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Open Thread: Wedding Dress Shopping Fears And Concerns


Brought to you by the Ford Fiesta Movement

by Maddie Eisenhart, Digital Director & Style Editor

Open Thread: Wedding Dress Shopping Fears And Concerns | A Practical WeddingOpen Thread: Wedding Dress Shopping Fears And Concerns | A Practical WeddingIf you’re the kind of person who routinely changes outfits three times before finally settling on something that feels just right on a normal day, wedding dress shopping can be a particular kind of hell. I had a less-than-stellar dress shopping experience, but I never actually expected wedding dress shopping to be fun. Shopping for a purpose has never been fun for me. (Ask my poor mom, who I tortured throughout high school with the most persnickety of homecoming tastes.) It’s more like car shopping, but with a prettier outcome. So wedding dress shopping meant that I sort of had an idea of what I wanted, I knew what I definitely didn’t want, and through gritted teeth, I hoped to work hard and come out on the other side with at the very least a satisfactory product and my life savings still in tact.

But if being married to Michael has taught me anything, it’s that with enough knowledge, car shopping can be empowering instead of simply bearable. And I think the same can be said for wedding dresses. What made wedding dress shopping difficult for me was a lack of knowledge. The wedding dress industry does a marvelous job of hiding the ball (when you’re a research type, this is the nightmare). Sure, you can find a zillion websites that tell you about boat necks vs. v-necks and taffeta vs. lace, but what about the part where dress sizes are wildly different from street sizes? Or the fact that most manufacturers expect you to do a significant amount of tailoring on your dress?

The lack of information about wedding dresses made the whole prospect so daunting that I didn’t even want to go into a wedding dress store. (I did, eventually, begrudgingly go to the Nicole Miller store in SoHo, which I loved and could not afford.) I just figured any dress I would like I couldn’t afford and any dress I could afford would be something that felt like…not me. The sad part is that a great affordable dress did totally did exist, if only I’d known where to look and how to ask for it.

So today’s open thread is part one of two. Step one: You give us all your questions. Step two: We go find the answers. This month we’re supporting the Ford Fiesta Movement, which means that we’ve been given the opportunity to make our answers way better. As part of the Ford Fiesta Movement, agents (aka, You Tube stars) are sent on monthly themed missions, and make videos of the outcome. (While we’re at it, you should watch all of Lisa Schwartz’s Truth or Dare Fiesta Movement video, because the staff is collectively mad that she’s not our BFF.) Since October is the Fiesta Movement’s “Style” month, we decided to send ourselves on a mission. Our mission is to help you guys avoid the pitfalls of wedding dress shopping by arming you with as much information as possible. Much like what we did with my interview with Meg a few months ago on new motherhood, our plan is to take the dress shopping questions and concerns that you leave in the comments and then bring them to a local indie wedding dress shop owned by APW sponsors, and report back in a few weeks with all the good insider information (and pretty pictures). So go for it; the floor is yours! What are your questions and fears around wedding dress shopping? What problems did you have that you didn’t know how to solve? What headaches do you wish you’d avoided? Give us all your best questions, and we’ll make it our mission to give you the best answers possible.

**This post was sponsored by The Ford Fiesta Movement. Thank you The Fiesta Movement for helping make the APW mission possible!**

Photo by APW Sponsor Kelly Benvenuto

Maddie Eisenhart

Maddie is the Managing Editor of A Practical Wedding. She’s been writing stories about boys and crushes since she was old enough to form shapes into words, but received her formal training (and a BS) in the art of talking from NYU in 2008. In her spare time, she takes pictures of people in love. Maddie lives on a pony farm in the Bay Area with her husband Michael, her Mastiff named Juno, and her roommate named Joe.

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  • B (the other one)

    This is too perfect- I went to try on dresses for the first time this weekend!….and it was horrible :/ I felt like I was in costume, none of the stores in my area (rural England) carry the style I’m going for (sheath/column-like seriously, I’m not asking for a purple ball gown or anything) and it was so expensive! So now I’m looking at Nicole Miller who I’ve always loved, but I don’t want to do strapless, thinking I will probably order online (nightmare waiting) and might buy used (where do I even start?).
    Plus my brain is freaking out- like should this dress be a statement since we are eloping so theres not much else? or should I keep it simple (simple = cheap)?
    and none of the sizes make sense. Explain please.

    • KC

      For a sheath dress, looking at not-theoretically-bridal dresses that happen to also come in white might be honestly easier than finding an official Bridal Dress that’s a simple sheath. (try looking at bridesmaid dresses; regular dresses; or it might be reasonable to have something done bespoke, even, if you figure out what you want but can’t find it in the color you want)

      Good luck!

      • B (the other one)

        I have been! The look I’m going for is more evening gown than ‘bridal’ anyways and I’m open to wearing color. I actually really want to wear a black dress that I found but not sure if that would be too much out of the norm, since we are already having an untraditional engagement and planning to elope.

    • meg

      Ugh. The costume problem. I remember trying on dresses and feeling like “this is totally nice. And… I feel like bride barbie.”

      As for why it’s so hard to find simple: kill me now.

      • B (the other one)

        This is exactly what I said “Barbie bride”. How do you feel authentic in something that isn’t what you normally wear? Do you just keep trying dresses on until its normal???

      • Laura C

        I actually said this to the salespeople: “I want to look like me in a great dress, not me in a bride costume.”

      • Pumpkinpicker

        Oh yeah. I said “simple, no lace, no bling, just clean white expanse of dress” and they looked at me like I had three heads. *sigh*

      • Kestrel

        This is why I’m not wearing a veil. Cannot manage to see myself in a veil without making me feel like someone completely different.

        My dress is cute and fun (and has tiny polkadots!) so I feel like myself in that one, but add a veil and it’s a no-go.

        It’s also why I’ll not be going to a hairstylist. I also do my own hair. Hell, I learned to french braid when I was 6, although I couldn’t execute it on my until I was about 9. Sure, they could do something more elaborate than I can, but no one besides my mom or I has done my hair for anything and it would just feel weird.

        • Tea

          Tiny polkadots! It is my dream to wear a polka dot dress! Do you mind sharing where you found it/more info?

      • Josie

        YES! I went shopping this weekend and at the first shop found one absolutely gorgeous elegant pile of 30s glamour girl awesome, that I objectively knew I looked great in but just felt…weird. And then at the next shop I tried on a tea length fun fluffy skirt dress of awesomeness with sparkles and immediately knew that was the dress I’d be dancing the night away in — because I felt like me, but me in a fabulous dress going to an awesome party.

        I’m still a little baffled that the “traditional” bridal gowns felt so weird on me!!

    • Sam

      Here’s a story with a happy ending, if it eases your nerves at all: I had a similar experience — I couldn’t find anything I liked. I eventually went to a small boutique that had a lot of simple Nicole Miller dresses — much better! I wanted sleeves or cap sleeves as well, which are hard to find in general (because sleeves are more expensive to manufacture, apparently). The saleswoman suggested a lace bolero, which looked awesome!

      Prior to trying these on, I had already purchased an even cheaper, more “me” dress on Etsy…without trying it on or even having seen it in person. I had plenty of nightmares about it, but it worked out great! It’s the one I plan to go with on my wedding day.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu CarolynC

        I ordered online from a place that took my measurements and sent me a plain sample ahead for fitting. Having done the whole process about four months out from the wedding, the dress was the least stressful thing of all to me!

    • Libby

      I’m not sure if they’re available in stores in England, but Saja wedding dresses are to die for when it comes to not feeling like you’re in a costume (they were literally more comfortable then most clothing I wear on a daily basis). They are simple and most have straps. Even if you’re not able to access them, at least for a little feeling of “this!” to help lead you in the right direction? http://sajawedding.com/collection.html

    • stella

      Have you tried looking at BCBG? They have a few column type bridal dresses that are cheaper than normal wedding dresses…

      • B (the other one)

        No I havent yet, I will now though! Thanks!

    • Oakland Sarah

      You might try BHLDN and J.Crew. They have a lot of simple /column/sheath dresses. I actually ordered my dress from BHLDN online–certainly not the experience I expected. I liked it, I got it in the mail, tried it on, and it was perfect (well, needs some tailoring). It’s a very simple column dress. I know BHLDN ships internationally, and I would guess J.Crew does as well. Don’t be afraid of the online ordering! You can always ship back!

      • Abby Mae

        Ooooohh! BHLDN! I LOVE them! This needed more than just an Exactly*!

    • Hannah B

      Check out Elizabeth Dye, too. Very simple dresses that are also just lovely. Also, Nicole Miller is a pretty quick ship, relative to bridal dress timelines (three months or less). Really, it’s just that you can’t return a wedding dress. Unless you are having a dress made by a dress maker specifically for you (bespoke! that’s what that means! Didn’t know that til recently), you are ordering a “ready to wear” size. However, the ready to wear size might not relate to street size and varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Sizing charts are available at retailers’ locations (and sometimes, with major manufacturers like Alfred Angelo, online! Yay!) and I’m sure if you call they’d probably be willing to help you decide what size would be best for you (to my knowledge Nicole Miller can run a little small). Also, have someone else measure you, if possible.
      Online resources I’ve stumbled across include oncewed.com, ebay (had a friend buy hers on ebay with great success!), and preownedweddingdresses.com. Now, it would be wise to have your measurements at hand and try to get something within a size of you (and find out what tailoring was previously done, so you know what you have to work with), so that your tailor can fit it to you. Taking the dress in a lot without altering the look of the dress will probably cost you whatever you saved buying it secondhand. However, it’s always better to go a little bigger than too small, because tailors aren’t wizards! Maybe there are some tailors on the site to what’s possible with tailoring and what isn’t.
      But, as someone who works in bridal, please keep looking for a good experience! Not all bridal salons are driven solely by sales goals and commission and have only cupcake topper gowns; there are those out there looking to help you feel like the bride you want to be, whatever that means to you., in whatever style that is. Good luck!!

  • Laura C

    I tried on wedding dresses at two places before reverting to my initial plan of getting a regular old evening gown. I knew to expect that the sample sizes would be way too small for me, but I feel like…tips on how to envision how a dress would look if it fit you when you’re looking at yourself in a dress that totally doesn’t fit might be helpful. I had it fairly easy — things tend to fit over my hips and then the zipper screeches to a halt somewhere in my rib cage — so most of the dresses I saw I could more or less envision. But the couple that had side zips, where I was looking at myself in the mirror in a dress that hardly went past my nipple on one side and was gaping open? Not so much! Really gave me perspective, too, on all the times on Say Yes to the Dress they try to claim that straps make women look wider. Yeah, if the dress is way too small and you’re squeezed inside the straps, and the dress was built to begin with to be strapless and super-corseted where the straps are just drawing attention to all your parts that have been forced up and out of the dress.

    Anyway, mini-rant, but seriously, how do you know what the end result is going to look like if the sample dramatically doesn’t fit?

    • Kat R

      The sample sizes made it really difficult for me, too! I had the hardest time with the illusion necklines. Loved them in photos, and they seemed like a good alternative to strapless, but in the store they looked all scrunchy and I couldn’t lift up my arms. I really couldn’t have any clue what those dresses would look and feel like, so I didn’t feel comfortable with buying them.

    • Lisa

      I had the exact opposite problem–I have what I affectionately refer to as “German birthing hips,” a tiny waist, and a small chest. I have worn several evening gowns for performances before, and they have all been A-lines. When I went to try on bridal gowns, I wanted to see different silhouettes (mermaid, ball gown, etc.) that I hadn’t seen on myself before just so I could know if I liked them.

      I do a pretty good job of dressing myself so that nearly 10″ discrepancy between my upper and lower halves isn’t totally noticeable so, when I went to the salons, the consultants kept pulling all of these dresses that they thought would look great on me. When I would try to step in as they instructed, I could NEVER get the dresses over my hips, and they refused to believe me when I said the dresses would have to go over my head. I think I found one or two mermaids at three separate salons that would even fit over my hips, and while I liked them, it was difficult to imagine how I would actually feel because I could barely move in the dresses.

      I am pretty small (size 6-8 pants and XS on top) and can only begin to imagine what kind of special hell trying dresses on must be for anyone larger than me. My little sister will be looking at gowns in the new year, and I can’t imagine where in Indiana or Ohio she’s going to be able to find any samples she can fit into.

      Thankfully my mother is a seamstress, and I had a moment in one of the gowns during the day so we’re just going to make a knock-off dress, but I don’t know where women who don’t fit into the traditional sample size would begin to shop. (And David’s Bridal is not a good catch-all. Growing up with a tailor of a mother taught me about quality, and the DB gowns are some of the most poorly constructed things I’ve ever seen.)

      So, ladies, where does one find a place to try on dresses in something approximating one’s size so one can even figure out if she likes the idea of the silhouette or not?

      • Sarah McD

        And I thought I had it bad… I’m only a 7″ discrepancy. I just ordered a sample dress online to try on and I had to get the large, despite being a small/extra small in both waist and bust. I can’t offer advice on where to go to try stuff on, but know you have my deepest empathy. Godspeed!

      • Kestrel

        Ugh. So feel you on this one. My measurements are 33″-29″-42″. Yup. Nothing fits! Even the dress I’ll probably end up buying (which is more or less an a-line with a high natural waist) was too tight across the hips and I’ll have to order the size up and have the bodice taken in.

      • http://www.hiveandhoneyphotography.com Sarah

        Where in Indiana? There is a plus size bridal shop that keeps plus size samples ready called Miss Pamela’s in Rochester Indiana. I’ve never been there myself but they have good reviews from word of mouth.

      • http://yarnworkz.wordpress.com/ Aubry

        ug, yes! I flat couldn’t try on several dress styles because nothing would fit me. my measurements are 40 – 34 – 50. Yes, that is 14″ difference between my waist and my hips. Yes that is an E cup. And I am 6’1″, so my torso is only a little longer than normal…

  • ElisabethJoanne

    1. Is there some sort of secret directory of bridal boutiques? I shopped in the San Francisco Bay Area and found boutiques by accident. They weren’t in the phone book. They weren’t on Yelp. None of the regional bridal magazines had good lists, especially at my low price point.

    2. At the one boutique I went to, when I said I wanted long sleeves, the saleslady mentioned a “build-up,” which is apparently a way to add a higher neckline and sleeves to a strapless dress. I would have liked more information. I’d seen lots of strapless dresses to which straps and/or cap sleeves had been added and didn’t like the results.

    • Laura C

      Question 1 is a great point. And when you see sites that do list some boutiques and the scale is “$” to “$$$$” what does that translate to usually?

    • Lizzy

      Go to bridal conventions! That’s how I learned about all of the bridal shops in my area . . . some of them will sign you up for an appointment right there at the convention. If not, they usually have information about their hours/address/phone number.

    • Jennifer

      I found boutiques by either googling my city and bridal gowns, or by finding gowns I was interested in and looking for storest that carried them. It would be so much more convenient if there was a secret directory!

    • meg

      DO NOT START ME ON THE CRAP THEY DO TO FAKE SLEEVES IN SLEEVELESS GOWNS. You know how to get sleeves that look effing good and don’t cost a fortune? Don’t buy a sleeveless wedding gown.

      /end rant.

      • Rachel

        Wedding dresses with sleeves are wedding unicorns! They are basically my favorite thing in the world (round-up???) and I make it a point to keep an eye out for them, but even during the winter, they are HARD to find. I’ve seen a lot more than usual in 2013 (woo!) but still…this doesn’t seem to have trickled down to a ton of designers yet.

        • B (the other one)

          There are plenty of them here in the UK! You can thank Kate Middleton for that.

        • Laura K

          OMG a non-strapless dress roundup would be amazing! Why is it so hard to find a dress you can wear a regular bra with?

          • copper

            THIS is the key. Some of us, no matter how well made and perfectly fitted the dress, will absolutely 100% need to wear bras. Real bras, not pasties masquerading as bras. And bridal people just don’t seem to get that. A dressmaker I know literally seemed offended when I just casually said, well I’ll probably wear a strapless bra under it anyway. It’s not your fault, it’s not some flaw in construction, it’s how some of us are built, and frankly after around 20 years of bra-wearing, if you got me to try going braless I just wouldn’t be comfortable psychologically, I’d feel like I was going out in public naked.

          • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

            Especially for us ladies who are larger on the top. Like really, if you’re wearing a G cup to begin with, probably you’ll want some sort of proper support garment.

