The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Your Wedding Dress
Let’s face it; a wedding is really the bride’s day. Yes, the groom is important and there wouldn’t be a wedding without him, but most of the focus will be on the bride.
When it comes to the bride and symbols that represent her, there’s nothing more iconic than the wedding dress. It’s for this reason that choosing the right dress to wear on your wedding day is so important.
And yet, because of the importance, you want to make sure that you get the right dress for you. There are so many decisions to make when selecting your dress that this can be quite a problem and add a lot of stress to the already anxiety inducing wedding.
The aim of this guide is to provide you with information on all the important areas of decision when it comes to wedding dresses. It might not have all the answers that you’re looking for, but it will definitely help you answer some of the pressing questions and help point you in the right direction for the rest.
The History of Wedding Dresses
No one really knows the true history of the wedding dress, but what we do know is that the history goes a long way back. In those times a wedding had a slightly different meaning to the one we assign to it today. Instead of love marriages, most marriages were matters of practicality.
The aristocracy would get married for status and political reasons, while the lower classes would marry to make themselves more secure. And although those marriages didn’t come about due to love, they were still important days in the lives of the couple. This meant that weddings were still a big deal, even for the lower classes and so special effort was made to wear a dress that would make them stand out.
Leap forward a couple thousand years and weddings have begun to change. Romanticism has arrived and lead to the concept of the love marriage. One myth about wedding dresses is that they’ve always been white because white represents purity.
Actually this is wrong for two reasons. First, before Queen Victoria was married, wedding dresses were lots of different colours. But because Queen Victoria was married in white in 1840, suddenly white became the fashion and the wedding dresses of today can trace their lineage back to the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
Second, the colour that used to represent purity was blue. No one knows exactly how it came to be, but it makes sense that eventually white would come to represent purity. After the hype surrounding Victoria’s wedding, wedding dresses actually reverted to the style of the day. This was the case until the 1960s, when fashion reverted yet again to the Victorian style of dress that is still the most popular type of dress today.
Buying vs. Renting Your Wedding Dress
When it comes to what you’ll wear on your big day, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether you want to buy your dress and keep it for good, or whether you want to rent your dress. There’s no right or wrong answer here, which option is right for you is going to depend on your circumstances and your desires.
The first thing to consider is the money involved. Because it’s cheaper to rent a dress than it is to buy it outright, if you’re on a very tight budget, then renting a dress can help reduce the overall costs. Nor do you have to worry about cleaning the dress after your wedding and storing it away where it will be safe and sound for long to come.
One downside to renting a dress is that it won’t be able to become an heirloom down the track, it won’t be something you can pass on to your children. If you’re the sentimental type who really treasures the idea of doing something like this, then that’s a tick in the box for buying rather than renting.
The final consideration to be made is what you want to do with the budget you have. Most people with a decent sized budget spend it on buying a dress. Usually the dress they buy is beautiful, but for the same amount of money they could have rented a truly spectacular dress.
If this idea sounds good to you, then maybe renting is the way you want to go, but again it comes down to what you really value. If you want maximum wow factor on your wedding day, then renting a spectacular dress could be the decision to make.
If you’re sentimental and you love the idea of having your wedding dress forever, being able to get it out from time to time and relive your special day, then you’ll probably lean towards buying the dress. Again, don’t feel pressured to go one way or another; figure out what type of person you are and what you value and go with your gut.
Types & Styles of Wedding Dresses
While the designs of wedding dresses are only limited by the imaginations of the designers, the styles typically fall into one of several categories. In this section you’ll learn the basics about the seven most popular types of wedding dresses:
- Tea Length
Ball Gown Style
The ball gown dress is what comes to mind for many people when they think of wedding dresses. It’s characterised by a full skirt at the bottom and suits just about any body type. It’s particularly favoured by women who tend to be bottom heavy because the full skirt will completely hide the lower half of your body.
The A-Line dress is a more fitted style of dress and is called so because the outline looks a little like an “A” shape. When it comes to body types, the A-Line is a real all rounder and suits virtually all shapes and sizes.
The mini style is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like the style then you’ll be sure to dazzle. It tends to suit women who are on the slim side, so if you’re a plus sized woman then this probably isn’t the style for you.
