Weddings are special days for couples tying the knot. But even the most carefully planned wedding requires some patience and perseverance. For brides-to-be, finding the right gown is one element of wedding planning that calls for patience and persistence.

Trial and error is often part of the process as women look for the perfect wedding gown. Brides-to-be who have a specific style in mind may find that their dream gown doesn’t always live up to expectations, while another style of dress they never imagined wearing turns out to be a stunner.

Another challenge many women face when gown shopping is that many wedding gowns are styled and geared toward women with slender figures, making the process of selecting a gown for a curvier bride a bit more difficult. But any bride, regardless of size or figure, can find the ideal dress, especially when she employs the following tips.

* Sample sizes fit a select few. Bridal shops carry a range of dresses but may only stock one or two sample dresses. For economy, these samples are a median size that are intended to fit as many shoppers as possible. Such gowns are usually in the neighborhood of a size 10. Most women, whether petite or plus-size, will not fit into the sample, so do not get discouraged.

* Visit large retail chains. Popular wedding dress chains, such as David’s Bridal, may have a wider selection of sample dresses in larger sizes. Department stores as well as designers who specialize in plus-size gowns also make good resources.

* Call bridal stores in advance to schedule your visits. Your time is precious, so call bridal shops prior to visiting and explain to them your size and what you are looking for in a gown. This will ensure you aren’t wasting your time driving to stores that can’t provide what you want.


* Select the right fabrics. Heavier fabrics like taffeta, silk dupioni and satin may conceal better than others and can be ruched to camouflage areas you want to minimize.

* Use salespeople as a resource. The right salesperson can make wedding shopping much easier and far more pleasant. Don’t rest until you find someone who is excited to work with you and will give you his or her honest opinion and recommendations.

* Dresses can be altered. Every bride needs some alterations made to her dress to achieve the perfect fit. Plus-sized brides may need a few extras. A dress is unlikely to meet all of your needs right off the rack, so find a good seamstress who can alter your dress to meet your needs. Sleeves can be put on, dresses can be shortened, support can be added, and many customizations can be done to a gown post-production.

* Find a flattering shape. Choose a gown with a full-skirt or an A-line skirt with an empire or a dropped-waist seam that will elongate your midriff and flow away from your hips. Curvier brides typically avoid strapless gowns, as such dresses have a tendency to make a woman’s shoulders and arms look wider.

* Don’t get stuck on size. Sizes vary widely depending on the manufacturer. Wedding gowns tend to be labeled with couture sizes, which are much smaller than street sizes. A good salesperson should have a reasonable conversion chart or will choose sizes based on your measurements alone. Ignore the size on the tag and go for the gown that fits.

* Never settle for less. Whether it’s a gown that’s not flattering or a salesperson who is rude or chastises you for not being the ideal size, do not settle for anything less than a great gown and attentive service. Bridal stores compete for business, so if a given shop does not meet your expectations, don’t hesitate to work with a rival store. 

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