The experience of shopping for a gown can be stressful. You suddenly enter a world you may have no experience of, being asked questions about cut, materials and design that you don't know the answer to. It can be disconcerting. There are high emotions at stake. Every woman, whether spending $500 or $10,000, feels that this is the most important dress of her life. Here are a few tips to help you find the perfect dress.
1. Don't build the wedding around the dress
Think about the occasion first. Is it a country church wedding with 50 guests? Or is it for 500 people in expensive venue? Start with which kind of wedding it will be and work backwards to the dress.
2. Don't build the marriage around the dress
If there are many women who pick a gown first and then think about the rest later, then there are some who think about the dress, then the wedding, then the marriage. Naturally, the choice of groom should be more important than the dress – but you'd be surprised how many women for whom this is not the case.
3. When it comes to accessories, less is more
The dress will dictate how much you put on and what to do with your hair. Bling earrings can dominate, and a hairstyle can be subtly improved with delicate adornments. It's a fine art. Be careful of necklines and be mindful of how small, well-made jewellery can have a better effect.
4. Find out which designers do bridal really well
There have been a lot of changes in bridal wear over the last decade. Since opening, we understand that ready-to-wear designers often don't have the capacity to design bridal wear. They are two different areas, with their own demands and needs. Designers now realize that wedding dresses are more consuming than ready-to-wear and carry more emotion. But a wedding dress is the one occasion most women get to experience made-to-measure dressmaking, and for that reason a ready-to-wear designer may have the kind of expertise needed.
5. Be realistic about what you can afford
If you have a small budget but want a big dress and can't afford the same quality, or workmanship, as a more expensive gown, it's not possible to cheat. I always recommend a smaller dress made from silk inside out, with every detail beautifully made, rather than something that looks bigger but cheap. A perfect fit is more important than anything else.
6. Get fittings as close to the wedding as possible
A made-to-measure dress has to be ordered four to five months in advance, so you need to allow that time. But we suggest fittings as close to the wedding as possible. Also, don't try it on too much. Invariably, women do lose weight before a wedding, so it's best not to start fittings until you have arrived at the size you want to be. Otherwise, dresses have to be pulled apart and taken in, and that takes time and can ruin how you feel about the dress.
7. Listen to your heart, not your mother
A good wedding-dress maker hones in on what the bride wants, not the mother or the aunt or anyone else. I've had brides in tears because their sister has dismissed a dress she likes, and you can't always be sure what motivates people to decide whether they like a dress. The shop assistant can't intervene in all of that, so the bride should have support whispered in her ear by the shop, reminding her that it's her day and it's about what she wants.