Getting StartedThe cut and fabric of the skirt and bodice of the dress will determine your gown's basic style, making this an excellent place to start in choosing your gown. The basic shape of your dress from top to bottom, called the silhouette, will speak volumes for your personality and the general attitude (relaxed, formal, traditional) of your wedding. Today's most popular wedding silhouettes are the ball gown, with a close-fitting bodice and wide, rounded skirt; the A-line or princess, which forms an "A" shape from top to bottom; the empire, which is fitted underneath the bust and then flares gently at the skirt; and the sheath, or close-fitting, dress. Ball gown and A-line gowns will often match a traditional theme (though details can make either of these gowns trendy-see "The Elements of Style," below). An empire dress suits a dreamy, whimsical and romantic nature, while the sheath dress brings to mind sophistication.
The Elements of StyleBasic elements. What is it that sets one dress apart from the next and makes it truly "all yours"? According to today's top wedding gown designers, it's all in the details.For example, one hot trend in wedding wear is a mock-corset bodice. This typically entails a laced-up, or laced-look, front or back. Usually, the mock-corset bodice tops a sleeveless or spaghetti strap gown. Look for either a closely laced bodice or one that is filled in with lace, leaving a gap between one lacing side and the other.
For sleeves, a solid material,as opposed to lace, is a top pick among many brides, though this will vary depending upon your personality. Solid material sleeves can be decorated with seed pearls, sequins, embroidery, cut-outs or even colored sections. Capped sleeves are a romantic and retro look, especially when paired with opera length gloves. Spaghetti straps can be either a color that matches the gown, a contrasting color, or a row of sequins.
Completing the LookFor the skirt of the gown, "stepped" layers in either tulle or silk are highly popular. These layers of material bespeak high fashion while maintaining that romantic element brides seek. In this style, the layers overlap; how much volume the skirt has depends upon the type of material that is used. Tulle or stiff silks and taffeta will produce a wide, flowing skirt; softer, silky materials may produce little to no bulk and can give a very sophisticated look to the gown.
Another element to consider in your choice of a dress is the season. A summertime or beach wedding allows for a filmier, looser style and perhaps a shorter skirt; winter weddings will generally involve either longer sleeves and heavier materials or short sleeves, gloves and a white shawl. Lighter, all-lace shawls over a sleeveless bodice look heavenly on a springtime bride.
Added details no bride can do without include the veil (filmy, solid colored, all lace; short, long); the back (straight across, high, V-dip or heart shaped back); the train, if you choose to wear one; and embellishments such as pearls, lace or bits of contrasting material. Make sure you study the details of your potential wedding gown so that it will suit your personality and the theme of your wedding.
Colorful OptionsThink you have to wear white to your wedding? Think again! White can be lovely for a wedding gown, and remains the single most requested wedding gown color, but today's bride has a wealth of options for the color of her special dress. Many brides choose an off-white color for a dreamy and sumptuous look. Antique white, beige, ivory and lightest creamy yellow are delicate and elegant choices.
If you'd like to venture off the beaten path, look for lightest pastel pink, blue or green; a stripe of color, perhaps at the waist or neckline, in burgundy, royal blue or emerald; or this season's emerging trend-gold.
Designer GownsSome brides have their hearts set on a specific designer. Budget conscious brides-to-be can look for bargains on designer gowns by searching outlet gown retailers, waiting for sales, buying seasonally or looking for soon to be discontinued dresses. You may be surprised to discover that Oleg Cassini, Peter Langner, Vera Wang or Oscar de la Renta may have something within your reach (and budget).
Another place to look for your favorite designer's wedding creations is at a wedding expo. Discount designer wear can often be had at a steal at wedding related events.
Whatever your style, be sure to begin your wedding gown shopping early so you have plenty of time to decide. You're sure to end up with a dress that feels it was made just for you. See also: Wedding Accessories.