5 Must-Read Tips for Finding Your Dream Dress

Guess what? I found my dress!

A few weeks ago, my mom drove down to Tallahassee with one mission in mind: Dress shopping. Because she lives in Pittsburgh, we were determined to find something by the end of her visit. So, we were doing three stores in three days. The process of shopping and trying on wedding dresses was interesting and I wanted to share what I learned with you.

wedding dress
Photo by: Vanessa Joy Photography on Style Unveiled via Lover.ly

1. Put any preconceived notions aside.
Going into this experience, I told all of the sales associates I worked with that I was fairly open to trying on different styles (within reason, of course). I didn’t want anything too poufy or with so much fabric that I could barely walk without having my bridesmaids carrying the dress behind me.

But, I definitely still had some thoughts. I thought I wanted a simple, A-line, lightweight dress. I didn’t want anything that was super tight and A-line seemed to be the best for my figure. And I wound up with a ball gown.

2. Learn which design elements work best for your figure.
At the first store, nothing I tried on looked that great on me. I put a dress on hold there, but I wasn’t really crazy about it. Of everything I had tried on, it looked the best. But, it didn’t really do anything for me.

So, I entered Day Two of shopping with an almost resigned attitude. And then I discovered the wonderful world of Maggie Sottero. Brides talk about that “wow” moment. Let’s just say I had several “wow” moments when my mom and I visited a locally owned bridal salon, The New Image, in Thomasville, GA.

During Day One, we discovered that wearing a belt or sash at the waist was very helpful to me. It gave definition to my waist and was much more flattering than a straight dress. So, at the second store, I carefully selected dresses with belts or defined waists.

When I walked out in the first dress, I couldn’t believe it. Neither could my mom. It was so beautiful, and by the end of day two of shopping, the dress I had put on hold was a distant memory. Maggie Sottero had won my heart, and I found it hard to believe that I would find anything at the third store that compared.

3. Consider including your future mother-in-law.
On day three of shopping, my mom and I met up with my future mother-in-law in Jacksonville, which is halfway between Tallahassee and Satellite Beach. Since the two had never met and I was unsure if there would be another chance for them to meet pre-wedding, I invited my fiancé Gray’s mom to come along with us.

It was really important to me for them to spend some time together. Luckily, they got along great and spent a lot of time talking as I tried on dresses at the third store. And that is where we found The One.

4. If you're feeling dress fatigued, step away and get a fresh new perspective.
I’d tried on nine dresses at first store in Tallahassee and 12 at the store in Georgia. And nearly every dress I tried on at the second store was a winner, though I had narrowed it down to two based on comfort and the venue. So, when I started trying on dresses at The Bridal Shop in Jacksonville, we both just saw more pretty dresses.

My future mother-in-law, however, was more selective because she hadn’t been there for the first two days. When I came out in a Cinderella-style dress that I was never going to choose, she made a comment that the top of it was very pretty and fit me well. So, a sales associate at the store grabbed a different one off the rack that she loved.

5. You'll know when you've found the right dress!
And that was it. A ball gown designed by Allure. When I walked out in the dress, my future mother-in-law lit up in a way that was completely different from any previous dress. My sister and a close friend gave immediate approval via text message. It looked so beautiful and flattering. I’m pretty sure my waist is not that small and there is some sort of optical illusion going on there.

I paid for it on the spot and now have to suffer through the four to five months it will take to arrive and then the additional months before I get to wear it again. I did hit my max budget with it, but I really couldn’t stop thinking about it once I tried it on at the store.

I can’t wait to wear it next October. It really was a “wow” moment.

Tell us: How many dresses did you try on before you found The One?

— Kathleen Haughney


Kathleen Haughney, a native of Pittsburgh, and her fiancé, Gray, work as journalists in Tallahassee, FL. The couple met in November 2010 and were engaged this past Memorial Day. They are currently planning a 50's/60's beach themed wedding that will take place in Florida's Space Coast.