Friday, June 1, 2012

The Dress - How to Shop

Okay, the title is a little precocious. I don't actually need to tell you how to shop. But I thought a few tips might help anyone befuddled by the options, process and cost. 

Figure out what you want
The first step is to work out what you want in a very broad sense. Do you want a traditional, sparkly/lacy/pouffy cloud of awesome? Do you just want something a bit dressier than you'd normally get away with but not the standard bride look? Somewhere in between? Something else entirely? I believe many women default to the first option automatically without considering other options. There's nothing wrong with that but I'm a fan of conscious spending and it is likely to be the most expensive way to go, so might as well work out that it's actually what you want before you go splashing coin around.

For brainstorming, try searching "wedding dress" on Pinterest or a Google image search.

You also want to think about the dress in context of the wedding - if you are having quite a casual wedding the dress might want to be less extravagent, and vice-versa. Hundreds of layers of tulle probably aren't that comfortable on the beach in Raro!

Start Early
For one thing, for many women this is one of the most fun elements of planning a wedding, so make the most of it. And for another, having a cooling-off period before you need to make a decision is pretty smart.

Also, if you buy a dress from a boutique there's generally a 6-month lead time - so if you want time to look around, time to consider, and not to be rushed having fittings starting well in advance is smart.

Have a look around
I recommend starting with the internet, for general styles and looks. Then hit some real stores so you can try things on (regardless of category, trying the style for your shape is a good idea). I recommend taking one or two trusted people to comment - it's very easy to get caught up in the sales pitch when you're on your own. Traditionally this would be something a bridesmaid would do - in lieu of bridesmaids I took Mr Cake to my first shop (warning: some more traditional wedding vendors disapprove of this approach, so you may need to ignore their foolishness), but anyone whose opinion you trust should do the trick.

Optional extra for experts: after the excursion to an actual store I reckon you should hit the internet again, now that you're more clued up about what suits you. You'll probably find you're now naturally drawn to the shapes which looked good on you, which makes looking easier.

Think about your options (with your head!)
One of the bridal stores I visited actually told me they expected tears when I found "The One." There are two problems with that:
1. I don't believe there is one perfect dress for me - sure, some will suit me more than others, some will be more affordable and some will be better quality, and some will suit the wedding we're planning. Hopefully the one I choose will optimise these things for my wants - but I don't think any single dress is perfect or in any way life-changing (except to the extent that it will be the dress our grandchildren consider to be quaint and outdated when they look at photos of our wedding - which doesn't really count).
2. Seriously, why would I cry?

Once you've tried on some dresses you like, think about each one you like, how much it cost, what it has that you like and what it's missing that you wanted. And work out, for yourself (this will be easier for some people than others, and different for everyone) if the purchase makes sense.

There are different ways to buy your dress, once you've determined what it is you want, but this is getting a bit long so I'll write a follow up post about those options in a few days.

What has your experience been? Have you found it easy or difficult searching for something you like?

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