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How To Find The Perfect Wedding Dress

Nov 13, 2007
One option is to start your search for the perfect dress close to home. Maybe your mother, grandmother, aunt or a special friend has her own lovely dress stored carefully away, waiting for another bride to wear. If you choose this option, examine the dress carefully for insect damage, discoloration, weak seams, missing buttons and stains. Consult a trusted dry cleaner to discover if spots or stains can be removed. If the dress's seams are very narrow, alterations might be difficult. Air the dress away from the sun to rid it of cedar or mothball scents. Have it professionally cleaned.

As sentimental as this option is, most brides want a new dress. If you're in this category, begin by doing a little window-shopping. Check out the latest bridal magazines for trends and styles. Keep a folder or envelope containing pictures of the dresses you like. This will be helpful when you actually visit a retailer to begin trying dresses on.

Be sure to attend bridal and fashion shows. You'll not only get a good overview of what's available, but you'll pick up new ideas and get information on bridal shops in your area. Then check out the shops. Get recommendations from married friends and call the Better Business Bureau. And pay attention! You should be treated like a queen when you enter a bridal shop. According to one shop owner, the store's first priority should be to make you "feel personally special from the minute you walk in the door."

Once on your quest for the perfect gown, choose one trusted person who knows your style to take with you. The more people you bring along, the more opinions you'll have to sift through. Your trusted person should care enough about you to tell the absolute truth about how a dress looks on you.

Your trust should extend to the bridal shop clerk, too. Many of these people have spent years helping brides find the right dress. They know which styles will flatter which figure types. Trust them, and don't be afraid to be adventurous. If a clerk suggests a style different from what you had in mind, try it on anyway! You may be surprised at how other styles flatter your figure.

Sometimes the retail dress route just doesn't fit. A bride who is especially tall or short, tiny or voluptuous, rich or poor can find the custom-made dress an answer to a prayer. Locate a reputable bridal seamstress in your area by word of mouth, through a high-quality fabric or sewing store, or through a local college, university or theater.

Ask to see samples of the seamstress's work, both in photos and in person. Check for finished seams, fit (in photos of brides) and quality of materials. Ask for an estimate in writing, checking to see if the seamstress or the bride supplies the materials and notions for the dress. Is a veil included in the price? Call past clients to check how satisfied they were with their dresses.

Fitting Your Wedding Gown

You may have the most beautiful dress in the world, but if it doesn't fit, ultimately you'll be unhappy with your choice. A bride goes through at least two fittings, with a final try-on a few days before the wedding. Alterations to a purchased gown are inevitable. Don't be offended by the "size" your fitter ends up assigning you. Every gown manufacturer uses a fit model and bases all their gowns on this woman's measurements, graduating them up or down for various sizes.

Your measurements will be compared to the manufacturer's size charts. Since wedding gowns have very narrow seams, there is no room to let it out to a larger size. Therefore the fitter will order the gown that fits your largest measurement best.

During your two or more fittings, the gown will be altered to fit your smaller measurements. The ultimate fit of the gown depends on the accuracy of the fitter's measurements, so be sure you bring the undergarments and shoes you plan to wear with your dress.

If your gown is custom-made, additional fittings will most likely be required. Many bridal seamstresses create an initial gown out of muslin or some other inexpensive material. This "model" garment is fitted to your figure, taken apart and used as the actual pattern for the dress itself. The dress will most likely be basted together, fitted again, sewn and fitted a last time in the final weeks before the wedding.

The Cost of It All...

To save money, many brides have turned to discount bridal suppliers. Although the initial price of the gown may seem like a bargain, the cost of alterations could make a significant dent in those savings. "Those brides who think they can order a gown through a discount operation and get it tailored at a local dress shop are in for an unpleasant surprise," says one bridal shop owner. "Altering today's wedding gowns is very, very specialized work. It takes years of experience." And it can be expensive. The cost of alterations varies greatly, depending on the dress's fit, age, fabric, lace and beadwork.

Also keep in mind that when a gown is ordered through a discount bridal supplier, there is often no recourse if a problem arises. Working with a reputable retailer that has years of experience in the industry and a solid relationship with manufacturers assures that you will receive the right dress, on time, fitting beautifully.

Typically, when a bride orders her gown from a retail store, she can expect to put down fifty percent of its retail price. The same is true for a custom-made dress. Custom-made dresses usually start at about $350 and can top out at $1000 or more. Veils average $150 to $300.

Completing the Ensemble

Once the perfect dress is found, there is only one way to be sure it will look the best it can and the foundation is the beginning. Finding the proper bra, slip, hosiery, etc., is necessary to create the perfect look. Many gowns require special undergarments. Low-line, backless bras and bustiers are made to provide the proper support without showing when and where they shouldn't. Luckily there are professionals who can help in choosing which undergarments will work the best.

Specialty lingerie shops have the staff who will not only help brides, maids and mothers find the proper undergarment; they will also help them find the perfect fit. Although many women shy away from specialty shops, thinking the price will be much higher, they usually find that the prices are comparable and the service is indispensable. While at the lingerie shop a bride may also find a delicate negligee perfect for the wedding night!

Not only do brides have to deal with what to wear under their gown, some need to be concerned with what to wear over it as well. Weddings take place in all seasons, and in many areas, it can be cold! Many dresses of today are strapless or sleeveless challenging the weather in the cooler seasons of fall, winter and spring. Brides, their attendants and mother of the bride and groom often do not own the appropriate cape, coat or wrap to wear on such a formal occasion. That's where businesses that rent capes and other outerwear come in handy.

Many styles of velvet, satin, sheer organza or faux fur garments are available to complement any gown.

Post-Wedding Gown Care

After the wedding, the last thing on your mind will be getting your gown cleaned. But taking the time to preserve your gown as soon as possible will ensure its pristine condition. If you can't see to it immediately, ask a bridesmaid or relative to do it for you.

Before taking the gown to the dry cleaner, check it carefully for stains. If possible, note the type and location of each stain. This will help your dry cleaner eradicate them more easily.

To box or not to box? No storage system is completely safe or will completely prevent age discoloration of fabric. A professionally boxed gown is sealed in an airtight picture-window box in acid-free tissue, preserved for future generations. If you decide not to box your dress, store it flat to prevent fabric stress from a hanger. Stuff the sleeves and bodice with acid-free tissue, and line the skirt with the same tissue. Wrap the dress carefully in unbleached cotton or linen. Boxed or unboxed, make sure your freshly cleaned dress is in a dark, dry place.

Apparel for Moms

Mothers have a vital role to play in the wedding of their children. So it's important to look good alongside the wedding party. This means choosing a dress that is simple, elegant and in a flattering color that blends well with the bridesmaids' dresses.

Flower girls and Miniature Brides

Choices for flower girl dresses or miniature bride ensembles range from duplicates of the bridal gown or bridesmaid dresses to a variety of adorable outfits sure to make any little attendant look like an angel. Bridal shops and specialty children's' boutiques are the perfect place to find an assortment of choices. Experts in these shops can also help to determine the proper size to choose. Since children grow at staggering rates, a dress that fits perfect today may be too small six months later. These experts also suggest that if a specific gown is desired it should be ordered as soon as possible since styles may change and may not be available for order at a later date.
About the Author
Rebecca Sherman is an editor for ModernWeddingPlanner.com. Our online wedding planner helps brides keep their wedding info organized and backed up.
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