One of the most amazing jobs I ever had was working as a Bridal Gown consultant at Castle For Brides (formally in Huntington Beach, CA, now in Laguna Hills, CA). My best girlfriend’s Aunt Jerri was the manager and we got to spend our free time together helping bride’s play dress up. My girlfriend Brooke and I used to go through each and every dress to help organize the store and stay up to date on the latest bridal trends.
That job made me have a new appreciation for the Wedding Industry because while working there I realized the wedding day was about more then a gown, flowers and some cake — It was all of the hopes every mother had for their daughter, the true bond of friendships and the love between two people committing themselves for a lifetime. I’m getting a little teary eyed just thinking about it.
Brides would often come in to the boutique with an army of women and a notebook full of ideas, but without a real clue to what it all meant. So, I decided to gather all of my bridal gown knowledge in one convienent place. Enjoy!
- Bring in Inspiration – BUT… Keep an open mind. Try on a few styles to know for sure what you like and what you will never try on again. Trust the consultant, she knows about body type and fit better then most.
- Don’t book more than 2 salon appointments in one day. You will have Bridal Gown overload and it will become one bright white blur.
- Bring 1 (maybe 2) people with you on your first few visits. Once you have narrowed the search down to two or three contenders then bring the entourage. You want the women closest to you to participate, not have free reign.
- Do your hair and makeup. You will feel pretty and put together while looking in the mirror all day long. Also, wear a comfortable pair of wedges for a little height.
- Calculate your budget before arriving at the store. Do NOT try on dresses out of your price range because, believe me, you will fall in love and it isn’t a great idea to cancel the honeymoon for a dress (I have seen this happen.. then had the groom call me to complain)
- Consider house of worship dress codes. But if you do choose a strapless dress Gwyneth made capes fresh, so there are options.
- Every single wedding dress needs alterations, so order up not down.
- Finally always, always, always FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCTS (this is true in all aspects of your life, but you already knew that)
Now onto the Bridal Gown Terminology
FABRIC – Before gown shopping be sure you have set the date. The time of year will help dictate the best fabric choices.
- Brocade: Stiff, heavy fabric with an all over pattern. Best for cooler months.
- Duchess Satin: Dense fabric with a slight sheen. It can come in a wide range of colors and is a traditional fabric for ball gowns. Best for cool, comfortable weather.
- Organza: A structured but sheer fabric. It can have a shimmer affect and is often used as an overlay (over a silk or satin gown). Organza can be worn year round.
- Shantung: Raw silk with nubby texture and high sheen. It has an earthy quality that I love. It can be worn year round.
- Taffeta: A light weight fabric. It reminds me of the parachutes from gym glass (In a Good Way!) but much more luxurious. It is a lighter alternative to duchess satin and works wear round.
- Charmeuse: Thin, Silk fabric that is best suited for knockout figures. This fabric can be quite unforgiving. It works great for beach weddings or warmer climates.
- Chiffon: Light, airy and sheer. It is often used as an overlay. Crinkled and textured options are a modern update to this romantic fabric. Best for warmer months or destination wedding since it packs so easily.
- Tulle: A soft, netting that is often used for full ball gowns. it looks adorable at tea length also. This is also the classic fabric for a veil.
Silhouettes – Your body type will really dictate the best shape for your wedding gown. But you might be surprised about what accentuates your curves, so keep an open mind.
- A Line: A classic inverted V-Shape. Suits any type of wedding and any body type.
- Ball Gown: Grand and dramatic. Fitted bodice with a full skirt, often gathered all the way around the skirt or box pleats that lay flat. This style can detract from a full bust and hides large hips but it won’t work well on petites.
- Column: a slim fitted dress that is most likely bias cut. Works great on slim figures and petite women.
- Mermaid: A long, fitted torso with a flounce from the knees down. Looks amazing on everyone from boyish figures to curvy gals.
- Trumpet: A new silhouette that falls in between an A-Line and a Mermaid style. Perfect for a wide range of figures.
DETAILS- This is what makes a dress unique. The Neckline, Waistline and Embellishments really show off the brides personality.
- Crumb Catcher: Dramatic, High-Style. It is a panel of fabric that stands away from the neckline and it is often pleated or ruffled.
- Off the Shoulder: A slightly scooped neckline where the straps rest below your shoulders. The only drawback is that it may be difficult to raise your arms.
- Halter: The straps extend and wrap around your neck. It is a more revealing style (sleeveless and backless) and works great for beach weddings.
- Strapless: Currently most popular neckline for brides (although Kate Middleton gave strapless a run for their money last year). Be sure to get this style fitted perfectly so you don’t have to adjust all night long.
- Sweeheart: Heart shaped curve to the neckline and my personal favorite. A straight across dress can often have a sweetheart neckline created by a seamstress. This style can be strapless or have sleeves/ straps.
- Basque: The middle of the waist points to a downward v shape. Very flattering, giving the illusion of a tiny waist.
- Dropped: A longer, extended waistline that hits at the top of the hips.
- Empire: This romantic and youthful design sits right below the bust. Think Shakespeare in Love.
- Natural: Sits at the natural curve of your waist, usually with a full skirt.
- Applique: 3D detail sown onto dress. Lace, silk flowers or a variety of fabrics can be appliqued.
- Beading: Hand Sown crystal and pearl beadwork on the bodice, skirt and/ or sleeves.
- Draping: Soft flowing fabric, often with a Grecian feel.
- Embroidery: Decorating fabric with thread. The thread can be the same color as the fabric for a subtle effect or a contrasting color to match the wedding colors.
- Pleating: Modern and structured.
- Ruching: Gathered detail usually on the bodice. It is extremely figure flattering.
- No Train: This isn’t technically a train but it is an option.
- Brush: This is is the smallest train and it just brushes the floor. A very lightweight option.
- Chapel: About 4 feet from waistline and one of the most popular options
- Semi-Cathedral: A great option for a more formal event.
- Cathedral: A very formal option that will fall about 7-8 feet from the waistline. It can be quite heavy. I love the detachable cathedral train for the drama at the ceremony and ease at the reception.
- Royal: Around 9 feet from the waist and the most formal option. Don;t forget your page boys to carry it down the aisle.
Now that your are well versed in Bridal Gown Terminology, I hope shopping for your own gown isn’t as daunting. I will be publishing a feature on How To Choose the Correct Veil for Your Bridal Gown in a few days so check back often!