The search is over—you've found the wedding dress that fits both your big day vision and your body (like a glove). That's all there is to it, right? Television shows and movies would lead you to believe that bridal fashion begins and ends with the perfect wedding dress, but that simply isn't true. Most modern brides choose to wear some form of shapewear—maybe a strapless bra or a smoothing undergarment—so that they feel supported, secure, and confident in their dream gown.
A bride's decision to wear shapewear isn't just about feeling slim or "sucked in," though. Many wedding dresses (especially those made of a not-so-forgiving fabric) simply demand an undergarment to prevent dimpling and creasing, which makes shapewear a staple on the big day. To help you navigate your own undergarment search, we've tapped two industry experts—Eva Kamberaj, Director of Operations at New York City's Mark Ingram Atelier, and Ra'el Cohen, head of design at ThirdLove—to share their insight into everything bridal shapewear. From finding the perfect strapless bra to the biggest shapewear mistake brides make, here's what you absolutely need to know.
Your strapless bra should match your wedding dress color—not your skin tone.
If you're wearing a sleeveless or strapless wedding dress, you've probably already done your strapless bra research. You'll need to start over, though, if you've purchased a flesh-tone brassiere. "We recommend choosing a strapless bra that's close to your dress color—that way, if your dress slips and shows some of your bra, it won't be noticeable," said Cohen.
The first time you wear your wedding-day bra shouldn't be on your big day.
You'll want to give the bra a test drive long before you walk down the aisle. "Wear it on a night out, so you can make sure it's comfortable and doesn't dig in or slip," he continued. Of course, you'll want to make sure the bra feels right before you carry it out of the store. According to Cohen, a perfect strapless bra won't gape or overflow at the cups. You should also be able to slip two fingers underneath the back of the band on the bra's loosest hook.
Your shapewear garment depends on the fabric of your wedding dress.
And some fabrics are more forgiving than others. "Textured fabrics and heavier silks can create a more structured gown—some even have built-in corsets that help support the bust line—that is naturally more forgiving and supportive," said Kamberaj. "Lighter fabrics, such as silk charmeuse, tend to be almost transparent. These fabrics need a shaping garment to eliminate a panty line."
It also depends on the style of your wedding dress.
If you don't want to wear Spanx on the big day, Kamberaj said a structured ball gown is best for supporting a bust and the least likely to show any lines. The rest—including mermaids and sheaths—require something underneath. "Mermaid and trumpet styles work best with a good bustier," she continued. "Sheaths should be worn with a bustier and Spanx." For backless styles and halter necklines, opt for one of the lingerie industry's latest advancements: adhesive bras. "Back in the day, duct tape was your very best 'foundation friend!'" explained Kameraj. "Thank goodness we have moved beyond that."
The biggest mistake brides make is choosing the wrong type of undergarment fabric.
More often than not, you're going to want to go seamless in the underwear department, said Cohen. "The laser cut edges hug the body without digging in," she said. "Nylon or spandex are generally the best fabrics for bras. The fine microfibers and mesh are the most smoothing."
You can choose built-in shapewear—but it only goes so far.
"While many designers and professional fitters may help create built-in padding and corsetry for support, we find that this does not always eliminate the need for additional undergarments," said Kamberaj. "The undergarment works best when it is supporting the bride's body, not the dress she is wearing."
There's a right time to buy.
And it isn't directly after you say "yes" to the dress—or the day before the wedding. "Your first dress fitting is a good time to learn about which types of lingerie will work best for the style and fabric of your dress," said Cohen. After purchasing an undergarment, be mindful of body fluctuations. "If you gain or lose weight before your wedding day, be sure to get refitted so you're in the right size!" she said.