Upper body fit important to choice of dress

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— Most brides have a good mental image of what wedding dress they want to wear for the big day. It is finding the perfect dress and getting it fitted that can cause headaches.

Gale Loveitt, a custom dressmaker at Sew What, has seen all kinds ranging from the chic and modern to family heirlooms altered to fit the current generation's bride.

Finding a dress that is right for the bride's figure is not too difficult, Loveitt said. By the time a woman is of marrying age, she has a pretty good idea of what styles look best on her, Loveitt said.

She advises that brides resist wearing dresses that go against their usual style. For example, if the bride knows she looks good in and enjoys wearing a simple sheath dress, then she should stick with that style rather than a dress with frills and bows.

"Even though they have had the idea of a fairytale princess dress, they never would wear a dress like that on the streets," Loveitt said.

Brides should take a friend or family member with them to go dress shopping because a second opinion helps.

"They need to bear in mind what you are most happy and comfortable in and look for a dress that is similar to dresses that they like to wear in a general way of life," she said.

Loveitt recommends if a bride knows exactly what dress she wants but is not able to find one, the bride can always have it custom made.

One of the most helpful hints that Loveitt has is for brides and bridesmaids to purchase the size of the dress that fits the upper body best. An alteration to the top of the dress, which often has intricate beading and stitch work, is harder and can be more costly. Also, dresses through the waist and the hips often have more fabric and flexibility.

"If it doesn't fit through the neckline and shoulders, maybe they need to find a different dress," Loveitt said.

While brides can find dresses that fit any shape and size, finding a single bridesmaid dress that fits any shape and size is a little more difficult. Loveitt said there really is no secret to finding the perfect bridesmaid dress unless it is to allow the attendants to choose their dresses and be willing to have different styles to accommodate different figures.

"It is a hard thing, a whole bridal party in dresses," Loveitt said. "Realistically, there are difficulties in the whole process of putting together a wedding party and there is nothing that can be done about it."

Loveitt has the same recommendations for bridesmaids as she does for brides when it comes to fitting. Bridesmaids should order dresses for the shoulders and upper bodice. Bridesmaids with larger lower body portions often find themselves with dresses too many sizes too big when they order for the hips and waist, she said.

"There is a fair bit of give as far as waist and hips go," Loveitt said.

For brides or bridesmaids, another tip is to wear the same undergarments and shoes to the fitting as they plan to wear the day of the wedding.

Brides should allow a few weeks leeway for fittings and alternations and remember to leave time to have the dress dry cleaned. Giving enough time for alterations is especially important during the busy wedding season, late spring through early fall.

Having the dress out of the way the week before the wedding also gives brides a peace of mind, Loveitt said. "Having it hanging some place for several days and ready to go is one thing brides are not thinking about. Certainly there are plenty of other things on their mind," she said.

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