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How to say yes to the dress: Finding that perfect silhouette for your body type


Once that ring is on your finger, shopping for your wedding style is the next big thrill.

“It’s a big purchase and an important purchase,” says Megan Howe, owner of Arc Bridal Boutique.

Here’s a guide to dress shapes that will make you look and feel amazing.



The look: Sleek, sophisticated; hugs natural curves or falls straight from shoulders to hemline.

Best for: Long and lean or athletic shape who wants appearance of curves; petite frame for illusion of height; hourglass shape for attention to slimmer waist. Bateau neckline, which follows collarbone nearly straight across, is excellent for smaller-busted bride; gives appearance of larger bosom.

Caution: Pass if you’re busty, curvy or pear-shaped.



The look: Form-fitting bodice; large, billowing skirt that falls to the floor.

Best for: Most body types. Especially good for pear shape (eyes are drawn to bodice); large bust (balances out the frame); boyish figure (adds curves). Strapless bodice is flattering on nearly everyone — with a cleavage line. Opt for straps to keep dress in place, if necessary. Sweetheart neckline is flattering to well-endowed; scoop, excellent for broad shoulders.

Caution: Size, shape tends to swallow smaller frame.



The look: Body-hugging through torso, then flares dramatically at or just below the knee to hem.

Best for: Hourglass or tall, lean frame. Popular V-neckline works for both large- and small-breasted women. High V can conceal large breasts; wide-set V creates illusion of fuller breast.

Caution: A boxy bride may feel more comfortable in something less constricting.



The look: A-shaped silhouette. Fitted at natural waist, then flaring gradually to hem.

Best for: Every body type. Minimizes midsection, hips, thighs; draws attention to bust at same time. Creates more defined waistline for apple shape; athletic bride will love it for extra curve. Obvious fit for hourglass.

Caution: Avoid an empire bodice in this style if you have full hips or a larger bust line.



The look: Similar to mermaid; hugs body at bodice, gradually flares at mid-thigh.

Best for: Broad-shouldered, petite or curvy bridal figure. Off-the-shoulder style highlights collarbone.

Caution: This style accentuates the waist; athletic build can look boxy.


Dress shopping tips

  • Hold off on any serious gown shopping until you’ve locked in your wedding date, location and venue. These specifics will impact your choice.
  • Make your final selection and place your order no less than eight months before your wedding. Dresses, on average, take four to six months to make and two to three months to be altered. “Rush orders can add $100 or $200 to the cost of the gown,” Howe says.
  • Be aware that alterations specialists are particularly busy in March, April and May with weddings, pageants and proms. If you have a favorite seamstress or tailor, ask about reserving a spot on their alterations calendar. “If you’re a spring bride, I want you in alterations in January,” says Jocelyn Robertshaw of Ready or Knot {Wedding Chic}.
  • Once you’ve chosen your favorite bridal salons, call ahead for an appointment or a recommended time to visit. Plan on 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the salon, the day and the season.
  • Bring a strapless bra, heels and a small tribe of friends or family members whose opinions you value. “It’s best to invite only one or two close friends or family members who are not only supportive but also objective,” Robertshaw says. Her advice to the bride tribe: “Read her first when she looks at herself in the mirror. Don’t kill it for her. Your job is to bless the dress. She needs validation. That’s all.”
  • Try on several styles of dresses, even ones you don’t think you’ll like. “Don’t rule out anything to start. It can be surprising,” Robertshaw says. 
  • Don’t rush your decision. The average bride makes two salon visits before saying yes to the dress. “Give yourself time if you’re indecisive,” Howe says. Have someone photograph you in each dress, and study the images on your own. Ultimately, you have the deciding vote on what you’ll wear for one of the most important occasions of your life.

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Chris is a magazine and special sections editor for The World-Herald. She writes on lifestyle topics and trends, including interior design, travel and fashion. Follow her on Instagram @chrischristen and Twitter @cchristenOWH. Phone: 402-444-1094.

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