Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Say yes, no, maybe the dress.

I ordered my gown today! I first tried on dresses three months ago (October 6) at a small boutique in my hometown. I went in thinking this would be one of many dress shopping appointments, but boy was I wrong! I tried on a number of dresses with my mom that day and fell in love with one in particular...but I wanted to shop some more before making a decision. I went to two stores (one discounter, one boutique) in NC with my friend, Lauren, who was more than gracious in helping me with the yards and yards of tulle and lace! That day I found myself comparing everything I tried on to that dress, so I knew it was the one! Dress shopping can be a stressful ordeal, so I have come up with a list of ten things to help you with the process:

  1. Consider the budget. If you have a set budget for your wedding attire, make sure you consider the following: tax, alterations, shoes, veil, sashes, jewelry, and accessories. These things add to the final cost! 
  2. Make an appointment. Most bridal boutiques require that you make an appointment ahead of time. It is generally frowned upon to bring an entire entourage, so try to limit it to a few important people (such as your mom, best friend, maid of honor, etc.) whose opinions you value. Bring a camera and have someone take photos of the front and back of the dresses while you wear them so that you can go back and look at them when you get home. (Some salons do not allow you to take photos though, so make sure you ask first!)
  3. Check the clock. I have had so many of my friends tell me that I was dress shopping too early or that I had "plenty of time," but it's important to keep in mind that unless you are buying off-the-rack, it can take anywhere from six to nine months for your dress to come in. After that, you still need to give yourself two to three months between the time of your first fitting to your last. Some stores (like David's Bridal) are off-the-rack, so you may be able to walk home that same day with your dress. It's also important not to get your dress too early! Too early means having to find a place to store the dress, and also being exposed to all the new dresses that come out each season...
  4. Keep an open mind. You may want to bring in pictures of gowns you like so that the sales associate can help you find similar styles...but keep an open mind! The style you love may end up looking different on you. For example, I love the look of vintage lace sleeves and lace-back dresses, but I am petite, and I found that many of those styles looked better on taller women than they did on me. I found that for me, a sweetheart neckline and fitted bodice were really flattering. So you may go in with an idea of what you want, but you may end up with something completely different! Don't be afraid to try on different dresses than you had in mind, and be open to suggestions from sales associates. Often times, they will know what may accentuate a bride's small waist or highlight other assets.
  5. Shop around. The first place I went was a full-service bridal boutique in my hometown in MD. I loved that there were only two brides in there at one time, and that you had the full attention of one, sometimes two or even three associates! They provided me with a slip and a longline bra to wear. They also helped me get into and out of each dress I tried on, and fitted them to me with clips in the back, adjusting my train and skirt each time in front of the three-way mirror. There was a lovely sitting area for my mom to watch, and they had no problem with me trying on as many dresses as I wanted to. The second place I went to was a discount bridal and formalwear store (not David's Bridal). This was a very DIY store. There was one sales associate and a number of other brides in the store. They had racks and racks stuffed with dresses and we had to sift through them and do everything on our own. The last store I went to was also a full-service bridal salon, but not quite as welcoming and accommodating as the first one. There are many different types of boutiques, salons, and retailers that you can visit. Make sure you know your price range before you go, so you can avoid the ones that only carry dresses that you can't afford. It was very hard for me to do so, but I avoided one particular salon that I knew I couldn't afford. I didn't want to fall in love with a dress I could never buy! Also, don't be turned off by the DIY discount stores. They carry a number of dresses at very affordable prices, and sometimes carry (or can order) the same dresses that higher-end boutiques carry. The boutique I bought my dress from actually priced-matched my dress and I saved $101!
  6. Don't try on too many. There are so many TV shows that feature bridezillas who have tried on over 100 dresses and still haven't found the one. First of all, I don't even know how someone could have the stamina and mentality to try on so many dresses. I was pooped after four! Christina DeMarco of Bridal Reflections in NYC says that most brides try on between four and seven, and suggests trying on no more than ten to avoid any confusion.
  7. Fall in love! Don't buy a dress you don't love. Many brides are influenced to buy a dress that they don't love. It's important that you buy a dress that you love and you feel comfortable in. After all, it is your day! You will be looking at those photos for years to comand you'll be the one wearing the dress all night! If you have doubts or feel pressured, it's okay to go home and sleep on it. You can always return later if you're still dreaming about the dress. (That's exactly what I did.)
  8. Size doesn't matter. Bridal gowns are usually sized a lot smaller than normal dresses. It's not uncommon for a size 6 woman to fit perfectly into a size 10 or 12. It depends on the designer and the dress! You also might be "more endowed" in certain areas of your body, and usually you end up buying the size that fits the largest part (so you can tailor the rest to fit you). Don't get caught up with sizes! If you are planning on losing weight, take that into consideration, but remember that it's easier to take in a dress than it is to let it out. If your dress needs to be ordered, you will typically have measurements taken of your bust, waist, hollow-to-hem, arm girth, and inside sleeve. With those measurements, the sales associate will compare them to the designer's sizing specifications and order from there. Typically it is suggested to order the size corresponding to your largest measurement, and then you will have the rest of the dress altered to fit you. 
  9. You get what you pay for (usually). Please don't buy that same dress online for cheaper! For the most part, designers do not sell their dresses online like that. You will find a number of unauthorized stores and websites that sell unauthentic dresses! The quality and sizing will not be the same as the gowns you find from an authorized retailer. It's best to go to the designer's website and use the store locator to find an authorized retailer. If you shop around for pricing, the store may also price-match for you! That being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with buying vintage! One of my best friends actually bought a gently used designer gown from eBay that fit her like a glove. Just always be sure to check return policies and do a thorough check of the gown before you buy.
  10. Enjoy. I thoroughly enjoyed the dress shopping experience with my mom. It makes me happy to know that the dress I found and loved was with her. I've also had friends that had a great time making their dresses with their moms. Cherish this experience, and share it with your loved ones. :)
These are some of the things I learned from research, from doing, and from my own experience as a fashion buyer. For more advice, check out the 10 Mistakes Brides Make When Dress ShoppingFeel free to comment below with your own experiences!



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