In the very long to-do list that is planning a wedding, it’s easy for underpinnings to get lost. After all, the flowers, the food, the cake, the dress, and the venue are so much more visible (and, therefore, important) right? Hmmm… not so much. Think about it. If you’re wearing a bra that hurts you or a pair of knickers that bunches and binds, your focus won’t be on your wedding day.
In the same vein, your underwear can also affect the type of wedding day outfit you choose to buy. As a lingerie expert, I believe it’s important to get a sense of the range of underwear options that are available before purchasing your gown (especially if you are a hard-to-find size). However many people take the exact opposite approach… which can lead to a situation where you’ve found the perfect dress but less-than-perfect underpinnings.
Fortunately, we live in a time where there are literally more lingerie options than ever before. While custom lingerie isn’t realistic for most of us (more on that in a later article), we can, in most cases, find the perfect lingerie, even if it takes a bit of extra work.
And remember: going braless (or underwear-less) is always an option too, especially if you feel more comfortable that way. While these guides are often written as though you have to wear a bra, if your dress has a lot of interior structure or if you simply feel like your best self without one, that’s fine too!
With that in mind, here are some tips for finding the wedding day lingerie of your dreams.
General Advice For Shopping For Wedding Lingerie
When to Buy It
If bras are difficult for you to find in your size, you may want to buy your bra first and then take it with you when you go dress shopping. This approach may sound weird, but finding the perfect bra can be even harder than finding the perfect dress (especially since sheer and backless styles are so trendy). Bras are feats of engineering, and especially for a heavier bust, it may not be possible to find a bra that gives the lift and shape you want and is also invisible under low-backed or backless styles (this is because most of the support for your bra comes from the band… which means if there’s no band, there’s a lot less support).
However, I understand that many people will still want to buy their dress first. In that case, the time to start shopping for bridal lingerie is immediately after you’ve decided on a gown. Trust me when I say you don’t want to put this off to the last minute. There is nothing worse than beginning your search a few weeks before the wedding day and realizing your size is sold out or that the style you need has been discontinued or that the color you need is no longer available.
You also want to give yourself time to try on multiple undergarments (i.e., don’t settle for the first thing that “kind of” works if you can help it). This might mean ordering online or trying multiple brands, especially if you don’t have a lingerie boutique nearby or the boutique doesn’t carry your size. And remember: always take the time to look at return policies if you shop online!
Don’t Discount “Old School” Underpinnings!
Formal dress (of which wedding attire is a part of) by nature tends to be more conservative than everyday dress. It’s often a throwback to earlier times, which means it may need undergarments from earlier times in order to attain the best silhouette.
Though most of us don’t wear items like corsets, bustiers, waist cinchers, garter belts, slips, or girdles on a daily basis, those might actually be the best pieces for your wedding day. If you’ve ever looked at photos of vintage movie stars with their torpedo bosoms and tiny waists, then it’s obvious that old school lingerie is all about creating a shape… unlike modern day lingerie, which mostly skims over the shape you already have.
However, while we’re on the subject, don’t fall into the trap of “more is more.” Old-school girdles and bustiers, for example, need to be snug, but they shouldn’t be tight to the point of pain, and you shouldn’t size down in these garments to “look slimmer.” Doing so could literally injure you.
But Also Embrace Technology!
Laser cut edges are one of the best things ever invented when it comes to lingerie. So are moisture-wicking and cooling fabrics. And flat stretch lace.
Classic materials like cotton may not be a good fit for your wedding day because they hold onto moisture, and they can get soggy, heavy, and uncomfortable. Silk, if you can afford it, is a beautiful option, especially for knickers, as it’s soft and cool (and oh so luxurious… perfect for weddings).
Similarly, look for mesh and microfiber fabrics, as those can be softer and more breathable, especially for a full day’s wear. One more note: It’s okay if these pieces don’t look “sexy.” What counts is that they’re comfortable. You can save the sexy things for your wedding night (or honeymoon!).
Don’t Rule Out Online or In-Store Shopping
In an ideal world, we’d all be able to try on anything we wanted right down the street at a local lingerie boutique. Unfortunately, that isn’t an option for most of us. Both online and in-store lingerie shopping has strengths and weaknesses.
