wedding planner blog

The Perfect Dress – From Shopping to Your Final Fitting

wedding dress

Finding the perfect wedding dress is one mission every bride looks forward to.  Whilst the experience itself is one of the many highlights of the wedding planning process, the sheer choice available on the bridal wear market and the thought of stepping into the unknown can make it rather stressful.  My ultimate wedding gown guide is here to help with advice on choosing a shape that suits, a fabric and colour that complements, and deciphering whether made to measure, couture or off the peg is right for you.

Finding a shape that suits

Getting shape savvy in the run up to your bridal boutique appointment is important, after all seeing gown after gown can often confuse the situation.

The ball gown
For every bride who wants to be a princess on their wedding day, the ball gown is certainly the perfect place to start.  The ball gown teams a fitted bodice with a full voluminous skirt to create that va-va-voom on your wedding day.  This style of wedding dress is a popular choice for more traditional and formal weddings.  The 2016 bridal collection by Oscar de la Renta contains a selection of examples of why the ball gown still reigns supreme on the bridal wear scene.

The column
At the other end of the spectrum, the column gown is a simple shape that provides maximum impact and glamour for brides that want to portray an elegant and classic look on their wedding day.  The column shape is typically associated with the popular Grecian look, as the fitted bodice and straight skirt can create a soft and floaty look that any Greek goddess would be envious of.  Designer Jenny Packham’s 2015 bridal campaign was awash with Grecian silhouettes in varying shapes, styles and shades of white.

The empire line
The empire line wedding dress is made to flatter.  This shape incorporates a higher waistline that cuts just under the bust usually with embroidery detail or a satin ribbon waist band.  The silhouette is finished with a flowing skirt, which so lovingly skims over hips and tummy for a graceful and flattering look.

The fishtail
The fishtail wedding gown, also known as the mermaid or trumpet dress, is a popular choice amongst brides of today.  The fitted nature of the gown creates an extremely feminine silhouette, accentuating your curves in all the right places.  With a fitted bodice and fishtail-shaped skirt that starts either just below or just above the knee, this cut is surprisingly flattering for a variety of body shapes, emphasising the enviable curves of the hourglass figure, whilst creating curves for women with straighter frames and less definition between their bust, waist and hips.

The dropped hem fishtail is one look that is particularly prominent for spring 2016, with this stunning shape featuring heavily in the upcoming collection of one of our favourite high-end designers, Vera Wang.

Achieving the perfect finish with fabric

As well as having to make decisions about how the dress fits and complements your body shape, selecting a fabric that makes you feel as fabulous as you should feel on your wedding day is equally important.  There are numerous fabrics available, all of which range in popularity and cost.

Lace is perhaps the most popular material for wedding gowns as its open weave nature makes it versatile.  This fabric can either be used as part of a dress or if correctly lined, an entire dress can be made of lace.
Silk is another popular wedding dress fabric and one of the most expensive.  Its smooth, soft and all natural texture makes it comfortable to wear as well as giving brides that luxurious look and feel.  Silk can be used as the primary fabric of a wedding dress or in conjunction with other fabrics, such as charmeuse, chiffon, organza, satin and tulle, to create a number of beautiful designs in various shapes.

The shiny nature of satin is unmistakable, but this traditional material is undergoing a revival in the wedding gown market and Duchess satin is a particularly popular choice for couture wedding gowns.  Thanks to the material being made from 100% silk, duchess satin does not have the same high lustre as polyester satin, instead the finish is elegant, luxurious and high end.

Which shade of white is right?

For as long as we can remember wedding dresses have been white and ivory in colour, but more vibrant wedding dresses in bright colours such as aquamarine, fuchsia, red and Cadbury’s purple have started to feature up and down catwalks at bridal fashion events around the world.  Remember, it takes a confident bride to pull off this growing trend and perhaps choosing a gown in a metallic colour or more muted tone such as taupe, baby pink or vintage blue will be a comfortable compromise allowing you to be different yet not dramatically so.

Whilst there are numerous wedding dress designs now available in every colour of the rainbow, most brides still opt for traditional white or ivory so choosing the right shade of white is extremely important.
Unbeknown to many, there are actually some significant differences between eggshell, diamond white, off-white, cream, ecru and other whites, a fact that is often only picked up when you see the various shades of white on a colour swatch.  Choosing between white, ivory and other shades, such as cream and champagne, is all a matter of personal taste and your individual complexion, hair colour and eye colour.

Ivory and antique white use a tint of yellow or cream to create a warmer tone to complement fairer skin tones, whilst women with a medium to dark skin tone look radiant in diamond white and bright white.

Off the peg, made to measure or couture?

As well as considering the shape, material and colour that is the perfect match for you, another question dominates the thought process of many brides-to-be while shopping for a wedding gown.  Whether you want to go for off the peg, made to measure or couture is entirely up to you, but knowing the difference between each will help you make the best decision.

As the name suggests, off the peg wedding dresses can be purchased from a bridal boutique in a range of standard sizes.  Often referred to as ready-made gowns, an off the peg dress is a great way to save money, however you may have to pay for extra fittings to achieve the desired look and feel.  A made to measure wedding gown on the other hand is crafted to your exact measurements. However, unlike couture, which is a ‘one of a kind’ creation designed and made just for you, made to measure gowns are based on a design that is generally available to all.

Leading boutiques such as Browns Bride in London and The Bride in St Albans offer made to measure gowns by world famous designers and recommend a lead time from decision to dress of at least six months.

What happens next?

You may think that once you’ve found your wedding gown, you simply wait to wear it on your big day.  However once you’ve chosen a gown, there are a number of to-dos to tick off your list in the run up to your wedding date.

The majority of bridal boutiques will require you to pay a deposit, particularly for made to measure and couture creations, whilst the remaining fee will be due at an agreed date before your wedding day.  For couture gowns the designer you have chosen may make a toile.  A toile is an early version of the finished garment, made from a cheaper material, which is used to test a pattern and perfect the design.  The dress is then made from the toile design and fitted over a series of sessions.

Before you attend your very first fitting you must make some decisions about how you will accessorise your gown and what underwear you’ll be wearing on your big day.  This will shape exactly how your gown will be altered to fit and also give you a clearer picture of the whole ensemble.

Make sure all of your accessories, such as jewellery, headwear and shawl, are purchased and bring them to your first fitting.  The same applies to your underwear and footwear; you’ll be surprised by how much difference a change in heel height or bra will make to the overall shape and feel of your gown.  The number of fittings needed depends entirely on your dress choice and requirements, however, the final fitting typically will take place one to two weeks before your big day.  Once the final fitting has taken place and any necessary alterations have been made, your wedding gown will be ready to collect.

At Orange Blossom, I’m all about giving my brides (and grooms alike) the information they need to make decisions including choosing their wedding gown with confidence.  My Pinterest page is full of wedding gown boards and more, browse for pinspiration here.

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