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How To Shop For A Wedding Dress

How to Shop for a Wedding Dress

Finding the perfect wedding gown doesn’t have to be an ordeal – not if you’re prepared! Understanding how to match your dress to your wedding (or vice versa), what fabrics and colors are available to you – and your budget – will take a lot of the stress out of dress shopping.

Timing & Ordering in Advance

When it comes to buying a wedding dress, the earlier you are able to put in your order at the bridal shop, the better. Keep in mind that, depending on what dress you order, the dress may need to be ordered from a catalog, and this process can take up to several months. Once the dress reaches the shop, it will most likely take another several weeks or months for the dress to be tailored. Some amount of time needs to be left after the final fitting to make sure no additional adjustments will be needed.

A good general rule is to order your wedding dress three to six months in advance or sooner. Be sure to tell your bridal shop what your wedding date is, so they can ensure your dress will be ready in time for the special day.

Picking the Right Dress for the Wedding

You have your heart set on a beach wedding. Or a large, formal church wedding. Or a mid-sized vineyard wedding with a large reception to follow. If you’re beginning the wedding planning process with a specific kind of wedding in mind, you’ll need to find a dress that will allow you to stay comfortable and clean throughout the day, so style and fabric are important!

Just because you’re planning on having your wedding outdoors doesn’t mean you need to choose a short wedding dress. Informal gowns and outdoor styles may be ball gowns, vintage lace dresses or other “formal” styles; the difference may simply be that they are made in lighter fabrics with no trains or detachable trains.

Budget will play another important role in wedding dress shopping; if your formal wedding budget has room for a more costly gown, your style and fabric options will be much broader than if you are working with a small budget.

Building the Wedding Around the Dress

Maybe you aren’t sure what you want your wedding to look like, and you are starting the planning process with shopping for the dress. Many brides begin wedding planning by choosing a dress and end up planning the wedding around the dress they’ve fallen in love with. A good bridal shop can help you understand what kind of wedding will go best with the dress you’ve chosen, so that you can begin to build and visualize your wedding with the gown as the centerpiece that pulls it all together.

Fabric Guide

There are several types of fabrics used most commonly in wedding dresses, but the most important thing to know is that not all fabrics are made equally! Most of the following fabrics can be made from either genuine silk and cotton or synthetic fabrics. Synthetic organza, chiffon, taffeta and tulle behave differently than higher end fabrics made from silk, and while synthetic fabrics may cost far less, gowns made with them may be more difficult to alter and they may feel and wear differently.

A bridal shop assistant should be able to tell you the material grade used in each gown, as well as how this affects the dress’ overall quality.

Tulle – a very fine mesh/netting fabric made from silk, nylon or rayon. Used in gathers to add volume to skirts, tulle is also the fabric used in veils.

Chiffon – a thin, sheer, light and flowing fabric made from crepe yarns. Often used in lingerie, chiffon is soft and slippery and may be made from either silk or polymers.

Organza – a thin, sheer fabric that is more stiff than chiffon but less stiff than tulle. Higher end organza may be made from silk, while lower end fabrics are made from polyester or nylon.

Taffeta – a soft, thin, almost opaque fabric that is similar to satin but much thinner and lighter in weight. Typically made from silk.

Satin – a thicker, opaque fabric that falls heavily and is very soft to the touch. Made from silk, satin is made in different thread counts, which affects overall fabric quality.

Wedding Dress Colors

White may be the standard color for wedding gowns, but wedding dresses may come in various shades of white, as well as alternate colors. Different shades of white work differently with different skin tones, so it’s important to choose a color that enhances your skin rather than making you look sallow. Before picking a color, first determine whether your skin tone is warm or cool. In general, stark white and blue-hued gowns (such as classic white and oyster tones), considered “cool tones”, will look best on warm skin tones, while warm-hued whites (such as ivory and champagne), considered “warm tones”, will look best on cool skin tones.

The most common wedding dress colors are:

Champagne (light gold hued)
Blush (powder pink)
Oyster (silverish/light platinum)
Two-tone (classic white edged or piped in custom colors)