Some women fancy themselves a fairy tale princess, others a vision in vintage, but nearly all are set on finding the perfect dress. After all, what would a dream wedding be without a glorious gown?
With a handful of magazines and a heart full of hope, they leap toward the bridal shop. Suddenly, faced with a seemingly infinite wall of white, they feel a rise of panic, a dash of hope and a single thought: Where’s a fairy godmother when you need one?
Luckily, that fate can be avoided — no fairy godmother needed — with some simple advice, a dash of open-mindedness and a touch of patience.
“The first step to finding the right gown is to be really honest with yourself about your body,” advised fashion expert Lilliana Vasquez.
It may not be at the top of any woman’s list, particularly if that woman is clutching a bridal magazine chock-full of supermodels. However, to get that perfect gown, drop that magazine, take a friend’s hand and head to a mirror.
“If you’re big in the chest, don’t wear something strapless,” Vasquez said. “If you’re petite, don’t drown yourself in fabric. Once you get honest about your body, you’ll know what to play up and what to play down.”
This exercise need not be a scary one. You don’t have to have the perfect body to find the perfect gown. In fact, according to Kristen Kaczmarek, divisional merchandise manager of David’s Bridal, your body is probably a lot more normal than you think, and bridal shops have begun tailoring dresses for real women, not the paper cut-outs found in most magazines.
“We’ve found, in a recent study using full body scans of real customers, that there are four predominant body types, or shapes, among women, and there are dresses for all of them,” Kaczmarek said.
The top four shapes are the modified hourglass, the rectangle, the pear/spoon and the inverted triangle.
The modified hourglass is similar to an hourglass figure but with a bit more curvature in the bust or hips. The rectangle indicates a straight up and down shape, the pear/spoon figure is bigger on the bottom than the top, and the inverted triangle indicates a bigger bust and smaller bottom.
Now it’s time to move on to the next step: Head to the dressing room with heaps of dresses.
“It’s a good idea to have an idea of what you want before you walk into a shop,” Vasquez said, “but keep an open mind, take friends with you and try everything on. Have your friends try on dresses as well, particularly if they share your shape. You might be pleasantly surprised.”
Kaczmarek agreed, and not just because you never know what you’ll find, but also because you may not know it when you see it.
“Nothing looks the same on the hanger as it does on a body,” Kaczmarek said. “It is so important to try everything on, because something you think you might not like on the hanger may be a great gown once you put it on.”
Vasquez also suggested avoiding diving into the latest gown trends. Trends and personality can and should be incorporated into the details: A jeweled headband, a lightly colored sash at the waist, small embellishments on the bust line, rectangle-shaped beads or a unique piece of costume jewelry. But they should accent the gown, not become the gown.
Still not sure which dress will be your va-va-voom instead of your doom? The first rule of thumb, according to Vasquez, is to think classic, elegant and timeless. A few simple tips can add elegance to any shape:
n For the modified hourglass, a graduated mermaid style — the bottom shouldn’t flare, but should gradually flow away from the body — will add height and accent your curves. A colored sash can highlight your waist. If you’re set on bare shoulders, graduated straps — thicker at the bust and back and thin at the shoulder — will give you the look you crave and the support and comfort you need.
n Rectangle shapes can add curves with waist-defining details like a sash or subtle ruching, and can add softness to their shape with a goddess inspired empire waist.
n Pear shapes do well with the focus shifted upward, with a halter-inspired shape or beaded bust line. A simple bust line and cap sleeves brings the focus up as well.
n The inverted triangle does well in an empire waist dress, a fuller skirt to balance the hips and shoulders, and beaded details toward the bottom half of the dress.
Your wedding day is about gliding forward as the best and most beautiful you, whether you’re girly or glamorous. Be true to what you find beautiful and the perfect gown will follow.