Shopping for a wedding gown is one of the most memorable parts of the wedding experience. After all the excitement of the engagement, the quest for the right dress can provide a wonderful moment for a bride-to-be to bond with the significant women in her life. Nevertheless, where taste, style, and budget are concerned, it may feel daunting to have to reconcile issues of self-perception, religion, and wedding etiquette. Even well meaning relatives and friends can add to the confusion. In the end, a wedding gown should fulfill the bride’s own sense of identity. The purchase of a wedding gown is still a time-honored tradition that endures today.





• Determine the where, when and how of the wedding before looking at gowns.

• Focus on silhouette during the first visit to a shop.

• When possible, take along the necessary foundation garments

• If a special piece of jewelry, a favorite flower or an unusual color plays into the decision, bring those items or swatches along.

• Do not purchase a gown based on anticipated weight loss. If there is a question about size, always go one bigger. A large dress can be taken in, but it is virtually impossible to let out a small one. Due to nerves, most brides tend to shed two to five pounds before a wedding.

• Beware of buying a dress based solely on a photograph. Pictures are not necessarily reliable.

• The simpler the gown, the more precise the workmanship should be.

• A grand wedding usually necessitates a more extravagant silhouette.

• The longer the train, the bigger the bustle.

• Vintage gowns are not easily fitted or repaired because the fabric is most often irreplaceable.

• Wedding separates are a chic and much less expensive alternative to a gown.

• Not every gown is right for every wedding.




The busiest time of year for bridal shopping is January through April. The busiest days for retailers are Friday afternoon, all day Saturday and, in some cases, Sunday. For extra attention, Monday is usually the best day to shop.




• Due to the fragility of the gowns, most reputable retailers require that an appointment be made in advance with a sales consultant. Expect the appointment to last between forty-five and ninety minutes.


• Be direct with the dress consultant about one’s budget. State the desired price range and be clear as to one’s limits. A competent consultant can be of great help in advising on the purchase, but only if the consultant has a clear understanding of the client’s budgetary parameters.


• Remain open-minded and receptive to new ideas. Many of my brides are amazed at their final decision. It is also important to allow plenty of time for the purchase of the wedding dress. Typically, dresses take at least three months to come into the store, so if possible, begin the search eight to ten months before the wedding.



• One of the most important factors to consider about a retailer is the caliber of the seamstresses on staff. Only extremely competent technicians can manage both the specific and complex alterations that a wedding dress requires.


• Certain upscale department stores have bridal departments. Some may even have individual shops dedicated to specific designers. Like wedding boutiques, they are equipped to handle most of the issues related to wedding attire: shoes, stockings, handbags, gloves, headpieces and veils. They can also ship and deliver anywhere. Another advantage of department stores is their revolving charge plans, but pay attention to the terms.


• Many bridal retail chains buy dresses in bulk, so they can afford to give discounts. While the shopping is rarely an upscale experience, it is possible to reap big savings if the right dress is available in the right size. Be careful of imperfections and defects.


• Warehouse discounters also offer little in terms of service. They do provide the opportunity to see a wide variety of dresses. Most bridal houses and manufacturers have twice-yearly sample sales. It is, on occasion, possible to spend $1,200 for a dress that might have originally cost $7,000. Examine the clothes carefully for damage and do not expect alterations or returns.


• Trunk shows are collections of a designer’s most recent work. They are held all over the country, usually from Thursday through Sunday. Trunk shows feature the latest styles as well as wedding gowns not necessarily offered in stores due to the price or the complexity of the design. This approach works best for the decisive shopper.


• Some bridal designers maintain their own retail establishments. I have found my shop to be an incredible way to stay in touch with clients and experiment with new ideas. I always showcase a dozen or so wedding dresses that no one else carries.


• Since vintage wedding dresses are one of a kind, they can be perfect for a bride who desires something truly unique Be cautious when entrusting the design and execution of a wedding dress to a seamstress. Alterations are one thing, but creating a gown from scratch is quite another. Made-to-order means made to one’s specific measurements. This is a costly process that permits the bride an unprecedented level of control since any detail can be modified or reworked to her specifications.


• A handful of European fashion houses maintain haute couture workrooms. Unlike made-to-order, these couture wedding gowns are entirely handmade and decorated, and therefore require extensive labor, which is usually reflected in the price. Couture fashion houses require a minimum of four fittings; there are very few haute couture clients in the world.





• Once the gown is ordered, a dress order cancellation fee will usually apply.

• Fifty percent of a gown’s cost is due upon placement of the order. It is usually nonrefundable.

• The balance is due upon completion of the dress, before the alterations are finished. Alterations are usually additional.

• In some instances, depending upon the retailer, the customer may be required to pay the entire cost up-front and keep the dress, no matter the outcome. Be sure to sign a Terms of Sale or Special Order Contract, with the specifics of the purchase noted.



The importance of fittings cannot be emphasized enough. For the beauty of her gown and her own peace of mind, a bride must devote serious time and effort toward fitting her dress. Regardless of its shape or construction, a wedding gown will look beautiful only if it is properly fit.




• Even an inexpensive gown can look elegant if it is properly fit.

• To avoid hemline discrepancies, a bride should bring her wedding shoes to every fitting.

• For uniformity of fit, always wear the same underpinnings.

• It is best to maintain a stable weight. Even a two-pound fluctuation can alter the fit of a bodice. A dress that has been overworked will show it.

• The initial fitting will determine the number of subsequent visits.

• A beautiful gown can be ruined by bad alterations.

• Most reputable, full-service bridal retailers are responsible for fitting the gown properly.

• Check with the retailer to understand its policies regarding alterations.