20 Tips For Choosing A Designer Wedding Dress
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20 Tips For Choosing A Designer Wedding Dress

How to find 'the one'

These days, there’s no shortage of wedding dresses to choose from when it comes to finding the perfect bridal attire – but more often than not, you can’t beat the level of quality, service and bespoke options you can find with a high-end designer. If you’re after a designer wedding dress for your big day, look no further. We’ve asked the experts just what we should be considering when looking for the (designer) dress of dreams, and gathered them here for any brides-to-be.

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Tips For Choosing A Designer Wedding Dress

1. Take A Look At Your Wardrobe

‘Before trying on selection of dresses that might not be quite right, spend some time playing with pieces in your own wardrobe,’ says Kate Halfpenny, founder of Halfpenny London. ‘Try on your favourite going out outfits and make a note of what it is specifically that you love. Is it the neckline? The silhouette? The fabric? You may want to wear something completely different for your big day, but this is a great starting point.’

2. Research, Research, Research

There’s no use walking in blind to your bridal fitting – it’s better to have idea of what you like, rather than nothing at all. ‘We now have access to unlimited inspiration at the touch of a button, meaning you can have a lot of fun researching ideas for your dress,’ says Kate. ‘Start a mood board with all the outfits you love and you’ll likely start to see a recurring theme. Maybe they’re all sleek with clean lines, for example, or perhaps your board has lots of texture.’

‘Before you make appointments, create a Pinterest board or Instagram saves folder of all your favourite shapes and styles to narrow down your search,’ adds Ally Voss, founder of Clover London. ‘Be open, of course, but it is probably a good indication of the designers you should be booking in with if you are pulled in a certain sartorial direction.’

Woman in wedding dress crouched in front of plate display on white wall

Clover London

3. Get To Know Your Designers

Speaking of designers, finding a certain feel that you like will often lead to a number of designers who specialise in your preferred style. ‘After a while, you’ll find that certain designers feature again and again in your mood boards, and this will make it easy to narrow down your wish list,’ explains Kate.

You can get to know some of the best wedding dress designers in the world (and their signature styles) here.

4. Look Local

If you can, Ally suggests opting for boutiques where your designer of choice frequently works in-house. ‘Designers often work out of their flagship stores or studios, which means if you make an appointment at a brand’s headquarters you’ll often be able to work hand-in-hand with the owner or designer. This is handy if you want to make small tweaks to an existing design or want to create something fully custom.’

5. And Consider Your Boutique’s Location

But bear in mind the location of your bridal boutique, as you’ll need to visit more than once in the lead up to your wedding. ‘We need at least four or five fittings for a custom gown at Clover,’ says Ally. ‘Which is quite a few trips to our studio. It is an experience so brides often make a day of it, but it is certainly worth considering if you are travelling far or need to weave it into a busy work schedule.’

Woman in white dress on green silk background

Halfpenny London

6. Understand Your Timescale

You need to give yourself a reasonable amount of time to look for your dream designer wedding dress, says Kate. ‘Wedding dresses can take between six and eight months to craft – even longer if you’re having a bespoke dress made – so make sure you give yourself plenty of time. If you need your dress quicker than that, don’t worry, as most designers offer a priority service.’

7. Decide On A Budget

With style of dress, designer and boutique sorted, you now need to consider your budget. ‘Searching for a wedding dress is such an exciting time and it’s easy to get carried away,’ highlights Kate. ‘It’s best to decide on your budget before you try any dresses on so that everyone’s on the same page and do be honest with the stylists when you’re trying on to avoid any disappointment. There’s nothing worse than finding what you think might be your perfect dress only to discover it’s out of budget.’

‘Price point is an obvious one, but designers are more expensive than off the rack,’ adds Ally. ‘Enquire ahead of an appointment if you have a number in mind (the team in store will be able to advise on the prices of gowns they stock), and only select certain gowns or opt for custom if it suits your budget. ‘

8. Brand Ethos

‘It is also worth noting if a designer upholds any values that matter to you,’ adds Ally. ‘For instance, you might want to ask how sustainable they are, where they produce their garments and who works in their team. It is amazing to be able to support a business that means something to you while creating a very important garment.’

Close up of woman's back in white dress

Clover London

9. Read The Reviews

Not sure what to expect from an appointment or fitting? Reviews are your best friend here, says Ally. ‘Google reviews and Instagram comments are a great way to vet a designer ahead of appointments. Another bride’s experience is a great indication of someone you might want to work with.’

10. Ask About Fabric

At your appointment, don’t be afraid to ask about the fabrics used in the dresses you like. ‘It isn’t a given that wedding gowns are made out of silk,’ explains Ally. ‘While silk alternatives are great, if you are after something super special, you can’t beat it. This is often reflected in the price of your gown but it’s always worth asking ahead of purchasing.’

