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Bridal | Gown Shopping Checklist

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

As the days go by I file little bits of information that I become aware of somewhere deep in the brain thinking yes that can be added to a blog at some stage. However there comes a time when it all has to come out onto paper to 1. get it all out of my brain and 2. just to help others, and luckily I have my Theadelicious blog to collect it all in.

One topic that has particularly caught my eye recently is some of the issues my brides are bringing in when they come to my studio for alterations/redesigns with their newly purchased wedding gowns.

Some of these issues could have been dealt with in the store or seem at first sight to be common sense but as these issues come in to me time and time again it seems to me that this information is not really out there and it could be useful for brides as a checklist of what to look for when making a purchase for their dream gown.

I know there is lots of information out there about what style you should pick and whether you take an entourage shopping with you but I think that there are some important points that are being missed. So much so that I have even contemplated offering a bridal shopping service.

Anyhow…… if you are a bride looking for a gown, the bridal shop do not want you to leave the store without buying but you need to get bridal gown savvy!

If you think you have found the dream gown, before you send the assistant dresser over to the sales counter please consider the following points, not in any particular order…

Gown Considerations Pre-Purchase

  • Although you may have a view of what you want to buy, keep an open mind. You might find that style does not suit you or you just cannot purchase what you want, although gowns can be changed to look more like what you had in mind......

  • Learn what style gown suits your body size/shape even if you have to try on 50 gowns.

  • Use tools such as Pinterest for inspiration, Threadelicious has a Wedding board on Pinterest that you can use as a starting point

  • Check the gown fits! I know I know but just because it is cheap if it is 3 sizes too small…… take a breath and reconsider! You may end up paying so much more in alteration costs. Although anything is possible changing a gown down in size can be involved, and changing a gown up in size may require extra fabric, lace, beading etc. (which you should ask the store owner to check with the manufacturer that they can supply before you commit to buying). Always buy the gown bigger if possible as it is easier to go down in size and potentially less costly.

  • Check the gown fully inside and out for damage, tearing, strained stitches, straps, ripped lace, missing beading, missing hooks, bent boning etc.

  • Check the gown for stains (blood (YES!), makeup, dirt, deodorant) inside and out, on the underskirts, around the neckline, around the armholes.

  • If you have a more voluptuous figure look for a gown that has;

Support Internally, wider than ¼” boning at all seams at a minimum,

Or an internal corset,

Substantial straps. Any store owner trying to sell you anything less is not aware of the support you need. Although a gown does not support your bust per say, your underwear gives you the support, you still need the gown to be adequate so that it does not collapse. Having said that any good designer/maker can add internal corsetry and straps etc.

Alteration/Design Change Considerations

  • It is usually cheaper to buy the gown and have it altered or redesigned than having it made for you. Usually any alteration and design change is possible with some consideration, so if you really love the gown and have the budget then go for it.

  • Determine how you are going to deal with your weight because a few pounds up and down will change the fit of the gown, and communicate this to your Designer/Maker.

  • If you are buying from a store remember that the gown has not been made for you so no doubt you will need alterations so budget for that. Alterations include things like hemming the gown, mending a strap, tightening a strap, fixing bent boning. No matter what they tell you in the store to make the sale it DOES NOT cost $10 to take up a gown hem!In fact a gown hem can be the most costly out of all gown alterations. Allow at least 30% of your gown cost as a starting point for alterations if you think that you are going to need them.

  • Changing the design of the gown is NOT an alteration it is a redesign. Wedding gown construction can be challenging, sometimes even changing the length of the gown can be determined to be a design change if the gown has a lace base as the gown may need to be taken apart at the waist and reshaped and put back together to drape correctly. Design changes are things like adding sleeves, adding support, taking out the back etc. Redesigns can take hours to complete and can be upwards of 50% of the gown cost so ensure you are sure you want to do the change.

  • If you need Alterations or Design changes, ensure you go to an experienced couture designer maker because changing one part of the gown can affect another and changing a gown that is already constructed is complicated and time consuming. Hand stitching is inevitable!

  • Articulate what you want and stay open to what the designer/maker says the gown needs to give you the best shape. Your designer/maker is your style guru check and balance. They should be able to give you a quote after a fitting for all options and then you can decide how that fits into your budget.

  • Before any fitting get your bra/spanx/corset or underwear and shoes organised and no changing your mind. The gown will be fitted to these items and changing them will alter the fit of the gown, so you take a risk if you are indecisive.

  • Expect to have fittings if you want to change the gown! Changing a gown is complicated and the work should be done methodically. This can mean multiple fittings and meetings to ensure that your designer/maker understands and also agrees that the idea is workable and fit for purpose.

  • Following on from that, do not leave your alterations/redesign until the last minute, allow yourself at least 6 weeks if possible especially if your request seems complicated in the slightest. Sometimes what you think is simple is not, simply because of the complexity of gown construction.

Most Designer/Maker/Seamstresses that are experienced have a myriad of talents and believe me when they quote for you they will no doubt be spending so much more time on your gown that you are willing to pay for. It is a very time consuming art form. Altering a gown that is already constructed is so very complex and as each gown is different can be a challenge at every turn. So look for someone who is passionate about what they do and loves working on Bridal gowns because you will have already won half the battle.

I hope the points raised above were useful and I have faith that destiny will take you to the gown of your dreams!

Remember to consider Threadelicious for all of your Bridal, Bridesmaid, Mother of the Bride requirements!

Love and Light

Amanda Goldsmith

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