One of the most exciting steps in wedding planning can often be seen as the most intimidating: bridal gown shopping. For most brides, they’ve never worn anything quite like a wedding dress and it’s difficult to know where to begin. To help guide brides on their most important shopping trip, we reached out to Grace Pei, owner of JINZA Couture Bridal’s Los Angeles boutique and member of our Editors Circle to offer her expert opinion on how to make sure you love your bridal outfit and guarantee that the process goes smoothly.
Inside Weddings: Should a bride keep her daily style in mind when shopping for a wedding dress?
Grace Pei: Yes! We always believe your wedding dress should represent who you are and express your personality. Your wedding dress is a very special and unique dress that you will hopefully keep for many years. We suggest brides do their research before trying on any dresses and carefully think about wedding theme, colors, and styles. It's nice to save a few photos with dresses that catch your eye, to show bridal consultants some details that you love.
IW: How can a bride adjust her expectations if the dress she dreamed about turns out not to be the one?
GP: It's common that brides will love some styles they see online and then later find out it does not look as expected in person. It's helpful to have a particular style in mind, but also keep an open mind to try on other styles. Whether you need to adjust your expectations will depend on different situations:
- The sample dress you tried on is too big or small or the dress does not look proportional on you. Some of these could be fixed by custom fittings and alterations.
- The style does not look good on your body shape. For example, if you are a really petite bride, a ball gown might be too much to handle when you put the dress on. As an experienced stylist, I would recommend you to try a different style, like trumpet or mermaid. It might look better on your body shape. However, if you always dreamed to have a ball gown as your wedding dress, a custom-made dress might be a good idea to ensure the dress fits your body perfectly. You could always reduce the layers of the dress, and adjust the pattern a bit to fit your body.
In my opinion, choosing the right style, which is the perfect shape for your body, will be the most important advice that I could provide. You could always add/change certain details that you would love to have on your dress.
IW: What looks would you suggest for a bride who is not used to dresses?
GP: Nowadays, your wedding dress style varies depending on the type of wedding you are having. You could wear something as simple as a white knee-high dress, or a two piece with a lace top and a tulle skirt. I would say follow your heart. If you are a modern and stylish bride, you could wear a white jumpsuit and some stylish accessories, like a wedding hat or a birdcage veil.
Or if you don't want a traditional or casual wedding, go for something simple and with modern designs. For example, silk crepe or satin fabrics will be perfect for an elegant dress or jumpsuit. One of my best friends got married in a white jumpsuit with a gold necklace and earrings – it looked stunning on her!
I would suggest to make yourself comfortable and choose something you will still love in 20 years.
IW: What research should a bride do before going wedding dress shopping for the first time?
GP: I would say think about all aspects of your wedding. Is it an outdoor, indoor, rustic, or winery wedding? The choice of venue and theme will influence your wedding dress decision. Next, look on bridal blogs, like Inside Weddings or Pinterest for inspiration. It's always a great idea to have a Pinterest board or a file of your own with your gown inspirations! That way, when you go to a bridal salon the stylist will have an idea of what you like and who you are.
IW: What's the best way to narrow down gown options?
GP: Again, think about who you are and what style represents your personality. Second, think about your venue, the weather, and your wedding theme. For example, if you are having a summer beach wedding, long sleeves or a ball gown won't be the best choice. If you want a proper church wedding, lace long sleeves will work perfectly. It is very helpful to bring your loved ones to your fitting. Your mom, mother-in-law, and your bridesmaids will give you the best advice! They know you well enough to help you value your options. Third, if price is a concern, try to list out a few things that are most important to you. For example, low back, fitted and flare, or cap sleeves, etc. Lastly, try on your options again and feel the dress. Remember, you will be in this dress all day, and hopefully you want to keep it forever. You will know when you find a dress that makes you feel happy, comfortable, easy to move around, and want to keep in a nice box for many years.
IW: How many is too many in terms of trying on dresses?
GP: The answer varies. Some brides make their decision on their first visit, but some brides need some professional help to find out what style looks the best on them. I would say if you do your research properly, five to six bridal salons will be enough for you to find two to three dresses. If you don't find your dream dress, consider a custom design. That way, you can combine everything you want into one gown. You will get to see the sketch, choose your fabric and laces – it's a very unique experience to create your own dress.
IW: Do you have any tips regarding bridal accessories?
GP: A matching veil is the perfect pairing to your wedding dress. For brides who do not want to wear a veil, you have many choices these days: sparkling hair accessories, flower crowns, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. You probably will want to match your accessories with your wedding dress. For example, if you have pearls on your dress, pair it with a pearl necklace and earrings. If you have an ivory wedding dress, it looks better with gold accessories instead of silver. A nice pair of heels or sandals are also very important. One tip: schedule your hair and makeup trial before your dress fitting, and bring all of your accessories with you. It will give you an idea on how everything looks on you. This is very important!
IW: What do brides need to know about sizes/alterations when they get measured?
GP: Different salons have different ways of measuring brides. I would say it's important to ensure the stylist/seamstress know what end results you want to achieve. For example, if you want a dress with a dropped waist, you probably will want to let them know where you want the skirt to start, either at your belly button, or an inch above your belly button.
IW: What situations are best suited for having a custom dress made?
GP: If you have something in mind and you could not find something exactly like that, I would still suggest you try on dresses to make sure the style you love fits your body shape. As a designer, it makes more sense if you let us know what you want exactly (the shape, sleeves or strapless, lace or no lace) and we could help you put everything together and make the necessary changes while we construct the dress.
IW: Any additional words of wisdom for finding the perfect dress?
GP: Be yourself, be open minded, be brave, and be happy! Finding your perfect dress should not be stressful and every bride should take this chance to enjoy a pleasant journey to find your true self. Bring your loved ones to your dress fitting; you will always be surprised how much they love you!
Opening photo courtesy of Jinza Couture Bridal