          • SE

            That was my number one goal! I am larger in the chest area, and I don’t care how good of a corset/strapless contraption you come up with, the girls will never look as good as in a regular bra.

      • Caroline

        Can we talk about how to find gowns with sleeves though? I’m a religious Jew, and strapless plus “sleeves” just ain’t cutting it for modesty, but I feel like my only options are to fly to NY or Utah (too expensive) or buy online (terrifying for something expensive you can’t return). As someone with a freakishly long torso (my skinny 8year old self woreXL leotards to ballet), so few of the very few dresses I’ve seen with straps hve fit me at all. I’ve been on 4 shopping trips so far and not found anything.

        Strapless is not an option. It’s seriously an issue. (PS I’m in the Bay Area.)

        • ElisabethJoanne

          I only went here, which had a couple I liked, and DB:
          http://www.rinsbridal.com/

          I called a couple local places that just couldn’t help when I said I wanted long sleeves.

          For online shopping, would you be OK with used? I ordered at least one dress from ebay. It was wonderful, but it had a spot my dry cleaner wasn’t sure she could get out, so I sent it back for a full refund. (I had to pay return postage, but I’d have spent the same amount on gas going to stores that I couldn’t be sure would have anything I liked.)

          I ended up ordering a custom dress from a storefront in San Mateo that placed the order in China. It was a mixed good/bad experience, but something I’d recommend to someone with the right mind set.

          • Caroline

            I’d consider used online if I could return it, but I think it would be hard to find something that looks good on me. It is really hard to judge when the waist is long enough from pics. Did you find Rin’s to be helpful?

          • ElisabethJoanne

            Rin’s was a good experience. Even though it was my first stop, I knew exactly what I wanted when I walked in, and they mostly respected that.

        • Rachel

          Not sure what your budget is, but BHLDN has at least one dress with sleeves right now and they have a great return policy: http://www.bhldn.com/shop-the-bride-wedding-dresses/lia-gown/productOptionIDS/fbcaeb8b-b90b-4e9a-9313-32da085940dd

          Also, I came really close to buying this dress in ivory for my wedding dress: http://watters.com/Product/WattersWatters/2251/ I can’t find it online right now but I’m almost positive there’s a really pretty floor-length version. I really like Watters dresses in general (both bridesmaids and wedding) and they are pretty widely available at bridal shops around the country! So if you find something you like on their website, finding it in a store to try it on may not be impossible.

          • Caroline

            Thanks. The lia one is really pretty but a little low cut in the v, and too expensive, the watters beautiful but not quite as princessy as I’m hoping for. Thank you though!

          • Trinity

            I bought the Posey dress for my wedding gown! (Just got it back from alterations yesterday.) It’s a lovely dress, though it required every alteration you can imagine (partly because I’m only 5’3″).

            This dress is similar but with a long skirt: http://watters.com/Product/Encore/3218E/

        • Megan

          Go to The Wedding Party in Berkeley! They’re fabulous.

          http://www.theweddingpartyonline.com/

        • littleone

          I’m also an observant Jew, and I bought my wedding dress (silk shantung, long sleeves, high neck, huge ballgown skirt – $200!!) on Etsy! There are some amazing vintage and custom-made wedding dresses with higher necklines and sleeves, some of which are very cheap. Just search “long sleeve white (or ivory) gown”.

          There are also vendors like Tova Marc (weddingdressfantasy.com), who makes dresses for the orthodox Teaneck, NJ neighborhood and sells off her extras online. Some of her dresses are strapless, but the long-sleeved ones crop up from time to time and she also makes fairly affordable custom designs.

          • RINALA

            I have to second Tova Marc. I’m also an observant Jew and bought my dress from her…but her shop was local for me.

            Best of luck!

        • Kat91314

          All of these suggestions are good. You might also try Ann Taylor’s online bridal collection. Relatively inexpensive (I got my dress for $257 on sale!), easy return/exchange policy too.

          http://www.anntaylor.com/weddings-events/cata00005

          Good luck :-)

          • SE

            I got mine from Ann Taylor, also. That was the best decision I made. I ordered it based on reviews saying that it ran big, it was on sale plus I had another coupon, and I got enough rewards points from the purchase that I was then able to get another dress & a cute top. Great experience.

      • MK

        One place offered to add sleeves/straps to the strapless dress.

        Forgot to mention that their “sleeves” were going to cost $200. Each! I almost fainted.

  • http://casadepolish.blogspot.com Arden

    Oh my goodness, I’m so excited you’re doing this Open Thread because dress shopping has probably been the most intimidating part of wedding planning so far for me. Here are my questions:

    1. How early do you REALLY have to buy your wedding dress? I’ve seen so many conflicting reports. I’m getting married next August, is it ok for me to wait to go dress shopping over Christmas break? Surely 7 months is enough time? Right?

    2. I’d love a “Get Sh*t Done” type of post on what kinds of research you need to do before dress shopping. Should you do a trial run at a store where you just try on different things to get an idea of what you like before you go out ready to buy a dress? Can you walk into a dress store with no idea what kind of dress you want, and be able to walk out with a dress? Or is it important to have some parameters in mind before you shop?

    • MC

      I second the request for a post about pre-dress shopping!

    • Jennifer

      How early? Well, if you’re ready to actually make the purchase, I’d start looking now. Some dresses take FOREVER to come in – my friend’s dress came in literally the week of her wedding, and she ordered it 7 months in advance and paid for rush shipping. I ordered mine in late May and it came in late September – so that was only like 4 months.

      I’ve been to more than a dozen bridal boutiques and stores (not just for me! I was a MOH 3 times before, and accompanied other friends on their shopping trips) and most of the stores were pretty good about being upfront with how long a dress takes to come in. A few even had their dresses divided into groups based on how long they took to came in, so my friend with only 5 months till her wedding knew she couldn’t even look at the dresses 6 months or longer.

      If you have no idea what you want, I’d go ahead and start looking now. That way if you fall in love with a dresss that takes forever to come in, you won’t have your heart broken.
      Then again, some people can just walk in and buy a sample dress and they’re good to go!

      And the first bridal store I went to (it was a small boutique in Dallas) had me try on 5 entirely different dresses just to get an idea of what I wanted – poofy ball gown, mermaid, sheath, A-Line – even if you’ve done research, I feel like it’s hard to really know what you want until you’ve seen YOUR body in the dresses. I say have some ideas, but keep your mind open. I ended up with a completely different dress than I set out to buy!

      • Ariel

        I was told mine will take 6-7 months to come in :-/

    • SJ

      Well, I can answer the second part: I had no idea what kind of dress I wanted and walked out with a dress same day? My friend, consignment. Mine (as it turns out) was a sample gown and never worn.

      I walked in adamant about no satin and NO BALLGOWNS…

      ….and I walked out with a satin ballgown that has a four foot train, fits like a dream (hemming aside) and makes me feel like a sexy cloud.

      Happy Hunting!

      • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

        I am filled with delight at the phrase “sexy cloud.”

    • Itsy bitsy

      I’d just like to second your first question. (Also- WOO August 2014 wedding buddy!)

    • meg

      The second post is exactly what we’re going to write for you guys. (With pictures! Because we get to go do interviews and play dress up on this one. Yayyy!)

      • http://www.meanestlook.com Sara

        Yay! And please kill the stigma of second-hand dresses and online made-to-custom dresses. I think they are an awesome resource. For the real, son!

      • http://casadepolish.blogspot.com Arden

        Yay! Can’t wait.

    • http://turningtoward.blogspot.com Kara T.

      As far as the “how early” question, it totally depends on where you’re buying. I was fortunate enough to have a family friend who owns a bridal resale/consignment boutique, so I walked out with my dress the day I found it. And as long as the tailoring isn’t too crazy, alterations shouldn’t take more than 3 months.

    • CII

      If you think you might want your dress made for you and aren’t lucky enough to have those skills or family/friends who do, give it more time than you would think. I started looking about 6 months before my fall wedding and several people I contacted said “no way, already booked” (a lot of these were independent one-woman designers.) I asked my eventual dressmaker what she thought an ideal time was, and she said nine months. Blew my mind.

      • Jenna

        This was a great tip, as I’m thinking about having a dress made for me–I just can’t find anything at all that looks like what I want AND comes in a big enough size to accommodate me without major starvation. And what I want is an un-fancy, flowy, empire-waist dress with straps in a material that isn’t synthetic or cheap-looking. Cotton would be nice, silk even more so. I’ve been half wondering if I shouldn’t just take up sewing, because what I want is so stinking simple.

        So, APW, could we get a companion post about how to have your dress made? Please??? :)

    • JC

      I went pre-shopping before I bought my dress, and I thought it was great! It was a pretty easy, low-pressure way to get an idea of what you’re looking for. My mom and I just went to a local shop and told the consultant up-front that we weren’t looking to buy today, just to try on different silhouettes, and though I didn’t end up liking any of the dresses that day enough to buy, I was able to significantly narrow down the scope of my internet research in the months following.

      I also know a girl who went in to “try on different silhouettes” and walked out with her wedding dress that day. I guess it depends on how much agony that sort of decision gives you, I’m the sort who has extreme anxiety over the idea of spending that much money, so even if I had found my dress that first day, I wouldn’t have been able to commit yet.

    • http://newcomfortfood.wordpress.com JenMcC

      I went to several bridal boutiques that required at least 6 months to order a dress, and I think a lot of bridal shops have really long lead times. But that being said, I ended up buying my dress 3 months before the wedding, and then exchanging it for a different dress (when Things Went Bad) 1 month before the wedding.

      So while it’s probably a lot less stressful to do it well in advance and that will give you more options, know that it’s possible to do it later. And still get something you really like.

  • Fermi

    I just have to say…you don’t HAVE to pick a wedding dress. I know you’ve stressed it plenty of times on APW, but you can always get a bridesmaid dress in ivory or white.

    I first went to try on dresses just on a whim, I had an outdoor backyard wedding and I didn’t want anything pricey or elaborate. Well, I went to the store and everything was so thick and heavy, yes it was pretty but not what I was going for.

    The woman who owned the store recommended that I try on some bridesmaids dresses and bam! I found mine. It was $250 and I was able to get it in ivory. I LOVED it. I mean, LOVED IT. It was light, flowy and though originally strapless, she added a sheer ivory sleeve to one side of the dress and it came out fantastic!

    So remember, try on those bridesmaids gowns!

    Oh and at the end of the day, glad I went with something less expensive, because it totally rained a lot before the wedding and my dress ended up getting dirty at the bottom and I didn’t care one bit!

    • meg

      Oh trust me, we’re going to cover that. The store we’re going to *specializes* in carrying bridesmaids dresses in ivory and white.

    • Emmy

      I also think bridesmaid’s dresses are perfect for brides who want a simpler dress. I really didn’t want a bunch of rhinestones or other embellishment, so I opted for a bridesmaid’s dress instead of a wedding gown.

    • ART

      I really wanted to do a white or ivory bridesmaid dress (and haven’t found a dress, so it’s still an option), but when I’ve found a few pretty ones online, I’ve called ALL of their retailers in the area and each one said “oh no, we don’t have those in stock, but we’d be happy to help you order one, and btw it’s non-refundable.” Blerg! So frustrating. I wanted this one but no one has it in stock to try on and I’m too scared to order it sight unseen :(

      http://watters.com/Product/WattersWatters/2591I/

  • Crayfish Kate

    Oh, boy. I was not really even thinking about going wedding dress shopping, but a little part of me wants to, just to have the experience. I am not a clothes horse by any means (jeans, t-shirts and hoodies thank you), and all I know is that strapless dresses seem to be all the rage right now. I can’t do strapless (I’m way too small on top). How do you attempt to find a dress that’s not the ‘in-style’ style? What about alterations? What about pricing? How do I know if I’m getting a quality dress for the price & not being ripped off (that really good Planet Money vid comes to mind)?

    *sigh* I’m just trying to leave a comment and already I’m feeling overwhelmed…Yikes.

    • http://www.meanestlook.com Sara

      I would suggest at least trying on a couple different strapless styles – maybe a sweetheart neckline and a straight-across square bodice. I am small busted as well and was adamant about not having anything strapless- until I tried those. They looked awesome with my upper body structure. The only time went to a bridal salon was to try dresses simply to see what shapes and such looked good on me.

      hugs on feeling overwhelmed. I ended up getting my dress the day I eloped at the Goodwill for $10. Then a party dress later online. :)

      • Crayfish Kate

        Sara you are a dear! That’s so awesome those styles worked for you! I will have to remember that & give it a try. I like your idea of going to the bridal salon just to try different styles. We have a nice, small one mere blocks from my house. We’re also thinking of doing the courthouse thing, so I’m not looking for a ballgown or anything with lots of embellishments. My college graduation dress was a simple, plain white linen sundress, and honestly, I’ve been thinking I’d just wear that again. But you’ve given me hope – thank you! :-D

        • http://www.meanestlook.com Sara

          Yay! I think that trip to the salon gave me a very good visual idea of what would or wouldn’t work with my body type. Then I felt really confident about shopping online and at the thrift store.

          And I got married in a dress I would have never chosen at a salon. He he.

  • amc

    Should this have the APW sponsored post banner in the heading?

    • Maddie

      We don’t include the sponsored post banner at the top of posts like this one, for a few reasons. The first is that the banner you’re referencing goes at the top of our regular sponsored posts, and speaks to the part of the APW mission that is about supporting small businesses (which Ford is obviously not). We work with corporate partners differently than our small businesses, and while we always always disclose sponsored content (that’s why there’s that graphic at the top, plus disclosure in the text, and a disclosure at the bottom), we want it to be clear when what you’re seeing is a post that supports a small business that you can hire for your wedding. The other reason is that when we work with small businesses, the posts are usually strictly advertorials, so it’s really *just* a sponsored post, whereas our work with corporate partners is generally content that’s supported by a brand.

      TL;DR: We always disclose sponsored content, but we think it’s important to maintain a distinction between the small business who support the site and brand-sponsored content.

  • Kelly

    I don’t have a question, but a suggestion.

    The day I went dress shopping I felt nervous and intimidated by the whole process. I had my sister take pictures of dresses that I tried on and liked. Then, we went to lunch so that I could look over the pictures and make a final decision.

    Some dresses that appeared flattering in person did NOT look so flattering in pictures. Even though I (and everyone else with me) knew which dress I would ultimately pick, it was good to know that certain dresses would not have photographed well and the dress I purchased would, in fact, look nice in the professional pictures.

    So, I would suggest that you have someone take a couple cell phone pics of you in each of your real contenders, and look at those pictures before actually buying the dress.

    • Jennifer

      But it should also be noted that some places don’t allow any photography at all! I personally wouldn’t buy a dress from a store that wouldn’t let me take a picture before I bought it because I totally agree, it helps to see what you look like in the photo not just a mirror.

      If the store you’re at won’t let you take a picture with your phone, ask if they will take pictures for you. One boutique I went to took multiple pictures of me in every dress and sent them to me so I could look at them when I left. Super helpful!

      • Brenda

        Why is it that they don’t allow photography? I thought it was because they don’t want you to take it to a dressmaker to recreate, but you could do that from a model photo. Does anyone know why they don’t let you take photos?

        • Caroline

          I suspect so you can’t take the picture to another shop and buy it there? No idea.

        • copper

          I think it is the replication issue, even though yeah, it’s easy enough to find photos online now. For some designers it may also be a way of controlling their own image by making sure that there aren’t a bunch of terrible photos of their stuff taken from dressing rooms saturating the interwebz.

      • Bethany

        I had my friend sneakily take photos of me while “playing” with his iPhone. No way was I walking out of the store without photos of me in the dresses.

      • SLG

        I know a lot of them don’t allow photos, but if the dressing room has a mirror, you can always say you’d like some privacy in there and then snap a few quick pics with your phone. Worked for me. :-)

    • Sarah

      I did this! It was really helpful. It was also great because I knew I wouldn’t be purchasing that day since I needed time to process and make an educated decision and after the first few dresses… they all started to blend together. And you can have your friend take pictures from all angles so you can see what is going on with the back or side of the dress, because there will be lots of pictures not taken head on.

    • meg

      Which is a wholllleeee other ball of wax, given that so many stores don’t allow photography. Aiyiyi. But got it.

      • Kelly

        Oops, didn’t even think of that. I only went to one store, a family-owned boutique in the Midwest, and the sales associate encouraged us to take pictures once she saw my sister take one. I could see getting some push-back elsewhere, though. That would be a bummer.

