My basic requirements, in no particular order, are:
- Flattering shape
- Fabric that feels nice
- A style that I love (as opposed to one that is in fashion)
- Affordable (a relative term, if ever there was one - perhaps "value" is a better word)
When I think about it, these terms describe the clothing I try to wear every day!
To cut a long story short, there was no dress that ticked all those boxes. Even with a sympathetic and understanding saleslady, I was being steered towards what they had, as opposed to what I want.
Dresses cut straight across the top (i.e. 95% of corset tops)... you know how style guides suggest that horizontal stripes are rarely flattering? Well, chopping yourself off just above the bustline is the ultimate horizontal line. I felt/looked like I was exploding out of the top. And that was on the ones that fit okay.
Oh, so many corset tops. A made-to-measure corset is a beautiful thing. A pre-made corset is not likely to be quite as satisfying. I get that this is what some women want for their wedding dress (though whether that's just because they see a lot of them around, I can't say). But there's only one real reason they are so ubiquitous: it's easy to squeeze several different size/shape women into them (thus increasing the bottom line, because you can stock less sizes and spend less on design). I felt squished-in and bulged-out, and photos of other brides suggest I'm not the only one. Being thin doesn't seem to guarantee fit, either.
Aside from spaghetti straps and vague notions of adding 'straps' (strips of fabric) to strapless dresses, there were very, very few non-strapless dresses. Again, I think this is because altering a dress with straps or sleeves is more difficult, thus costlier for designers. Of course, trends and climate have some influence. But this really limits options for different necklines, solid underwear, or even modesty considerations.
A-line skirts... I know they hide the hips/bottoms/thighs, but in concealing your shape they add a huge amount of volume. I don't think this is a plus, at all. Certainly not for me. It also tends to add another two horizontal lines at the waist and feet.
Let's not even go down the path of what is affordable or good value. These are incredibly subjective terms. I do think, though, that for dresses worth a fortnight's salary (or more), the dress must tick all my boxes. If it ticks three out of six, and still requires alterations, I don't consider it to be good value.
I'm writing this [epic] post to share a personal experience. It's not a judgement of other people's taste or style. If you wore a corset top with a A-line skirt, and it made you feel happy and beautiful, then your dress did its job! If you have been (or are going to be) a bride, and you are thrilled with the wedding dress shopping experience, I'm genuinely glad for you!
However, there is so little web content that says "hey, it's okay to be disappointed with the wedding dress shopping experience". I don't need convincing that I should shop around more, or order from a Chinese sweatshop, or suck it up and spend a couple of grand on something that's just okay. I don't need you to tell me that I should go shopping with a family member, or buy a bunch of magazines. We are all different, so there's no reason to think that buying a dress in a shop will work for all of us.
A long time ago, I was pretty sure that I wanted to sew my own dress, and this hasn't changed my mind. I'm happily building quite the collection of formal dress patterns. There are certainly a wealth of them out there.
Have any of you had an interesting experience buying or making a wedding dress? There's no judgement here, so I'd love to hear your stories!