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Finding A Gown That Fits And Flatters

by Kathryn Lemmon, Wedding Zone Staff Writer

Of all your wedding decisions, selecting the perfect gown is often the most exciting. It's not every day you can dress like royalty and be the center of attention. As with any important purchase, however, you should go shopping armed with advice.

At most bridal salons, you get some consultation just by walking in the door. Take advantage of the information you receive. The consultant will be able to offer suggestions on fit and style based on your age and body type. A wedding gown may look wonderful in a magazine, and many do, but it may not look good on you.

Deciding on a particular gown style is easier when you know what flatters your figure. Whatever your shape, wearing the right cut for your body type can highlight your best features and downplay others.

Larger sized brides will look wonderful in A-line or Empress dresses. But, a mermaid style may not be as pleasing to the eye. Mermaid is a slim, body-hugging gown, with or without a waistline, flaring from the knees or slightly above.

Larger size women may also want to avoid clingy fabrics such as crepe and jersey, and bulky fabrics such as velvet and heavy satin. Opt instead for lighter weight satins, chiffons, and silk shantung.

If you're pear shaped, a strapless ball gown will cover your bottom half and highlight your better half. An off-the-shoulder neckline, for example, will make your top look more in proportion to your bottom. On the other hand, a sheath can be unflattering, and a V-neck will draw the eyes downward, where you don't want them to go.

Extremely thin and shorter brides will get lost in big, ornate ball gown styles. You may want to try them anyway. This will give you a feel for what you don't want as well as what you do want.

If you're short-waisted, a princess-line silhouette, fitted at the bodice and opening up gradually to a full skirt, will elegantly draw out your figure. If you're comfortable with your shoulders, try a portrait or halter neckline.

Hangers don't do justice to some gowns, and others may not flatter your figure as you'd hoped, so don't make up your mind about a dress without first trying it on.

A bit of "buyers remorse" is typical after you choose your dress. It's a major commitment and quite natural to wonder if you made the right choice. Focus on how you felt when the dress was on and you realized it was the one, and those doubts will fade away.

Don't be preoccupied with the size of the sample gowns you try on initially. Most samples are smallish in sizes 8, 10, or 12. You'll be able to tell what the gown will look like even if it's too big or too small. Once you make your decision, the gown will be ordered from the manufacturer's size chart according to your measurements, regardless of the sample size.

A word on timing--gowns usually take anywhere from four to six months just to come in, and you'll need another six weeks for alterations. There are exceptions to this rule, but leave yourself as much time as possible before the wedding to be sure you can get the dress you want with the proper fit.

It's common to have two or three fittings for your gown. The first fitting usually takes place about six weeks before your wedding day. Bring along a trusted friend or family member for advice. This first fitting is to ensure two principal things: your gown is the right size, color, and design (neckline, train, sleeves, etc.) and your seamstress knows what she's doing.

A seamstress will most likely have an assistant (maybe the salon salesperson or another member of the staff) who helps you get into your gown. The seamstress should then begin looking for places where your dress needs to be altered.

Here's what to watch for:

- the way the material falls

- how the waistline feels

- how the chest area fits

- any unattractive puckering, bunching or bulging

- that the stitching, embroidery, and beading are all in good shape, with everything securely attached.

Look in the three-way mirrors to view all angles, and ask for another hand-held mirror if necessary. Speak up if you see anything that you don't like -- or forever hold your peace--as the saying goes. The seamstress should be able to tell you why a problem exists, and what can be done to fix it. Though you shouldn't expect miracles, it's your prerogative to have as many fittings as it takes to get the perfect fit.


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