    • Rachelle

      On the other hand, I bought a sample dress that looked lovely in the boutique while it was all clipped up, but the pictures the saleslady snapped on my phone were AWFUL because it didn’t fit properly.
      Looking back at those photos made me second-guess my choice many times. I just got maried a month ago yesterday, so I have not seen the pro pics of the wedding yet, but the ones that ended up on Facebook look amazing and I absolutely adored my dress!
      Just want to encourage people to go with the gut feeling they get while in the dress even if it doesn’t look so pretty on your phone because pictures don’t turn out super well when the fit isn’t right :)

  • Kait

    Tips for brides who have to order dresses without seeing them in the appropriate size.

    The sample I tried on for my dress was 8 sizes smaller than the one I ordered which made it really hard to tell what it would look like and if I would be able to sit etc. when it was made to my size. I spent six months wondering if I had made the wrong choice until I finally tried my dress on.

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t fit into traditional sample sizes, so any tips on picking dresses that you aren’t trying on would be great – I guess this could work for online dress shopping as well.

  • pumpkinpicker

    Whoo boy I just did that this weekend. I know a lot of people warn away from Say Yes to the Dress because of the whole unreasonable WIC standard of it but I am SO GLAD I watched a bunch of it right beforehand. I felt so much more prepared with style preferences, potential pitfalls, and quality expectations at my price point (as I am also in NY).

    In the end I’m glad I went because I firmly established my love for a (not technically “bridal”) dress I had already been eying elsewhere and exorcised a few style demons (yes the floaty tulle ballgown was WAY fun, no it’s not really appropriate for my wedding).

    Also um… not to name names but if you see reviews for a particular chain telling you to fake a phone number they are NOT KIDDING.

  • CeeBeeUK

    I’m on (an apparently hopeless) hunt for a simple (no lace, beading, or embelishment), a-line dress in raw silk with a natural waist. I’m not having any luck and thinking about going custom but how do I know I’m going to look good in something I’ve never tried?

    • pumpkinpicker

      Maybe go to a more hands off store with gowns (upscale-ish dept store for example) and try on for SHAPE rather a particular dress before you do anything else?

      Also if you go truly custom a thorough dressmaker will make a mock-up out of another fabric before cutting into the final fabric, so you should have ample opportunity to correct as needed before the final dress is made.

    • TeaforTwo

      DO IT GO CUSTOM.

      I am working with a custom dressmaker, and it is the best thing ever. I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t like what I chose, or that it wouldn’t work out for some reason. It turns out that a custom dress is a much more involved process than I had realized.

      In our first meeting, we went over a pinterest board I had sent her and looked at samples and photos of her work. Then she sent me home with four sketches of different silhouettes. (I had gone in with a pretty defined idea – fit-and-flare tea-length with lace sleeves – but hadn’t realized how many different ways there were to do that.) Once I chose a silhouette, she did a muslin mockup, where we figured out more details (neckline, hem length, etc. and chose the lace. Last weekend she had built the skirt, and we figured out a bit more about what we want the bodice to look like. I have two more fittings to go.

      From day 1, she has offered me really good advice about what will and won’t suit me. She’s also good about narrowing things down, as in “we could do X or Y” but making sure that she only offers good options that would work on me and with my dress. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

      • Lindsey d.

        Agree! The key is to find someone awesome… I found the dressmaker who is redoing the gown my grandmother and mother wore via Facebook — as in, I put out a call to friends and she was recommended. I specifically looked at her bridal work (tons of alterations and several re-workings of a family wedding dress). She clearly knew her stuff and I was thrilled.

        She has since taken apart the dress, sent me shopping for lace with very specific instructions and created a muslin bodice to Frankenstein it back together to fit me (I’m four inches taller than my mom and about 2-3 sizes bigger than she was on her wedding day). It is amazing and I can’t wait to wear my dress!

    • Re: Silk Dress

      If you are in or can get to Brooklyn, I got something very similar–a simple but beautiful silk shantung dress with short lace sleeves–at a little place called Kimera Design. They do have a website, but at the store you can try on samples (in many colors) and mix and match styles, necklines, cap sleeves, etc., and then they custom make the dress.

      • Alex

        Veka in Brooklyn also has lovely raw silk options, but in terms of the silhouette you want, I think Jenny Yoo might be your designer. I tried on an amazing sweetheart necklined, modified A-line with simple seaming, and the material is gorgeous. Well under $1500, too.

  • http://www.rationalcreature.com sweet starling

    Thank goodness for this.

    Here’s where I admit that mayyybe I’ve put of shopping for my dress because I’m a little overwhelmed by the whole process. I pretty much know exactly what I want, and I just have to go get it, but I’m wary of the WIC trying to upsell me on something that I don’t want. Any tips for those of us who may not be so good at saying “no, I don’t want a veil” or “no, I don’t want to try on a ballgown”. (I dread the “Let’s just put it on you and see how it looks!”)

    I understand that some of this can be avoided by going to a shop that’s not…overbearing, so maybe some general tips on how to find a good bridal shop would come in handy, too.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I find when I want something specific that it’s best to just tell the salesperson what I want. I use the tone of voice I use for ordering at the drive-through, with no pretending this is a defining moment for my life, or even an enjoyable experience. (I don’t think I’m rude, just direct, and if they have what I want and can make the sale quickly, that’s good for everyone.) It helped me to have thoroughly researched what I wanted: “I want long sleeves [a non-starter at half the stores], A-line, sweetheart neckline, true white, with a semi-cathedral train.”

    • Kat R

      I was really worried about pressure-y sales tactics when I started looking, too. I’ve got to say, I was VERY pleasantly surprised with David’s Bridal on this front. They asked for my price range and respected it, I was able to choose the styles I liked online before I went in, and I told the sales person no trumpets/mermaids and she didn’t push them on me (every other place I went totally tried to sneak those suckers in!). Just wanted to throw that out there. I thought DB would be the absolute worst WIC-wise but they ended up being better than the small boutiques I visited, and I found a dress I love.

      And if you’re not comfortable with pushy sales people, maybe bring a mom/bridesmaid/friend who will stick up for you. Even have them come in the room with you if you’re comfortable with it, that way if a ballgown sneaks in she can say no for you.

    • KC

      I am a pushover, except when it comes to someone pushing around my friends, at which point I abruptly develop a backbone. So… maybe haul a friend/relative along with you who is a Designated Surrogate Backbone and say “nope, we’re not interested, thank you”, either for all things that you do not initiate or at a specific signal from you (toe-tap, eyebrow raise, helpless deer-in-the-headlights look)?

      Otherwise, yes, being clear initially on what you want and just responding with a firm no to repeated requests. If you have already said no to something, it is not polite for them to be asking you again, so you do not need to feel badly about responding with another no.

  • Kate

    What fabrics are better in warmer weather and what fabrics are better in colder weather? And what about could be 30 degrees, could be 80 degrees weather?
    Also, how much does it cost to get a dress custom made? How do you find someone with the right skills?

  • meg

    Fun thing I don’t want to have to tell you: check Better Business Bureau for complaints before you buy with a store. The first place I went to (where I was only going to try on dresses so my mom could experience that, not buy, thank god) had FOUR complaints. Dresses not arriving in time, dresses arriving 5 sizes too big and then being shaken down for really expensive alterations, the works. Shady, shady, shady. So not a bad idea to check.

    • Diana

      Checking out Yelp and Google reviews or the BBB is a must. I went to several different bridal stores in the Minneapolis area and tried on dozens of dresses before falling in love with a mermaid lace dress (with illusion sleeves!) at a bridal shop in the suburbs. Since I had gone to so many places, I didn’t vet them all first. I ordered my dress in February for an October wedding. It was supposed to arrive in July. By the end of August, the dress had still not arrived.

      After a nightmare of meetings and phone calls trying to pressure the salon to stop making excuses and give us the dress, or at least give us the deposit back…they finally agreed to overnight it from California one month before the wedding. Later, the seamstress who did my rush alterations told me that this particular salon had a terrible reputation of financial problems, paying vendors late, and giving the brides their dresses just days before the wedding. If only I had known! I plan to post online reviews so that other brides don’t make the same mistake. And even though I love my dress, if I could do it again, I would buy off the rack just to save myself the worry and stress.

      • Karrie

        hi, minneapolis here, which store should I avoid?

        • Diana

          Mary Kay Bridal, which just merged with the Wedding Chapel Brides and is now “The Bridal Store.” They have a great dress selection and good customer service when you are trying on dresses. So, if you can buy one off the rack, I’m sure you would be fine. But I don’t recommend ordering a dress!

  • alpelican

    To wear Spanx while trying on dresses, or to not wear Spanx?

    • MK

      I wore Spanx for modesty reasons, not for tummy suck-in reasons. They are all about diving under your skirt! I was too nervous the first time. Second time, in spanx, much more confident.

    • Remy

      Wear the undergarments you are going to wear on your wedding day, if possible. If you don’t know exactly what you need yet (maybe it depends on the dress you end up with), or don’t own them yet, make allowances for the possibilities as you try on dresses. And ask the shop people! You don’t need to buy your special bra from the wedding dress store, but I bet the salesperson will be able to tell you if you need one with X dress and what it’s called.

    • Amanda L.

      Definitely with Spanx… especially if you think you might wear them on the big day. I wore them and felt so much more comfortable without all the lumps! :)

      • Pumpkinpicker

        Hahah, I usually don’t need spanx a the beginning of the night when I’m remembering to sit up straight and look nice for the camera, but by the end of the night after a couple of glasses of wine and too many hour-devours they definitely help smooth out everything you have long since forgotten to suck in.

    • http://www.stitch-witch.net Christina McPants

      Are you going to wear spanx with your wedding dress? Then, yes. Wear whatever you’re planning on wearing on the day (except for bras, since that’ll probably have to shift anyway, depending on the dress) – this goes for shoes and accessories if you have them already.

      Ditto MK’s modesty mention – wear full coverage, nude underwear and bring a strapless bra.

      • Marcela

        I wore nude undies when trying on dresses and really regretted it since on the day of the wedding I wanted to wear these awesome Batgirl underpants, but when I tried on my dress (which had FOUR layers of fabric) it still showed through. I was heartbroken. Wish I had checked the see-throughedness of the dress ahead of time.

  • Marta

    I ordered my dress online (thank you, Modcloth) and it was totally fine. Of course my dress was simple tea length nothing to fancy to worry about fitting, but I was planning on taking it to a tailor if I needed to. If you’re looking for simple type dresses, I think online is a great resource.

    • SamanthaNichole

      Agreed. I got my dress from JCrew – no alterations (except hem because apparently it was made for an Amazon Princess). The dress maker who hemmed it was extremely impressed at the quality of the dress too. I love it and want to wear it over and over and over!

      • Laura C

        I tried on dresses at one of the J. Crew stores that does bridal appointments and they said they make them all long because obviously easier to hem than to lengthen. I’m 5’11” and if I wore a really high heel I might not have to hem them, but yeah, they’re long.

    • Kirstin

      Totally agree!

      I initially bought three dresses online from Ann Taylor (thanks to a major 40% off sale, which they have regularly and typically include wedding dresses too), with the thought that I would at least get used to trying them on in the comfort of my own home before venturing out to the store. It ended up being the best thing I could ever do. Not only did I get through my nerves and could test out what family member’s responses would be like, I actually found my dress. I really liked the first dress, didn’t like the other two. And was done. It was that easy. So I say “Boo” to the people who say you have to try on a million dresses and go to a bunch of different stores. It can be much easier than that. And even if you don’t like them, you can always send them back and try again.

      • Brenda

        Me too – saw it online, looked at loads of others (online) but couldn’t get that one out of my head. Bought it. It was from BHLDN – I was lucky that it didn’t need any alterations – well, in retrospect I probably could have shortened the straps for a slightly better fit, but pretty much every dress I buy needs this and I’m always too lazy to do it, so it didn’t bother me. And it came in less than two weeks, including transatlantic shipping and being held at customs.

        I went to a vintage bridal shop just for fun with my friends, but I knew I wasn’t going to buy anything. I don’t think I could have made a decision in that situation – I find shopping with other people generally uncomfortable.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    3. A tutorial on buying a wedding dress online, perhaps a tutorial on used/vintage dresses in particular. How do you take your measurements? How do the sellers measure? How much variation can be fixed by tailoring, and how much is just too much? Is it different if you’re letting a dress out v. taking a dress in? Does it depend on which measurement is the problem?

    • Nicole

      Also information about return policies if the fit isn’t right.

  • Astro A

    Can we just talk about how much it sucks that you can’t properly try on a wedding dress? A potentially very expensive dress for a day that is very important to you, and that will be in photographs from every. single. angle. I am both indecisive and self-conscious about my body, which means I *need* to try on and look at everything. I do not trust blindly going online — I have a lot of faith in tailors’ and dressmakers’ measuring skills, but not that a dress will look how I think it will on me — and of course there’s the problem with standard bridal boutiques not having any sizes.

    Is it worth it to me to, say, go up to NYC (I’m in DC) and actually go to the showrooms of reasonable, small-scale boutiques (like Dolly Couture, for example, or some Etsy sellers, or whatever else is there because I don’t even know)? I can’t — and won’t — spend a lot of money, but I want to love the dress, and love the way I look in it. I feel like that’s reasonable.

    Secondary question: how do ladies who want to wear dresses getting married to ladies who also want to wear dresses coordinate? My mother is uber concerned that we’ll end up with really clashy styles (cocktail dress v. ball gown, apparently would be very bad). Then there’s the practicality of poofy dresses that get in the way of cheek-to-cheek dancing. Could be comical, but not ideal. PLUS, I’m actually worried that we’ll pick out, like, nearly the exact thing, and then we’ll look weird. Right?

    • anonymoose

      I was just at the Dolly Couture showroom in NYC a few weeks ago. It was a positive experience and very fun, but I have to say it didn’t really solve the problem of getting to try on exactly what you want. They have 2 dresses in each size, so you won’t necessarily get to try on what you like in your size or even close, and the number of custom options sometimes makes it so you don’t get to try the dress you want (I wanted to try Walnut Creek, but they only had it with long sleeves and a silk skirt, not the half sleeves and tulle that’s on the website). But Yvette, the consultant, did her best to show me my options by folding over the tops of dresses and clipping them to the waist of the one I was wearing, etc. I didn’t find that super helpful for me, but you might!

      That said they have a wide range of sizes in the store (they’d tell you which if you called) and really work with you to talk about customization options, sashes, fabrics, color, etc that look best on you. And it was fun and very twirly. :) Good luck!

      • Kerry

        I have an appointment with Dolly Couture tomorrow morning (so, of course, I’m reading all the wedding-dress shopping comments I can) and this is very helpful in terms of what to expect! thank you!

    • alpelican

      I live in a Southern city where the dress shops are …uptight. So I’m flying to Seattle in a couple weeks and dress shopping there. It’s my sanity splurge.

      I walked into one place here without an appointment, and got a lot of side eye when I said my wedding was in March. “…2015?” “No, next March.” The dress shop lady who helped me try on dresses did laugh, though, when I said that I didn’t really need a dress because I had my man and I’d get married in a hockey jersey if it came down to it. She thought I was joking. I was not.

    • Nina

      To answer your secondary question, maybe try cruising the wedding graduates to see how some previous lesbian couples have coordinated. Also try http://www.onabicyclebuiltfortwo.com/

    • http://www.stitch-witch.net Christina McPants

      Lesbian wedding, here! We both wore dresses, but we saw them in advance (mostly because my wife gives the OK to all wedding decisions) and because there was no way that we could go the wedding day without seeing each other. Neither saw the other in full wedding regalia (hair, makeup, accessories, etc…) until our first look, so it was still really special. If you want pics, we were wedding grads in July 2011, or you can see us on one of Kelly Prizel’s side ads (with the horse).

      Just remember the What Not to Wear rule – they don’t have to match, they just have to go.We (unintentionally) decided on the shade of white (ivory) and that was that. We ended up unintentionally matching because we both had bow sashes on our floor length dresses, but that was it. I had a sheath lace dress with straps and she had a big, foofy tulle strapless ballgown. The big floofy ballgown did make dancing a touch hard, but so did the fact that both of our dresses were hemmed too long.

      Also, you’ll match no matter what, trust.

      • meg

        Also, if you happen to both be wearing white wedding dresses and going to the same wedding (ie, one of you isn’t getting married barefoot in a field, and the other in Westminster Abby) they’ll go together by default pretty much. They’ll both be wedding-y dresses, so done :)

    • Abby Mae

      I bought my wedding dress from Dolly Couture!

