Scary but true: The wrong wedding lingerie can totally ruin the look of your gorgeous wedding gown. Shopping for bras and undergarments might not be as exciting as finding your dream dress, but don't overlook the importance of these foundation pieces. (They're called that for a reason!) Stakes are high when it comes to bridal fashion; the last thing you want is any visible straps, lumps, or lines.
To help you find the right fit, we tapped the expert mind of Claire Chambers, CEO of lingerie boutique Journelle, on how, when, and what to buy.
Meet the Expert
Claire Chambers is CEO of the lingerie boutique Journelle.
When to Shop
"Use your first dress fitting as a chance to learn what kind of lingerie works best," Chambers says. "Resist the urge to buy before that point. You'll learn a lot more about what type of foundation garments you need once you see the dress on your body and know what alterations need to be made."
Then, call the lingerie store and make an appointment. "Most stores will be happy to set aside time to devote to you and can be better prepared (and stocked) if they know in advance that you're coming," Chambers says. Also, don't forget to take a few images of your dress to show your fitter. It's not necessary to bring your actual dress in person.
One thing to know is that last-minute weight changes can really affect the fit of your bra. "Pay attention if you find yourself losing weight before the big day, and get refitted if necessary," Chambers says. "Your lingerie store may also be able to make some alterations to your bra, but don't leave it to the last minute."
First, check whether you actually need a bra. "Gowns that are particularly structured up top may give enough support and shaping that you can skip one altogether," Chambers says. "But if you want more support, ask your tailor whether a bra or corset can be successfully sewn into your gown. This can help with tricky necklines and strapless silhouettes."
For all other dress types, work with your fitter to figure out what the bra needs to achieve and which bra works best. "Options are really endless these days," Chambers says. "You can easily find a bra that works for any silhouette, from halter to one-shoulder to racerback."
If you're just looking for a little extra coverage, a bra might not be the best option, especially if your dress fabric is on the thinner side. Consider a stick-on piece, like Bring It Up Spacers, Chambers recommends. This is the best way to create a seamless, invisible look.
What type of undergarments you should buy always depends on the dress. Think of your options in three categories: classic, seamless, and shaping.
Dresses that are voluminous or made of thicker fabrics allow brides to have fun with their wedding lingerie. "When a bride has room beneath the dress, we encourage her to express her personality and choose something that makes her feel amazing," Chambers says. So the short answer is, wear whatever you want, whether it's your favorite knickers or something a bit more racy and adventurous.
"Slim-fitting dresses or those made of a single layer of material often require underwear that lies flat and smooth," Chambers explains. "A nude-colored Commando thong will always work, but brides also shouldn't feel limited to just that one option. In 90 percent of cases, a bride could wear a smooth lace thong with no problems; just make sure to look for one made from high-tech, seamless flat lace."
Dresses that highlight body parts sometimes call for strategic shapewear. "Luckily, there are increasingly beautiful options for shapewear, so don't feel like you're stuck with nude-colored bike shorts," Chambers says.
When it comes to shapewear, be sure to select pieces that are functional and make you feel fabulous. While undergarments are designated to fit and flatter in all the right places, it's always a good idea to do a test run ahead of time. Try on your shapewear for a few hours to ensure that you can still breathe and bust a move on the dance floor.
The one thing to keep in mind when shopping for shapewear? It absolutely has to fit correctly, or you risk being "cut off" in weird places. "We usually recommend a high-waisted thong, which gives a smooth, seamless fit through the bodice," Chambers says. "But if you're really nervous about lines, go with a full slip."