We offer dress alteration tips and quick fixes for making sure your strapless gown stays in one place, so you don't have to.
Photography: Rachel Thurston
You'll be making a lot of moves on the big day—from hugging guests and raising a glass to twisting, twirling, and dipping on the dance floor—but there's one move you don't want to make: tugging at your wedding dress! Here's how to wear a strapless gown gracefully and comfortably—and without the distraction of constant adjustment.
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Wear the Right Undergarments
We can't stress it enough. The proper foundation—strapless bra, corset, longline bustier, or Spanx—will set you up for a no-slip style. "For strapless silhouettes, be sure your bra is really snug; women often buy them too big around," says lingerie specialist Susan Nethero. "You don't want to be hiking it up all night! Look for designs that have silicone grips along the sides, which hug the body. If your gown has one shoulder or a deep V, you can wear a convertible strapless bra or adhesive backless version, which sticks to your skin. Or, ask your bridal store to sew in cups so you don't have to worry about fit issues." If you're totally lost, your bridal consultant should be able to guide you in finding the right lingerie for your dress.
Photography: David Wright Weddings3 of 8
Make Sure Your Dress is "Up" For the Job
Remember that it's the dress—not you—that is the problem. "Anyone can wear a strapless gown, when ordered in the proper size, bust cup, and if needed, raising the neckline," says Eva Kamberaj, operations manager at Mark Ingram Atelier.
Chances are, your strapless dress already has some sort of built-in bustier or boning, which will give it structure. But if it doesn't, relax: "Buy the strapless dress you love, then assign your tailor the task of making it work with your figure," says Vera Skenderis, alterations manager at Kleinfeld in New York City.
Photography: Elizabeth Messina Photography4 of 8
Get Fitted by a Professional
Expertise is key to keeping that strapless dress up. "When the bride is speaking about her day, her wedding, or anything else, I'm able to see if she feels comfortable," says NYC dressmaker Jean Kormos of Ghost Tailor. "I'll notice if she repeatedly touches or pulls at a detail because it feels like it's shifting. This is most important with a strapless or low-backed dress. I then correct those details, eliminating unnecessary distraction on her wedding day."
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Come Armed With the Basics
Bring your undergarments to any and all fittings. "For a larger bust, bring a tight t-shirt with you and put it over the bra," Kamberaj says, noting that this simple trick will help you to see your silhouette. "I have found that sometimes for us larger-busted women, we either look flat and wide or pointy. For a smaller cup size it's a little easier, but if you want to wear padding make sure the cup in your bra will have room."
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Photography: Brushfire Photography6 of 8
Speak Up During Fittings
No one knows how your dress feels but you. If it's going to slip, you'll feel it. As a test, assimilate the movements you'll make on the big day: sit, stand, raise your arms to hug someone, and (though it feels a bit odd) dance around a little bit. Does it feel easy and natural? Does the bodice stay up?
"The dress should fit the waist, and ribcage and the rim should sit close to you (our bodies are in a 'V' shape)," Kamberaj says. "If it's too tight at the rim, it will look for the smaller area and slip." If at any point you aren't happy with the fit, say something.
Photography: Nancy Ray Photography7 of 8
A great tailor can add boning or an interior waist belt, or elongate the boning to help support the dress, Kamberaj says—all of which can help prevent your dress from falling.
And if that's not enough, "an expert can fashion a cap sleeve or a shrug in a see-through fabric, or build up a more modest neckline, camouflaging what you want hidden without changing the look significantly," says Skenderis. "But be aware: Custom work and remodeling that requires additional material is pricier than basic fit changes."
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Prepare for Quick Fixes
If there's no time to alter, or if you're a bridesmaid (whose dress isn't customized), have a backup plan: "For a quick fix you could use tape, but not always," Kamberaj says. "If your dress has a waist belt, try making it tighter by using a safety pin. If you're good with a needle and thread, you can easily adjust the waist belt. You could also stitch the bustier from the inside to the dress—it should help give it additional support." And if all else fails, Kamberaj says, pin the waist from the inside to keep it snug.