Whether you are having a backyard or cathedral ceremony, nothing can bring out the excitement or nerves quite like wedding dress shopping. It can often be an overwhelming experience trying to sift through the endless fabrics, silhouettes, necklines and accessories.
A little preparation and research can help make your wedding dress shopping experience fun and memorable. Not all wedding dresses are created equal, and learning the pros and cons of the major dress categories can help you narrow your options to something you’ll love. A dress like the Embellished Blouson Gown by Adrianna Papell, our BestReviews top pick, combines practical elements with a sophisticated, elegant look.
When choosing a wedding dress, a major factor to consider is the silhouette or dress shape. Long wedding dresses have five main categories of silhouette: A-line, ball gown, mermaid, slip and trumpet. Each shape has its strengths when it comes to flattering your figure, and they also have traditional associations with more formal or casual ceremonies.
The A-line silhouette is defined by its fitted top and soft, A-shaped flair from the waist down. This classic dress shape is known for being flattering on all body types and is perfect for traditional ceremonies. If you are looking for something with a bit more drama, the ball gown shape is a go-to. This dress shape has a fitted top with a voluminous, fluffy skirt. A ball gown is perfect for those who wish to accentuate their waist and is a good choice for any bride who wants to feel like a princess.
The mermaid silhouette hugs the body down to the knees and then flares out at the bottom. This style of dress is known for showcasing the wearer’s curves. A mermaid fit can be tight, so consider freedom of movement when considering this silhouette. The trumpet silhouette is similar to the mermaid, but this dress hugs the body only down to the hips or midthigh. The trumpet is a sophisticated choice that matches well with fancier weddings.
If you are planning on having a more modern wedding, then the slip silhouette is a good choice. A minimalist selection, this dress shape is form-fitting but loose enough to be slouchy. The shape’s simplicity suggests a modern elegance and fits perfectly with ceremony backdrops such as cityscapes or museums.
There are numerous options when it comes to the wedding dress neckline. You should find a neckline that makes you feel beautiful, but if you’re not quite sure where to start, there are a few things you can consider. First, it is important to make sure the neckline you choose works well with your desired hairstyle and accessories. Also, think about which of your features you’d like to highlight.
Some of the most popular wedding dress neckline options are sweetheart, V-neck, off-the-shoulder, bateau, halter, illusion, Queen Anne and high neck. High, Queen Anne and bateau necklines offer a formal, sophisticated look. If you are searching for something softer, then try a sweetheart, illusion or off-the-shoulder neckline. For a more modern option, try the V-neck or halter neckline.
While brightly colored wedding dresses certainly exist, most are often referred to as merely white. However, in the wedding dress world, shades of white exist. The three main shades are ivory, stark white and silk white. Ivory is a creamy white that sometimes has yellow undertones. This color is romantic and great at bringing out the details of your dress. If you want to make a statement, stark white is a bright, bold color that often reflects the surfaces around it. Silk white is a nice in-between color that is flattering for all skin colors.
Wedding dresses can be made out of many different fabrics, but the six tried-and-true wedding dress fabrics are charmeuse, chiffon, lace, organza, tulle and satin. Dresses made with lots of lace and tulle are often more dramatic, statement pieces. If you want something softer and flowy, then satin, charmeuse or chiffon can be a good choice.
Depending on your venue, a wedding dress train is an important consideration. Trains are a length of fabric on the back of your dress that trails behind you as you walk. Typical train lengths range from 6 inches to a yard. Choosing the length of your train usually has a lot to do with the formality of your venue and the length of the aisle you’ll be walking. Longer trains often require assistance to manage as you navigate the ceremony and can need repositioning for photos.
When choosing your wedding dress, don’t forget that at some point after the ceremony, your train will have to be bustled to make it easier for you to walk around the reception area. Bustling your dress is gathering the train up so that it no longer trails behind you. This is accomplished by adding buttons or ribbons to the dress. Typically, dresses do not come with bustles, and the seamstress performing the alterations will add them for you. This adds $50-$300 to the price.
On the lower end, wedding dresses start at about $150. For a midrange dress with embellishments, expect to spend $500-$4,000. On the upper end, the sky's the limit.
A. Wedding dresses are known to run small and sometimes, dresses are tagged with the European system of sizing.
A. Most dress shops recommend you start shopping for your wedding dress anywhere from nine months to a year in advance. This is because alterations on a dress can take up to six months.
What you need to know: This loose-fitting gown is beaded with imitation pearls.
What you’ll love: You’ll love the flowy elegance of this dress. Its ivory color is flattering for all skin tones, and its zipper is hidden from view.
What you should consider: This dress is heavy because of the beading. Some buyers did not like the placement of the waistline.
Where to buy: Sold by Macy’s
What you need to know: This mermaid silhouette gown has a halter neckline and is made from all-over lace fabric.
What you’ll love: The combination of a modern halter neckline with a traditional lace fabric creates a unique blend of both worlds.
What you should consider: This gown runs small, and some purchasers have needed to size up.
Where to buy: Sold by Macy’s
What you need to know: This gown drapes off one shoulder for a modern, chic look.
What you’ll love: You can easily accessorize this dress with your favorite jewelry or sashes, and it can be worn to formal events beyond just your wedding.
What you should consider: A one-shoulder dress might limit your choices in jewelry.
Where to buy: Sold by Macy’s
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Morgan Freeman writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.