How to shop for a wedding dress like a software engineer

Guest post by Stacey Dyer
Roses Sherbet” floral wedding dress by the amazing Chotronette

I work for a software company, and we regularly ask, “What customer problems are we trying to solve?” Since I am the target customer in this particular exercise, and the wedding dress is my solution, let’s take an Agile approach to wedding dress shopping, shall we?

Customer Problems:

  • I don’t have a wedding dress.
  • I’m a 4 on top and a 10 on the bottom (small boobs, great booty).
  • It may be as hot as 90 degrees with 100 percent humidity.

User Story:

I am an Offbeat Bride and need a wedding dress that will make me feel beautiful without killing me in the Florida heat.


  • allows legs to breathe
  • suits my back tattoo
  • is lightweight
  • takes advantage of breeze with flowing fabric
  • will not fall off me (small boobs)
  • is not super traditional
  • feels nice to the touch (lace looks nicer than it feels)
  • $3,000 or less

Stretch Goals:

  • No bra needed
  • Shows off my legs
Photo from a&bé bridal shop
Photo from a&bé bridal shop

Online Research:

Unsure of what I would actually like versus what will actually look good on me, I turned to Pinterest for guidance. Creating my first EVER wedding board (I freaked out about this), I dug into visual searches for anything and everything that struck my fancy.

Three patterns emerged:

  1. Romanesque
  2. High-Low
  3. Pin-Up

My casual or going-out fashion choices usually fit into these three categories, and while this wasn’t much of a surprise, I’ve learned not to trust how clothing looks on a model or hanger for that matter. I must therefore seek them out in person and prepare for the almighty, sweat-laden try-on-athon.

Photo from Pretty Parlor Bridal Boutique
Photo from Pretty Parlor Bridal Boutique

Shop early, stress less:

I did some local research, mostly on Yelp, to find the best shops (for my very specific taste) in the Boston area. I talked with one of my closest and most fashion-forward friends about the challenges I was facing and asked her to join me on this journey to the ivory aisles.

I made appointments at two major shops on a sticky July morning. (The weather was felicitous, simulating the heat and humidity of our location quite well.) We met up for brunch and had ourselves a mimosa for strategic nerve-removal on my part (I’d never done this before, never thought I would, nor had I ever been in anyone’s wedding). I prepared for this all week, and with a little help from Agile, I created a…

Definition of ready:

  • Shave ALL THE THINGS (if that's your thing)
  • Pasties on aforementioned small boobs
  • Beige thong that flatters (not too tight, not too loose, hides well under white fabric)
  • A sassy satchel filled with: strapless padded bra (when in need of bigger boobs), a pair of heels at my desired height (2 inches and under), deodorant, my phone with a cleared camera roll cache for taking try-on pics.
  • Hair in a similar style to how I envision it (mermaid/fishtail braid off to one side)
  • Earrings in envisioned style (dangly in this case)

I was grateful for the above preparation because of the following things:

  • I basically was naked with friend and attendants in very small spaces.
  • They have shoes there, but I’m not going to wear a 4″ spiked heel! I was glad to have my 1.5″ sandal for reference.
  • Testing dresses after walking in the heat of July was the key to knocking off heavy satin, full length, and mermaid gowns without a question in my mind. “They just zipped me up, and I’m overheating. This is a definite no.”
  • Photos of the try-on-athon were especially impactful thanks to my hair style and earrings; I could see myself in my future photos.
Photo from Mischelle Jillene Custom Gowns
Photo from Mischelle Jillene Custom Gowns

Other things they don’t tell you about wedding dress shopping:

Be prepared to allow the dress shop attendants to do their thing. If they’re good, they understand it’s not about price, it’s about finding a style and shape that fits you. You may initially feel like they’re not listening, but the attendant will make sure you try on any and nearly all applicable options.

That said, speak up and ask for what you REALLY want. I had to dig around for some courage to ask, “Can I try on some of your bridesmaid dresses? None of the traditional gowns are working for me.” It sounded so crazy in my head but made sense after reminding the shop that this was for a destination wedding.

Some shops have bustiers and other types of “upper management systems” at the ready. Alfred

Angelo snapped the hook and eyes of a full coverage bustier before dresses were even brought to me. I was honestly shocked! But I chose to ride that wave for the whole experience in the store, and in turn ordered one for my big day. I would have never known had they not stuffed me into one of those things.

When making appointments to visit a dress shop, ask if they have larger sizes to try on. We ran into this issue at Vera Wang. If you’re a size two and under, you can try on all the dresses you want! Otherwise hold the dresses against yourself, curiously gaze in a mirror, and wonder what it might look like on your body. I attempted to step into one gown, but my size 10 hips wouldn’t allow it, and so we left the store within five minutes of arriving.

In conclusion:

  1. Understand your problems and potential solutions. Outline what your personal requirements are for happiness, style, weather, and sex appeal.
  2. Rock your online research with the help of things like Pinterest.
  3. Acknowledge and honor the patterns that emerge. It means something!
  4. Shop early, like nine months ahead early, so you have time to find the dress when it doesn’t find you.
  5. Establish your Definition of Ready for shopping day. Make a to-do list with all the items and actions to prepare for an intense day of wedding dress shopping.
  6. Speak up and tell them what you want.
  7. But be sure to listen too and ride the wave of service – you may learn great lessons!

Engineer or not, what are YOUR dress shopping tips?

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Comments on How to shop for a wedding dress like a software engineer

  1. Hello, I am going to reference this before going dress shopping for sure. Especially sizes…I am not thrilled that in weddings dresses I’ll be a 16 or 18 and charging more for “plus sizes”… though why are they called plus sizes?! To make women feel bad is the only reason I’m aware of. The whole thing is infuriating. I think this is a great advice.

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