A sheath dress goes straight up and down, which means that it’s perfect if you’re on a slim side, but might not be the best style for you if you’re on the larger side as it won’t flatter your body.
The mermaid style dress, like the name suggests, snugly fits the body from the bodice down to the knees and then flares out at the bottom. Because of its close fit, it’s not the style of dress to wear if you’re on the larger side, but it can work well if you have some curves to show off.
Tea Length Style
Another classic dress style is the tea length. It’s defined as a dress that ends somewhere between the knee and the ankle. Regardless of your body type, the tea length dress is one that will flatter your body and make you look great.
The trumpet dress is fitted down to the thigh, where it flairs out. Because it is quite well fitted throughout the midriff, it’s best suited for women who are on the slender side of things. If you have a little too much to show off then there are probably styles that are more suited to your body.
What Colour Should Your Dress be?
As mentioned above, wedding dresses haven’t always been white. Nor does white have to signify purity. So when it comes to choosing the colour of your wedding dress, you can choose to stick with the majority and go with white, or you can forge your own path and have a dress that is just about any colour you like.
As with everything else, there’s no right or wrong answer here, it all comes down to what you like and what sort of personality you have. If you like to play things safe you’ll probably end up wearing white, but if you’re more adventurous, then you could end up in anything. Below are some examples of brides who have forged their own paths and made it work:
Wedding Dress Material Basics
Another choice for you to make is the fabric your dress will be made out of. It’s not always a simple choice since most people don’t know much about the pros and cons of various materials, so here we hope to educate you just enough to make the decision making process a little simpler, so read on to learn about the five most popular materials for wedding dresses.
If you’re after a classic look, then you’d be hard pressed to beat satin. It’s silky to the touch and because of this can show up underwear lines, so be careful what you wear underneath.
What Train to Decide on?
One of the pictures brides often have in their mind when they think of a wedding dress is the train. The bride being helped by her dutiful bridesmaids is a sight we often associate with weddings.
In truth it can be a little bit difficult to decide on since there are several common lengths to choose from. Below we’ve included some pictures of all the major ones so you can figure out which one is right for you.
A sweep or brush train barely touches the ground.
A court train is typically 1 foot long.
A chapel train is typically three feet long.
A cathedral train tends to be around six feet long.
A Royal train is the longest of all and is typically around ten feet in length.
What Bodice Should you Choose?
Another area that requires a decision from you is the bodice type. Once again this isn’t common knowledge so it can be a bit overwhelming when you first start to look at dresses. With this information, however, you’ll be able to speak the lingo with the best of them.
What Veil to Choose?
The veil is another symbol of a wedding and it again presents you with another choice to make. Since there are so many options, it can be a little confusing, so below we’ve listed all the types of veils to choose from in the hope that it will make your decision making process simpler.
The flyaway veil drops just past the shoulders down towards the elbow.
The elbow veil, as its name suggests, falls somewhere between the elbow and the hand.
A fingertip veil extends right down to the fingertips.
A sweep veil touches the ground and extends just past the dress.
A chapel veil extends past the dress by a few feet.
A cathedral veil trails the entire dress by several metres.
How to Clean & Store your Wedding Dress
After your wedding one of the things you’ll want to do is clean your dress. During the wedding it’s bound to get some wear and tear and get a little dirty.
And before you store it away you’ll want to make sure that it’s clean so that when you open it up the next time it’s in as good condition as it was originally.
Because it’s not a regular piece of clothing you can’t just throw it in the washing machine as you normally would, you need to treat it with a little more care. And when it comes to getting your dress cleaned, there are two paths that people usually take:
- Clean it yourself
- Hire a professional
Which path is right for you depends on a few factors. The first is your skill at washing things. If you’re really good at washing, you know how to look after fabrics and the little attachments on wedding dresses, then washing your own dress might be a viable option.
You’ll also need to take into consideration the complexity of the dress. If it’s a simple dress then washing it yourself makes some sense, but if it is really complex then it might be best left to a professional.
Another factor to take into consideration is the amount of time and money you have. If you’re really short on time but have some excess cash, then hiring a professional makes sense.
However, if you’re low on cash but have plenty of time, then maybe you’d enjoy figuring out how to clean your dress yourself. There’s no right way for everyone, you’ll need to figure out the pros and cons for yourself and make your decision.
