BY: BROOKE STEWART
As females we are often pencilled into categories for our body shapes to help us select clothing, but how does this translate into bridal gowns?
The wedding dress shopping process can be quite daunting for even the most confident girl. Thankfully, the whole thing can be made a lot easier if you’re equipped with a) little industry know-how b) an understanding of your existing wardrobe and c) knowledge of your body shape. It’s important to establish a starting point before diving into a world of silk and tulle.
It can be quite tiresome to be compared to fruit (Apple or Pear anyone?) so start with your normal wardrobe to asses necklines and fit. Flick through your wardrobe, and take note: Are your dresses and key pieces strapless, shoestring, v-neck, boat-neck or square? You wouldn’t wear them if they didn’t make you feel amazing, and the same goes for your wedding gown.
Fit can be a little more complicated; finding the perfect fit is like selecting an outfit for a night with the girls, your entire wardrobe ends up on the floor! This is what wedding dress shopping is all about – you MUST try everything on as there are so many factors at play. Comfort, quality, shape and how you order your gown will all define the fit of your gown.
There are 3 ways to purchase a wedding gown.
1. MTM = Made to measure, made to measure should include all fittings in the price. Patterns are altered to your body lengths and then the gown will be tailored to your figure, you can often customise the design also. MTM you will have roughly 3-5 fittings and receive a gown customised to your body just a few weeks before your special day. An Australian designer or dressmaker can often create a gown quicker than ordering internationally, so always ask if you are pressed for time.
2. MTO = Made to order, there are two levels of MTO; A gown can be made to a standard size and adjusted closer to your wedding date (this is how most stores who carry international labels operate) and normally takes between 3-6 months depending where the gown is from.
If your gown is made by an Australian label it can be quite often made to your measurements, or a split size (12 bust, 10 waist, 10 hips) This does not necessarily mean the gown will fit perfectly you may need some minor alterations or your hem done closer to your wedding. Alterations and hemming will not normally be included in the ticket price, but a dress maker is normally provided or recommended.
3. RTW = Ready to wear, this is also known as off-the-rack, OTR. These gowns are a standard size and need some tweaking before the wedding but are often a more cost effective purchase. It is still OK to purchase beautiful designer garments at department stores, just check if garments have been shop soiled or damaged. You will need to source your own dress maker for the alterations, and before you book the work in ensure you hear the phrase “Yes, I’ve worked with this designer/fabrics/beading before.”
A TIP: Don’t assume that dresses with lace-up backs means you won’t need alterations! When the dress fits you correctly you should have a neat V-shape with smooth ribbons folding neatly down your back. In order to achieve this most people will still need alterations on their gowns.
Remember comfort is SO important – if you’re comfortable, you’ll breeze through your longest and most photographed day with ease.
A fitted or fishtail wedding dress should be structured enough to make you feel “held in” but make sure you do an aisle walk and sit test.
A waisted dress should not constrict your breathing but should support your bust like a favourite bra.
Strapless dresses should be fitted snugly enough to ensure they do not shimmy down throughout the day; if the gown is fitted neatly to your waist it cannot physically go past your hips.
Quality is important, and that doesn’t mean silk vs polyester! It means quality in the structure, beading and finish.
For structure: Boning should not poke into you anywhere whilst you sit, bra cups and bust contouring should feel comfortable and supportive without the need to wear a strapless bra.
For beading: does it look like it will fray and come undone on your day? Are there claws around the diamonds that will snag on your gown and everyone who hugs you? Does the gown come with dry-cleaning instructions?
For finish: are the seams smooth, is the fabric bubbling or creased, marked or damaged? If you are buying off the rack or made to order ask if there is allowance in the side seams for the dress to be let out (in case of pregnancy or bust fluctuation) and it’s equally important to know if the dress can be taken in without losing detail.
What was your experience selecting your dream wedding dress? Was it a pleasure or a pain? Let us know in the comments!