When it comes to wedding planning, there’s nothing quite as panic-inducing for a bride as being unable to find the perfect wedding dress. With endless options to choose from, the most overwhelming part of choosing a gown is narrowing down the style that best suits you. Without an idea of what you’re looking for, the quest to say yes can result in endless frustration and trying on 100 gowns across a dozen salons—a serious bridal fashion nightmare.
So we’ve turned to Jacquelyn Ward and Ana Maes of the now-shuttered Our Story Bridal to learn how to find the perfect wedding dress. As the founders of NYC’s first luxury consignment bridal boutique for designer wedding dresses, they know a thing or two about nailing down your perfect bridal style—and why it’s helpful that you do. “It’s best to have an idea of what you’re looking for before you start the search,” says Ward. “It makes the process less overwhelming, and you will be more confident in your decision-making.”
“At Our Story Bridal, we are off-the-rack, which means buying that exact dress; this is great for brides on a short timeline or who want to avoid any risks when their dress finally comes in five months later,” adds Maes, who explains that because of this, brides should make an appointment with them when they're ready to buy and when they have a sense of what they might like. “If they’re not ready to say yes, then their dream dress might be snapped up by another bride.”
Needless to say, both Ward and Maes have a few tips up their sleeves on snagging the magically right dress for you.
1. Pinterest Is Your Friend
Yes, the number of wedding dresses on Pinterest can at first seem intimidating, but in reality, it’s the perfect place to source some inspiration. “Do a bit of research before you start the big hunt so that you can get a sense of what is available and what your eye is drawn to in terms of shape, details, and fabric textures,” says Ward. “Maybe it is an open back or the timeless sweetheart neckline or elaborate beading. Browsing online (even for an hour) can help you start focusing so that you’re not totally overwhelmed when you first step into a store with countless choices.”
Make a secret board and pin all the dresses you really love, then look for patterns and similarities among all your picks. And make sure you come into the salon with the app on your smartphone, ready to show your stylist your board. “It really helps us when a bride comes in with pictures so that we can get inspiration from her and help guide her search,” explains Ward.
2. Mood Matters
It’s important to set the mood and feel of your wedding before you start dress shopping. You don’t want your bridal style clashing with your wedding style. “This includes choosing the venue, deciding whether you want daytime or nighttime wedding, and the time of year,” says Maes. “Do you want to be a boho goddess in a garden setting or a glam princess in a ballroom? These factors will affect your purchasing decision. Having a good idea of the vibe will help you choose the perfect dress that matches not only your personal style but also the backdrop.”
Doing this will make narrowing your dress choices down that much easier, whether you’re searching solely for a strapless gown for a July wedding or an airy chiffon A-line for beach nuptials. Plus, finding a gown in tune with your personal style and vibe will make you that much more comfortable on your big day.
3. Think Shape
“It’s best to try on a few silhouettes at your first appointment so that you can choose one that feels the most like you and fits your personal style,” says Ward. “Maybe it is the dreamy princess shape or the sexy fit-and-flare. You won't know until you try it on.”
She suggests paying close attention to how the dress fits your body type and whether it’s accentuating your best features and de-emphasizing your insecurities. “If you have always loved your narrow waist but are not a big fan of your hips, then an A-line shape might be the best fit for you,” she adds. “There are no golden rules for this. You know you have the right shape when you feel confident and beautiful.” And that’s exactly how you’ll want to feel on your wedding day.
4. Color Makes a Difference
Another element that will get you feeling confident and beautiful is the color of your dress. Just as silhouette enhances your shape, the hues of the fabric can do the same for your coloring.
“Dresses these days vary greatly in terms of color, from a brighter white to creamy ivory to even bold pink,” points out Maes. “The right color can nicely accentuate and complement your skin tone. For example, whiter dresses may wash out those with fair skin, so those brides might look for something with a warmer ivory tone. Be sure to try on multiple shades of white or even color to see what looks and photographs best on you. Also, look at it in both natural light (if the salon has a window) and in indoor lighting, as the lighting will change how the dress color looks.”
5. Be You
Remember, your dress needs to represent you. Begin by putting your best foot forward during shopping. “If you feel your best in curls and makeup or clear lip gloss and flats, then go for it,” says Ward. “Buying your dream dress is an emotional decision, so you should shop feeling like the best version of you. This way, you can truly assess how you feel in the gowns.” It will also help you picture how you’ll look in the dress on the big day.
Once you’re at the salon, stay true to yourself by considering what fashion you lean toward on a daily basis. If you favor clean lines and solids, look for a minimalist gown, or if you love quirky, retro styles, beeline for vintage-inspired designs. Listen to your inner style and voice, which can also mean limiting the opinions. Ward suggests confining the entourage to one or two trusted pals or family members with great taste. “Of course, you want someone to point out that puffy sleeves are a thing of the past, but you also want to not be overwhelmed,” she says. “In the end, it is your gown, so stick to your gut and feelings.”
And, as one final note, when you’re finally ready to say yes, don’t be afraid to do so. As Maes puts it, “As long as it feels right and you feel like the best version of you, then go for it. It might feel like the long-anticipated search is over, but you have found your dress soulmate. Hey, you will now have more time to figure out the countless other details of the big day.”