On my first wedding dress shopping outing, I went to two places: a fancy, brand-new urban boutique and a David's Bridal in the mall. The experiences were extremely different, but not necessarily in the ways I expected. Here's a recap of the lessons I've learned while dress shopping:
1. Make an appointment. When there's one dress consultant and two trainees on the floor, having an appointment gets you prime service, especially at more crowded places like David's Bridal. I had a dress consultant's full attention for three hours as I tried on dress after dress after dress.
2. Eat a good breakfast. I can't stress this enough. You might not want to eat so that you can squeeze your empty, growling tummy into that ity bity Vera Wang or whatever, but seriously. That's stupid. It's much more important to have a well-balanced breakfast, preferably with some protein to keep you sated, and plenty of water. We only went to two places, but I tried on fourteen dresses (some more than once) and I was completely spent by the end. If I hadn't had something to eat, I would have been a grouchy mess and probably would have ended the day early instead of sticking around and finding a lot of nice stuff.
3. Be open to possibilities. I came into both shops with an idea of what I was looking for: Little pouf, lots of lace, and no glitter. But because I was open to possibilities, I got to try on a lot of really pretty gowns, and discovered that the A-line silhouette flatters my body. I'm also coming to term with sequins, though I'm not sure rhinestones and I will ever see eye-to-eye.
4. Bring trusted companions. Not only so you don't go crazy trying to please a zillion different opinions, but also because their opinions frame your search. I brought my entire family (mom, dad, and two sisters) and the looks in their eyes when I stepped out of the dressing room really made a difference in how I saw each dress. They pushed me toward a dress that was a little more over the top than I wanted. But when you're in the store, on that obnoxious little pedestal, and everyone's staring at you, it's easy to lose sight of what it is you wanted in the first place. Bringing along people you trust to push *your* agenda, as well as people whose style you admire, will make your search most productive.
Extra tip: take photos, if you can, so you can think about the options later. Obviously.
5. Breathe in, then breathe out. That's the way my sister and I managed to zip up those ludicrously tight dresses: She would say "Go," I'd take a deep breath in, then let it all out and hold it. Worked like a charm. (Credit goes to another Offbeat Bride reader who posted this gem a while back!)
6. Wear nice underwear! You don't need to go all silk teddy on this, but wear underwear that makes you feel pretty and gives good support. You're going to need help getting in and out of those dresses. That helper will probably be a stranger posing as a bridal consultant. Trust me, when you're standing in your skivvies in front of some impeccably dressed shop lady, you're going to second-guess your choice to go with the saggy Hanes and the dirty socks. (Of course this piece of advice is tongue-in-cheek. But I really did wish I'd worn nicer underthings. And the shop lady really was a pro about the whole thing.)
So there you have it, folks. My six ways to improve your dress shopping experience. Remember that you get to put on whatever you want on your wedding day, so enjoy the process of finding it!