HOW TO: find a dress that compliments your shape

The perfect wedding gown is one that hides your flaws while showcasing your best bits – and it’s all down to getting the cut right

From left: Anya gown by So Sassi; Style 2774 by Benjamin Roberts; Zubia gown by Adriana Alier

Words by Ann Martin

As you begin your search for your dream dress, you’ll discover there are so many different variables in terms of colour, fabric and embellishment. Most brides, though, start with shape when it comes to thinking about which gown might be for them. But which will suit your body best? We asked three Scottish bridal boutiques for their insider tips on which silhouettes are most flattering for which bodies.

Body confidence might be playing on your mind before you try on a wedding dress for the first time. So surround yourself with positive people, trust your bridal consultant and focus on flattering your figure, and you’ll fall in love with dress shopping.

Jessica Reilly of Perth’s Alison Kirk Bridal says: “When you attend your first appointment with us we start by discussing the type of dress style or shape you like and feel comfortable trying on. To get the perfect silhouette, we’ll let you try as many dresses as you request and look at various designers until we find the right fit.”

So let’s think about enhancing those enviable assets, shall we? By concentrating on your favourite part of your body and choosing a dress shape that shows it off, your whole shopping experience will be more pleasurable. “To enhance a petite waist, a fit-and-flare dress is the perfect choice,” recommends Jennifer. “This style of gown will show off your curves and looks beautiful with a sparkly belt. This little detail on the waist draws the eye to the smallest part of your silhouette.”

Style 8776 by Justin Alexander

Highlight curves with a form-fitting dress like style 8776 by Justin Alexander, suggests Jessica: “It looks superb on an hourglass figure to accentuate the wearer’s hips and bust and define the waist. 

Snapping up a pair of towering stilettos is the closest most of us get to a long and lean supermodel stature. But there are some clever ways to make you look taller without perilous platforms, as Jennifer Gilbert of The Bridal Courtyard explains: “A bridal gown with sleek lines gives the illusion of extra height. The perfect gown for this is Anya by So Sassi because its clean-cut lines, coupled with its beautiful, figure-enhancing shape, creates the perfect style for shorter brides.”

And don’t worry if you’re self-conscious about your stomach or the lower half of your body – the experts have plenty of tips on ways to skim over areas of concern. Kavelle Kaur, of Edinburgh-based boutique Kavelle Couture, says: “If your bottom half is wider than your top half,  try to accentuate your waistline with a tighter-waisted dress that has an A-line skirt. Alternatively, try to keep your shoulders in proportion with an off-the-shoulder or boat-neck dress that balances the lower part of your figure.”

Jessica agrees that the A-line is a winner. “It’s an excellent choice for apple-shaped women who want to hide their tummy. It flows over the stomach area and looks very flattering. A-line dresses also hold the bust securely and flow down the body, hiding any bits the bride may not want to show.”

Primrose gown by Naomi Neoh

She has good news for pear-shaped figures too: “You will love Naomi Neoh’s Primrose gown because it evens out the silhouette – both the neckline and the dropped waist work hard to accentuate the upper half of the body.”

Another area of concern for a lot of women is the upper arm. Thankfully, it’s easy to draw attention away from this part of the body if you’re worried about showing too much skin. Ever since Kate Middleton walked serenely down the aisle on her wedding day, long-sleeved dresses have been a firm favourite, especially in Scotland, where brides often need added protection against the elements.

“Bear in mind that wearing a long-sleeved wedding dress does not always mean you are covering up a problem, it’s also a style in itself,” points out Kavelle. “With long sleeves, though, it’s a win-win situation because you can cover up your arms while rocking a classic vintage-style gown that will have people talking. Go for sheer sleeves to ensure there is no added bulk – they are so stylish, and can be customised with beading or lace appliqué.”

Jennifer has other tricks up her, er, sleeve: “Covering the arms is a common request, and we find that detachable jackets are an excellent way to hide the upper arm area and provide extra security on the day without compromising the design of the dress. We can create different styles of jacket to suit each bride, while ensuring that any insecurities are handled with care and consideration.”

When it comes to sizing, wedding gowns and high-street dresses have little in common, but by focusing on your favourite shapes you’ll have a better idea of your personal style. “We find that brides generally know what looks best on their shape,” explains Kavelle. “Finding a style that fits your body shape and complements your figure means you’re guaranteed to feel beautiful, confident and comfortable on your wedding day.”