Brides come in all shapes and sizes as do bridal gowns. When flipping through magazines or watching popular bridal programs including “Say Yes To the Dress,” it’s easy to find a dress to build a dream on.

The challenge is to find a dress that suits the bride’s figure while maintaining her vision for her wedding day.

According to Francine “Frankie” Peters, owner of Formal Image in Lewiston, there are six basic shapes for bridal gowns: A-line or princess, ball gown, sheath, fit-and-flare, mermaid, and empire.

The A-line shape, flattering for all figures, is the traditional look of the classic bride. The ball gown is the shape of which fairytale dresses are made. Cinderella, Arielle, Belle, and Aurora all wore gowns with the fitted waists and full skirts that swept their way across a dance floor.

The sheath is straight the entire length of the gown, and the empire’s skirt begins just beneath the bust and flares out with no waistline at all. The fit-and-flare gown features a fitted-to-the-hip bodice with a flared skirt (hence the name). Likewise, the mermaid is fitted to the knee with a slightly flared finish.

Peters suggested, “Shop with an open mind. A bride comes in with a picture in her mind of something she may have seen as a young girl. She’s carried that picture so long, that’s all she thinks is out there.”

Peters said that often brides come into her shop to try on what they think is “the perfect dress” only to discover it is not what they imagined. That needn’t mean the dress dream falls flat.

“Try on different styles,” advised Peters. “When a bride comes out in a dress, the first thing we ask is ‘What do you see – you or the dress?’ When a girl comes down the aisle, she doesn’t want people saying ‘Here comes the dress, and Oh! There’s a girl inside!’ The goal is to turn the focus from the dress to the girl. Then we can maximize the look. ‘Princess’ doesn’t have to mean a big, overdone skirt.”

The dream dress is often revealed in the details. Peters reminds brides to use beading, veils, tiaras, and jewelry to finish a desired look and make their dresses unique to them. Most bridal salons are able to make alterations to a gown to personalize fit and add details including covered buttons, more or less crinoline, and appliques to a skirt .

Having a gown designed specifically for you, however, is also an option but requires planning. Veronica Cedre, owner of Veronica’s Creations in Greene, Maine offers free consultations and designs specialty dresses and gowns for all occasions.

“Brides usually come to me with pictures of what they would like,” said Cedre. “To design a dress, I need six to eight months ahead of the wedding to allow for ordering of fabric and to allow time for hand beading which is a lot of work.”

With so many style options and detailing available, there is a perfect dress for every bride.

Peters said, “A bride knows when a dress is the right one for her. It will suit her personality and anything she tries after that dress will be compared to it. When she looks in the mirror and says ‘I didn’t know I could look so beautiful,’ she’ll know she’s found her dress!”

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