Things I’ve learnt about wedding dresses.

From here
Over the course of the engagement, I have had much (self-inflicted) dress stress. I *know* that really, it’s just a dress, but something inside me can’t let go of the wedding industry mantra that ‘the dress is the most important thing’, and that the day is all about looking beautiful. In fairness, I like to attempt to look semi-attractive on most average days, so it was highly likely that I was going to put a fair bit of thought into how I was going to look. I am also, however notoriously indecisive – hence the dress stress. 

So I thought I should write down all of the things I’ve learnt about wedding dresses and the never ending search for the perfect one. I fully understand that not one of you early brides, still in the excited flushed states of new engagement, yet to make the foray into a real life bridal shop, will take a blind bit of notice. I know I wouldn’t have when I first started to look at dresses. But it helps me to right it down, so I’m going to do it anyway. Ok?

For newish followers, you might want to check out my ‘dress debacle‘ to get a bit of a background . I have, older followers may wish to know, now found a solution to my problem. If I told you what it was though, I’d have to kill you. Check back in 9 weeks to see it in all its glory.

So, on with the things I’ve learned….

1. Wedding dresses are designed to make you look good.

I have still to prove this point to my (non-married) friends who came along to the marathon dress sessions, but they really really are. I had so many comments along the lines of ‘oh you’ve obviously got the figure for wedding dresses’. NO. I really don’t – you will all look good in the right wedding dress. They suck you up, pull you in, push you out in the most incredible ways. So don’t be afraid of the wedding dress. It is your friend.

2. You can try on too many dresses.

I know I know. Right now, this seems impossible. Too many of those little beauties? Surely not. But you really can. I am living proof of this. I have come to the conclusion that you have to liken the search to finding the right man (bear with me on this).

You go out, with an open mind, not quite sure of what you’re going to end up with, but having a few specifics that are non-negotiable. You try a few out for size. Some really do nothing for you. Some seem like a good fit, but something just doesn’t feel right. Some are so hideous you can’t even bring yourself to show them to your friends. But then you find one that just seems to…fit. Everything about it makes you feel good (even if it does have a couple of annoying little things about it – nothings perfect). You don’t like the idea of leaving it in the shop for other ladies to try on. Just thinking about it gives you little fissions of excitement. This is when you should commit. Take the plunge. Do the deal.

What you shouldn’t do (either in reference to searching for a man, or a wedding dress), is continue to search, ‘just in case’, there is something better out there.

Take it from me. This will mess with your mind. There is no way in the world you can try on every dress out there. There will always be different dresses, and prettier dresses/sexier dresses/insert relevant adjective to you here dresses. But you fell for one because it was right for you. Much like with your man, you decided that this was the one for you, despite its non-perfectness. Because it made you feel like you want to feel.

Looking at too many will just confuse you – you will end up in a vortex of dress shopping distress, with no way out. Every dress will morph into another dress. You’ll like different aspects of 18 dresses, none of which can be combined. You’ll get flustered and stressed, and maybe even cry at an innocent wedding dress shop owner. Or that might just be me. But anyway, the point is, don’t try on too many dresses ladies. Look around, get an idea of what you like, and when the right one comes along, snap it up.

3. You might not get the ever mentioned feeling of ‘the one’.

I didn’t. So stop worrying. You might not cry, or get overwhelmed, or feel sick with excitement. Some people just don’t. It doesn’t mean your dress isn’t going to look flippin wonderful on the day. There are actually several dresses that I liked enough to have chosen. In the end, you have to narrow it down to how you want to feel on the day (sexy/pretty/elegant/again, please feel free to insert your own adjective here), and go with the dress that makes you feel most ‘that’. And then stop looking (see point 2).

4. Buying a dress from a bridal boutique isn’t the only way.

I know I know…everyone tells you that. But really, deep down inside, you want the special experience of buying a dress from a vintage-esque bridal salon. I know you do. I did. So I ignored everyone and went head first into Dress Shopping at Wedding Dress Shops. Which in all honesty, was actually a bit of a disappointment. I know that there ARE these wonderful vintage-esque boutiques out there, but none that I could find in my area, and none that made me feel all that special. In most I was very aware that I was a customer. A mark. A potential sale for them. I knew that they would have told me I looked beautiful wrapped in the changing room curtain if I’d have shown signs of buying it. But I went ahead and bought a dress from one anyway.

