Looking For Your Dress Part 2: A Fashion Show Starring You
Now that I’ve just about exhausted all the dress details and terms, it’s time to talk about actually going to look for the perfect one!
Since you were a responsible and organized bride, I’m sure you set an appointment to go to the bridal salon to try on dresses and weren’t going to just show up. Why would you appear there unannounced and expect any respectable level of service? That would be silly! Since you were so on the ball I won’t waste your time with a reminder that you should make an appointment to have your dress trying adventure.
Second rule of thumb (since making an appointment was the first): don’t bring too many people! I know having a “variety” of opinions sounds like it should be good in the long run, but all you’re setting yourself up is a confusing and disheartening appointment. Try to limit it to 3. I had every intent of having only a few people, but it kind of spiraled out of control a little. I invited my mom (duh!), my sister, my MOH, my future mother-in-law, and my aunt (she had offered to buy my dress for me, of course I invited her!). I would definitely not have more than 5. While the group was just fine when I was actually trying on dresses, trying to keep track of everyone’s “oh look at this one!” while we were pulling dresses was a little intense.
Arrive early (about 10 minutes or so; they usually have you fill out a sheet with information such as your wedding date before you start looking), and bring any pictures you’ve clipped to show the consultant. They’ll sit down with you and go through your pictures and ask you questions about what you like about them, which gives you an opportunity to talk about dress features you’d be interested in but don’t necessarily have a picture of. Do your best to be open to their suggestions, but put your foot down if you are adamantly against something (especially if there are religious reasons for it, like needing to have sleeves or a bolero). There is a reason they do this for a living, and they’ve seen enough body shapes come through to have a good idea of what should look good on you (but that doesn’t mean they are fool-proof; don’t get discouraged if the first few dresses aren’t perfect).
If you have any concerns, now is the time to bring them up. I have what my friends and I lovingly refer to as “linebacker shoulders”, and strapless dresses with a straight cut across the top tend to emphasize that (“I look like a linebacker in drag” is a pretty common statement). Warning them ahead of time does two things for you. First of all, it gives them a better idea of what types of dresses to avoid (if you’re conscious about your stomach, they won’t pull a sheath dress that can cling to it and emphasize it). Secondly, it gives them a heads-up as to what you will be paying attention to when you look in the mirror. If I was standing there and suddenly said “my shoulders look funny”, that is going to completely throw them out of their groove because, let’s face it, that’s a really weird thing to hear. If they know that’s a problem for you, you rejecting a dress because it emphasizes the feature you’re trying to avoid isn’t quite as shocking.
Consultants know that buying a dress is less like buying a shirt and more like buying a house. You’re going to come and look around, but there’s a good chance you won’t make a purchase that day, and you’re probably looking at other places too. A salon that tries to pressure you into a dress or make you feel bad about not ordering something that day is not a salon you want to be in. Still, if you KNOW when you walk in you won’t be buying a dress that day, tell them. It’s always best to be upfront and say “I’m just looking today; if I find something I like I’ll be back in a few weeks.”
Along the same analogy, they most likely will not have multiple sizes of each dress. Typically a salon has one copy of each style in a “standard size” 8 (which is usually considered the middle ground). If you’re smaller, they’ll pull the excess fabric back into utility clips to give you a better sense of the fit. If you’re larger, they’ll use some clips (and if it’s a significant difference they’ll attach some cords to the clips to stretch across the back) to keep it closed on you. Regardless, the chances you try on the dress in the size you need are pretty slim, so you’ll have to use your imagination a little bit. Some details of the dress will most likely shift depending on the size, so if you’re wondering what will change when ordering up/down, ask. I’ll be honest, the smaller girls have an easier time with it because you can clip the dress on almost any side to see what the different details will look like (i.e. you can put the clips in the front of the dress to see what the back of the dress and train will look like), but that doesn’t mean you should get discouraged from a dress if you’re larger than the size 8.
Don’t try on dresses willy-nilly. Check the price tag before you take it to your fitting room. You do not want to find yourself in the position of being in love with a dress that you can’t afford. There’s no such thing as “it couldn’t hurt to just see how it looks.”
Keep in mind any overall look and feel you want for the day (modern, vintage, etc) and look for qualities that reflect that. Your dress should reflect your personality, but err on the side of simplicity. The dress shouldn’t overwhelm you; you are wearing it, not the other way around. Dresses that have a little bit of everything on them look like they have a little bit of everything on them, and can easily look cluttered or messy. The focus should be on you and how beautiful you are in the dress, not how big the skirt is or how many rosettes are on the bodice.
When choosing dresses to pull yourself, look for features on the dress you know you’re interested in. Some dresses look terrible on the hanger, but look fabulous on, so be willing to go a little outside your comfort zone and explore things that look like they may be a train wreck. Sometimes you’ll confirm that yep, it’s a train wreck, but other times you can find yourself pleasantly surprised. The dress I chose didn’t look that fabulous hanging up (and honestly it’s catalog picture isn’t much to smile at either), but it had some of the details I was looking for, so I gave it a shot. Lo and behold, it was perfect!
Pleeeeease please please remember to wear/bring undergarments that are close to skin color. It’s hard enough to see what a dress will look like when the sample is most likely not the right size, much less with your lime green panties showing through it. A strapless bra is preferred, but if you don’t have one it’s not a big deal, you’ll just have to tuck your straps in. Don’t wear one with a ton of padding unless you plan on wearing one with that much padding on your wedding day. Also, please wear undergarments that actually cover your important bits. In most cases the consultant will stay in the room with you and assist you in getting into and out of dresses, meaning they will be seeing you in your undies. Don’t wear anything you wouldn’t wear as a swim suit as a rule of thumb.
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t find the perfect dress in the first few you try on, or if you have to visit a couple different salons. I went to two different salons and tried on 14 dresses (which is apparently a really low number I’ve been told). Don’t settle on a dress, but don’t expect to get overly emotional and start crying about “the one” either. When I first put on the dress I ended up choosing, I said “oh this is nice,” but that was it. I spent a little time in it, and it started growing on me. When it was time to change into the next dress, I refused to take it off. Having the time to appreciate the details on it and how they flattered me really did wonders, and I didn’t have a crying moment, but just about everyone I brought with me did. If you need to come back to revisit some dresses at a later time, that’s fine!
There is one more post in this series about wedding dress shopping (what to expect when you’re ordering your dress) until I get my dress (after all I can’t exactly post about the next step if I haven’t experienced it yet!). It was originally supposed to be in sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but my designer (one specific to the salon I was at) got a ton of orders (or at least more than they expected) so the delivery got pushed back. I’m now looking at sometime in January, February at the latest. I still owe you a post on the salons I’ve visited, but I want to wait until dresses are in (since the first salon I looked for my dress at ended up being where we got the bridesmaids dresses) before I pass along any info. If there’s anything related to wedding dresses (up through ordering it anyway; I’ll get to pick up info and bustles when that becomes relevant) I haven’t touched on yet or managed to skip that you want to see, let me know and I’ll work it in!