Those who have never been married might wonder why brides-to-be make such a big deal out of selecting a wedding dress. But analyze the components and you'll begin to see why.
A wedding dress is often the most expensive garment a woman will ever buy and typically the only gown she will have custom-made for her. The current average price is about $1,289, according to Brides magazine, but gowns from $2,000 to $10,000 are what you're more likely to find in designer bridal salons.
The bride who dreams of a fairy-tale wedding after all the time and expense she's putting into the process has a kindred spirit in designer Claire Pettibone. Her gowns range from the ethereal to the sensual, full and floaty to body-hugging sheaths.
Pettibone, who was in Denver recently to meet brides at Little White Dress Shop, says there have been a lot of changes in the industry since she began designing 18 years ago. "There are fewer rules and more of an acceptance of the individual," she says. "If a traditional wedding is right for you, fine, but there's a knowledge that it's a personal thing."
For her spring collection, Pettibone was inspired by the French countryside in creating dresses that are "beautiful but relaxed." Ensembles such as a cotton toile strapless dress overlaid with embroidered tulle and topped with a ruffled-sleeve bolero are far from traditional, and over-the-top romantic. Another style in silk, simply cut with a V-neckline and capped sleeves in lace, has a silver lace belt and a full lace skirt. French blue, gold and silver also figure into Pettibone's color scheme. "Pure white," she notes, "is hard for many women to wear."
Her message is to make the process fun and to fully indulge fantasies of what you want to look like. That said, there are some practicalities to consider. Pettibone's advice:
• Be careful about who you choose to come with you when you try on gowns. A trusted friend, your sister or your mother can be perfect, but don't select a dress based on what others say; you have to love it.
• Have an idea of the type of dress you want so you won't be overwhelmed by the selection. Depending on your personal style and the type of wedding you're having, you should be able to narrow down to a dress that is formal or informal, ultraromantic or more modern.
• Don't overdo it. Trying on any more than six to eight dresses in a single store can wear you down. After the first few, you'll have an idea of what you like, and what flatters you. The store's bridal consultant should be able to pick up on that as well as direct you to dresses that fit your requirements. Cate Malone, owner of Little White Dress Shop in Denver, offers these suggestions on dress shopping:
• It's okay to bring two or three people with you, but it will muddy the water if you get too many points of view.
• Give yourself plenty of time. Four months is a minimum to have the dress made and shipped to the store and have alterations made. You also need to allow time for planning your accessories.
• Shop with an open mind. You may think you want a slim dress, but when you try on a full-skirted ball gown and feel transformed, you might want to think about that.
• Find a sales associate you can trust. The associate should be able to look at your size and body type to help you find the most flattering silhouette, and to factor in things as your budget, wedding type (formal, church, beach, etc.) to steer you in the right direction.
• Know your budget, and where you might be able to make adjustments if you decide to spend a little more or a little less.