The Flattering Wedding Dress

07 | 08 | 2009
wedding-dress-polaroid{click any image to enlarge}

Nevermind the all-day real-life focus on the bride, let’s say (only) that the bride is in a decent portion of her own wedding photographs.  Perhaps 75% of them, even.  So if we consider the dress as a design element, it needs to be off-the-charts incredible.  But it also needs to be right for the bride—for her body and personality.  It should suit her.

Here are some general considerations to keep in mind when and however the shopping happens:

  1. Keep in mind that the dress will be an important part of setting the tone for the overall wedding design.  Choose a dress that will be appropriate to the venue and type of wedding your planning.  Or, if the dress comes first, then vice versa.
  2. Consider structure and shape.  The dress should be extremely flattering to your specific body.  It should accent your loveliest features and downplay anything you don’t like.  If your collarbone is fabulous, for instance, choose a dress with a neckline that highlights it, rather than a high-necked halter dress.  If your ankles are great, perhaps consider a shorter dress … If you hate your back fat, don’t go for a corset-style bodice.  If you’re wonderfully curvy, the mermaid shape can be a total knockout on you.  The list goes on and on.  If you are having your dress designed and made for you, it’s easy to make these considerations.  But if you’re looking in a shop for a vintage or new ready-made gown, bring someone else.  Someone whose honesty you can depend on.  I think this advice is often-repeated, but judging by the number of bride’s body – to – bodice mismatches, I’d say it’s possibly ignored more often than it should be.
  3. Be sure you can move in it.  Shimmy and shake, walk, dance, twirl, and definitely lean over.  Even if you feel a little silly at the dress shop, it’s totally worth it.  You want to be 100% sure your chest is both flattered and concealed during any movement you might make in front of people on your wedding day.
  4. Be sure the dress is properly and expertly altered.
  5. Wear the best undergarments you can afford, and the right ones for your dress.  I saw a fabulous feature in a gossip magazine recently (truly, and unfortunately I can’t remember which) on what the stars wore under their gowns for the Academy Awards.  I loved that the article seemed like it could have been written Bridget Jones under the headline “Knickers of the Stars” and that it also debunked the myth of effortless Hollywood glamor.  It reinforced something I think about a lot: good undies cover a multitude of wrongs.  In all my years of photographing weddings only one bride has gotten away with wearing absolutely nothing under her gown.   For the rest of us, an honest assessment of what might use a little cinching or perking up is priceless.  Spanx are a well-known option, but lots of other undergarments exist with lots of other self-improvement powers.  More on this in a future post …
  6. Consider craftsmanship.  Most people buy clothing for emotional reasons.  Or rather, it’s an emotional purchase.  I think wedding gowns are at the top of the list here.  But the wedding gown is a big investment for a big day.  So I suggest you take some time to look really, really closely at the gown.  Evaluate it.  Even if you’re not a clothing expert, you’ll be able to see how well made it is.  Look at the hem (if it’s finished), at the seams, the waist; look at the fabric content and at the fabric itself; evaluate the fit on your body.  Fit is an important aspect of craftsmanship (and your future happiness with dress!).  I should mention even if in a whisper … that as much as I love designer clothes and wedding gowns myself, I have seen a couture gown fall apart before the bride even put it on.  So don’t be less tough on a high-end well-known designer.

Happy shopping!  There are zillions of ways and places to get a gown these days … And no matter how many tips I offer, I still think the gown you choose will be the one you fall in love with.  But try to keep your wits about you … in love and in shopping!

{*My sister Reva studies fashion, so she helped me  compile the craftsmanship-evaluation tips.}

UPDATE:  As Jessie pointed out in the comments, lots of brides end up buying the first dress they try on—even if they try lots of other dresses on after it.  So maybe one last tidbit of advice is to choose that first dress to try on very carefully!


polaroids by: Gia Canali … I took these dress shopping with my friend Katie on a hot June day in Chicago.


3 Notes on “The Flattering Wedding Dress

  1. Jessie

    i {heart} spanx!! I have also found that many brides, including myself, ended up purchasing the first dress they tried on…after trying on countless others!

  2. Gia Post author

    Yes! Such a good point! I never went dress shopping myself, but the dress I designed was inspired in part by the gown on the cover of Brides, the month Matt and I got engaged. Maybe we should tell brides to choose that first gown to try on ever-so-carefully!

  3. Pingback: Wear your heart on your sleeve «

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