In 1849, American publication Godey’s Lady Book, which was the Good Housekeeping of its day, announced to future brides that ‘Custom has decided, from the earliest ages, that white is the most fitting hue, whatever may be the material. It is an emblem of the purity and innocence of girlhood, and the unsullied heart she now yields to the chosen one’.
The trend towards white as the colour of choice for a wedding dress was already very popular in Europe, thanks to Queen Victoria’s decision to wear a white dress for her wedding to Price Albert. Previously, European brides had tended towards a choice of wedding dress style, fabric and colour that reflected their wealth and social status. As such wealthier brides would often wear very elaborate, ornate and boldly colourful creations while less well-off brides would wear their ‘Sunday best’ as their wedding dress. Towards the end of the 1940s Victorian style wedding dresses became popular again, but prior to this wedding dresses tended to follow the fashions of the period.
Victoria chose white for her wedding dress so she could incorporate a favourite piece of lace and so doing, revolutionised the world of wedding dresses. White is a natural choice of colour for a wedding dress, symbolising innocence and purity and nowadays, Western wedding dresses are predominantly white or similar shades such ivory, eggshell, ecru and blush.
However there is a real spirit of experimentation and self-expression among today’s brides. Be that in the choice of the style or colour of their wedding dress, or in the accessories they add to their ensemble. With an unending variety of acceptable shapes, shades, styles and hem lengths, how on earth does the modern bride choose the perfect dress for her wedding?
I have met brides who have tried on just one dress and known it was the one and brides who have tried countless different styles before finding their dream dress. Undoubtedly, having a clear idea of the style, shape and shade of dress that best suits you, your body shape, your personality and your wedding plans, is a great help.
It’s fair to say that every bride wishes to look like the very best version of herself on her wedding day. Your wedding dress should look and feel like the most fabulous dress you have ever worn…and will ever wear! Whether couture or off-the-peg, made-to-measure or vintage, there a few considerations to bear in mind choosing THE dress for your wedding that may help to make this daunting task just a little easier.
The style of your wedding dress is definitely one of the most important factors to consider. Regardless of the many variations on a theme, there are five main styles of wedding dress: A-line (also known as Princess), the full skirted Ball gown (or Ballerina), Column, Empire Line and Mermaid. Your chosen style of dress depends upon your personal tastes and preferences and the statement you wish to make, however whether sleek and simple or fancy and frilly, your chosen style should perfectly flatter you. It should emphasise and enhance your good points while cleverly disguising and drawing attention away from the parts of you that you like less.
Your silhouette will be the first thing the groom sees – and your guests too – as you step into the venue for your ceremony. You want to make an amazing first impression! And don’t forget that your dress should look as great from the back as it does from the front, as for at least the duration of your ceremony, your guests will be behind you.
Most of us girls already have a good idea of what suits us, so it’s likely you will already know the style of dress for you. However, there is a golden rule that if you don’t try something you’ll never know, so be a little brave when trying wedding dress styles, you may find that the perfect shape for you is one you would never have thought of!
Bridal shop assistants can be an invaluable source of advice and guidance and it may help to talk through your plans, preferences and personality with them before beginning to try dresses on. It can be incredibly helpful to take along a ‘brutally honest’ friend or family member whose opinions you trust, for a truthful and reliable point of view.
The internet is, naturally, a fabulous resource with many wedding websites offering useful and fun guides to dress styles, necklines and sleeve lengths and quizzes to help you choose the style, cut and length of dress for you.
Comfort may not be your first thought, brides often place style before comfort but do remember you will be wearing your dress for an amount of time and you need to be able to sit, stand and move with relative ease and comfort. So consider whether features such as corsets, strapless or spaghetti straps will be comfortable and provide support throughout the day. A grimacing bride will look less than wonderful no matter how fabulous her dress is!
Fabric – in particular creasing – can also be a really important consideration, especially if you’re marrying abroad where the heat of your wedding day and the toils of travelling to your chosen destination could have a negative impact on your dress. Catching a piece of the fabric of your dress and crushing it in the palm of your hand for a couple of minutes will help you to see how quickly and badly it creases. Fabrics prone to easy and severe creasing may be a no-no!
Make sure you take all of your accessories and – very importantly – your planned wedding lingerie along with you to fittings. Trying the whole ensemble together will help you envisage the full effect you’ll create on your big day and you’ll immediately see whether everything works together perfectly. You may find that the long veil you dreamed of simply doesn’t suit the style your dress, or that a favourite necklace interferes with your chosen neckline. Also think about your wedding hair and make-up, which should perfectly compliment the style, shape and cut of your wedding dress.
By trying your dress on with your wedding lingerie, you’ll be able to judge, comfort, support and make sure nothing will be on show either above the dress line or below the fabric of your dress. If you find your perfect wedding lingerie just does work with your dress, you may decide to wear something different and more suited to your dress during the day, and change into your preferred lingerie in time for your wedding night!
When thinking about and choosing THE wedding dress for you, it may also help to….
…think about your skin tone!
When choosing the colour of your wedding dress, your most important consideration should be your skin tone. As an olive skin-tone who looks awful in white along with a surprising number of other colours, I know how important colour choices are. Warmer colours such as shades of pale gold, pink or blush often work much better on paler skinned brides than a ghosty-white. Again, the shop assistant and your trusty advisor can be invaluable here!
Thankfully, nowadays, with such a wide range of wedding dress possibilities, if white doesn’t suit your skin colour or your tastes, it really isn’t a problem. If you have a favourite colour, why not consider this? Deeper, richer colours can also be a fabulous choice, especially for autumn and winter weddings.
…think about your venue!
When you begin thinking about your wedding dress, consider your chosen wedding venue or venues. You dress should not only suit your shape and your personality but it should also suit the style of venue you have chosen for your big day. So, consider whether your venue is traditional or modern, formal or relaxed. Most brides prefer not to put practicality before preference but you may also want to think about the events of your day, do you plan to wander barefoot along the beach, head out into nature for photographs or wander along narrow Medieval passageways? If so, certain style of dress may just not be suitable.
If you’re marrying in church, please remember that in countries like Italy, churches have, often stringent, rules and regulations regarding dress, both for the bride and for her guests. If you’re wearing a strapless, strappy or low cut dress, you may need a pashmina, shawl, or jacket to wear during your wedding ceremony. Lacey or silky bolero jackets are a pretty and popular choice and have the advantage of making your one wedding dress seem like two, suited to the different stages of your wedding day.
…think about the time of year!
If you are marrying abroad the heat at your chosen time of year is a very important factor, you don’t want to feel uncomfortably hot or have difficulty moving on a summer’s day. So, thinner fabrics, less layers and strappy or strapless dresses are usually the perfect choice. In recent years I’ve noticed shorter wedding dresses becoming popular for destination weddings and if your legs are one of your good points then a shorter dress can look amazing and really help you make a statement.
Whereas if you’re marrying in autumn a mid or long sleeved dress, a heavier fabric or accessories such as a faux-fur shawl or jacket will not only look amazing but keep you wonderfully warm so you glow with happiness rather than turn blue with the cold!
Today’s brides really are spoilt for choice, but I firmly believe, no matter how indecisive you may be as a person, there is a wedding dress out there for every bride and when you find yours and put it on for the first time, you will just know it’s the one. Good luck to all those intrepid girls heading out to find their dream dress…enjoy the experience, it’s one of the most fun preparations you’ll make for your wedding day!
To view the many fabulous creations worn by our blushing beautiful brides take a look at our wedding galleries.