Once the dress is cleaned you face another decision; how to store your dress so it stays as it is for a long time to come. The last thing you want to happen is to open your dress up in the future to find that it has been damaged.
If you’ve had the dress professionally cleaned then this shouldn’t be a problem since any professional cleaner worth their salt will have done this correctly, but if you’re handling it yourself then you’ll also need to worry about the storage component.
The main things to consider are the paper you wrap it in and where the dress is stored. You want to make sure that you use acid-free paper and that you store it somewhere without moisture and sunlight.
9 Quick Tips for Choosing your Ideal Wedding Dress
Choosing your wedding dress can be stressful and because you haven’t done it before, it’s easy to make mistakes or do things that make the decision making process harder than it should be. So here are 9 quick tips designed to help you find the dress of your dreams with the least amount of stress.
Tip #1: Know your budget
One of the most common pitfalls for brides-to-be is having their wedding dress budget stretched significantly at the dress shop. If you don’t know your budget and aren’t strict with it, when it comes time to try on different dresses it can be easy to find a dress you love, only to find that it’s much more expensive than you thought. And once you’re in love with the dress you can find yourself in trouble. So know your budget, stick to it and don’t try on any dresses that exceed the budget.
Tip #2: Figure out what suits you
Above are a few images of different styles of dresses. None of them are right for everyone and they can all look fantastic on the right person, so when choosing your wedding dress, make sure you understand your body type and how to flatter it the most. You might have a particular style in mind, but if it doesn’t suit you then you’ll be better off with another style.
Tip #3: Listen to the Pros
When it comes to buying your wedding dress, you often have some preconceived ideas about what you are after. However, sometimes what you want isn’t going to be the best for you. Dresses that you wouldn’t look twice at could end up making you look your best. So when it comes to trying on dresses, consider the inputs of the professionals. If they suggest that you try something on, give it a shot, you might just surprise yourself.
Tip #4: Keep it small
No, I’m not referring to the size of the dress, but rather the size of the group who comes with you to choose your dress. When you’re trying to decide on a dress, there’s not much worse than listening to 10 of your friends all give you their opinion at once. Instead, bring along one or two people; preferably your mum and your best friend who you know will tell you the truth and whose opinion you value.
Tip #5: Trust your gut
You’ll know what you like when you see it. Because there are so many choices of wedding dresses to buy you can be faced with what’s known as the paradox of choice. Instead of making it better for you it actually makes it worse. If you’ve had a busy day trying on multiple dresses it can be hard to figure out what you really like. There might be multiple conflicts going on, but there’s a good chance that your gut is telling you that one dress is better than the rest. Don’t overthink things and go with your gut, it’s right more often than it’s not.
Tip #6: Try on more silhouettes
It’s quite common for brides to have a good idea of what they want before they start looking at actual dresses. However, when it comes to trying on dresses, often what they think of as their own style isn’t for them and another style of dress would be perfect for them.
So even if you have a decent idea of what style of dress you’d like to wear, try on a few different ones and you might just surprise yourself.
Tip #7: Err on the side of caution
If you’re trying to shift a few pounds before your wedding then you’re not alone. Brides are under a lot of pressure to look their best so it’s normal to want to be in the best shape you can.
Which is great, except that if you are a different weight on your wedding day compared to when you buy your dress, it might not fit as well as it once did.
If this is the situation you could find yourself in, err on the side of caution and have your dress made a little large rather than having it made to fit what you think you’ll weigh on your wedding day.
A dress that is too large can be taken in, but a dress that is too small often requires a lot more alteration work.
Tip #8: Expect Alterations
Everyone has a slightly different body and therefore no dress is going to fit you perfectly. Some brides have unrealistic expectations about this, but in truth getting your dress altered a little bit is perfectly normal and not something to be concerned about.
Tip #9: Shop early
One common mistake made by many brides is to underestimate the time it takes to create your dress. Because they’re not mass produced, creating your wedding dress can take some time.
So don’t leave your dress shopping until the last minute or you might be forced to wear whatever fits you right then and there. Because it can take several months to have your dress made, it’s best to do your shopping as early as you can.
Top Wedding Dress Designers in Australia
When it comes to choosing your designer, there are a lot of choices and it can be hard to figure out where to start.
We can’t guarantee that the designers below are the ones for you but they are some of the most highly regarded in their respective cities.