The advantage of shopping in-store is that you’ll not only be able try things on, you’ll also be able to rely on the expertise of a fitter, who has likely fitted dozens of people and probably knows the perfect brand, style, and size for your shape. The downside is that no boutique can stock everything, so there will naturally be some options you don’t see. However, remember that special ordering is always a possibility (which is another reason why you want to start your search early!).
On the other hand, when it comes to shopping online, the advantage is that you’re able to buy from almost any brand in the world. You’re not limited by distance or proximity, and you may be able to try pieces or brands you’ll never find in a store. However, the downside is that you’re almost completely on your own. You’ll need to figure out the brand’s sizing chart, read reviews, place an order, and then return anything that doesn’t work for you. Regardless, you’ll find the most options in a specialist lingerie store (either online or brick-and-mortar) or a store that’s known for having a wide range of undergarments.
That doesn’t mean you should avoid online or in-boutique shopping. Just know what to expect from each.
White Isn’t the Only Color
Yes, white is a classic bridal color, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best color for you. Depending on your style of dress (or suit!), you may want to look at shades of nude in your skintone or even soft, muted colors like blush or champagne.
Again, start the search early. Many brands only produce deeper-toned nudes as what the industry calls “fashion” or season
al colors, so don’t assume that perfect shade of brown will be available a few weeks before your wedding. It may have sold out by then! The same applies to hosiery. If you’d like to wear stockings and want a color other than white, start the search and stock up early (I recommend buying at least two or three pairs; after all, accidents happen).
Remember to Try Everything On With Your Outfit!
Don’t assume everything will fit and go together perfectly. Not only do bodies change, but tailoring can change the fit and structure of your gown. A seam or hem that was perfect at the bridal boutique may be different after customization and tailoring. Similarly, an undergarment that you thought would be smooth and discreet might suddenly look too bulky or visible.
Take your undergarments with you to every fitting, and then try on everything you plan to wear on your wedding day a couple of weeks beforehand (including accessories like stockings or double stick tape!). Make sure to move around, dance, sit down, stand up, reach your arms over your head… anything you think you might do on your wedding day. Note any places that feel uncomfortable, like they’re binding, digging, or chafing. Don’t ignore it. That feeling will be ten times worse on the wedding day, and you don’t want to enter your wedding night with unintentional bruises or raw places.
Not only that, but sizes can change. You may lose or gain weight, which will affect how your underwear fits. We can also develop skin sensitivities or allergies, especially in response to stress, and you don’t want to discover this on the morning of the wedding.
One more tip: buy for the size you are, not the size you hope to be. Weddings are stressful enough. Don’t add to that stress with unnecessary or unreasonable expectations.
Advice for Specific Gowns
- Strapless and Off-the-Shoulder: Strapless Bra or Bustier/Longline Bra
- Deep V Front: Plunge Bra or Adhesive Bra
- Backless (including Illusion or Sheer Backs): Adhesive or Bra Cups sewn into gown (Silicone Nipple Covers are a possibility too)
- Low Back: Bustier or Convertible Bra
- Halter: Convertible Bra or Adhesive Bra
- One Shoulder: Convertible Bra or Strapless Bra
- Mermaid or Trumpet Skirt: Shaping Slip, Shorts, or Thong (If there’s more structure to the skirt, a pair of full brief knickers can work as well.)
- Sheaths and Slip Dresses: Shaping Slip or High Waist Thong
- Ballgown Skirt or A-line Skirt: Wear whatever undies you want! But keep in mind that you may also want to wear a slip or crinoline under your gown to maximize the shape of your skirt.
What problems are you facing in your search for wedding lingerie? How did you find the perfect bra? For the already married folks in the crowd, how was your hunt for wedding lingerie?
APW is excited to share the first in a four-part guest series from lingerie expert Cora Harrington. You can read the second post on gender nonconforming wedding undergarments here. For more information on all types of lingerie, check out Cora’s beautifully illustrated new book In Intimate Detail.
While many love the idea of wearing special underthings, lingerie can be intimidating. How is it supposed to fit? How do you take care of it all? Is lingerie really for me? In this beautiful and empowering guide, lingerie expert Cora Harrington demystifies intimate apparel, making it accessible to all sizes, ages, and budgets. Covering everything from basic bras and panties to special occasion wear, shapewear, hosiery, corsets, and more, this no-nonsense handbook empowers you to confidently buy, wear, and care for the underpinnings of your dreams.