      I don’t live in So.Cal but I went to their boutique during a trip to visit family and stopped by. They were so accomodating and they had dresses in all different sizes so I could easily size up or down, if need be.

      The service was amazing. They never made me feel awkward/shameful about my size, which I actually experienced at Davids Bridal back home. And during my appointment I saw so many women with different body types in there and it was so heartening to see!
      Also, since I fit in one the dresses at the store they just let me buy it for half price…so my dress ended up costing $390 (retail price:800) without tax because I wasn’t a resident of California.

      Just wanted to give you a good report to encourage you to check a place out. Even if it isn’t Dolly Couture. =)

  • Sarah

    I also just want to throw out there as an option that so many big stores (like J. Crew, Nordstrom’s, Lord and Taylor, Macy’s, etc) offer dresses that may or may not be categorized as “wedding dresses,” but they’re long (and sometimes short!) and they’re white. They come in sizes you recognize, they are usually extremely reasonably priced (for wedding dresses), they are shipped to your house for free, where you can try them on with or without shoes, with as many photos as you feel like taking, you can wait and try them on again the next day or the next week, with a different audience, and if they don’t suit, you can usually return them for free, as well. It’s SO EASY. There are so many options in the $200-$500 range, or more expensive, as well, if that’s your bag. I know this isn’t necessarily an option that would suit everyone — some people might really want the bridal salon experience, and that’s fine, and I think the online-major-retailer-shopping option is a better one if you’re looking for something stylistically simple rather than really detailed or elaborate — but if what you’re looking for is something relatively simple, easy, and inexpensive, I have done this and it is just so. easy.

    • Sarah

      Just to clarify what I meant re: return policy…all these stores now have excellent return policies; usually you have in the range of three months (-ish) to make a return; the only time you might have to pay for returning something is just for the shipping. I imagine most people probably know all this already but … still.

      • Laura C

        Yup. I just this weekend returned a wedding dress to J. Crew. I’d gone and tried on dresses in their store, but they didn’t have a sample of the one I was most interested in and I wasn’t willing to make an appointment, make a return trip, be trying on yet another ill-fitting incredibly dingy gown. So I ordered it, got it within days, tried it on, kept it for a few weeks as something I would consider wearing, then returned it when it got beat by another dress. The whole affair cost me the subway fare to return it to my nearest regular J. Crew store and I’d gotten to see what the dress would actually look like.

    • pumpkinpicker

      It looks like this is what I’m doing.

      Tried a dress on for size in the privacy of my own home, got it direct from the designer, had to pay for shipping both ways but *shrugs* for the total price I’ll deal. The staff contact has been great and I had no issues with my refund.

      This dress would not have been remotely in my reach from a bridal retailer. I’m paying a 10% upcharge for some custom fabric changes, but even with that and all the shipping I’m getting a completely affordable OOAK (and not *at all* basic) real silk gown from a rapidly growing red carpet designer.

      • pumpkinpicker

        To clarify: I bought a dress and established that I love the style but need a different size and fabric, so returned the one gown and will be special ordering my own version of it.

    • Joy

      Also, as far as I can tell, J.Crew’s wedding dresses are sized like their regular dresses. So you could potentially buy online (or on eBay like I did for $350! Regular $1000 on the website – hell yeah!) and know that it will fit. Mine needed to be hemmed, but that was no surprise as it’s true of any floor length dress for me.

      • M.

        Confirmed! I’m wearing J.Crew and the sizing chart my consultant referred to is the same one on their website for “Women’s Dresses”, and their dresses are generally only really fitted on top. They just needed bust and natural waist! 60 day returns.

        Their dresses are also absurdly long, so hemming will probably happen for most.

    • Nicole

      I just found out Ann Taylor has dresses too.

    • Diana

      I highly recommend Ann Taylor’s online bridal store. I bought a backup lace wedding dress for $665 on sale, which I held onto until the dress I had originally ordered from a salon came in (finally). I sent it back a month later and got a full refund, no problems. I also bought all of my bridesmaid dresses there, at 60% off the sale price, and was able to return and reorder several times to get everyone the right size, without having to pay shipping. They also have veils and jewelry and sashes that are much more reasonably priced that most bridal salons. Just keep in mind that you should order one size smaller than your regular pants/dress size…in my experience everything at Ann Taylor runs pretty big.

    • M.

      Another note about J.Crew is that, if you aren’t getting a dress from their bridal gown line, but say a champagne or other colored bridesmaids dress to wear as your wedding dress, the bridesmaids styles (sometimes the same or very similar to wedding styles just not ivory) are eligible for sales and free shipping deals. I got 25% off and free shipping on my best lady’s dress that way.

      • Brittany

        The wedding dresses often are eligible for sales, too. I purchased my wedding dress from J Crew during a 30% off sale, plus the girl at the store gave me the teacher discount on top of that, which I don’t think she was supposed to, but she offered and who was I to say no? Plus, she suggested I have it shipped to a friend in NJ so I didn’t have to pay New York’s exorbitant sales tax. Mostly they made me a walking, talking J Crew ad, because I just cannot say enough about how wonderful my experience with them was! Also lovely- no judgement that I went there alone, and I wasn’t shown a single dress outside my price range.

    • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

      My wedding dress totally came from Le Chateau (not sure if they’re outside of Canada) and I loved it and it was more “me” than any gown I tried on. I tried on every white dress in the mall and there were a lot of VERY good options there, for what I was going for. If you don’t need the ball gown experience and are looking for something relatively unfussy these can be great options.

  • Polygon

    This is perfect – I just went gown shopping last weekend. My first experience, at a place that does not at all rhyme with bavid’s dridal, was extremely high-stress, and I was very glad I listened to the advice to leave a fake phone number. They actually sat me down and tried to stress me out about how soon my wedding was (apparently they are too busy to sell any dresses between January and June, which is a straight out lie).

    The other two places were much better. I’m really glad I tried on a silhouette that I thought I would hate – turns out the mermaid shape isn’t as horrible as I would have thought (I’m well endowed in the hips and thighs region). There are also more options in that silhouette with straps. All of the consultants were very insistent that you can add straps, but it really doesn’t look the same. Also, everything you add on costs something, and it’s unclear how much that would be.

    I was really happy that none of the consultants I worked with were into body hate, even when I didn’t quite fit into the samples. I had a really bad experience in high school trying on prom dresses (I was told that they didn’t make dresses for people like me, and would have to use boob inserts to have any hope of wearing a prom dress – totally not true!)

    I’m also considering purchasing a custom dress from a Chinese retailer, which is something I’d love to see from an APW perspective.

    • Liz

      That’s so silly! My sister got her dress at David’s and it literally arrived in 3 weeks. We went shopping Memorial Day weekend and it arrived by the time we were on vacation together in June! My sister was actually kind of annoyed–she almost wished it took longer to make her dress feel more “special” :)

      The service at her store in Orlando was not good–the “consultant” basically didn’t pull anything for her that she didn’t ask for, when my sister pointed out multiple lace dresses in the catalog, 5 minutes later, the consultant asked, “do you like lace?” Then she started working with someone else and I had to get her into dresses myself. The good news was that there was no pressure at all to buy, but there was also no help.

      In the end, she got a beautiful dress there and it came 9 months before the wedding! haha.

    • Karen

      I did this! Bought a consignment dress that I liked, since I really wanted to keep a relatively low dress budget and I couldn’t find a lace dress that I liked and fit into said budget. Then I found a dressmaker on Etsy (located in China) who did custom lace dresses for a great price. I figured that it was worth the price to take the risk and could resell if it didn’t work out. I sent in exactly four measurements (bust, hips, waist, length) and my dress arrived in 3 weeks. Fit like a glove! I did end up with some minor alterations that did not have anything to do with fit. Overall, it was under $450 and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome. The seamstress who did my alterations actually bragged about the dress to her sewing friends because she couldn’t believe how well it fit despite no actual fittings. We got married two weeks ago and I am sooooo glad that I took the risk on the dress. Bonus: resold the first one for just $4 less than I paid!!!

      • Vee

        Hey! Can I ask what seller you used?

        I’ve also all but totally decided I’m having my dress made in china. I’m having a very non-traditional dress (gold bodice, white skirt) anyway. I went once to the dress shop but trying on all the white dresses just felt like costume shopping to me! My friends have all got married in white dresses and I always thought I would too, but it just doesn’t feel right.

        • Karen

          The seller I used has an Etsy shop called Dress B Lee. I suppose that the dress wasn’t entirely custom – it was a style that I picked from her selection and then had made to my measurements with a modification of the neckline. So I don’t know if she would be open to a complete custom design, but it’s definitely worth asking! Prior to ordering the dress, I did request several lace swatches, which arrived quickly. Alice, the seller, was also good about responding to my emails with questions regarding the dress (such as “can I modify the neckline?”). I will also say that while I had nothing but a good experience, the seamstress who did my alterations thinks that I got lucky! She was impressed that the dress fit me so well with only having sent 4 measurements. She (the seamstress) attributed this to the fact that I am tall with relatively few curves. I also think that the style of dress I ordered (sheath with v-neck) didn’t require it to be exactly fitted to me – it was, but I think even if the fit had been off slightly, you wouldn’t have known. If you’d like to see how it turned out and fit, pictures can be viewed at our (awesome) photographer’s blog: http://www.lizandryan.com/blog/fells-point-baltimore-wedding-karen-brendon/

          Hope that helps! Good luck!

          • Vee

            Wow! That’s awesome! I’ll add that seller to my ever growing ‘China Shortlist’!

            Your dress turned out AMAZINGLY! On an unrelated note, you have some of the best ‘First Look’ photos I’ve ever seen – truly beautiful! :)

          • Aubry

            Wow, your photos are amazing!!

  • buckwheat

    Man, I’d love a post on wedding dress fittings for the average women — like with pictures. It feels so pointless to shop for dresses online because of course those dresses look great on the 5’7 115 lb model. But how do they look on the 5’2 36DD woman? I scour wedding blogs for photos of ‘real brides’ but even then I can tell they are selective about who get’s published.

    • GCDC

      One thing that might be helpful – a lot of the second hand wedding dress websites have pictures of the bride in the dress, and give the bride’s street size. Even if you aren’t interested in buying second hand or buying those dresses, you can see what a person with similar proportions to you looked like in, say, a strapless mermaid dress or a ballgown with sleeves.

    • meg

      You’re going to get that :) Maddie is not too far off your size.

      For the record, we’re not “selective about what gets published”, other than liking awesome writing, so send us your real bodies. Or. Um. PICTURES of your real bodies.

  • Lauren

    I will be dress shopping soon and as a plus size lady, I’m excited but terrified about the experience. Could you investigate some tips for full figured dress buyers? I’m really not looking forward to the hold-the-dress-up-to-see-how-it-would-fit experience, and have heard some pretty horrific body-shaming stories about treatment from sales people.

  • buckwheat

    Man, I’d love a post on wedding dress fittings for the average women with some freakin’ pictures. It feels so pointless to shop for dresses online because of course those dresses look great on the 5’7 115 lb model. But how do they look on the 5’2 36DD woman? I scour wedding blogs for photos of ‘real brides’ but even then I can tell they are selective about who get’s published. And all these fit guides that tell you to choose between ‘apple’ and ‘pear’ shaped bodies is nonsense. I am not a fruit!

  • Michaela

    Totally unexpected. I had a hell of a time finding a suitable undergarment. I figured it would be so easy! My dress is pretty low in the back (and I’ve got a larger set in the front), so finding something with support that didn’t show in the back was like a wild goose chase. I’ve finally found something that I THINK will work (ordered from the UK, but have to wait to try it on as the dress is at my mom’s house in a different city). I don’t know exactly how you could address this, but seriously, how to do you track down a reasonably priced undergarment so your very expensive dress still looks great/no lines show underneath?

    • Rebecca

      Personally, I ordered almost every nude strapless bra that came in my size from Bare Necessities and tried them all on at home in my bedroom with my dress. Her Room is another good online bet. It definitely took me longer to find appropriate undergarments than it did to find a dress (counting active looking rather than “ooh, prettty” time).

      The A Bra That Fits sub-Reddit has a good measuring guide and a super helpful forum, too- I’d bet you could get some extra bra hunt help there.

      I hear corsetry is also an option, but I have no knowledge on that front.

      There was also an undergarments/ bra open thread at some point, I think- might be worth perusing the archives.

    • Rebecca
    • Kat R

      I second this! So far finding undergarments I like has been harder than finding my dress.

    • Rachel

      TEEEEELL ME ABOUT IT!!! I must have tried on at least 20 “strapless” bras and torsolette things that were apparently my size and it was enough to nearly send me off the deep end!
      Gaping at the front, slipping down, strapped to me but offering absolutely no support at all, so tight I look like a string of sausages, “well this one has removable straps so it should do the same job as a strapless” NO!
      It’s frustrating because when I mention how much hassle it is people say things like “but you shouldn’t have any trouble at your size!” Uh… right.
      In my experience it really was worth it to go to a specialist shop. Go somewhere that also works with plus sizes even if you don’t think you need to, because boy, do they know how to build some support garments that ACTUALLY DO THE JOB THEY’RE DESIGNED FOR!!!

    • Steph

      I also had a really difficult time finding a suitable undergarment. Like other commenters on this comment, I ordered basically every strapless support garment I could find with a decent return policy and in the end, had the seamstress actually slightly alter the longline/bustier to fold the top two or three hooks down (and not poke me) so the deep v in back wouldn’t show off my undergarments. It was easy enough to cut the stitches after the wedding to get the full support of the bra/bustier back.

      Long story short, I highly recommend bringing returnable options to a dress fitting to see if they can also be altered to work with your dress!

      • Megan

        I agree! I had to wear a strapless as a bridesmaid (yay H cup in a strapless!). I ordered over 15 bras online before finding one that “worked”, and brought it to the fitting. My seamstress sewed snaps onto the bra and inside of the dress to make sure that the bra didn’t peak out. One tip for finding creative solutions to tailoring- check with your local theatres to see if the costume designers need a bit of extra work. they are usually a bit cheaper and also have a lot of great ideas!

  • Kess

    I’ve found dress shopping a bit less pleasurable than I was expecting. I have it better than some people in that I’m looking for a fairly traditional gown and the dresses do tend to at least make it over my hips with a bit of wriggling, but I don’t like strapless and I don’t like fit and flare and finding something that’s neither of those two things that I like is really hard. There are only 2 bridal stores in my city, I believe a total of ~6 in my province, and they all carry a really similar selection. I’m able to find lots of gowns online that I really like, but even when stores carry the brand, they don’t ever seem to have ordered in the gown I like to try on, and I’m not willing to order something sight unseen. I’m beginning to understand why people make big trips to big cities to do dress shopping, but the nearest big city to me is a 13 hour drive, so it’s not something I’d really relish doing multiple times to buy it, get alterations, etc.

    I’m not sure exactly what advice I’m looking for, but I’ve love any tips from other smaller-city brides who had a hard time finding what they were looking for in their area.

  • http://www.meanestlook.com Sara

    I’d also love a post or some coverage on what to do if your dress is ill-fitting on your day. Which happened to me. Both scenarios too big and too small. I stuffed my bra to help with this on the day I got married. Stuffed. My. Bra. There’s got to be a better last minute solution.

  • NicoleT

    I’m not entirely sure if this goes into the wedding dress shopping experience, but I thought I’d put this question out there in case there are others in a similar situation. I mostly love my mom’s wedding dress, but some parts of it definitely need to be altered (already have permission!). To what extent can you alter a dress? I really want to alter the waistline since I know it will not flatter my body shape. (Right now, the skirt meets the bodice at hip level and I need it more at waist level.) Is this possible to do and not have it cost an insane amount of money?

    • Diana

      I bought my bridal jewelry at Andrea’s Vintage Bridal in Minneapolis, and I wish I would have gone dress shopping there too! They have hundreds of wedding dresses from any decade in the last century, and it turns out they could have altered my mom’s size 0 lace wedding dress from the 1970s to fit a size 10. I would recommend finding a tailor that specializes in re-making vintage dresses, as they will have lots of ideas for how to make a vintage dress work. For instance, at this particular shop they regularly remove sleeves and sew them into the side panels of the dress to make it bigger, remove netting to make a lower neckline, raise the dress’s waistline, etc. Not sure of the cost, but I don’t think it’s necessarily cheaper than buying a new gown.

