The WeddingWise Guide to Choosing Your Wedding Dress

Steff Green • April 29, 2014
The WeddingWise Guide to Choosing Your Wedding Dress - WeddingWise Articles

After finding the perfect partner, choosing the wedding dress is probably the hardest decision any bride faces. You know that on your wedding day all eyes will be on you, and you want to look fabulous. But there are so many dresses to choose from, how can you possibly find that one dress that will make your heart sing?

Here at WeddingWise, we’ve compiled this simple guide to everything you need to know about choosing a wedding dress. By using this guide to colours, cuts, fabrics and styles, you’ll soon find the dress that’s perfect for you.

Find the best wedding dress designers and shops in the WeddingWise directory, and search for wedding dress inspiration in the Lookbook.

The WeddingWise Guide to Choosing Your Wedding Dress - WeddingWise Articles

The Colour

The vast majority of wedding dresses sold are white. However, now more than ever, alternative colours are being embraced. When you start looking for a wedding dress, think about whether you want colour or not – it may seem weird after seeing so many white dresses in stores and in movies, but colour is definitely not to be feared! Even if you opt for a white or off-white dress, you can add a pop of colour with ribbon, beading, accessories and coloured crinolines.

  • White: Ever since Queen Victoria wore a white lace dress for her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840, the “traditional” colour for wedding dresses has been white.
  • Off white, cream, ivory: If you find pure white too stark but still want that traditional look, opt for a colour that’s mostly white: off-white, cream and ivory are extremely popular alternatives for brides.
  • Red: Deep and passionate, a red wedding dress will definitely make a statement. Red is the traditional colour for wedding dresses in India and many parts of Asia.
  • Pink: Whether it’s a subtle pastel hue or a bold fuchsia, pink is a colour that demands attention.
  • Blue: In medieval Europe, blue symbolised purity and chastity, and a brides would often wear a blue dress or carry some type of blue fabric – the origin of our “something blue” tradition.
  • Black: Black dresses are particularly popular at gothic and alternative weddings, and will also look stunning at a sophisticated cocktail wedding. Tone down all that black with sparkling accessories and a touch of colour in your bag or shoes.

Of course, dresses come in all the colours of the rainbow, with green, purple, orange and even grey becoming increasingly popular. Choose a colour that fits your personality!

The WeddingWise Guide to Choosing Your Wedding Dress - WeddingWise Articles

The Cut

The cut refers to the way the dress is shaped and styled. Every bride should try on a few dresses with different cuts to get an idea of what looks best on her figure. All brides can find a dress that makes them look gorgeous – it’s all about flaunting your best features. Here are some basic guidelines to help you choose a cut that will flatter your figure:

  • If you’re pear-shaped, or want to hide your hips/thighs, try: A dress with a tight bodice (to accentuate your bust) and a full skirt that flares out over your hips. This draws attention to your waist and away from larger hips.
  • If you’re tall and waifish, try: a simple, sleek silhouette. Look for floaty fabrics and elegant drapes and folds. Too much embellishment on a taller frame can look quite kitschy, so keep the bling to a minimum.
  • If you’re athletic or “straight-up-and-down”, try: a fishtail, trumpet or bias-cut skirt. That flare at the bottom will give you the sultry silhouette you want. If possible, avoid sleeves to show off those sexy sculpted arms.
  • If you’re petite, try: an empire-cut dress – by cutting the dress above your natural waist, you give the illusion of more height. Keep embellishments petite too, as larger adornments will swamp your figure.
  • If you’re lacking in the chest area, try: V-necks, halter necks or ruched bodices give the allusion of more. You can also add a bit of padding here – go on, be cheeky, it’s your wedding day after all!
  • If you’re busty, try: a scooped or sweetheart neckline, to lift, flatter and flaunt those beauties without making you look scandalous. It’s best to opt for more matte materials as shiny silks and satins can make your bust appear larger.

The WeddingWise Guide to Choosing Your Wedding Dress - WeddingWise Articles

The Style

While a bride should be able to choose whatever she wants to wear to her wedding, you’re going to feel strange wearing an old-fashioned Victorian gown with a full train to a cocktail reception in an art gallery, or donning your vintage tea-length dress in a cathedral. Think about the type of wedding you’re planning, and choose to look at styles and shapes that match the theme and occasion.

You should also think about seasonality when choosing your dress. Is it going to be warm outside, or cold? Are you having an indoor or outdoor event? What’s the temperature like at your venue? Is there likely to be wind? All these questions will influence your dress choice.

Popular wedding dress styles:

  • A-line: Called thus because the shape mimics the letter A – a tight bodice with a flared skirt. Often called princess dresses, A-line gowns often have a significant train.
  • Ballgown: Like the A-line, but more extreme, ballgowns are often known as “fairy tale dresses”.
  • Trumpet: This style is fitted through to mid-thigh, where the skirt flares out dramatically.
  • Sheath: a vertical style where fabric drapes straight down with no flare. Usually made from thinner, more floaty materials.
  • Tea-length: A dress that stops just below the knee. These usually have a flared skirt and look fantastic with a coloured ribbon around the waist and a matching crinoline.
  • Empire: A simple sheath dress where the skirt begins just below the bust.
  • Mermaid: A figure-hugging dress that flares out below the knees into a full skirt.

The Fabric

Wedding dresses come in a variety of fabrics, each used for a certain purpose and to give a certain look. Here are some of the most popular dress fabrics:

The WeddingWise Guide to Choosing Your Wedding Dress - WeddingWise Articles

  • Satin: Most wedding gowns are made from some type of satin, which is a smooth fabric with a glossy surface on one side. It holds shape well and can be made in a variety of thicknesses and colours, and can vary drastically in price and quality.
  • Silk: rich, sumptuous and elegant, silk has a beautiful sheen and will make a stunning wedding gown. A more costly option than satin, a silk gown will definitely turn heads!
  • Chiffon: a thin, transparent fabric usually made from nylon, silk, or rayon. Chiffon is floaty and dreamy, and is often used for creating beautiful drapes and overlays.
  • Organza: another sheer fabric that is stiffer than chiffon. Organza has a beautiful shimmer in the light, and is often used as an overlay on skirts.
  • Tulle: A thin, transparent netting made by machine, tulle is commonly used to make petticoats, veils and overlays. If you want your dress to “poof” then you’re going to need lots of tulle.

The Embellishments

Beads, sashes, ribbon, fabric flowers, embroidery, broaches and other “bling” can transform an everyday dress into something really unique. When choosing embellishments, think about what appeals to you and what will be easy and comfortable to wear. Look for contrasting colours to add visual interest.

So, now that you know all the different styles, cuts, lengths, colours and fabrics that go in to creating a wedding dress, it’s time to get out there and start looking for your own. Remember, don’t feel restricted by what you’re told is “traditional” or a “must-have” – choose a dress that makes you feel fabulous.

What style wedding dress will you choose? Let us know your favourites in the comments.

Find the best wedding dress designers and shops in the WeddingWise directory, and search for wedding dress inspiration in the Lookbook.


Steff Green
Steff Green
WeddingWise Blogger

Steff Green is a freelance writer, blogger and alternative wedding celebrant based in Auckland. Check out her celebrant services and blog for fun, weird and unique weddings at And keep an eye out for her gothic wedding book, Till Death Do Us Part, coming out soon.

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