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Hey y'all! I'm Nicole & I capture authentic moments for classically elegant, unconventionally adventurous couples who believe in stylish simplicity. 

Everything You Need to Know to Start Wedding Dress Shopping

Client Resources

Brides! If you’re about to start your hunt for THE dress, then this is the post for you! I’m joined by designers extraordinaire, Gretchen Anderson and Lourdes Castañeda from Edith Élan, and they are answering all of my (and I’m betting some of yours too!) burning questions about finding the perfect dress! This post is jam packed with helpful tips and resources so let’s get started!

General Tips

Q: What general advice would you give to a bride on choosing a dress?

A: Pick a dress that speaks to you and your style. Don’t necessarily pick a dress that is currently trending, you still want to be who you are on your wedding day. This is where that saying of “you want to wear the dress not have the dress wear you” comes into play.

An added bonus in the decision making process would be if the boutique lets you take pictures.  Take a photo of the dress with you in it, go home, and think about it. If in the following days you can look at that picture and it makes you smile the same way it did on the day you tried it on, then it’s yours.

Q: What homework/research do you recommend a bride does before beginning her search for a gown?

A: Figure out which designer speaks to the style you have in mind. Then find the boutique that carries them. But be open minded to suggestions from the bridal stylist. You don’t know you dislike a style until you see it on your body. And don’t discredit a dress by how it looks on the hanger, there are dresses that look way better once they’re on!

“Don’t discredit a dress by how it looks on the hanger.”

Q: Are there any design trends you dislike?

A: As a designer, it’s not that we “hate” a trend. There are trends that just aren’t our cup of tea. Regardless, here are “pet-peeves” we have:

  • When you can see the bra cups through the dress because they don’t match your skintone.
  • Feathers. They come off and fly everywhere.
  • Glitter tulle. Especially if it’s the kind of tulle where the glitter is stuck on and will come off and get everywhere.  

Silhouette/Shape Tips

Q: Is there a dress shape that you consider to be universally flattering?

A: Natural waist dress with an a-line skirt is probably your safest bet.

Q: What shape do you recommend for petite brides? For plus size brides?

A: We don’t recommend ballgowns or dresses with a lot of horizontal stripes/seaming for petite brides. Most times it will make them appear more petite. It’s best to look for a style that elongates the body.

For plus size brides, there aren’t really any limitations. As with any bride, if there’s a part of your body that you love, highlight that asset! Love showing your décolletage? Find a dress with a lower neckline. Love your small waist? Find a dress that nips you in and shows it off.

“If there’s a part of your body that you love, highlight that asset!”

Q: How can brides best identify the silhouette that will most flatter them?

A: Try on the different silhouettes and necklines. Also, trust your bridal stylist. They understand silhouettes and see brides every day. So, they’ve seen a thing or two.

Q: Strapless seems to be one of the most popular choices for brides – is there a neckline style that you love that you wish more people would take a chance on?

A: Brides should be open to trying on different necklines. We love designing wedding dresses that have interesting back details, and you can’t do that with a strapless dress.

Fabric Tips

Q: I am not a fashion pro but I feel as though cotton has this reputation in the everyday clothing world as the “all purpose” fabric – good for almost anything. Is there an equivalent fabric in the wedding gown world that you would say is a fairly good bet for any season, any body shape, etc.?

A: If you’re looking for a structured dress, mikado is your best bet. For a more flowy look, crepe is a great year-round choice.

“Charmeuse will show off every lump and bump and highlight any insecurity you have.”

Q: What fabric is the least forgiving? The most forgiving?

A: Least forgiving: charmeuse. That baby will show off every lump and bump and highlight any insecurity you have. Most forgiving: a matte fabric or something without much shine.

Q: What is your favorite fabric to create gowns with?

A: Jacquard! We love our dot jacquard from the 2019 collection, and can’t wait to debut the new pattern for the 2020 collection!

Season and Venue Considerations

Q: Any recommendations for brides getting married in summer? Winter?

A: The answer isn’t so much based on the season. To choose your dress you’ll want to consider your wedding venue and where your ceremony will be. If your outdoor ceremony is in winter and you’ll be standing in the snow, we don’t recommend a strapless, slinky chiffon number. Unless you plan on accessorizing with something to keep you warm. Same goes for summer brides getting married outdoors in a ballgown. Just be aware of how warm/hot you might be under all of that skirt.

Q: Any dress do’s/don’t’s for brides having exclusively outdoor weddings?

A: Not really when it comes to style. However, we do recommend a bride consider a dress made of a silk or cotton fabric (or some other natural fiber). Fabrics of synthetic fibers (like polyester) don’t breathe much, if at all. No wants to be sweaty on their wedding day.

Buying Ethically

“Lives shouldn’t have to be at risk for that “great deal”.”

Q: Why should brides care about this?