What I WISH I’d done, and would recommend to any one, is go to a couple of boutiques, try on dresses, see what styles you like, what colours work for you, what you would neverconsiderinamillionyears. If, during this time, you fall head over heels in love with a dress, and its at a price that you feel comfortable with, go for it.

If you don’t though, do not despair. What I would recommend then is looking elsewhere. Look on the high street, look at sample sales, go to charity shops, go to a dressmaker, use the internet. Really people. By going to dress shops only, I was sucked into the belief that spending the equivalent of a months salary was the only way to find your dress. This is not true. There are so many other options out there. So many in fact, that right this minute, as I type, I’ve decided to do a whole separate post on this. Keep an eye out for it.

5. It is important that you like your dress.

You don’t need to love it. This is a myth. If you do, great. I don’t think I will ever *love* a dress, and I’ve come to terms with that now. You do however, need to like your dress. I mean really like it. Somehow, the first dress I chose I now don’t even like, which would definitely have put a downer on the day. My new dress I will like. I know I will. And that’s all that’s important.

Categories: Wedding Planning, Wedding Pretty
16 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted September 15, 2010 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    This is a brilliant post and so very true! I put my dress on and that was it. It wasn't THE ONE but it was fabulous, and sucked me in where I needed it and made me feel how I wanted. The thing that makes the dress though is the bride. And I'm very excited to see you in your dress in 9 weeks!

  2. Posted September 15, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Would definitely agree with all of your points. I tried on lots of dresses that suited me and that I thought I looked good in, but it wasn't until I tried on my dress that I could actually picture myself walking down the aisle in one, and knowing that it was the kind of thing my husband would love helped as well!

    One thing I would add (well, based on my experience) is to go with your gut. I knew that I didn't want a strapless dress, yet the first dress shop I went to said "that's what a lot of brides always say but you'll end up with something completely different to what you think you want". I tried on lots of strapless dresses in that shop, and elsewhere, and though I looked good in them, they just weren't "me". What did I end up with? A dress with straps, just like I said I wanted. So don't let yourself get convinced by the dress shop that you want something else – you're the only one who really knows what's right for you!

    Looking forward to seeing yours – not long at all now!

  3. Posted September 15, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    I agree with all of this! I think the best advice to give brides is to just remember who you are…don't feel pressurised into buying a dress which you're unsure about, or which isn't 'you'.
    I've never ever wanted to go fully bridal. I wanted no train, no embellishment and no corset etc – I just wanted simple and elegant. But the closer I get to the wedding (Saturday!), the more I'm panicking about not being bridey enough, which is ridiculous!
    Just make sure you're happy and that you stay true to yourself. Be a princess if that's what you want, or go for something slightly more simple if that's you. :)

  4. Posted September 15, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    There is so many myths about wedding dresses about so it's great to hear the reality.
    I only tried on 11 dresses but the second one i tried on was 'the one' but I didn't cry or feel butterflies but I just knew that it was the dress for me.

    Blogs and Twitter have made me doubt my dress choice so many times as I haven't gone for the more stylish dresses a lot of brides are going for at the moment. But I realised that it doesnt matter what people think as long as I like it and feel comfortable in it.

  5. Posted September 15, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    @Marie – that was exactly what I was talking about. It sucks you in, makes you feel great, and you like how you look in it. Tick all those off, you've got a winner.

    @emma – oh…and in addition to the above, you think your man will like it. To some people this isn't so important, but to me, it was one of my only concerns – was he going to be chuffed to bits to see me walking down the aisle in what I've chosen to wear. And don't get me started on the straps issue. The second shop I walked into told me that I was too short for straps. Not what I needed to hear, and actually, untrue.

    @sam – Sam, you are one of the inspirations for this post. I've seen your dress and I know how bloody brilliant you're going to look in it. I can't wait for your after wedding post. Have the most fabulous day on Saturday – you both totally deserve it!


  6. Posted September 15, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    @tattybojangles – I know what you mean – I'm sure before the advent of twitter/blogs not nearly as many of us would have had dress wobbles. Seeing and hearing about other dresses all day long is bound to confuse you. If you had that feeling after only the second dress, lucky you. Can't wait to see it.

