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In Search of the Perfect Wedding Dress
Article by: Pat Giuliano

So you've been to every bridal shop in town, consulted dozens of bridal magazines, had a few consultations with designers…but still can't find the perfect wedding dress. What should you do?

Many brides-to-be have great difficulty finding the right wedding dress. It seems there are too many choices and too many designs to choose from, making it too hard to make a decision. Should you buy it off the rack? Or should you have it made? If you decide to have it made, you have a whole new set of decisions to make. Should you have the gown made at a bridal salon? Or should you employ the services of a designer / couturier? How do you choose fabrics? And that all-important design – where do you start?

The way to tackle this important task is very simple – planning. Just as you plan every other aspect of your wedding, you must also plan for your wedding dress. "Just hitting the stores" is often the long way to go about looking for the dress of your dreams. If you have a plan of action, however, you will not only make the task less daunting, but turn it into a fun and enjoyable experience. I have outlined a possible plan of action, to help you with the search of the wedding dress that is perfect for you.

Determine your budget:
I feel this is the first factor you need to consider, before even looking at any dresses. If you are willing to spend around $4,000 - $5,000 then you can afford the services of a couture bridal salon. Of course not all dresses in bridal salons are in that price range, but generally speaking, their dresses are sold for higher prices. You need to bear in mind also, that couture salons often have high overheads to cover, and thus a proportion of your gown's cost is overheads.

If you know that your limit is $3,000 perhaps you should consider the services of a dress designer / couturier. The difference between dress designers is like night and day, and a whole article has been written on this topic alone (see my article "In search of the perfect dress designer"). But for the purposes of this article, I will keep it brief. There is a huge misconception in our society today that getting a dress made is a cheaper alternative to buying it off the rack. Well, in my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth.

If you are looking for a reputable designer / dressmaker who is capable of designing the dress, making the pattern, and sewing it to perfection, you shouldn't expect this to be a cheap service. Labour rates vary greatly between dress designers, but a benchmark rate is $25-$40 per hour. On average, wedding dresses takes from 40-60 hours to produce, thus you could expect the labour price to be from $1,000 to $2,000, depending on the design of the dress and the fabrics you have chosen. Thus if you add up the cost of the fabrics, trims and of course labour, getting your wedding dress made should cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000. A general rule of thumb with designer / dressmakers is to check their work. Go to their studio and inspect some of their dresses. Photos are good too. Finally, don't choose a particular dressmaker because she is the cheapest. There is often a reason for this – her work is not up to scratch.

Consult bridal magazines:
Go through several bridal magazines, and cut out the dresses that you like. Make a file and take this with you when you go to visit the stores. Notice details like necklines, sleeves, design lines; fabrics such as laces, brocades, satins and silks; trims such as piping and embroidery. Decide what you like and don't like, and then visit the stores that stock the styles you like.

Visit several shops:
Go to the bridal shops that stock the styles you liked. You may have to make appointments to do this with some couture bridal salons, so phone before you go. While you are there, try on several dresses that appeal to you, to help you decide which styles look flattering on your figure. Remember that the size 8 model in the magazine will look great in anything, so some styles that you liked in the magazines may not suit your figure type. You will quickly decide which shops you liked by the dresses they have and the service you receive while you are there. Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions to the staff member serving you. If it's a couture salon, find out how far in advance you need to place your order, how many fittings will be required, and how payments can be made.

Get quotes:
If you've decided on a design by now, get a firm quote for the dress. Find out what that quote includes, for example, some salons charge extra for fittings, petticoats, and alterations. Be sure to know everything before you place your order, to avoid any nasty surprises. I heard of a case where the bride-to-be ordered her gown, which was coming all the way from Italy, and when it arrived, major alterations were needed, increasing the cost by $400!

Off the rack or made to measure:
By now, you should have decided whether you have found the gown of your dreams ready made, or need to have it made. Increasingly, brides are choosing the option of made to measure, as opposed to buying it off-the-rack. I am a little biased here, as in my opinion, nothing beats a well-made, unique wedding dress made specifically for the bride. But this is a decision you must make for yourself. If you do choose made to measure, the next step is to find the right designer or dressmaker for you. (See my article, "In search of the perfect dress designer" for help with this.)

Finally, remember that your wedding gown is the most important gown you will ever wear. It is the gown in which you will say "I do" to the man of your dreams. It is the gown in which you will be remembered long after the wedding. You may even see your daughter wearing it on her wedding day. Most of all, you should have a lot of fun shopping for the perfect wedding gown.


Pat Giuliano Couture
Pat Giuliano is a Melbourne based designer - couturier specialising in exquisite bridal gowns, bridesmaids dresses, and evening wear.

Website: www.patgiuliano.com.au

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