . somewhere in between
In addition to your personal likes and
dislikes, you should take the following into consideration as well:
- The season of your wedding date. Some fabrics are more appropriate for certain times of the year.
- Religious restrictions. If you are holding your ceremony in a place of worship, an off-the shoulder or low-cut gown may not only be inappropriate, but restricted.
- Color Preferences. White may be the traditional dress color, but over the years pastels have become just as fashionable. Your complexion, or your figure may determine that another color will be more flattering.
SETTING A BUDGET
Once you have determined the style that appeals to you, you will need to
establish a budget for yourself. Wedding gown prices can vary from a
few hundred dollars to several thousand. It will be much easier and
more pleasant if, when you are shopping, you can direct your salesperson
to limit selection within a certain price range. When calculating your
budget, make certain to add the extras such as headpiece, shoes, gloves,
jewelry, undergarments, and accessories. Those little things can and do
Before you actually begin your shopping it is advisable to ask some of
your newly married friends where they purchased their gowns and for
their recommendations. Finding a reputable place to get your gown will
avoid what could be terrible consequences later. Bridal stores are
notorious both for opening and closing in great numbers. Don't be
embarrassed to ask questions like:
Your friends will be glad to help you and make your task easier. If possible, try to schedule your appointments for weekdays. You will usually get better service and be less rushed.
- Where did you buy?
- How far in advance did you order?
- Did you do any price comparison with other shops?
- Did the shop require an appointment for visits, and were
- Were you treated courteously before, during,
and after you made your purchase?
- Was the sales personnel helpful?
- How many fittings did you have and how much time were you
given at each?
- Did you require alterations and, if so, what were you pleased
with the results?
GOOD WEDDING RELATIONS
It is at this point that wedding etiquette and good parent-relations come
into play. You will probably want to ask your mom, sister and/or close
friend to join you. This is also a good way and time to start building
in-law relationships, by asking your future mother-in-law or sister-in-law
to join you as well. Much as you will do well with input from people who
love you, you will need to balance that with having so many people and so
many opinions that you get confused. Follow your own good judgement,
do what feels right, and you'll be okay.
WHERE WILL YOU LOOK FOR YOUR GOWN?
Decide in what kinds of shops you want to look. There are bridal salons,
one-stop (often discount) bridal services, department stores, thrift,
consignment/ resale shops, and rentals. There is also the option of
wearing a family heirloom, a borrowed gown, one made-to order by a
gown designer, or one that you make yourself. Some of these alternatives
may require the services of a tailor/designer, dressmaker, or your own
BRING ACCESSORIES WITH YOU
Wherever you decide to do your gown tryouts, remember to bring
accessories with you. Shoes similar to ones you will wear with
your gown, a strapless or backless bra (whichever is appropriate),
and a full slip will make visualizing the whole look easier. If there
is any special jewelry that you will want to wear, bring it too.
Sales personnel in bridal shops are usually both knowledgeable and
helpful. They can make your selection easier, especially if you
furnish them with guidelines to follow. A bridal consultant can be
enlisted to give you some direction.
FIND OUT THE STORE'S POLICIES
It is important that you find out the store policies about charges and
payments are before you buy. In a full-service bridal shop a 50% deposit
is customary when placing your order. This deposit, as a rule cannot be
canceled or refunded because orders are processed quickly to expedite
delivery. So remember, once you order it, the gown is yours! It's wise
to have the date of delivery for your gown, size, gown manufacturer,
and gown details written directly on your sale's receipt. If the shop
will allow it, pay using your credit card. In that way you can take
advantage of the consumer protection laws that cover such purchases.
Pictures can be misleading, so do not commit to a special order
without, at the very least, seeing a swatch of fabric in the color
you have chosen.
KEEP ALTERATIONS IN MIND
Keep in mind that alterations may require an additional
fee, and it is best to determine that at the onset. On the average,
expect them to run $75 to $85, with higher fees for style changes in
sleeve linings, etc. You may find that many stores will only accept
cash for your final payment. What is most important is that you keep
your purchase agreement with all the financial details outlined on it. In
the event that there are problems, a refund or adjustment will be easier
to get if you keep all the documentation.
DISCOUNT BRIDAL HOUSES MAY HAVE
If you decide to purchase your gown at a discount bridal house, there
will be additional special fees that may apply. Most discount gowns
come without a guarantee and are final sales. Your recourse for a gown
that is the wrong style, damaged, or arrives late, is limited. So, make
certain you know the terms before you buy.
THE HEADPIECE-Your Crowning Glory
Your wedding veil is the most important accessory for your wedding gown.
It is essential that your veil be coordinated appropriately with your
gown, with neither outshining the other and one complimenting the other.
So, choose your headpiece after you have picked your gown. Many gowns
come with matching headpieces.
However, you do have numerous options,
and should not feel pressured to buy anything you aren't completely
happy with. Lace mantillas, short or long are beautiful. Pale pink
illusion with just a touch of pearls and, perhaps, French-cut sequins
are a delightful accompaniment to a pastel pink gown.
Long veils, with or without lace accents are the heirloom, formal look.
Short veils, perhaps edged with pearls (especially if your gown is
embroidered with pearls) are enhancing. Bows, tiaras, and lace that
match your gown give a coordinated look. Your veil can create height
by using lots of fabric and embellishments, or it can be simply a bow
and a veil.
HEADPIECE & VEIL GUIDELINES
Be creative if you would like to. There are no really hard and fast
rules, only general guidelines.
These suggest that your veil length
coordinate with the length of your gown; the shorter the dress, the
shorter the veil.
A chapel or cathedral length veil goes best with a
train, while a ballet or fingertip veil goes best with an ankle-length
dress, and a "blusher" with a short dress. There are large picture hats,
velvet hoods, floral wreaths and lots more to work with of you are in
a designing mood. Take into consideration the shape of your face
(and your body).
KEEP YOUR FACE IN MIND
If your face is long and narrow, consider a wide-brimmed
hat. If your face is round and full, try adding height with a tiara,
pill box, or poof added to the back of your headpiece.
KEEP YOUR HAIRSTYLE IN MIND
Also, keep your hairstyle in mind. Both the length and style of your
hair will impact on what headpiece is becoming. Experiment with several
"looks" to see which you like best. Be careful not to go overboard
so your look becomes unbalanced.
Keep in mind that your veil,
whichever you select, should sit comfortably and securely.
Make certain to give it several trial runs in the store before
you buy it. When you bring it home try it on and secure it as you
will on your wedding day. Your hairdresser, if you are using one,
will also be able to show you how to secure it firmly for the big day.
Make the selection and purchase of a gown the wonderful, emotional,
experience and can and should be. Give yourself time. Give yourself
good company and advice. Give yourself the right to be who you are
and pick what makes you comfortable, happy, and feeling lovely.
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