Wedding-dress shopping should be an amazing experience, but often times it becomes a stressful one if you can't find the right gown for your shape. Maybe you've got a large bust and a straight figure, or you have thick thighs and an apple shape body, or you're flat chested with larger hips—how do you even go about finding something that flatters you when it seems like everything is made for a bride that's a sample size? "You have to try on a lot of dress shapes—you'd be surprised of how big the wedding dress world is!" explains Julie Sabatino Wedding Fashion Stylist of The Stylish Bride and The Stylish Dresser. Here, we break down a few things to remember while you're on the hunt for the one.
If you're only shopping with one body type in mind, you may be losing out on finding the dress that is really you. Instead of searching for a dress that will only look good on pear shapes, go into a store and try on dresses that match your personal dress style. "I tell brides all the time if they see something online that may not be designed for their body type, go find it and try it on. Be adventurous. If you don't try, you might miss out on all these dresses!" explains Shafonne Myers, the editor of the plus-size bridal blog Pretty Pear Bride. If we box our bodies into one specific type, we might not find the dress that we're going to love on our wedding day. It all comes down to how the dress will fit to your body and how that makes you feel. Jacqui Stafford, fashion editor, celebrity stylist and author of The Wow Factor: Insider Style Secrets for Every Body and Every Budget, takes the same approach to styling her clients. "The key to buying the perfect wedding dress is to find one that mirrors how great you feel on the inside."
Body Type vs. Fit
We all tend to operate on this idea that bodies should fit to clothes, but you would think this would be the opposite considering that body shape is something you can't change and fit is the garment working with your shape. "Body type needs to equal what you feel comfortable in," says Jen Carreiro, the creative editor of Something Turquoise and Martha Stewart Weddings contributor.
Get the perfect fit by customizing it. Myers suggests going this route to make sure you're getting exactly what you want, plus you can pick a designer that understands what you're going for on your wedding day. (Disclaimer: This will cost extra—but it's totally worth it!) Myers also offers going with a two-piece look if the top and bottom half of your body are two different sizes. "That way you can get a dress that fits you perfectly."
Okay, now that you're out there looking for dresses you like and not the ones you're supposed to be wearing—it's time to consider the cut. There is the empire waist, the princess, the tunic, the mermaid, the wrap, the drape, the Hendricks—okay, we made that last one up. Everything looks good on Christina Hendricks. If you're not interested in wearing a sleeveless dress or a low bust, then stop looking at those kinds of cuts. Just because it's supposedly going to match your body type better, doesn't mean it meets your comfort level or personality. "Go with the cut that you gravitate towards—especially for the top of the dress. Personally, I know what cuts of regular dresses that make me feel comfortable so if I see one [while dress shopping] I know that this particular shape will look good on me," says Carreiro.
We're not blind to the idea that women (and men) try to lose weight before their wedding day. Now, it's super understandable to want to look amazing on your wedding day but do keep in mind that the shape of your body won't change. You're not going to go from a string bean to a pear. Plus, the expectation put on your body is very intense. Sure, we should always strive to be healthy, but that is very different then telling your dress designer that you're going to be six sizes smaller by the final fitting. "It's always dangerous to focus your attention on a pre-wedding diet. What if you don't achieve that goal? Then you'll be more focused on that than on your actual wedding day. It's a ridiculous idea that you need to change your body for a day celebrating love with a person that already thinks you are beautiful," explains says Mallorie Dunn, owner and designer of SmartGlamour.
Plus, if you do lose a bunch of weight that dress with all the pearls and lace will have to be adjusted accordingly—and that can be a lot of money. "Take any elaborate beading on the dress into consideration before purchasing. If substantial alterations are needed, you'll end up paying for an entirely new dress," explains Stafford. You're best bet? Lead with confidence and the train will follow, girl.