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Your Wedding Dress

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Your wedding? Well, it’s all about the dress of course… every bride knows that, and most grooms suspect it! Seriously though, your wedding day is your day to shine, so why would you want to look anything less than sensational.

Prior to beginning the search, enlist the help of your mum, or a good friend. Deciding on a gown can be daunting, so an honest and objective opinion from someone you trust can be extremely useful.

If you’re buying off the rack or hiring a gown, it’s a great idea to start looking at least eight months before the wedding. The last thing you’ll need closer to the date is the additional stress of either not being able to find the dress of your dreams, or finding one that requires some significant alterations.

And while on the subject of alterations, if you’re about to embark on a serious pre-wedding fitness and weight loss program, you’ll need to keep that in mind as you survey the literally hundreds of styles, fabrics, cuts and colours. But be realistic and don’t choose a dress that’s far too small, or you’ll be in a terrible bind if you haven't achieved your weight loss goal by your wedding day. However, with all the frantic activity, many busy brides-to-be do loose some weight, so arrange to have your final dress fitting a week or two before your wedding.

Perhaps you’ve decided to indulge in a couturier’s creation? If that’s the case, remember that having a gown designed and made for you is a lengthy process and many designers are booked out well in advance. Finding a couturier and commencing work on the project a minimum of 10 months prior to the wedding is advisable.

If you’ve already decided on the type of gown you’d like, that’s a fantastic start but don’t limit yourself. You may be totally surprised (and absolutely delighted) when a completely unexpected gown turns you into a ravishing beauty. And if you have your heart set on being the bride in white, remember that white comes in many different shades. Depending on your skin tone and hair colour, some will suit you, others won’t – so make sure you find the right white.

Before you call into the first bridal boutique on your list, consider some salient points. For example, what time does the ceremony start? Is it a day or evening wedding? Will it be winter or summer? Are you going formal or informal? And what about the location? If it's a garden or beach wedding, a long, flowing gown may be impractical.

You will probably know what dress styles suit you. If you’re not sure, you need to be completely honest with yourself, and ask for the opinion of your shopping buddy. And, think comfort. You’ll be wearing your gown for the best part of a day, so it should allow you to sit, walk, possibly kneel, raise your arms to dance (and did we mention breathe?) without making you feel as if you’ve been laced into a restraining device.

So that you look your absolute best on the big day, you need a dress that maximises your assets while minimising your flaws (yes, sadly we all have them). Here are some simple guidelines to help you select the right dress for your figure:

Shorter Brides: If you want to create the impression of height, select a dress with vertical lines. High waistlines work well, but avoid heavy fabrics and fussy styles.

Full Figured Brides: Avoid pleating, gathers and glossy fabrics. Instead, look for lightweight matte fabrics and keep the style simple. Deep necklines, long sleeves, empire waists and a full, softly falling skirt can be wonderfully slimming.

Upper Arms: Choose a gown with sleeves if you’re not entirely happy with your upper arms. Or alternatively, select a dress and jacket combination.

Pear Shapes: Wedding gowns can be very kind to pear shaped bodies. Create the illusion of a slim waist with a deep v-shaped basque and a full skirt. Low necklines, a princess line and a decorated bodice (but no detailing or trim around your waist and hemline) also create a flattering look.

Petite Brides: Avoid heavy detail and billowing dresses. Empire lines and soft, flowing A-line skirts will add height, and you can probably wear any neckline. Strapless or halter will be flattering, and why not show off your tiny waist with a dress that tucks in at all the right places?

Tall and Slender: A full skirt will create the illusion of curves. Avoid dainty gowns or those with vertical lines. Instead, consider sophisticated, sweeping styles that make a statement.

Large Bust: Well-endowed brides look fantastic in a halter neck or off the shoulder dress. V-necked or scooped necklines are very flattering, but avoid a high neckline or waistline, or an elaborately detailed bodice. To create balance, choose a dress with a bodice in a soft fabric and a heavier fabric for the skirt. Keep detailing below the waistline.

Small Bust: Consider pleats or elaborate detailing on your bodice to create a fuller appearance. A dress with a fitted (but not too tight) bodice featuring a high neck, a scooped back and a full skirt will look really wonderful. Avoid necklaces and open necklines.

And how about your hemline? Full-length gowns are perfect for evening or formal weddings and are usually worn with a cathedral or chapel length veil. Day weddings are generally less formal, so choose a shorter gown, suit, or dress combined with the appropriate headpiece.

Shorter wedding dresses are fantastic if you have gorgeous legs. However, think about the events of the day. If you plan on being lifted or will be sitting at an open table, you may want to consider the increased coverage of a longer dress.

If you’re going to wear a veil and headpiece, choose them at the same time as your gown. That way you’ll find it easier to match the colour, lace and style. The materials used for veils are usually light and delicate. Silk, nylon, lace or netting (tulle) are all popular choices, just make sure you can see through the material easily.

When trimming your veil, consider your dress decorations. If your gown has pearls, beads, embroidery or a lace feature, continue that theme by subtly scattering the trim across the veil, or by placing it around its edges.

Spend some time selecting exactly the right undergarments to wear with your gown. Many experts recommend choosing pieces that match your skin tone, and a wide variety of body-shaping garments are now available to help slenderise your silhouette even in the slinkiest of satin gowns.

And finally, when you bring your gown home, avoid leaving it hanging up for an extended period of time. Most wedding dresses are heavy, and their own weight can stretch both fabric and stitching. One option is to stuff the bodice and sleeves with clean, white tissue paper to help reduce creasing, before carefully wrapping the entire gown in a white sheet and storing it on a shelf. Commandeering space in the linen cupboard or a wardrobe might be necessary! If you absolutely have to hang your gown up, sew a loop of tape (long enough to reach the coat hanger) to either side of the waistline. This can help to lighten the load on your gown’s shoulders and bodice.

Of course, this advice applies both before and after the wedding – but for additional tips on gown care after the big day, see Taking Care of Your Gown.

Visit our Wedding Directory to find a couturier or bridal boutique which will meet your requirements: www.bridesdiary.co.za/ws/



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