10 Tips for Stress-Free Dress Shopping

You should feel beautiful, happy, and confident in whatever you choose to wear for your wedding day. But unless you live in a vacuum, it’s hard to stick to your vision, or even decide on a vision without everyone offering an opinion. Making matters worse is the generic advice in every wedding magazine on how to find your “perfect” dress. 

Luckily that’s where I come in.

I am the owner and Creative Director of Mignonette Bridal in Chicago — we specialize in bespoke and locally-made wedding gowns and alter gowns from bridal salons all over the country. As someone who works with literally hundreds of brides every month, here are a few things I have learned and want to share with you so that this part of the wedding planning process goes smoothly with minimal stress.*

*I have a bit of experience on the suit front, but my area of expertise is wedding gowns. There are great style blogs out there like dapperQ that provide excellent advice for suit-wearers.

Here Are a Few Simple Tips to Help You Make Sense of a Complicated Process

Before You Shop

1. Research silhouettes.

This means not only looking at pictures of outfits, but thinking about what shapes and styles you’re typically drawn to. When you go through your closet, do you find lots of shirts and dresses with the same neckline? Do you feel most comfortable in flared skirts? Is your back your favorite asset? Give it some thought, and make a list to take with you to appointments.

2. That being said, keep an open mind.

It is still a good idea to try on a variety of silhouettes because you never know what is going to look fantastic on you. At the same time, if you absolutely do not want a particular style, like a gigantic cake-topper gown (or something similar), politely but firmly say no, and keep looking for something that feels right.

3. Know your budget.

Don’t be afraid to call salons and ask about their price ranges — it will save you time and effort to skip ones that aren’t compatible with your finances. If you have your eye on a high-end ensemble, sample sales are great resources for designer gowns at a fraction of the cost, as are websites like Once Wed that list consignment wedding gowns. And don’t forget alterations — tailoring can cost between $250-$600, so make sure to factor that into your total budget.

The Search

4. Remember to have a snack before your appointment — hunger makes for bad decisions. 

5. If you don’t want to go alone when you go shopping for your outfit, only bring people who are going to give you useful feedback.

If they are lucky enough to be invited to go shopping with you, they need to remember that if they aren’t being encouraging, positive, and enthusiastic, that privilege can be revoked. Establish your boundaries with your shopping team before you visit stores.

6. Don’t go to multiple stores in one day.

You risk dress fatigue and diminishing returns if you try on too many, and it isn’t realistic to expect that you’ll find the perfect thing in one day. In fact, it tends to lead to dress regret.

7. Your sales consultant should be your advocate.

They are there to help you feel gorgeous at a price you can afford. If you aren’t gelling, cut the appointment short. It’s your day, so trust your instincts. There are millions of gowns in the world, and yours is out there.

8. If you try on a dress and there is even one big detail that you just do not like (you don’t love the color, you wish it was a mermaid and not a ballgown, you wish it had sleeves, etc.), it is worth it to keep looking.

If you simply cannot pass it up, make sure that you have the number of the best — and most creative — alterationist in your town.

Taking the Plunge

9. In all likelihood, you will need alterations.

When looking for a tailor, look for someone who specifies that she or he only does wedding gowns and formalwear. I recommend searching “wedding gown alterations” on Yelp, then making an appointment to talk over what you want and ensure the alterationist understands your vision. Pricing varies from shop to shop, but it is worth it to trust your outfit to someone who specializes in formal alterations, not just whoever will be the cheapest.

10. You should get fitted for a brand-new bra or bustier that you plan to wear just for the wedding.

If you’re going to wear shapewear (like Spanx), get the ones that come up under the bust and go down to the knee. If you are planning to wear a gown with a very low back or plunging neckline, consider investing in a bustier. Your alterationist can usually lower the back of a bustier, and you might like how it changes the shape of your gown. Have your undergarments and shoes ready to go when you start your alterations.

At the end of the day, the goal when shopping for your wedding ensemble is to come out of it feeling even more excited for the big day. I hope these tips can help you go into the shopping process feeling assured and confident — no matter what you end up wearing, you’re going to have an amazing celebration.

Kpoene' Kofi-Nicklin


Kpoene’ is the Creative Director of Mignonette Bridal in Chicago. When she isn’t making wedding gowns, she is thinking about her wife, the feminist revolution, books, and cats.