Most brides find their wedding dress at bridal salons, but you can also look in vintage-clothing stores, consignment shops, and outlet stores. Customarily, a bridal salon will require an appointment to ensure that you get expert personal attention. Take someone with you, but not an entourage; too many opinions detract from the most important one - yours. Bring pictures of dresses, but don't worry if you're not sure what you want. A good salesperson will assess your likes and dislikes and advise you on styles to flatter your figure. Also try a few styles to flatter your figure. Also try a few styles that you don't immediately gravitate toward - many a bride has imagined herself in something sleek and modern, only to decide on a traditional ball gown the moment she slips it on. Be honest with the salesperson about your budget; she can keep you from falling in love with something you can't afford. When trying on different styles, lift your arms as you will when you dance, and sit down in the dress; you'll feel more beautiful on your wedding day if you're comfortable.
After you've made a decision, the dress should be made according to your current measurements. (No matter your intentions to diet, don't order the dress in a smaller size; it's much easier to take a dress in than to let it out.) The salon will probably require a deposit at this point, with the balance due after the first or last fitting. Once the dress comes in, the store will schedule a first fitting, with one, two, or more fittings to follow. Try on the dress again after the final fitting to make to make sure it's perfect. It takes four to six months to have a dress made and fitted, so begin shopping eight to twelve months in advance. When budgeting, remember to account for alterations and cleaning. These procedures can add hundreds of dollars of your total cost. Don't wait to have your dress cleaned; if necessary, arrange for a friend to drop it off at a cleaner that specializes in wedding dresses while you're on your honeymoon. Spots you can't see will yellow over time and may be impossible to remove later. Classic Dress ShapesBridal styles go in and out of fashion, but today virtually every wedding dress has its origins in one of these six silhouettes. Not every dress is equally suited to every bride, however. Determine which shapes are best for your figure by seeking the advice of the salesperson at the bridal salon where you shop, and by trying on several different styles. Then, narrow your search accordingly. The various sleeves and necklines here can show up on almost any style; so if a ball gown with a boat neck is what you're after, you only need to shop around.
SheathThe close-fitting sheath is well suited to the trim, petite bride who wants to look taller and accentuate her curves; it also looks great on a tall bride with narrow hips. Avoid a sheath if you have wide hips and narrow shoulders. A boat neck follows the curve of the collarbone and can flatter women with smaller busts.
Slip DressTracing its ancestry back to the thirties, the slip dress was popular with the decade's screen starts. It is decidedly revealing - the exclusive domain of the lean and trim - often in a lightweight, flowing fabric. This silhouette flatters both tall and petite brides. Thin spaghetti straps add a delicate, youthful look.
EmpireNapoleon's Josephine favored this narrow, high-waisted style. The cropped bodice emphasizes the bosom and should be avoided by those who are well-endowed. The skirt may be slim or slightly flared, a boon for the bride who wants to disguise her waist and hips. And it is especially flattering on a petite bride. Cap sleeves that cover only the shoulder are a particularly beautiful element of this style.
A-Line As its name suggests, the A-line forms a triangular shape, with a narrow bodice and wide skirt. Its uninterrupted lines - there is no horizontal seam at the waist - flatter both diminutive and stout brides seeking a longer, leaner look. The rounded jewel neck is a good choice for brides who wish to emphasize their bust.
Ball Gown Over time, the necklines and sleeves of this romantic favorite have varied, but the small waist and full skirt are constants. It flatters brides with hourglass or full figures but might overwhelm petite women. A strapless bodice gives a bare yet refined look to brides with lovely shoulders and collarbones.
Princess The princess style, characterized by vertical seams, and flatters almost every figure. The long lines add the impression of height, streamline a generous figure, and lengthen a short waist. An off-the-shoulder neckline highlights the collarbone and shoulders but may restrict movement.
Adding a Bustle With many of these silhouettes, the skirt can stop below the ankle or continue into a train. While a train adds elegance at the ceremony, brides need to have mobility when greeting guests and dancing at the reception. Wedding dresses are often "bustled" by lifting and tucking the train under the hem or gathering the fabric up at the back of the dress. This is done with a system of drawstrings, hooks, and buttons. Have the bridal salon show you (and someone who can help you at the wedding) how to do it.