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Preparation can ease wedding dress search
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Shopping for a wedding dress is a much bigger ordeal than heading out with a budget in mind and an idea of favorite styles, said one Mississippi State University fashion expert.
Phyllis Miller, an associate professor of apparel, textiles and merchandising in MSU's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, explained why brides-to-be should allow a year to find the right dress.
"The first thing you have to do is learn the lingo of the business," Miller said. "When someone talks to you about an empire waist, Princess style cut, petal or trumpet sleeves or a sweetheart neckline, you need to know what they're talking about."
Next, a bride-to-be should take a close look in daylight at the veins in her arm.
"If they look bluish, you have a cooler skin tone and you can wear pure or stark whites," Miller said. "If the veins have a greenish, warmer tone, you would look better in eggshell, ivory or candlelight colors."
With the education complete, start looking at magazines, Web sites and other places for pictures of gowns. The bride should start to narrow down the styles she likes, then make a first visit to a bridal salon to try on examples of those styles.
"Even if you don't plan to make your final selection from a bridal salon, you should still go and try on some gowns. The people there are trained to know about options and what styles look better on different body types," Miller said.
Wear makeup, pantyhose, and the type of underwear and shoe that one expects to wear on the wedding day. This will give a true picture of how a dress really looks on a person.
Miller cautioned the bride-to-be to avoid stating a price range when shopping. Mentioning a price range doesn't allow the bride to see all the styles available.
"Just let them show you what they've got," Miller said. "If you see something that you just can't live without, you might need to change your budget to get it."
But before deciding to splurge on a dress, consider the options. Miller urged brides not to buy a dress on the first shopping trip, but to call, visit and search online for bargains. Ask if a particular dress or similar style is available in a less expensive material.
Beginning the wedding dress search a year early allows the bride to take advantage of season-end sales for the season she intends to be married. Brides also can look for bargains at bridal salon annual sample sales or designer trunk shows, where dresses that have been used for trying on are sold at discounted prices. Warehouse sales are an option in some locations.
Some brides choose to borrow a friend's or family member's wedding dress, or to rent one. Miller even suggested brides look at bridesmaid dresses. She said a beautiful bridesmaid dress purchased in white can make a gorgeous wedding dress.
Another option is to purchase a simple dress and adorn it. Someone with talent and a little experience can add beads, pearls and beautiful lace to dress up a simple garment.
"The more decoration you have on a dress, the more expensive it's going to be," Miller said.
"If you're on a tight budget, have a daytime wedding rather than an evening event. The dresses you can wear in the daytime are a lot less formal than those designed for evening wear," Miller said.
Bobbie Shaffett, associate professor with MSU's Extension Service, had a few more tips on stretching budget dollars to get the dream wedding dress.
"The further ahead that you plan, often the better off that you are," she said.
Shaffett said secondhand shops are a good place to look for wedding dresses. Often these shops have discontinued styles or brand-new dresses from canceled weddings.
She said the veil is a good place to cut corners. These few yards of tulle can be quite expensive, so Shaffett urged brides to consider borrowing one from a friend or family member, or buying a simple one and decorating it.
Vintage stores sometimes carry wedding dresses, and even some nationwide department stores offer wedding dresses through catalog orders. Good seamstresses can be found in most communities, so there is always the option of a handmade wedding dress.
"Regardless of the amount of money you have to spend, you can probably find something to fit your budget if you shop around," Shaffett said. "There are so many options today. You can fit something into your budget if you look."