Of the hundreds of decisions, big and small, that go into creating the perfect wedding day, one of the most agonizing can be choosing the dress. After all, you can only wear one.
Wedding dresses come in hundreds of shades, shapes and sizes and, even if you think you know exactly the type of dress you’re after, it can be quite overwhelming finding the perfect one.
And you can bet you’ll be tempted to change your mind several times throughout the process.
So, where to start?
Melbourne celebrity stylist (and award-winning dancer) Luke Taylor says the first two things a bride-to-be must consider when wedding dress shopping are your body shape and complexion.
“Every woman’s body is different but there are only a handful of basic body shapes,’’ says Luke, who has styled celebrities including singer Rikki Lee. He’s also the choreographer for Melbourne Fashion and Melbourne Spring Fashion weeks and has performed as a singer with the likes of Kylie Minogue, Grace Jones and, even, Bananarama.
“What you need to do is choose a dress that complements both your complexion and body shape,” he adds.
“Think about your best assets, be it your shoulders, back, eyes or bust, and choose a dress style and dress colour that highlights those assets.”
For example, if you have stunning shoulders, a strapless or halter neck dress will accentuate them nicely, whereas someone who is more fuller figured may want to show off their curves, and a dress that pinches in at the waist but highlights the chest and hip areas would be more suitable.
Similarly, given the myriad colours and shades of white that today’s bridal gowns come in, it’s best to consider what shade of dress goes best with your complexion, rather than choosing a gown based solely on a particularly shade you like.
Luke says you should pick a dress that will enhance your complexion and wedding day glow.
A pure white gown on someone who is very fair skinned may lead to the bride looking washed out, especially under the harsh flash of a camera, whereas a paler shade of white will bring out the gorgeous tones in someone who is olive skinned.
“Don’t be afraid to stray into non-traditional bridal colours such as silvers and or champagnes, which will warm paler complexions,” says Luke. “And if you have a darker skin tone, a paler shade of dress will help bring out your colour more.”
Dressing for your body shape
This is the most common body shape amongst women, since you can be pear-shaped regardless of whether you are short or tall, petite or a little heavier.
If the widest part of your body sits around your hips, then you’re likely pear-shaped, so the aim of the dress you choose should be to balance out your top half and emphasises your womanly shape.
Luke suggests a gown with a fuller base that comes out at the hips and, therefore, pulls your waistline in. The effect is to balance out the top half by exaggerating the bottom half.
Alternatively, a strapless gown will make more of a feature of your top half and works as well.
Accessories: Accessorising a pear-shaped body involves highlighting the top half of your body, so necklaces and earrings suit better than, say bracelets, which draw your eye down.
Short/Petite brides need a gown that is more narrow at the base, perhaps something with a fishtail that is pulled in at the bottom and, therefore, appears to extend the bride’s height.
Any gown with a full load on the bottom will shorten you further, so go for something with a pencil cut that will give the effect of lengthening your slight frame.
Empire bustlines, particularly on women with smaller chests, will also give the illusion of height nicely.
Accessories: Shorter brides should concentrate on accessories that draw attention to their faces and necks, so necklaces and earrings are good choices that will showcase your eyes and face.
Celebrate your gorgeous, naturally curvy physique which is, to most people, the feminine ideal! If you have bigger hips, something classic like a simple pencil skirt that is full length will suit nicely as you want something that will elongate your body but also hug your gorgeous figure. If you want to exaggerate your figure, ballgowns with figure-hugging tops and wide skirts will look spectacular.
Accessories: Focus on what you want to show off. Luke says, “a corset brings in the waist and shows off your shape, but you probably you want to draw attention upwards towards the eyes and face and that special glow a bride has on her wedding day, so earrings and perhaps some beautiful hair combs would be ideal.” You could also you a beautiful coloured sash around the waist, which would further show off your hourglass figure.
Luke says weddings are events where “you can be a lot more sexy by being modest, so don’t be afraid to cover up your top half.”
Classic gowns with long sleeves are a good choice as, he says, “it’s unexpected because you’d think bustier brides would want to go in the opposite direction and show off their cleavage, however, you don’t necessarily want to show off your whole décolletage on your wedding day.”
Luke suggests taking a simple and elegant approach and, though you don’t to hide your bust (and probably cannot anyway), you don’t necessarily want too much of your chest exposed on your wedding day.
Accessories: Drop earrings that elongate the neck are perfect for bustier brides as well as bracelets that can replace necklaces, which draw attention to the neck and chest areas. Instead, bracelets draw the eye down, away from the bust, which needs no more attention!
Tall and slim:
Brides with this statuesque body shape are just as lucky because they can go with pretty much any style dress they like, so the key with tall and slim brides is to go with something you’re absolutely comfortable with. Don’t feel that you have to go with a standard A-line, pencil-type dress. Perhaps, go for something bigger and fuller with flowing skirts and lots of flounces such as ribbons, buttons and bows.
The accessories will depend on the style of dress you wear (see above) but you can always play up your hair by filling it with wonderful combs and clips and, of course, an ornate hairstyle filled with braids or curls.
“You’ll know instinctively from your day-to-day wear what suits your tastes and body and what you’ll be comfortable wearing on your big day,’’ says Luke.
“Don’t be afraid to talk to salespeople in the bridal stores. They’re experts in what they do and dress women of all shapes and sizes every day,’’ says Luke.
Will you be having a wedding cake?
“Step out of your box and, perhaps even, try on a wedding gown in a shape or colour that you wouldn’t have thought suited you. You may be very pleasantly surprised!”