A: It mostly boils down to the fact that a new, cheap wedding dress from a big box brand (think sub $900) is being produced by garment workers that are getting paid pennies on the dollar for an hour’s work. On top of that, they are working in sweatshops, which are notorious for dangerous work conditions. Lives shouldn’t have to be at risk for that “great deal.”

Also, Amazon “steals” are literally that: design theft. Unscrupulous manufacturers are supposedly offering designer dresses at less than $100. They have stolen photos from websites and then attempt to reproduce the dresses, but that often results in terrible knock offs. Google “wedding dress order fails” and you’ll see what we mean.

Buying an ethically-made wedding dress means you care about all of that, but it also means you’re supporting the indie bridal designers. Who in turn support other small business owners. Plus, indie designers that promote ethical production care about paying living wages, as well as the work conditions of those making the dresses.

Q: How can brides be sure their dress was ethically produced?

A: Don’t be afraid to ask! Check the designer’s website, ask the designer directly, check the boutique’s website that carries the brand.

Q: What ethical options are out there for brides on a tighter budget?

A: It’ll require more research time, but there are several options:

  • Buy a vintage dress. You can find dresses as low as $30 and up to several thousand. It just depends on the era, designer, condition, and wearability.
  • Scour bridal boutiques’ sample sales (most sample sales occur in spring and fall). If you’re looking for a particular dress call around to the stores that carry that designer to see if they are selling their floor sample. Depending on the store and the sample, the condition of them will vary from like new to gently used. But stores will usually disclose that information.
  • Buy consignment/second hand. Because most wedding dresses are only worn once, they are still in good condition. There are consignment boutiques across the country as well as options online to buy used wedding dresses ( One thing to keep in mind is that most of the used dresses have been altered so you’ll want to know your measurements (bust, waist, hip, and height) to be able to compare them to the dress you’re looking at.
  • There are also ethical brands out there that cater to the $1000-2000 bride. Ethically made doesn’t necessarily equate to couture-level pricing.

Q: How do you promote this within your business?

A: We are very much up front about this. Our bridal boutique stockists know where and who produces our dresses. And by the way, it’s us… we sketch, we drape, we sew. We are the workhorse of this company. And if anyone ever has a question about it, we are more than happy to answer it!

Dress Shopping on a Budget

Q: Is it more cost effective to look for slimmer/straighter styles as opposed to the fuller ballroom type gowns?

A: In theory, yes. A ballgown will cost more than a slimmer style because of the amount of fabric and time it takes to make them. But the price will also depend on the bridal designer, the hand embellishments/dress details, and the fabric.

“The price will depend on the bridal designer, the hand embellishments/dress details, and the fabric.”

Q: Buying consignment or vintage certainly seems like a way to get more for your money – are there any recommendations you have for a bride who is searching for these pieces?

A: For vintage, look on Etsy, Ebay, or Instagram; even a quick Google search will give you some great leads (,

When it comes to consignment you have to know what exact style you’re looking for. And then the search starts. It might require lots of phone calls or emails to find out which stores have that style.

About Edith Élan

“A perfect balance of modern sophistication and vintage charm.”

Q: Who is Edith Élan?

A: Edith Élan is an independent wedding dress designer based in Chicago. We, Gretchen Anderson and Lourdes Castañeda, are the creative soul behind the brand.  Our bridal gowns are thoughtfully designed and made with love so that each is a perfect balance of modern sophistication and vintage charm.  Edith Élan is not a real person. But rather she is an embodiment of who we are as a brand, and a reflection of our brides. She was created for the bride with élan.

Q: What is the philosophy/goal of Edith Élan?

A: Our design philosophy is to create timeless wedding dresses that blend modern sophistication and vintage charm in perfect harmony.  We create all our dresses with love so that a bride can express her unique wedding style.

Q: Where can brides go to try on/purchase your gorgeous gowns?

A: We have a list of our bridal boutique stockists as well as a list of current trunk shows on our website. If there’s not an event or a stockist nearby, they can reach out to us and we’ll work with a local bridal shop to bring the dress or dresses to them.

Q: What is the general price range for your pieces?

A: Most of our dresses fall in the $2000-$4000 price range.

Thank you so much Gretchen and Lourdes for all the wonderful information you have shared with us! Brides, be sure to go check out their stunning collections – you will be in LOVE with what you see! To help get you started, here are a few I’m obsessed with from their 2019 collection 🙂

Happy Shopping!

see more wedding planning resources here

Vendors Featured in this Post

Gown: Edith Elan

Makeup: Natalie Wetzker

Hair: Amy van Biljon

Florals: Florette

Models: Dani Tenorio & Brent Smith

Film Scans: The FIND Lab

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  1. Elizabeth Nord

    May 15th, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    Such a great interview! And beautiful photos 🙂

  2. nicole jansma

    May 22nd, 2019 at 10:48 am

    Thanks so much Liz!

  3. Chelsie

    May 15th, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    Love this tips! And beautiful photography!

  4. nicole jansma

    May 22nd, 2019 at 10:48 am

    Thank you so much!!