11. Consider You Ceremony Setting

‘I’m not suggesting you choose a dress to “fit in” with your venue as I believe any dress can work in any setting and you should choose which ever dress you love,’ says Kate. ‘However, you might want to take into account things like the temperature.’

‘Consider where you are getting married before choosing a designer, as style, fabric and shape can affect what might suit your venue best,’ adds Ally. ‘A heavy silk ballgown for instance might not be fitting for a summer wedding in Spain, so you may want to opt for a designer that specialises in lighter fabrics or slinkier silhouettes.’

12. Go To Appointments Alone

While it might be said that two heads are better than one, no one wants a noisy room full of conflicting opinions when looking for their wedding outfit. ‘It’s natural to want to share this experience with your loved ones, but sometimes too many opinions can be overwhelming and confusing,’ says Kate. ‘The most important thing is for you to notice how a dress makes you feel before hearing any opinions from other people. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a bride glowing in the changing room because they love a dress so much, then doubting herself as soon as a comment is made. Bring your guests along to your second appointment and we can always tell a little white lie and pretend it’s your first time visiting!’

Woman in white mini dress in front of green silk background

Halfpenny London

13. Go Out Of Your Comfort Zone

And just because you know what you like, don’t be afraid to try something new during your appointments. ‘My team are experts at listening to what you’re telling them, and also what you’re not,’ explains Kate. ‘They pick up on all sorts of cues, so stay open minded when they pull something for you that you wouldn’t normally consider as it might just be the magic you’re looking for.’

14. Remember, It Doesn’t Have To Be A Dress

Your bridal moment doesn’t even have to involve a dress at all, says Kate. ‘Some women can’t imagine themselves in a dress and worry that they won’t feel “bridal” enough. Feeling bridal has nothing to do with the actual garments and everything to do with the emotional significance of your chosen outfit. A trouser suit or mini dress can feel just as special as a ballgown, so go with your heart and wear something that makes you feel amazing.’

Not a ballgown bride? Have a flick through our edit of the best bridal suits here.

15. Or Even White, For That Matter

Not every bride is a traditionalist, so it’s important to ask yourself if the classic big white wedding is really what you’re after. More and more brides are ditching ivory, cream and lace for brighter shades that better reflect their personality – from sweet shades of blush and ocean-inspired blues to gothic charcoals and shimmering golds. In many cultures, rich reds are even the preferred colour choice over white for wedding attire.

16. Bring Your Accessories

Sometimes we need more than a dress to make us experience that ‘bridal moment’ we hear about on shows like Say Yes To The Dress. Bringing a couple of accessories, like heels, jewellery or even a dummy bouquet can really help you envision what everything will look like on the big day. If you don’t have your accessories sorted just yet, you can always try on a selection provided by the bridal boutique you’re visiting. As Kate explains: ‘If you do want to make an outfit feel more bridal at your appointment, then why not add a veil? Long, or short, plain or textured, it will instantly make you feel like a bride.’

Woman in wedding dress sat on chair in front of plate display on white wall

Clover London

17. Don’t Worry If You Don’t Have A Movie Moment

Designer dress or not, many brides will also be looking for that one ‘moment’ where they know they’ve found the dress of dreams – but it’s not necessarily a realistic expectation. ‘Popular culture has a lot to answer to for this myth,’ explains Kate. ‘It’s true that some women cry when they find “the one”, but honestly, most don’t! You might simply feel a sense of calm, excitement or possibly relief, so don’t worry if there are no tears – you’ll still know in your heart if it’s the one.’

18. Check The Authenticity Of Pre-Loved Designer Gowns

If you’re going down the pre-loved route (something borrowed?) for a designer wedding dress, it’s important to make sure you’re purchasing something authentic –and preferably checked out by an independent body. Shops like Bridal Reloved, the world’s only chain of pre owned wedding dress boutiques, offers a huge selection of high-end and designer dresses from the likes of Jenny Packham, Maggie Sottero, Ian Stuart, Justin Alexander and Claire Pettibone, making it a great place to start if you can’t bear the thought of trawling through eBay or Vinted.

19. Don’t Decide Based On A Photo

‘If there’s one piece of advice I hope you carry with you, it’s this: try to concentrate on how you feel in the dress,’ stresses Kate. ‘The biggest mistake a woman can make is go away and scrutinise a photo of themselves in the dress. You’re trying a sample which isn’t tailored to your body like your own dress will be, so please don’t discount a dress you loved based on a photo. Come back and try it on again and really be present to see how it makes you feel. If you love what you see in the mirror, if you feel amazing and like yourself, then you can be 100 percent confident in the decision that it’s your dress.’

Close up of woman's back in white dress

Halfpenny London

20. Go With Your Gut

And finally, make sure go with your gut feeling when going with a designer. ‘If you have a good rapport with a designer it can make for a super magical experience,’ adds Ally. ‘Dress shopping can be incredibly stressful so if you feel at ease in their presence, then it is probably a good fit.’

Featured image: Halfpenny London