      • NicoleT

        Thank you so much!! I’m so happy to hear that! I’m in LA, so I’ll have to look around for vintage shops like that. I guess even if it’s around the same price as a new gown, it’ll still work out. I’ll be out the same amount of money, but I’ll make my mom super happy and I’ll be happy carrying on a tradition :) Thank you!!

    • Lisa

      There are definitely limitations on things like altering the waistline. It would depend on how much seam allowance you have at the current waist and how much hem at the bottom you have to work with. Depending on your height, you’d need several inches in one place or another to move the waist line that much. It will really depend on your size compared to your mother’s, the seams, etc.

      It’s easy to take down necklines, remove sleeves, change the hemline, etc., but when you start getting into the structural integrity of the dress (moving waistlines, changing front seaming), you have only so much to work with before you have to completely remake certain pieces.

      Some tailors also can make an entirely new dress by merging the old fabric with new and cutting apart the old dress to fashion new pieces.

    • Lindsey d.

      I’m having this done right now… I’m wearing the gown my grandmother and mother were married in and, according to my amazing dressmaker, it seems like anything is possible, including pirating the long sleeves (which I didn’t want) to use the fabric to remake the bodice so that it fits my wider and longer torso. We are covering up the changes (which include alterations from when my mother wore the gown) and new cap sleeves with new lace. Thankfully, the skirt fit perfectly, just needed to be dropped for more length, so all of our attention is on the bodice. It helps that the bodice was made from ten separate pieces, so we can re-use what fits and recreate what doesn’t. I also found some nearly identical new silk that we can use if we need more fabric. I am keeping the same basic style, but if you find the right person to work with your dress, changing it up is probably possible…

      TL;DR – My dressmaker is frankensteining my mother’s dress to fit me, four inches and 3 sizes larger. You won’t know what’s possible until you talk to a professional.

      • Lindsey d.

        Oh! And it’s only costing me $35 an hour for an estimated 10 – 15 hours… Including the new lace ($250), I’ll spend $600 – $775 on the dress. Seems like a good deal to me.

        • NicoleT

          Your dress sounds like it will be really fantastic. :) And that is an incredibly reasonable price! I haven’t taken the dress out of storage yet, so I don’t know what kind of hem I’m working with. Hopefully there will be inches to spare… Thanks for your help!

          • Lindsey d.

            Thanks! I’m a little bit excited about it, if you can’t tell. :)

  • Jenni

    This thread is such perfect timing. My mom, sisters, and I have decided to go dress shopping some time this week and I’m kind of … dreading it. I’m terrified of pushy/snooty salespeople. I don’t want to spend the kind of numbers you see thrown around on those TV shows, but damn it, I want it to look amazing and pretty (and maybe even poofy). I want to pay someone good money for their work, have it actually be good work, and believe that I’m not being extensively ripped off.

    In choosing other things (wedding venue, or car to buy) I much prefer to examine EVERY option, and put each in a spreadsheet if possible, before making my decision. I *can’t* do that with dresses, and it bugs me. Like Maddie, I know what I *don’t* want, but there’s a wide open space beyond that and I’m having a much harder time saying “yes!” than “um, no” to dress pictures.

    So … that’s the fears. I don’t really know what questions to ask. Maybe, what stores should a Practical Bride search in? Do we need to bring stuff with us (heels? Undergarments?)? How can you feel like a million bucks …… without spending a million bucks?

    I wish my fiance would come shopping with me, but everyone else is against that (including him). Booo.

    • Jennifer

      If you already know what shoes you want to wear, bring them! If not, just bring a pair around the height you’re looking for. I am wearing cowboy boots, so I made sure to bring them to see how they’d look with the dress.

      And I’d wear more covering undergarments, unless you’re cool with the bridal people seeing all your fabulous parts (and if you are, more power to you!). But unless you know exactly the style, you will probably not know exactly what kind of undergarment. Just go strapless bra and undies – but don’t wear bright colors unless you want them to show!

    • Lisa

      I second wearing the strapless bra. Many stores will have undergarments you can use, but it is much quicker to have something already on.

      Also I think I heard once that consultants prefer you to give them positive feedback instead necessarily all negatives. (Example: Instead of “I hate corset backs,” try “I’d prefer buttons or a zipper closure.”) That way a consultant can look for something specific instead of trying to divine what your no means. Very specific feedback will also make their job of helping you find something easier, I think.

  • stealinghoney

    1. What is the deal with fabrics? So many wedding dresses look lovely in pictures, have a huge price tag, and are made of polyester. Is this super nice breathable polyester/rayon/etc.? If there is a silk dress with a lower price tag, is it not nice silk? Is it from second-string silkworms?

    2.What are the best types of dresses if you want to wear your gown again? I am thinking of a tea length gown, something like the dresses from Dolly Couture, that I could wear as is or dye to something non-white. But, are there any other styles that lend themselves particularly well to dying, alterations, or just wearing as it?

    • stealinghoney

      Also, could you do around up of all the places to buy a used wedding dress? The relative merits of each?

      • Tea

        This would be super fabulous and sooooooooooo helpful!

    • rys

      “Second-string silkworms” — love it!

    • Catcat

      For Question #2: I had a custom-made “dress” that was actually two pieces: a floor-length bubble-hem oatmeal-colored linen skirt and a simple pink chiffon cap-sleeve top. I also had a matching / detachable pink chiffon sash. So they were separates but put together made a “wedding gown” silhouette.

      I loved it soooooooo much AND I can wear it again, either separately or together. The skirt actually looks awesome with a plain black tank top! And the top I can wear to work with a pencil skirt. I recommend this to anyone who is looking for a way to wear their dress again!

  • Another Beth

    The best thing I did when going dress shopping was to bring a bottle of water. I know this sounds simple, but when I get nervous/excited I tend to get hot and my cheeks get red and nothing makes me feel better than a big sip of cold water. And not all of the places I went were willing to offer me a cup of water or even had a water fountain.

    Also – if you plan on eating dinner or sitting or kneeling during your ceremony, don’t forget to try how the dress feels while sitting, kneeling, dancing, etc… It’s one thing for a dress to look good when you’re standing up straight, but another thing for it to accommodate all you want to do while you’re wearing it.

    I ended up going for a dress that I could dance in over one that was super formal, even though both looked great, I wanted to be able to move in my dress. And I wore it all night and even to the afterparty, it was that comfortable. When the woman at David’s Bridal asked what I was looking for in a dress I told her that it couldn’t be strapless, had to be comfortable and I had to be able to dance in it. She kind of laughed, but we eventually found what I was looking for.

    It’s out there!

  • J

    I just found out I’m pregnant! Hopefully this means I’ll still be pregnant at my wedding that is taking place in five months:) When should I go dress shopping (now? very close to the wedding?)? Should I just estimate how big I will be at that time?

    • Catherine McK

      Congratulations! So much to take in!

      If it were me, I might start by google-image searching “X weeks pregnant” with X being however many weeks you’ll be at the wedding. This will give you a sense of the range of sizes and bumps women have at 5 months. Maybe you could talk to you mom too, if you guys have a similar body type. I think if you shopped now and estimated how big you’ll be in 5 months it could work, especially if you bring someone along who has been pregnant and call help you visualize.

      I googled maternity wedding dresses; these look pretty!
      http://www.tiffanyrose.com/us/maternity/clothes/wedding-dresses.html

      Good luck!

      • Jennifer

        Talk to the people at the store – they should be able to help you order the right size! My pregnant bridesmaid will have just had her baby before my wedding, and the salespeople were super helpful in helping her find the right size. And I bet tailoring is going to be your best friend!

        Congrats!!

    • stealinghoney

      Congratulations!! As a former pregnant lady, I would say it is dangerous to estimate how you will look at a certain point. Even if you get a maternity dress, you may be bigger than you anticipated, or smaller. Maternity clothing stores tend to have sample bumps, so that could give you some sense of your size. But, I would recommend looking now, but not buying anything until closer. My sister had a pregnant bridesmaid, and she didn’t buy the dress or shoes until pretty close to the wedding. (yeah, you may need new shoes, too. Yippee pregnancy!)

  • JLEE

    I ended up getting my dress from Net-A-Porter. I actually love shopping, but was dreading the wedding dress shopping experience and just wanted to do it online. Since Net-A-Porter does free shipping/returns I figured I would just order and return dresses until I found the right one. Luckily, I loved the first pick, and it was in my size! So it was a super painless process. It helped I was specifically looking for a non-traditional and non-white dress, so I had lots of options (actually, probably TOO many options). To make up for not having a shopping experience with my Mom/Sister we’re going to go shoe/accessory shopping instead.

    • B (the other one)

      How did you decide to o nonwhite? I love black (my staple look is black jeans and a gray tshirt) and none of the white bridal dresses really wow me like black evening gowns do. I’m scared i wont feel bridal though or that I’d regret it, like maybe it’s safe to just stick with tradition on this one.

  • http://texancountess.wordpress.com KendraD

    I would love to see something on realistic expectations for different price points. I have a number in my head that I don’t want to go over, but I also want a lace gown and I’m not sure how reasonable it is. So many bridal designers give a numeric symbol but the ranges often span five hundred dollars – which is not an insignificant amount of money. It would just be nice to know what designers to look at for certain price points and what to expect of the quality and design details.

  • Bri

    Can we talk about what kind of damn bra you’re supposed to wear with your wedding dress? Because a standard strapless bra does not cut it for us bustier ladies. And don’t even get me started on what the heck you’re supposed to wear with backless dresses. I just laugh when I see those stick-on “bras”.

    Wedding day undergarment round-up, pretty please!

  • Amy March

    I’d like to get a better cost break down. If I’m spending 10k on a dress, what does that go to? With no prior experience, how do I tell which brands are quality?

  • MK

    I’d like a poll: Is the swooning over the dress real?

    In other words, should I be worried that I found a dress that I like, that meets all my requirements and fits in my price range and looks good but that didn’t give me some kind of magical transformative moment? I feel like since I didn’t get a confetti-cannon moment, maybe it’s not right? But…I don’t want to go back. I want to be done.

    • M.

      I love my dress and am so excited, but it was definitely more of a “Yep, I like this. More than the others. Yay!” sort of thing than crying or ascending through the clouds or anything :) I also went to two stores, one day, including a nice lunch and champagne with mom and my future SIL, and fully intended to find something that day. FSIL actually had to say, “Sooo? Do we have a winner??” because I just.. decided. I liked it a lot, and liked it best, and I can wear a regular bra. So, not a defining life moment but I’m happy…and I don’t have to go back!

      • MK

        Hallelujah! Because I’m having the sample-size problem a lot of the women above are having, plus I know I’m having the dress I think I really really want modified (to be longer. The designers’ tea-length is actually knee-length. This is not acceptable).

        But I felt like maybe I was missing something. And, sorry to say it, but all of Meg’s posts about her dress hunting just made me feel more insecure…

        • Brenda

          I felt the same way about my dress. It’s pretty, it was the right price. I didn’t see anything I liked better that wasn’t a million dollars more. The transformative moment was when I put it on on the day, all hair-ed and makeup-ed and flower-ed up. My “wow I feel like a bride!” moment was the moment when I actually *was* one, not in a shop.

    • Jennifer

      I’ve seen friends have that “Oh my God” moment when they found their dresses, and I even teared up FOR them a few times. But when it was my turn to actually choose a dress, I didn’t have that moment. I tried on several dozen dresses, and ended up finding 2 dresses that I loved, but neither made me swoon. I went with the one that was more comfortable and could go from traditional ceremony to country BBQ reception.

      Not everyone has a confetti-cannon moment (love that phrase, btw). Some of us just quietly choose and move on with planning. To each her own :)

    • Bryna

      I went shopping with my sister for my dress (she’s bossy and opinionated and it was incredibly helpful seeing as there are so many dresses in the world!). When she made me try on the dress that I eventually bought I said “that’s never going to suit me!”

      When I tried it on, it really, REALLY suited me. It’s not the style that I imagined myself wearing – I was thinking that I’d be all hippy and swishy in a long dress with spaghetti straps; whereas the dress I’ve got is 1950s boat neck and finishes mid-calf. Completely different; incredibly flattering. It wasn’t fireworks and confetti (although we did take the dress our for a glass of bubbly to celebrate), but it was good.

      ….. Not so good was trying to find shoes (I do not want to wear 4 1/2 inch heels!!! What are there no simple white satin 3 inch heels?!?!), but that’s a different story.

    • LM

      I don’t know if I’d call it swooning, but out of the six dresses I tried on, one just felt “right for me”. When I picked it up a few months later and tried on the one that was actually my size, I felt excited and just really happy that I’d get to wear it. That being said, if you feel good in the dress, it meets all your other requirements and you’re tired of shopping, then that’s great! Lack of confetti doesn’t mean you made a mistake. I don’t think everything related to your wedding needs to perfectly represent you and fill you with boundless joy. Sometimes you just need to *like* the thing and other times it feels important to *love* it.

    • Kat R

      I like my dress a lot and I feel pretty in it, but I definitely did not have that “Clothing Equivalent of Soul Mate” moment I was taught to expect. I had narrowed it down to two very different dresses I really liked, and was stressing because I subconsciously thought that I either had to have an epiphany moment or I would live with regret forever. Once I made the choice I felt a lot better about that, though, because even though it’s not an Epiphany Dress, it’s My Dress, and I can look forward to all the happy things I’ll do in it, and that is just as good as the big feeling I expected.

    • C

      I didn’t have that special dress moment either. I had two that I really liked and when I picked one, my consultant was all excited for me and all I could say was, “I’m just glad it’s over.”

      I guess if I was generally more of a fashionista, I would have sought out that “feeling,” but I wear a lot of sweatpants. Fashion isn’t my thing. Honestly, it was a relief that I a) was able to squeeze into the gowns the salon had to offer and b) found one that I liked enough to memorialize into photos for the rest of my life.

    • SLG

      I bought my dress kind of by accident, because I was out grocery shopping and stopped in a boutique to ask when their annual sale was, and this dress was on the sale rack and on a whim I tried it on and actually kind of liked it, and it was dirt cheap. So I put it on hold, and came back and bought it the next day. I felt excited when I bought it, but I still figured I’d see if Something Better came along.

      (The dress grew on me, and in the end I loved it. It was comfy AND dance-friendly!)

      So no confetti-canon moment here either. I think if you don’t have Clouds of Butterflies Floating Around You when you make other big purchases, why should you for this one? It’s a very special purchase, but it’s also a big, expensive, usually-non-returnable purchase, and those conditions don’t lend themselves to Transcendent Feelings.

  • Dani

    I absolutely HATE trying clothes on in stores. Combine that with my area’s grand total of four “special occasion” stores, which are more like Promcoming shops and the next city with a bridal boutique is 150 miles away, I decided that ordering a custom made dress on Etsy was the way to go. I couldn’t be happier! It’s gorgeous, in a style I’ve worn before, and I trust the seamstress with my measurements. Plus, it makes me feel good to support an artisan :)

  • Rachel

    I thought the poor sales lady was joking when she told me 6+ months to order in a dress I liked.
    I agree that some tips on how to get a feel for whether you truly like a sample dress that doesn’t fit would be helpful. One place I visited literally clipped the back of the dresses with giant plastic bulldog clips to stop them falling off me, but because I’m so short and the dresses are all extra long, I couldn’t take a single step without feeling as though I was being engulfed by some sort of fabric Boa Constrictor. Even though I liked the look and feel of the long dresses I tried on from the waist up, and the salespeople assured me they would be taken up to “just skim the ground” I couldn’t get over how ungainly I felt, and ended up buying a knee-length dress.
    I’m now in the awful waiting stage of having the dress altered. The dressmaker seemed like she knew what she was doing, but… I’m not a dressmaker, so how do I know my gut feeling was right? What questions should I have asked?

  • Nina

    Online wedding dress shopping was the best!!! I bought 12 gowns online from Nordstroms and BCBG. Most of them cost less than $200. I hung them up around my living room and pranced about in my apartment in each. I tried sitting at my dining table, sitting on the couch, and pairing them with different shoes. My best friend came over and I showed her my top 3 choices. It was so much more relaxing than going to a bridal store. I ended up keeping two ha! One was red so I wore it to a friend’s wedding and the other one is cream with lace overlay and will be my wedding dress. I highly recommend this method.

    Nordstroms has no time limit on their returns. I called them to double-check and up, no time returns. Also, they mail a return slip and postage sticker with your dress so returns are super easy.

