Choosing Your Wedding Dress

The wedding dress is an important symbol of the solemnity and beauty of marriage. It marks the moment when a young woman passes from the virginal, springtime realm of girlhood to the fruitful maturity of married life where she will produce children. In this transitional rite, the bride often takes on the appearance of death and rebirth, and her gowns have been designed to reflect this theme.

With the advent of mass media, including magazines and television, bridal styles have become more varied. Runway designers like Oscar de la Renta and Vera Wang have pushed the boundaries of traditional bridal fashion by adding color, textured fabrics and other elements to the wedding gown. A new generation of brides has also embraced non-white dresses, with off-white hues such as ivory and cream now considered classics.

When choosing your wedding dress, consider the following:

The neckline is one of the most important aspects of a gown since it frames the neck and face. It is also the first thing people will notice. There are a variety of necklines to choose from, each with its own distinct look. Portrait, square and sweetheart necklines are more conservative, while bateau, jewel, one-shoulder and off-the-shoulder necklines reveal more of the chest and collarbones. Sleeves are also a major consideration, from minimal cap sleeves to maxi puff sleeves and spaghetti straps.

The bodice is the connecting part between the neckline and waistline, defining the shape of the dress along your bust. It can be as decorative as the rest of the dress, with details like cutouts, lace appliques and embroidery all available to add interest and texture. A simple lace bodice can be accentuated with beaded or embroidered accents, while a strapless neckline can be given a sexy upgrade with a bustier underwire cup.

Once the bodice is perfect, it’s time to decide on the skirt and train. A floor-sweeping gown with a chapel or cathedral length train is typically considered the most formal, while shorter trains like Watteau and sweep trains barely touch the ground and are more casual. A bustle, a discreet set of hooks or buttons that are sewn onto the back of the skirt or bodice, can be added to create a dramatic effect for photos and dance floor action.

After finding the dream dress, keep it safe in a garment bag until you need it, or have it stowed away at home where it will be safe from wine spills, lipstick stains and other wear and tear. Some salons will store the dress for you, though many brides prefer to keep their dresses at a friend or family member’s house so that they can be kept clean and free from snags and other problems. Regardless of where you store it, make sure to keep it in a breathable fabric that won’t be damaged by cigarette smoke or other irritants. It’s also a good idea to check the dress once or twice before the big day, in order to avoid last-minute surprises.

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