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How To: Shop for Your Dress

You're just 10 steps from W-day stunning with our two-minute tutorial!

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How to shop your wedding dress

1. Don’t put it off

Like you really need reminding to get going on your dress search! But, as a guideline, start hunting six months to a year before the day. “Everything else revolves around the dress and will fall into place when you decide the look you’re after,” says Caroline Fahey of Pronovias. Still, if yours is a short engagement, don’t panic: “We’ve turned a dress around in a month before,” says Karen Warburton of Agapé Bridal. “Although I wouldn’t want to do it regularly!”

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2. Find the right shop

The experience doesn’t end the moment you throw down your plastic, so you need to be comfortable having fittings and asking for accessories advice. “A lot of people just go, ‘Oh, I love that dress’, but the service a store offers is important too,” says Karen. Ask friends and check out wedding forums to find out more about your chosen boutique.

3. Make an appointment

Booking a spot in advance is essential to ensure A-list treatment, and some shops like to pull together a few dresses before you arrive. For in-demand weekend slots, which can fill up 10 weeks ahead, put your call in early – or consider a weekday appointment. “If you can get an afternoon off work, it’s more enjoyable,” says Russell Blackburn of Blackburn Bridal Couture. “You often get more time beyond the scheduled appointment, and it’s more relaxed.”

4. Keep an open mind

What looks amazing on the model might hug your curves all wrong, or a style you thought you couldn’t wear could look amazing on you, so let the pros (who know every dress in the shop) be your guide. “You may have a dream dress in mind, but you’ve got to be at your most beautiful in it,” says Catriona Dowse of Bridal Rogue Gallery. “If it doesn’t suit you, it wasn’t meant to be.”

5. Bring the right bra

“You’d be surprised what people wear,” says Catriona, who advises turning up to your appointment wearing a supportive, comfortable bra – even if it has straps. “People tend to buy the wrong-size strapless bra, so it doesn’t fit properly and gives them a bad shape as they try on the gowns. We can tuck the straps in for you.” Downstairs, opt for simple nude briefs or boyshorts, and save the siren lingerie for your wedding night.

6. Ditch the entourage

You don’t want to be swayed by 10 competing voices, so bring one or two trusted consultants (your mum and a best friend, perhaps), or consider doing a first appointment on your own. Then, when you’ve narrowed it down to a few finalists, make a second trip with all the girls. “After you’ve shortlisted it, then it’s time to bring the rest of the team back,” says Russell.

7. Be budget-honest

It’s best to be direct about your bottom line when you walk through the door, so you don’t end up breaking your heart when The One turns out to be several zeros out of your price range. And factor in extras, like alterations, from the start. “We take 
a lot of information from brides before their appointments, including what they want to spend, so we know we’re putting you in the right dresses,” says Karen Kelly of Anne Priscilla Bridal.

8. Try before you buy…

Don’t sweat whether it’s love at first sight or 14th. The key is finding a style that makes you feel your most fabulous. “At a first appointment, some people try on as many as 20 dresses – it just depends where they are in the process of figuring out what they like,” says Karen Warburton.

9. …But don’t overdo it

“No bride is going to find her dress by trying on 40 in an hour,” says Caroline. As you work your way through a variety of styles, identify what best suits your figure, skin tone and style and use those factors to guide the next round of dresses you try.

10. Stay true to you

Not everyone is a romantic princess bride or a Hollywood screen siren, so go with what you gravitate towards naturally – not other people’s visions of what a bride should look like. “It’s very important that you listen to your heart and look like you,” says Caroline. “Wearing what you truly, truly love is part of the wow factor of the day.”

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