    BCBG has a 30 day return time for regularly priced items but only 14 days for on-sale items, yikes! That turn-around time was tight but still totally do-able. And you still get to try the clothes on for longer than you would at a bridal salon. I will be wearing this dress: http://www.bcbg.com/Lourie-Long-Lace-Dress/749200309406,default,pd.html?cm_mmc=BCBG-_-MAGAZINE-_-VCSPBRIDAL13-_-ADB6V772-C6J&utm_source=BMX&utm_medium=MAGAZINE&utm_campaign=VCSPBRIDAL13&utm_content=ADB6V772-C6J

  • MLE

    Another request for undergarment line-up, including slips!

    • Rebecca

      Where have the slips gone? I needed one for general non-wedding purposes and I had to track them down to the back corner of Macys, where they had one version in a very limited number of lengths. Not that I did extensive shopping or anything, but I was expecting a slightly wider variety. I guess everyone just wears shapewear now?

      • Lindsey d.

        Agree! I love to wear slips in winter. Since I live down South, it’s not cold long enough to invest in true winter dresses and slips help make my three-season dresses into four-season dresses by adding just a little bit more warmth (and they help the dresses not stick to the tights I usually add). But I had to raid my mom’s lingerie drawer to find several varieties!

        I think many dresses come lined, so that, along with shapewear, may be reason for their disappearance.

    • meg

      It’s been done, y’all! http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/04/find-bras-that-fit/

      http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/05/wedding-dress-lingerie/

      Not slips, though we could work on that, though most wedding dresses don’t need them these days.

  • ammaring

    Not a question, but perhaps a suggestion.

    When I considered my wedding dress I wanted…
    1. Something simple and casual and not barbie/gown-y/ultra-white, nor something that would break the bank.
    2. I didn’t want to have to flip through discount racks or go to shops where women who had no idea of who I am tried to make me try on things I had no intention of ever wearing.
    3. I wanted my dress to be reusable, and eco-friendly in some way.
    4. I passionately wanted to support small business (as my personal vendor-selection mantra for all wedding decisions).

    The first, last and only place I went in the end – http://puremagnolia.ca/ Patty is amazing, has an Etsy shop for all of the far-away brides, and was super easy to work with to design my custom gown!

  • melise

    How about some tips for dresses post wedding? Do I need to get it professionally cleaned? And what’s the difference between cleaning and preserving? What should those things cost? If I want to sell it, what’s the best way to go about that? And can I still sell it if one of the bustle loops broke and there are a couple holes in the netting? I know it’s not exactly related to shopping for dresses, but I’m having trouble finding good info!

    • KTMARIE

      Those are really good questions. I would definitely be interested in those questions along with some of the emotional aspects of it… like – if you were someone that kept your wedding gown, are you still glad you did? If you sold it/donated it/dyed it etc, do you regret that? I am so in love with my wedding dress, but I think I could dye it a different color and get away with it as a beautiful evening gown. I’m just a little nervous that I would regret it down the road (or never end up wearing it since I’d always think of it as my wedding dress).

      • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

        “I’m just a little nervous that I would regret it down the road (or never end up wearing it since I’d always think of it as my wedding dress).“

        I have a dress that lends itself well to rewearing – knee length, not overly weddingy – and I have yet to wear it since the wedding. Because it`s my *wedding* dress. As much as I can wear it for no reason it doesn`t always feel special enough. We`ve talked about doing fancy anniversaries in our wedding finery though.

        • Ashleyloulou

          I LOOOOVE the idea of re-wearing it for anniversary. Had never thought of that, and always thought people must be crazy to want to re-wear it for *just* another party/day/etc. But, the anniversary celebration I can get behind (provided my behind can still get in it..)!

  • Caroline

    How do you find bridal shops? I mean, I’ve checked google, I’ve been to a few stores, but I feel like there must be more lower end (under 2000, especially much under that) shops in the Bay Area.

    How do you find a custom dressmaker if you are going that path? What does it really cost? I keep seeing folks on offbeat bride say their custom dress cost less than it would have non-custom but the dressmakers I’ve talked to are way out of my budget. Does that mean I’m talkin to expensive ones or that custom is out of my budet ?

    Modesty options. For reals, not those tiny little straps. How on earth do you find a modest dress? Not strapless, not low cut, maybe actual sleeves, but I’d settle for less cleavage. It’s like finding a fraking unicorn.

    Dress alterations: what do you normally actually have done? My mom thinks it is just hemming, but I picture it as sort of making it fit perfect all over, taking it in here and out there so it is perfect for your body exactly. What is included in normal alterations?

    • Lisa

      Custom dresses are going to be pretty expensive. Depending on the type of materials and the person doing it, you can run a large range of prices. Once you factor in the cost of materials and the time it takes to make a dress plus the alterations, you’re looking at a big expense. One option might be to find a design student at a local college who might be willing to help you out for less in order to beef up a portfolio.

      I’m really curious about this, too, because I know what my mother would charge to make a gown, and it would be at least $750-2000.

      The alterations will really depend on how the dress fits once it is in and how closely you match the standard size of the gown. Yes, hemming is almost always on the list, but there will also be the taking in or out of the darts/sideseams, raising/lowering straps, possibly fitting the sleeve or hemming it as well, etc. There tons of seams on a dress, and usually a good tailor will move them around until the whole dress fits perfectly.

      The amount these things will cost will depend heavily on how much work needs to be done and what type of dress you have. A simple hem will not be too expensive if the bottom is plain, but it becomes much more costly as soon as you add lace or scalloping to the bottom because that changes the type of alteration. Taking in side seams is not too bad, but if your dress is covered in sequins, all of the sequins around the seams have to be removed, the dress tailored, and then they are sewn back on. The extra labor will add to the cost. Hope that helps a bit!

      • Caroline

        Thanks! My budget is 1700, but custom dresses here are mostly starting around 2500 at the very least, from the couple people I’ve talked to. But then, we live in a high COL, so maybe it’s just where we live.
        That was what I was thinking, that a lot of seams would get adjusted to fix perfectly.

    • MM

      So I just went through the alterations process. I was lucky in that the sample I purchased fit me pretty much perfectly through the bodice. The hemming for my complicated dress (here’s a pic: http://www.weddinginspirasi.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/la_sposa_2011_bridal_gown_collection.jpg) was $200, adding a french bustle was $15, and sewing in bra cups was $5. If the side seams would have needed to be let out, it would have been $50. I live in Portland, OR… so maybe right about average to slightly above average cost?

  • Kirstin

    I apologize if I missed someone else already saying this, but what is a reasonable price to pay for dress alterations. Or maybe some kind of guide, understanding different dresses need different amounts of reconstruction. Mine just needs to be hemmed – no bustle put in, and no reconstruction on top. I have a fabulous in-home seamstress who has done some bridesmaids dresses for me before, and I want to make sure I am paying her a fair price (I think she WAY undercharges).

    • KTMARIE

      I’m not sure what the average is, but for my simple chiffon wedding dress, they hemmed it, took it in on the top and straps a little bit, and added bra cups. Ended up being around $150. Just for a bridesmaid dress where I had to get the top taken in on the sides a little it cost me around $70 since there was a lot of chiffon and features they had to work around.

    • Abby

      It depends on the type of dress you buy, and where you go for alterations. Dresses with lots of lace or large embellishments require a bit more finesse to ensure that things line up.

      In general, I’d budget a couple hundred for more common things like hemming and bustles (which can be more or less depending on how many layers need to be hemmed/bustled). Adjustments like taking in the waist and chest are generally not that expensive and most dresses are constructed in a way that those points can be taken in or let out with ease.

  • Alison O

    I am anticipating the sad and sort of hilarious chasm between my taste (Jenny Packham, Claire Pettibone) and my cheap ass nature. Oh well.

  • Ashleyloulou

    How much should you expect to spend on ‘regular’ alterations?

    • Diana

      I think it depends on what kind of dress you have, how many alterations you need, and whether you need a bustle, etc. I paid $250 for alterations on a traditional lace mermaid dress with a tiered skirt and semi cathedral train, plus $50 to press the dress. I had her take in the dress a little bit at the straps and at the waist, shorten the hem by one inch in the front, bustle the dress, and sew in bra cups because my dress has an open back (highly recommended!). My tailor had each alteration listed as a line item so I could see how much it costs and adjust accordingly.

      The original bustle that the tailor showed me looked awesome but required 17 button loops….not the easiest for the person bustling the dress, and not the cheapest since she charges by the button loop. So, I settled for a bustle with 7 button loops which was much cheaper. My sister paid a similar amount to alter her strapless lace/chiffon dress last year. She lives in Portland and I live in Minneapolis, and it’s possible that cost could vary by location as well.

      • Katelyn

        Those of you who’ve had bra cups sewn in – how does that work? Do you just tell them your bra size and they find cups? I’ve found different bras have different style cups (and I have clear preferences) – can you just hand them a bra you own to slice up and sew in?

    • Ali

      I had my dress hemmed, small sweetheart neckline added, sides taken in, bustle, and bra cups added. Total spend on alterations was $650 (fortunately i had budgeted for it!)…My dress was lace and had a scalloped hem so I’m sure that contributed to the cost. This is in Seattle.

  • http://alithompsonart.com Also Ali

    I’m a US size 22. Should I even bother trying on dresses anywhere? I was thinking of just going the custom online route, and I even have been peeking on the regular at a shop I really like.

    I had a pretty traumatic experience with a bridal boutique fat shaming the crap out of me for a bridesmaid dress, and I just don’t need that in my life.

    But I feel like the trying on the dresses thing is… a thing? You know? Like should I do this so I don’t feel like I missed out on a essential something?

    I get the feeling I may be setting myself up for a session of ugly crying outside of a David’s Bridal because of wacked out expectations.

    • Marcie

      Hey there fellow size 20+ lady – I expected the same thing and was pleasantly surprised by David’s Bridal since they have lots of dresses in larger sizes to try on. I got a good idea of what looked nice on me and one of the dresses would have been a great dress for a decent price. The DB ‘consultant’ was nice and taking care of 2 or 3 brides at the same time so her attention wasn’t laser-like on just me so no shaming at all! Just don’t ever, ever give them your email address unless you want spam emails from every WIC vendor out there.
      I ended up getting a dress at a bridal store in the suburbs which had all sizes available to try on and had a nice experience there too – no shaming.
      Basically, my advice before making an appointment anywhere is to check and see what the size range of dresses they have to try on in the store so you won’t have to be stuck in the dressing room wearing an awful strapless bra with a size 8 dress clipped to the front of it or a consultant trying to jam you into it and being forced to try and imagine what the hell you might look like if it was your actual size!!

    • http://partialto.tumblr.com LIZ (SINCE 1982)

      Just jumping in to say that you do not need to do “the thing” if you’re not convinced it will be fun for you. I dislike shopping with an agenda and haaaaaaaaaaate shopping with others in tow, so I did not do the whole epic trying-on-of-dresses and saved my energy for the parts of wedding planning which actually brought me joy. Zero regrets.

  • Abby

    I think I lucked out on my dress-buying experience– I ended up buying the second dress I tried on off the rack and never looked back (but I did attend two other appointments “just in case”). Things I learned about/wished for from my dress-shopping experience:

    1) Price transparency. I set my entire outfit budget at $1500, bottom line. Dress, alterations, accessories all within $1500 (as a side note: make sure you leave some money for alterations!). The problem was that I had no idea what a $500 dress looked like. Or a $1000 dress. I didn’t know which designers or vendors would be priced out of my range without first falling in love with their style, and then inquiring for a price list. I kind of wish every designer would take a hint from a big box store like David’s Bridal and just list MSRPs at the very least. I hated the idea of falling in love with a dress, only to find out that it’s 2x my budget.

    2) Respecting the budget. If you’re going into a boutique, make sure the sales associate understands what your budget actually means. Out of my three appointments, two of the salespeople found plenty of dresses for under $1000– so I had wiggle room for alterations and accessories. The other one kept pulling dresses in the $1300-1600 range, despite me telling her specifically that $1500 was the bottom line.

    3) Love your choice and don’t look back. There will ALWAYS be another dress out there, but the one you picked is beautiful. There is no reason to dampen such a happy time with dress regret.

    • http://partialto.tumblr.com LIZ (SINCE 1982)

      Oh my lord, 3) is key. When you’ve found your dress, STOP SHOPPING. Second-guessing yourself is no fun!

  • MP

    When I’ve mentioned my fear of dress shopping to people, they’re usually shocked to hear that I would be dreading this as much as I am. At 5’3″ and about 103-107lbs, I struggle to find normal clothes, much less “special” clothes that fit and don’t feel like I’m wearing Garanimals (no offense to Garanimals. If they made an office attire line, I’d be all over that!).

    My fear of dress shopping is finding something that I don’t feel like I’m being swallowed up whole in. I remember trying on bridesmaid dresses for my sisters wedding and ending up in tears not because I was happy but with even the smallest sample size, we were pinning the dresses up so much that details that were only to be under my bust were no encircling me – not the best way to tell if you like a dress’ shape when you end up pinning it into a completely different shape just to get it to stay on.

    There is a lot of time/energy/website advice out there for plus sized ladies (which is totally cool and helpful for people in that boat), but I find that fashion advice (even just the “where the heck to find this and not spend $$$$$ on it) is lacking for women at the other end of the spectrum. Perhaps the assumption is when you’re tiny, all the clothes come to you and look great (I mean, that is what the diet/gym industry tries to sell, right?) – but I’m being honest, sometimes there aren’t any clothes and you wonder “is naked an option?”

    • Katy

      Along these lines, do petite women need petite wedding dresses? How much alterations are necessary or required? I wear petite clothes, I need petite dresses that have higher waists, etc. Obviously a dress would need to be hemmed, but waists brought up, straps shorten? Are there particular styles that work better for petite women? And not all of us are super thin… Some of us have the additional issues of being curvy. Trying to find petite dresses that fit 30FF is nearly impossible. Vintage? A ton of alterations? What are our options?

      • Sheila

        I’m 5’3” so I knew I would need to shorten my dress (I never saw anything officially “petite”). Just make sure that it’s either completely plain along the bottom hem and the shape won’t look weird if you hem it OR make sure there is a seam at the waistline. My dress had pretty beading all around the bottom that I didn’t want to lose, so the seamstress doing the alterations had to take it apart at the waist and make the alterations there instead.

        In terms of what looks good when you’re short, I think that’s completely a matter of taste. I personally wanted something non-poofy because I thought I would look ridiculous, but probably I would have thought that even if I were 5’9″. You’ll just have to try them on and see, I think.

  • Improvised Bride

    We gave ourselves 4.5 months to plan our wedding, so the traditional bridal salon route seemed out of the question. But ladies, two things: 1) used dresses online; and 2) sample dresses!

    1) Sample dresses: If you can wear the sizes, you can get some very good deals and walk out with the dress the same day. And surprisingly, the best deals may be at the snootiest seeming places. I tried on sample dresses and consignment dresses at several “moderately” priced boutiques and the prices were definitely discounted, but not anything that made me feel like I needed to buy that dang thing immediately. Then I went into a Ladies Who Lunch kind of boutique near my office (they carry Jenny Packham, and I had a painful moment of wishing I was a 6-foot-tall praying mantis who had just won the lottery so that I could wear one of those spectacularly pretty gowns before remembering that I’m not and I haven’t so I can’t) because I was in a state of total dress panic and discovering, to my shock, that they had an 3-year-old Amsale sample in very good condition that they would have sold me for $200, and a few other fancy designer dresses that wouldn’t even have needed dry cleaning for $600-800 (carpeted floors in dress stores help keep those hems clean). Was it my dream dress? Nope. But it would have worked just as well as most other things I tried on. And it turns out I’m not wired to have that burst-into-tears, Yes-to-the-Dress moment. I don’t need the dress to be “just right,” although I’d love it if I felt that it was; I just need the person standing across from me to be.

