Saying yes to the wedding dress
In kicking off the Reflective Bride blog with big-picture topics like wedding values, wedding dates and timings for tying on the knot, I’ve maybe started at the less exciting end of the wedding day planning spectrum. So let’s jump to every bride’s most favoritest topic of them all: the dress.
There’s so much already written out there about how to choose a wedding dress, and a myriad of websites with dress galleries, so I will stick to the true theme of the Reflective Bride blog: how I decided, and how it turned out.
For a beginner’s guide to all the different elements of the wedding gown, check out this fantastic “101” overview from the Savile Row Wedding Boutique.
I actually had it much easier than I understand other brides do when it comes to narrowing down the dress style. I had always known that I wanted a white dress in a strapless design (I’d always felt that I had the shoulders for a strapless dress, whatever that means), but other than that I had never really given any thought to how my wedding dress might be. Luckily, I’m picky, and it didn’t take me too long to rule out many particular styles.
Before I went to my first bridal store with my mother and a bridesmaid, I trawled through the store’s website shortlisting the dresses I definitely wanted to try on. Hmm, notice anything?
Yes, I soon realised that in all of the eight bridal stores I visited I was pretty much trying on the exact same dress over and over again. It was a fabulous time-saver to have such specific tastes, as I could just flip through the dresses in the rack and decide within a few minutes if there was anything in the store worth my interest. I once read that brides on average try on between 30 and 150 dresses before deciding on “the one”; in my case it was 14 dresses, and it was the third dress I tried that I went back to: the “Ellen” design by Maggie Sottero (below). I adored it! It was the dress I compared all others against, and that was a pretty good clue that I was on the right track.
At the first bridal store, the salesperson got me to try on a dress that wasn’t on my shortlist. I actually loved it more than “Ellen”, but just felt it was a little too princess-like and not very me. That was the only dress I tried on in a different style (though it was still mostly the same!), and I do encourage you to try something a little different in your gown perusal process – you, too, might love it more.
Silhouettes, necklines and fabrics – oh my!
So how did I choose that wedding dress style (other than sheer gown-lust)? Let’s break it down…
Silhouette: Let’s start with the dress silhouette, which refers to the overall shape of the gown (for example, A-line, ball gown, sheath, mermaid/trumpet and empire). For me, choosing A-line was the first and a very easy decision – not only because it’s a universally flattering style, but also by process of elimination. A ball gown felt too over the top (especially for our planned beach ceremony), a sheath dress seemed too casual for achieving a formal tone for the day, and I was concerned how freely I could move my legs in a trumpet style. (I have biiig plans for dancing the night away!)
Color: Although I had assumed I would be walking out with a white dress, I was quickly informed that I would not be able to pull off such a stark shade with my pale, freckly, Irish complexion. The bridal store assistant informed me that white can be too bright for my skin tone and end up looking blue (eep!), and that it’s a shade best left for very tan or olive skins.
Fabric: On to fabrics! I went into the process with absolutely no preference for the fabric, but the seamstress at one bridal store observed that I tend to pick dresses in either chiffon or satin (satin more often). This was not an active choice of fabric, but just that the style of bodices and gowns I preferred happened to be in chiffon and satin. The only fabrics I really disliked was taffeta (it just seems to me like the fabric has had water spilled on it and now dried in an uneven, kind of bubbly way) and tulle (not keen on the tutu/meringue look). The dress I ended up choosing was satin, but I am – quite sadly – already regretting that. Satin is rather heavy, and therefore rather warm; at my only dress fitting so far I found my legs were getting sweaty just from standing still! I dread how sticky things are going to get while burning up the dancefloor at the wedding reception. Chiffon, however, is a much lighter fabric, and – much as I adore my wedding dress – I wish I had chosen a chiffon option. A married friend who chose a satin frock informed me that she was indeed sweating up a storm on her wedding day.
Neckline: As I had my heart set on a strapless dress, I only really had a choice of two necklines: a straight across “strapless” cut or a “sweetheart” heart-shaped neckline. I didn’t have a preference for either, but ended up choosing one with a “soft” sweetheart neckline, and I feel like that style is slightly more feminine. Also, don’t always believe the advice of websites that say what type of neckline works for what figure – I’m a member of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee (in fact I’m running for club president) and I think the sweetheart looks fabulous on me, despite what the experts would claim otherwise.
Bodice: I knew I wanted something with texture and decoration (though with a firm “hell no” to bows), and I looked almost entirely at dresses with ruching and some kind of beading. In my day-to-day ward- robe I have an inclination for tops with an asymmetrical design, and that same pro- clivity carried over to wedding gowns: anything that was symmetrical just didn’t jump out at me. The bodice on my dress also has boning, which helps hold up the dress and also disguise my flat chest. At the back, my dress has a corset closure (see right), which can be used to create a fab- ulous hourglass shape by pulling the strings in all the right places, while still giving comfortable space to breathe. The main problem is that a corset closure is imposs- ible to get into and out of by yourself, and I already have concerns about going to the bathroom on the big day!
Waistline: I had no feelings either way about waistlines, except that I absolutely did not want the empire style (where the skirt begins just below the bust line rather than from the waist). I understand that some ladies love this style, but to me it screams “maternity wear” and I would sooner avoid speculation about whether or not this is a shotgun wedding. The dress I ended up choosing had an asymmetrical waistline.
Train: The train on my dress is somewhere between a court and chapel train (extending about three feet behind me), because I wanted a train to make things more grand at the ceremony, but something short enough to be bustled away tidily for dancing. (Hmm, it’s interesting to realise that my desire for disco inferno has influenced so many of my dress decisions!)
Phew! So that was my experience (so far!) in how to choose a wedding dress, and how to select among the many options to find the style that’s right for you. I hope my experiences help other brides out there in narrowing down their own gown options; it’s a tough but highly enjoyable task. I’ll update you after the big day to let you know how it all went with my bridal outfit!