  7. Posted September 15, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant insightful article. Im even thinking of keeping my 'not the one' dress now so thank you :-) x x

  8. sam_thorne
    Posted September 15, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    It's so lovely to hear from other brides who feel the same way! I also feel more concerned after reading all the wedding mags / twitter and seeing all those princessy dresses…sometimes I wish I hadn't been so laid-back about my dress! But I know if my OH saw me walk down the aisle in anything too bridey, he wouldn't recognise me.

    Thanks Fliss – I'm glad you like the dress! That actually means a lot and helps with the nerves!!

  9. Posted September 15, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    I could have happily worn several dresses down the aisle!

    My tip is to have at least one thing in mind (I wanted buttons all the way down the back) and stick to a budget! I ended up getting the one I wanted in a sample sale :)

    Looking forward to seeing your dress

    Laura x

  10. Posted September 15, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Fab post Miss Fliss, I really wish I could have read this post before I started shopping.

    Absolutely hated the search for my dress there's so much pressure on choosing the right one and experiencing the oh-my-god-it's-the-one moment. I didn't even decide mine was right until the second time I tried it on.


  11. Aisling
    Posted September 15, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    As someone who tried on ONE wedding dress in ONE bridal boutique and didn't even buy said dress, I am possibly the least qualified Bride to comment on that side of the experience.

    What I am totally qualified to say is that when the dress is The One, you know. And you don't have to KNOW in terms of tears and singing cherubs and sunshine shining through the window to illuminate you in all your Bridal Glory. You can just know, in a very calm, happy, satisfied way.

    This is how it was for me. And not in terms of 15 different dresses, but rather 15 versions of my dress. My darling 1930s charity shop number went through all manner of alterations at mine and my Mum's hands, each time I tried it on it was a case of much squinting, head-cocking and general 'Hmmmm-nearly. But not quite…' from my whole family-my Dad and brothers were in on the act too as I stood swathed in cream silk on my parents kitchen table! After a piece of lace had been added to the bust, I tried the dress on again to check the pinning for the 15th time and suddenly There It Was. My dress.

    No drama, minimal fuss. You just know.



  12. Posted September 15, 2010 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    you know. this post made me realize that the reason i chose my wedding dress is because it made me look good and i felt comfortable. that's all i really wanted at the end of the day. it ended up working really well with my husband's suit and the look/feel of our wedding. i wasn't really set on finding the one. i just wanted something that fit and made me feel good. that's what i got. :)

    thanks for this post, btw.

  13. Posted September 16, 2010 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    @Lou – your dress is so lovely – I definitely think you should keep it… but that's just my opinion. If you don't 'like' it, it's not good enough…but I think you do…?! xx

    @laura aka Lobster Love – I like that idea. Have one thing that it MUST have, and work from there.

    @laura – Is it any ownder you felt like that, particularly after yesterday's experience. BUT, you have a dress that you love, and that is something to be proud of – not all of us can say that!

    @angie – I LOVED your dress – it was perfect for your wedding and perfect for you. You could so tell you felt good in it (the grin in most of the pics gives it away…)

  14. Alex
    Posted September 20, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Hello – I've never commented before but I followed you over here from RMW (which I also LOVE) and I just wanted to thank you so much for this post!

    I bought my dress this weekend and it was a bit of an anti-climax, not the "shaft of golden light from the heavens, birdsong, Disney chord" experience that so many people talk about. It was actually the first dress I'd tried on, from the first shop – although I did try on lots of others before buying it – and I panicked that it seemed too easy!

    I am the world's worst ditherer, so I have been worrying if I should be searching for longer…but it fell into my lap as if it's meant to be. Your post has stopped me worrying, so thank you!

  15. Posted September 21, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    I have had dress troubles. It has drove me barmy. I think you're right, sometimes you can't ever LOVE a dress.

    I was actually talked out of buying a dress I really, really like and I've regretted it ever since. But I like the one I've got now. When I get to wear it, however, I imagine it will be very out of date ;) x

  16. Posted October 27, 2012 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much for this post, even though I know you must now be well past the dress stress, I am currently going through the same type of debacle. As an indecisive person, I totally identify with what you have written, I have bought a wedding dress but am having anxiety about it (typically!) But I am now inspired to give myself a bit of a break about it, knowing it doesn’t have to be the ‘right’ one. Thanks!

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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