    2) Online. There are a few websites out there but if you google “used wedding dress,” you’ll find the big ones. I surfed them and surfed them and surfed them, since I had set a budget for the dress and was determined to come in well under. The photos are often hard to evaluate, and when someone says they got a dress “altered to fit me, a size X,” there’s no easy way to know what their version of size X actually is. But you can ask! So I emailed a few of the sellers and they were almost uniformly nice and helpful. One measured her dress for me, sent me about 6 or 8 pictures, including super-closeups, told me how many buttons were missing, etc. I also realized that some resale/consignment boutiques out there use these sites as another way to clear sample/consignment inventory. Their dresses are generally unaltered, never-worn, and often cleaned (be sure to ask); they typically charge a bit more, but if you watch a dress for a while, they also often discount them regularly until they sell. I ended up buying a dress from a woman who had changed her mind and not worn the first dress she bought (from a sample sale). It had a few more small cosmetic flaws than were initially disclosed (a small stain that my dry cleaner got out for about $50), but nothing a little clever alteration couldn’t address–and honestly, it was kind of fun to figure out how to change the dress to suit me. I paid more in alterations than I paid for the dress. But even with alterations, plus the last-minute, late-night, oh-my-god-what-if-it-I-feel-like-a-clown-or-it-gets-ruined-in-alterations panicky purchase of a very simple “backup” dress from eBay for $30, I am coming in under budget. Which is great, because my intended is not. :)

  • Amanda

    I gained thirty pounds in the 6 months before my wedding because of stress. Probably fifteen of which pounds were after I ordered my dress. Did my dress still fit? Yes. Did it fit as well? Not really. I still looked great but wasn’t as comfortable. So, what do you do if you think your size is going to change? I would have never ordered an outfit 4-12 months out for any other important event in my life bit it’s just sort of “what you do” for wedding dresses.

  • Kate

    I have already purchased my dress (a Melissa Swett for DB — don’t get me started on feeling self-conscious/worried about buying from DB, but I loved the dress and it was in my budget, and while I am totally on board with buying expensive/well-made clothes for my day job as a corporate lawyer, I could not justify thousands on a dress that is admittedly important but will be worn once) and now have all sorts of questions about alternations and cleaning. There is a tiny, probably visible to no-one-but-me make-up stain on the inside of the collar, and I will need to have it taken in, but I do not know how to find a good seamstress or the wisdom of spot-cleaning/dry-cleaning a dress before the wedding.

    So any post-purchase advice would be much appreciated!

  • Marlena

    I greatly dislike shopping in general. I am dreading wedding dress shopping as well and the two stores that I have visited have been just a wall of white sparkly fabric which is not what I am looking for. I want a burgundy dress! I have looked all over online and most people seem to think that if you want a colored dress that you need a ball gown covered in just everything

    http://www.weddingdressfantasy.com/Red_Wedding_Dresses_s/21.htm

    while that could be fun for an insane costume party, not really want I for the wedding. Vera Wang has a great line of red dress but budget wise that is NOT going to work. Everything else seems to be geared towards overembellished quincenera dresses. Anybody have a suggestion as to a website? or store? I live in California half way between SF and LA, willing to travel but trying to avoid it if possible.

    • http://partialto.tumblr.com LIZ (SINCE 1982)

      I’m an east coaster so unfortunately no advice on local stores, but if you continue to look online I would immediately quit searching for “burgandy wedding dress” and start on “burgandy evening gown/dress” (or even “cocktail dress” if shorter/sassier is more to your taste). Related colors might even help – switching out “wine” for “burgandy” got Google to spit out these, for example, and I got totally different results for “bordeaux.” And if you have a really clear vision of what you want, I definitely second the idea of considering Etsy or researching local dressmakers who might be able to create something custom for you!

      • Marlena

        I definitely figure out the online search pretty quickly, had a little luck with some local dress ladies today, they may actually be the answer. I will keep up the online search every few weeks, my wedding isn’t until mid-September next year!

    • Rebecca

      I’d check the usual suspects- Nordstroms, Neiman Marcus, along those lines. Net A Porter can be a good bet for fancier/ spendier stuff.

      No idea what you’re looking for, but I like this one (possibly too sparkly for your tastes): http://shop.nordstrom.com/S/tadashi-shoji-sequin-lace-off-shoulder-gown/3593610?origin=category&BaseUrl=Dresses

      Or lace? http://www.neimanmarcus.com/Alice-Olivia-Jae-Open-Back-Lace-Gown-Red/prod162550038_cat43810733__/p.prod?icid=&searchType=EndecaDrivenCat&rte=%252Fcategory.service%253FitemId%253Dcat43810733%2526pageSize%253D30%2526No%253D30%2526refinements%253D723%252C719%252C722%252C&eItemId=prod162550038&cmCat=product

      I will stop now, but I too have a thing for red dresses, so you can find me on the Neiman Marcus site looking at all the lovely options I have no reason to own…

      • Marlena

        Those are both really pretty! I am very much anti-sequins for the wedding though I do like the lace in a darker red.
        Thanks for the reply! :)

    • Rachelle

      Are you in SLO? Cal Poly alum here :) I agree with the comment that you should do online searches for “evening gowns” rather than wedding to broaden up your results. Search dresses by color at Macy’s, Nordstrom, etc, but I doubt you’ll have too many options in town. Maybe take a trip down to Santa Barbara for shopping at the big department stores. Another option would be to look at bridesmaid dresses. They are a lot easier to find and most come in every color of the rainbow. Happy shopping!

      • Marlena

        Yes, good old SLO…1 dress shop in town :) I had a little bit of luck in Santa Maria today surprisingly, best dress shop experience so far. They are checking with a local dressmaker to see about taking some of the designs I like and making them in a Burgundy or Wine. The ladies at the store were actually excited about my request which was nice for a change! I am heading to Santa Barbara with a couple girlfriend in a month to look around down there.

  • Maddy

    Ok, so I have a fairly complex situation. I fell in love with this dress: http://elizabethdye.com/shop/north-star-gown , ages ago and have been looking at her stuff as a fan for years. Now that i’m engaged and have established that I have my heart set on it for reals, I need to go about purchasing it, which is where we have a problem: I live on the other side of the world, in Melbourne, Australia, which means I won’t get to see it, try it on, etc, before it’s been paid for, made and shipped.

    Obviously, this is very risky. I’ve corresponded with her about whether the style would suit, but I still feel nervous as she doesn’t accept returns of them if it’s wrong, and it is unlikely that if I was to re-sell it, i’d get all my money back… so I was wondering if anyone has bought a dress online before (even from her!) and stuff to consider…

    Thanks!

    • http://partialto.tumblr.com LIZ (SINCE 1982)

      Ooh, it’s lovely! Could you try on something in a similar fabric/silhouette locally to get a better idea of how it might look on you? That might help with some of the uncertainty.

      • B (the other one)

        I’m in sort of the same boat, but a bit different. I used to live in a big city in the states where there are loads of options for dress shopping, but moved to rural England with my boyfriend-than-fiance-now. So, now when I am looking at dresses, I will have to travel hours to find anything and I’m looking at ordering the Nicole Miller dress I want online. But since I can’t try it on I’m not sure how it will look, plus size issues plus you can only return for store credit. Its a bit nerve racking.
        No advice, but just want to let you know that I feel ya!

        • Maddy

          Hot damn I’m nervous! It’s a heap of money to put down for something that I won’t see until it’s too late to change my mind. Isn’t it dreadful!? I know so bad that I want it, but every thing ever says that an curvy, hourglass girl looks awful in an empire… :(
          I just wish she’d come and do a trunk show in Australia, i’d drop everything to be there to try it on properly.

  • phira

    I am sort of about to start dress shopping. Maybe.

    I’ve known from the start that I want to wear navy blue, and I want a certain shape (not mermaid/trumpet, but a true A-line fit-and-flare), and strapless/sweetheart. Bridesmaids dresses are okay because they’ll come in the color I want, but I want something that’s a little more elegant and looks a little less mass-produced.

    I found a gorgeous designer evening gown in my price range, and so I need to locate and try it on. The only place in my city (Boston) that carries this designer is a boutique with reviews that SCREAM that scene from Pretty Woman (where no one will help the main character shop in their store because she doesn’t look classy or rich enough).

    My fears? I’m afraid that they won’t carry a sample of this particular dress in a size big enough for me to try on. I’m afraid that they’ll pressure me to try on bridal gowns. I’m afraid they’ll pressure me to try on other evening gowns in colors/shapes I already know I don’t want.

    UUUUGH honestly, I’m glad I can’t buy the dress online because I really need to try it on to make sure I love it. But there’s a reason I prefer to buy stuff online.

    • Emma

      I am considering this dress in ivory from Bhldn, but it looks absolutely stunning in the Navy: http://www.bhldn.com/shop-the-bride-reception-dresses/ava-maxi-dress-ivory/productoptionids/fbcaeb8b-b90b-4e9a-9313-32da085940dd%2c18b5c7e4-4347-4f78-95dc-c473784397f5

      I feel like with the sheerness up top and the little details (gathering at the sleeves and the button at the back, it’s not so bridesmaid or mass produced looking. And it’s silk georgette, which should move nicely. It’s simple but also special, which is just what I’m looking for. And the way they’ve styled it, with really glam jewelry, is great.

      I know you said you have to try it on, which I totally get, but it’s only $260 and you could always return it. I’m considering just ordering it to try it on, given that I still have plenty of time to change my mind

  • Kelly

    Not so much a question from me, but some advice for any fellow tall ladies out there. I’m 6’1″ and long all over (which is not a fashion blessing, as many people seem to think), and Tadashi Shoji is known for making LONG gowns that are flattering for many body types (when I read reviews about every gown needing excessive hemming, I knew this was the designer for me!). If you’re interested in an evening gown that can masquerade as a wedding dress, he has lots of gorgeous designs. You can order right off the website (they have free shipping and a good return policy), but you can also find some of his gowns at higher-end department stores. I am IN LOVE with my long (pooling on the floor), lace, SLEEVED gown, and the waist actually hits me at MY waist! It’s a wedding dress miracle. (For less than $500!)

    • Pumpkinpicker

      Hmmm, I guess maybe they scale their sizes well as I’m 5’2″ and I tried on a dress from them that only barely needed hemming – I’m actually thinking about getting taller heels for the ceremony and making sure the bustle will take up some length for the reception so I don’t have to have it hemmed.

      They will also do some fabric customizations for a VERY reasonable price and the salesperson I’ve been talking to (Connie at the Vegas showroom) has been awesome.

      Two months to get a KILLER custom colour real silk dress at an astounding price?

      Yeah, pretty much sold at this point.

      • Kelly

        Oooh maybe they’re just really great at scaling sizes up and down. Or maybe it all depends on the dress style? Tadashi Shoji for everyone!!

  • Ali S

    I know I’m late to the party here, but I just wanted to give a tip from my dress buying experience (which just ended – wooo! Ended up in a David’s Bridal dress. Had to read Maddie’s old post about that to make myself okay with it).

    I was essentially nude during at least one of my shopping trips. In the fitting room with an attendant, literally only undies and nothing else. Like, my boobs in this lady’s face. She was very professional and I’m pretty comfortable with myself, so it wasn’t really a big deal, but I kept thinking “what if I was not okay with this.” So just know, if you are not okay with that, wear some sort of undergarment (maybe a strapless corset deal would be appropriate), that fits under dresses and doesn’t need to be removed. :]

  • Pumpkinpicker

    Ooh ooh ooh!

    Please do something on what to expect from common bridal fabrics, basic weave terminology, fiber content, that sort of thing. I don’t think I’ve seen ANYTHING like that yet, especially not with any sort of “buyer beware” slant and there’s SO MUCH to take in.

    Luckily I already know most of what to look for there from my own sewing, but I’ve seen a lot of scammy crap trying to pass off poly as the real thing (“silky” =/= silk!) and/or listing made up fabrics – for example “satin twill” as if that makes any more sense then say… “beagle elephant”.

    It’s definitely informed my decisions about what to avoid like the plague and I think it would really help others.

  • Valerie Day

    Wedding dress shopping is my least favorite part of wedding planning yet. In the other areas of our ceremony and celebration I feel everything can flow from very basic decisions and everything is able to flex to fit our ideas. When it comes to dresses I am literally trying to put my body into someone else’s picture. Its amazing how just a few goals for a dress limit ones options… I hope I’m getting closer and I keep working at it. I’d love to see a round-up of under $200 (or $500) dresses–of real APW brides. Elizabeth’s wedding photos made me very happy as I am considering going away from white in order to buy a better, more beautiful dress for myself that I will wear again.

  • Megan

    I would love a post about the emotions involved in dress shopping, and maybe the expectations? As much as I’ve been able to let go of most WIC-inspired ideas, I just can’t let go of the idea that I need to be a beautiful bride. My biggest fear is: what if my groom doesn’t have the “omg she’s beautiful” moment when he sees me coming down the aisle? We cannot afford to have my hair and makeup done professionally, so it really is up to the dress! All of this anxiety caused massive panic attacks on the way to dress shopping last week. I needed a dress that was under $200, required few alterations had enough sleeve that I could wear an actual strapped bra and somehow miraculously would make me beautiful. It was just too much pressure!

    In the end, we were able to find that dress and it even fit off the rack, which is amazing because nothing fits off the rack. The whole experience was really easy and pleasant, and the sales people were wonderful and supportive. Even then, I still wonder- did I pick the right one? What if it’s not good enough for the wow factor? It just amazes me how much stock I’ve put in this dress needing to be *perfect* while everything else has been so laid back and stress free.

    • Emma

      I was just about to post something like this. Like you, my budget is small (by WIC standards) and I have fairly simple tastes. My biggest struggle when it comes to the dress is the fear that I will regret not going for something formal enough or bridal enough or fancy enough or expensive enough. I’ve already been down this road with my ring (which is extremely understated), and while I adore my ring, I get weary of watching people’s faces fall when they see it. Of course, the ring I’ll wear forever and eventually I won’t be a Bride and people will stop caring. But the dress? I’ll be a Bride the entire time I’m wearing it and sometimes I worry that my vision of something simple and elegant (but not extravagant or custom or beaded or whatever) will, in the moment, feel like not enough.

      Hmmm. Maybe I need to write this post myself, actually.

      • Ashleyloulou

        I just want to second your ring comment–I absolutely 100% love my ring, had a ‘this is the one moment’ when I tried it on, and am positive it’s the right decision for us. But I am tired of getting a raised eyebrow ‘look’ and/or having to explain that it is what I wanted, and my fiance is a little self-conscious about it making him look “cheap” because it’s way under budget.

      • Megan

        you should! I was considering writing one, but being in grad school means I use all my writing energy on papers. The dress I picked is very simple and elegant, but with some nice details. I was a bit worried that it wasn’t enough, but future groom really likes simple clothes so I think it will be fine. hopefully. The other thing is that I am a simple person and enjoy simple things. When I tried on the fancier dresses I just didn’t feel like myself. And I really want to feel like myself on the day I pledge a lifetime with my partner!

  • Katie

    God, how timely!! Im going on my first wedding dress hunt this weekend, the day after my 30th birthday party. I’m not at all concerned about the “age” thing being an issue, mainly scared of the hangover and potential apathy it might cause. I actually (surprisingly!) have some gowns in mind, but I’ve also been told by friends to try it all on. Stuff you’d never imagine. Have y’all found this is true? I’m curvy (and heavier than my normal or “ideal”) and feel like more tight fitting (mermaid, fit & flare) might not work well for me. But maybe I’m wrong?? Ugh. I’m excited but SCARED too.

    • melise

      For me that really wasn’t true. I knew for sure that I didn’t want mermaid, so I didn’t waste my time. I did try on some dresses that I thought were gorgeous but not what I had in mind (covered in lace, for instance), and every time I put one on I was like yes, this is pretty but it’s not me. The dress I ended up with is really what I knew I wanted from the beginning, I just had to find the right version of my style. My cousin ended up with a dress that looked great on her but wasn’t really what she wanted because she let people talk her into a totally different style. That said, if you see a dress that you like but isn’t what you had in mind, don’t be afraid to try it on!

      • Katie

        Thank you!! I used to work in retail and am pretty confident in what looks best on me, but everyone had me thinking “Maybe a wedding dress is different?” So basically, thanks for confirming my suspicions. Fingers crossed!

    • Pumpkinpicker

      I was generally avoiding mermaid/trumpet because I’m super short and Puerto-Rican hipped but I’m SO GLAD I tried on a trumpet, it looked SLAMMING.

      I won’t be going that direction for the wedding (sticking with a sheath) but I am DEFINITELY picking up a skirt in that shape for real-life wear once I have a penny or two to spare in the bank again.

      • Katie

        Thanks! I’m still planning on trying on at least one or two I wouldn’t normally think of, because like you said, you never know until you try it on!

  • LC

    I haven’t starting looking for wedding dresses yet – and part of me is a little scared to start. I find the whole thing overwhelming. Some questions… how do you overcome this ‘pressure’ to find the perfect dress? Who should I take with me? How will I know when to stop looking? How can I go about imaging how the dress will look after possible drastic alterations (given I’m only 5ft tall but have an hourglass figure and its hard enough to find normal clothes that don’t make me look either pregnant or suffocate my bosom?)

  • Margie

    I’ve been an avid reader for about year now (with a week and a half to go until the wedding!) and I’ve been so grateful this wonderful community exists. I just signed up and chimed in to say how in all the wedding dress shopping stress, I kept thinking back to the comment of one smart lady in the first shop I went to when I said I was too broad across the back for a particular dress. She said “Never forget – it’s the dress that doesn’t fit you, not that you don’t fit the dress”. And while I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted, it was such a relief to hear, and worth bearing in mind when the process starts to get a little fraught.

  • Meredith

    Have been lurking here since I got engaged, first time commenter! Here goes.
    I feel the exact same way about- dresses that I can afford are not “me.”
    I am currently on a dress hiatus after a few rounds of dress shopping that ultimately ended in panic and tears. Maybe I should let go of this mentality, but my dress means a lot to me. It’s one of those things that when we were prioritizing budget items, I wanted it right up there. Even so, we still don’t have a ton of money to spend on it. I’m sort of resigning myself to the fact that my dress will probably come from JCrew or BHLDN, because their prices are good and typical bridal gowns are just not my cup of tea. The problem is, selection for those brands is limited. They are really lovely though and I’m hoping it works out.
    I’m in NYC, so if anyone knows of good resources for “non bridally” wedding gowns I’m all ears! I’m thinking of hitting up Lovely Bride but I’m worried those are slightly out of my budget.

  • H. Elizabeth

    One thing I was absolutely not prepared for was that some wedding dresses can be so hot and heavy. That + the fact that most sample sizes are too small for me = me, sweating like I just finished a spin class, while trying on the gowns. This happened every time I tried on dresses. It quickly made me prioritize the material/construction of a dress at least as highly as what the dress looked like.

  • alicia

    I’m so glad you posted this! I just had the most horrible Dress shopping experience. Whoever posted that davids bridal was awefull was correct. I had no idea what I wanted and or what would look good on me and I’m a jeans and Tshirt kinda girl. I told the lady I was getting married on the beach in august in MI. She put me in one of those crenolin underskirt things and brought me big poofy dresses all in the same style all out of my price range. Insisted I try on a veil when I told her I didn’t want one (everyone changes they’re mind) i felt like I should be standing on top of the damn cake! All the dresses we’re heavy and had layers and by the end of the day I wanted to cry.

  • Rose

    I went dress shopping for the first time this weekend and it was fine, but not great. The two people I took with me felt that my favorite style (float, chiffon sheaths with empire waists) were not bridal enough and were really pushing lace. Don’t get me wrong, lace is lovely and I thought those dresses were very pretty, but I have a hard time feeling like me in something elaboeate. It’s not that I don’t like them, but I feel like a fraud in anything with more than a passing bid to fashion. It’s like I’ll walk out and everyone will think “oh, poor girl, she doesn’t know she’s not the sort of person who can wear that.” Which of course is absolutely ridiculous but is hard to get over. I don’t feel like the kind of person who can be trendy or bold or make statements. Which leads to very simple (but pretty!) dresses. I know that it’s ultimately ny choice but so much of the wedding is intended to meet others’ expectations that it’s hard to let go of that for the dress. And my fiance “has never seen a wedding dress he liked” so that doesn’t help either, even though I know he will think I’m beautiful bo matter what.

  • Vee

    Is anyone else here ordering a dress online from China? Unfortuantely, my whole wedding budget is $3000 so I can’t afford to spend a third of that (or more) on a dress. There are China dresssellers on Etsy, Ebay and online that offer dresses in the range of $200-300 but for every glowing review you find, there’s another warning you NEVER to do it…

    • Seshat

      Honestly, from what I’ve seen I would NOT buy from a Chinese knockoff site. There are bad reviews, there are bad news reports, there are warnings from designers, and quite honestly I don’t trust any business that uses other people’s images to market products on their site which is what a lot of the Chinese sites do.

      You’ve got other options though. See if there are bridal consignment shops in your area, look at department store wedding lines, look at bridesmaid dresses, and, yes, check out Davids Bridal (just give them a fake number or set up a Google Voice number first! The service sounds like it varies a ton from store to store but they definitely offer affordable options). You can check out Ebay and Etsy too, but be aware that Etsy is utter crap at weeding out resellers (shady knockoff companies will try to sell through them) so if you go that route really pay attention to the seller.

    • H

      I got my dress from an online shop based in China, Snowy Bridal. It ended up being $180 to get it custom fit, shipped in 3 weeks, and fits perfectly. It’s absolutely lovely, and I’m so happy I took the risk. The site had reviews of the dresses, which was nice, and they seem spot on. For example, someone noted that the dress was shipped in a soft envelope so it was pretty wrinkly, and another noted that the skirt wasn’t a full as it looks. So when I got a wrinkly (yet beautiful) dress that wasn’t as full-skirted as it looks on the screen I wasn’t disappointed because I knew that I would need to steam it and get a petticoat.

  • Rachelle

    I know I’m alte to the game, but if anyone is still reading comments, I’m confused about a certain store’s bridesmaid dress policy. I’m in a wedding in March and the bride decided she wants us to pick whatever dress we like from a certain designer in a certain fabric. One of the two stores in my state (Colorado) that carries this designer charges $15 to you try on bridesmaid dresses to “protect the designer.” They apply it to your purchase if you order a dress through them, but still. Is this something that’s happening now? Should I steer clear because it’s a shady practice? I’m really confused by this.

  • Katie C

    What about buying dresses online? I have found one I LOVE the look of, and is a shape and style I think will look amazing on. The dress will be custom made to my measurements, and the website shows a ton of positive reviews. The style is like NOTHING else I’ve seen and I fell in love with it immediately. I’m leaning toward ordering as the dress is much less expensive than anything I’d find in stores – considering it a calculated risk. Has anyone had experience with this sort of thing?

    • Kelly

      Just make super duper sure the website is legitimate before you order. When I first started looking I didn’t know about how many knock-off sites were out there and I fell in love with an online that seemed to good to be true…because it was. I researched the website a little more and realized all of the positive reviews were fake.

      I have heard positive things about For Her and for Him, which makes custom dresses (from China although they’re based in CA), but they have actual reviews from real customers (including photos).

    • H

      Yes! I had the same experience. I ended up buying the dress I fell in love with online and I’m so glad I did. It definitely felt risky (with a potentially awesome payoff), but the dress came quickly and looks perfect. Just make sure to use your Google-fu to see if you can find reviews that the website itself doesn’t control.

    • Katie C

      So I did a little internet research and found some terrible reviews of the online bridal dress vendor I had been looking at. In addition to that, I came across a few other sites with practically the same name, exact same web layout and dresses. Definite scam. I’m pretty disappointed as I loved that dress, and have seen nothing else like it. Oh well… the search continues!

      Thanks for the advice!

  • Nicole

    Oh dear. I have a “bridal” appointment next week and I’m NOT actually engaged. Reasoning is that I’m able to travel home only 1-2 times per year and we’d like my grandmother to see me in a wedding dress before her health potentially worsens. Both parents were asked permission by my partner and they are aware about when he is proposing (I believe during the holidays) so they don’t think it’s weird for me to have this “not bridal” appointment, you know, just so I can “see what looks good on me.” As a pre-engaged crazy person who already has detailed budget spreadsheets, I’m worried this will just be fuel for the fire. How do I stay level-headed (and dare I say, non-emotional? – because I want to save that for when I’m actually engaged?) during this appointment? Or do I just say screw tradition, I’m going to try on wedding dresses and I’m gonna like it [and then search for a used or sample version online for half the cost once I have a ring?]!

    • Ashleyloulou

      I almost always say ‘screw tradition’ if it doesn’t fit what I want it to be! I also think if you’re already this invested in it, and it might be your only time to do it with your G-ma, go all in!

    • scw

      definitely screw tradition. my boyfriend and I have been saving for a ring for a year (it is officially ordered now!) and haven’t been planning in the open (aka with our families) because we felt kind of ashamed, or like we were doing things backwards. when we picked the ring in april, my grandmother was still alive. she died suddenly between then and now. if I had the opportunity to shop for dresses with her, like you have, I’d take it in a minute.

  • Sophie

    Solutions for sweaty brides! Guys I am super sweaty all the time, mostly regardless of actual temperature and especially in social settings. I’m talking pits and lady parts. I have pit stains daily and also butt ones after sitting for awhile on a hot day. What kind of dress and/or undergarments can help?!!

    • SE

      You could talk to your doctor about medication. I’ve been on a pill that helps with that for many years. There are also prescription antiperspirants they can prescribe.

  • Britt

    This is probably an offshoot to the main question but my mother’s wedding dress is a magical unicorn wedding dress with sleeves from 1979. She gave me my full chest but was blessed with a smaller waist at the time she got married, so I know I need to reconstruct the dress a bit and shorten it. Not to shout but HOW DO I FIND SOMEONE TO DO THIS? Is a bridal shop a good resource? Is a job for a regular tailor or a costume designer or a title I’m not sure of yet? Buying a dress outright seems equally stressful but…where do you go when that’s not what you have in mind?

    • Improvised Bride

      Not sure where you live, but you could try looking on things like Yelp for “seamstress,” “tailor,” and “alterations.” It’s annoying and gendered, but “seamstress” seems to turn up people who do alterations on fancy dresses better than “tailor.” I got a recommendation from calling a fancy bridal shop and asking if they ever recommended tailors/alterations. The shop actually sent me a little PDF with recommendations for alterations, dry cleaners, and something else (shoes? can’t remember), so I was clearly not the first to ask the question.

  • Abby

    I’d love advice on how to go dress shopping without feeling like a total fraud. A long time ago I had to try on dresses at bridal shops to find a dress to wear as a debutante, and it was sort of traumatizing for a shy, body-conscious 18-year-old. (Telling a teenager to strip down to her underwear and “dive” into the dress while the salesperson holds it for you is, well, awful.) Basically I’m scared to go back, but I also have no idea what I want or what kind of silhouette and fabrics would look good. Is there a way to make dress shopping more fun/more authentic? Is it some rite of passage you just need to get through? All of my family and many of my friends are out of town, so I’m looking at a few giant days of shopping when I’m with my mom or my sister.

  • Ashleyloulou

    A few people who have been following this site longer than I have talked about other posts about dress shopping that have been helpful–I’m sure this will be part of your new format for the site, but if you do the dress post before you do the update, could you link to some of the other dress posts?

  • Michelle

    I don’t wear strapless anything in “real life” and know that style is going to be pushed on me the minute I start dress shopping. Couple this concern with a mother and sister that are BEYOND excited to go dress shopping! Any advice on how to walk out of the the store with what you want (and feel comfortable in) would be great! Would also appriciate how to stay in budget!

  • Becca

    So what’s the deal with sample sales? I always get emails when they are coming up at local boutiques in NYC, but the idea of them terrifies me. I imagine a mob of size 4 blonde girls fighting over designer labels. Do they have anything for someone larger (I’m a size 14 or 16)? Is it worth exploring?

    Second question – What kind of luck have people had with second hand dresses?

  • SE

    So I was in the same boat. I had never wanted to big, poofy dress for my wedding. I put off shopping for a wedding dress for a long time until finally I got tired of hearing my mother nag me about it. I knew I didn’t want the traditional strapless ball gown, mermaid gown, etc. I wanted something that reflected my personal style, my tendancy to buck trends, and something that fit with the wedding we were having. I hated seeing pictures of brides that didn’t look like they belonged in the wedding they had planned (rustic barn wedding with over the top princess gown). I wanted to follow the same style that I would have followed if I was just a guest. For a long time, I was actually jealous of everyone else coming to the wedding because they could wear the style & color that fit them best. I was worried I would be my opinion of the worst dressed at my own wedding. I live 5 hrs away from my family so one day I decided to just suck it up and go to a couple bridal stores alone. The first one was horrible. Not a single dress was anything but a ball gown. They all made me look like a giant cupcake. I am in my 30s, not on Toddlers & Tiaras, and wanted to look like a grownup on my wedding day. The second place I went I was greeted by not one, not two, but three different sales people telling me how sad it was that I had to shop for my dress alone and how sorry they felt for me. Initially I couldn’t understand why & then I got mad and left. I am a grown woman. I shop for everything other article of clothing on my own so why can’t I shop for my wedding dress alone. Am I not the only one who needs to like it? I was paying for it myself so why do I need to know what anyone else out there thinks? After that debacle, I became more frustrated with the whole process. That is when I started looking online & just by chance found Ann Taylor’s website. I read through the reviews, found a couple of dresses that I loved, and ordered them since I had a coupon & would get free shipping. I adored them both, but one of them was exactly what I was going for. It was on sale, I had a coupon, received free shipping, and received so many rewards points for the sale that I received a reward certificate so i was able to get another dress & a cute top. It was a win/win. I received so many compliments on my dress from strangers in downtown Chicago throughout our wedding day telling me how much they loved my dress and how great it was to see something different from the usual. I highly recommend looking at their site. My sister ended up getting her bridesmaid dress from there as well. Don’t bother with the bridal stores. I honestly believe you can find better quality for a lower price if you look to stores you trust for other attire.

  • Candy

    This is perfect! I went to my first dress shopping adventure last month. And it eased my mind and gave me a bunch of new worries at the same time. For some reason, I felt as though nothing would look nice on me because I’m short (5’0) and very curvy (size 12) hourglass. Happily I found that ballgown and mermaid shape does work for me.

    My new worries are how to find a dress that is beachy enough for my destination wedding in Jamaica, next September. Where do I look?! All the gowns are too simple for my taste or too formal for the beach.

    Should I just say F*** it? And get something on the formal side? But that risk sand ruining the dress. And will I look weird? IDK! I’m so confused.

    I thought my beach wedding would make things easier. smh

    I have not actually tried this dress on but I think when I do I will love it. Is it too formal to where on the beach?

    http://www.missesdressy.com/dresses/designers/mori-lee/blu-by-mori-lee/5108_1

  • Ally

    as someone who is not (yet?) engaged, I have two questions for future knowledge:

    1) How long legitimately does one need to plan a wedding to not be freaking out over getting alterations done in time? (I know from prom dress experience that David’s Bridal’s wait list for alterations is always well over a month just to get a dress hemmed – which of course they always need even if you’re normal to tall). I see all these lists that say 10 months, but clearly I know people who have gotten married in shorter time so? What’s the deal?

    2) I know from online that a lot of designers DO have non-strapless dresses – but they all appear to be more expensive than David’s Bridal (whom you have to go up to at least $700 to get a non-strapless dress made out of anything decent, and I strongly doubt they actually have them in the store, unless they have it in the big sizes only…) WHERE does one go to find a non-strapless dress? Part of my desire is the modesty issue – but a great part of it is I simply do not want my dress to have to fit that perfectly at the waist in order to stay up! there’s too much room to have either lost or gained the week of the wedding and it not fit… Not to mention I don’t want any chance of “back fat” oozing out over anything…

    (and speaking of which – I have a weird question/comment I just have to make – why in the world, on the wedding dress shows, when they (oh so rarely) show a non-strapless dress, do they never actually pin back the shoulders the way one would alter the dress to fit the way they clip the back to fit? The reason all these non-strapless dresses look horrible on these girls is that they leave it flopping too long up top on them! If half the regular dresses I’ve ever tried on in my life would have fit if they just were taken in at the shoulder, why should I expect a wedding dress not to? (And a wedding dress is the one place I’d be willing to deal with getting it altered rather than finding a different dress that fit, if I had to, considering everything))

  • Stefani

    My wedding is outside in the fall in the foothills of the Rockies. I want a dress that looks fantastic but I hate basically all wedding gowns, seriously I thought I loved a dress then realized I couldn’t wear it with my boots and it would be awful for wandering around a meadow in. I found a few boho like dresses that would look great, but since they’re not “bridal” I’m afraid one I’ll think I missed out on the whole dress shopping experience, or that his very traditional family won’t understand my extremely nontraditional ways. Richard on the other hand doesn’t seem to care what I wear as long as I feel pretty and at the end of the day sign the marriage license..

  • Sharon Gorbacz

    My tip: don’t let the salesperson bully you into buying something you do not like on you. Alterations can do only so much. I ended up going to an appointment-only boutique instead of a big bridal store and it was just a much more pleasant experience than I had elsewhere.