Worried your stature will limit your bridal dress options? We sent two of our writers to see what the search for the perfect gown is like when you’re taller or shorter than average
First up, Nicole Conner went hunting for the best looks for her five-foot figure
Before I began working on this article, all the dresses on my imaginary wedding Pinterest moodboard shared three characteristics: they were long-sleeved, backless and form-fitting. Despite being pretty confident about what I wanted, I was feeling nervous about heading to a boutique to play dress-up: changing rooms are not my friends, and us shorter gals often dread the try-on, wriggling into jeans that trail past our toes or being swallowed up in dresses that look more maxi than midi. This is why I buy most of my clothes online – at least when I try them on, I’m in the comfort of my own bedroom. So I was stunned when my experience of gown shopping turned out to be amazing.
Since my mum is normally my go-to for fashion advice, I brought her with me to Opus Couture in West Kilbride. There, Susan Lightbody listened as I told her what I’d always envisioned myself in, and she was soon expertly pulling out dresses for me to try. A long-sleeved boho number and a Gatsby-esque gown matched my requirements, but she implored me to give four wildcards a go as well: two mermaid silhouettes, a huge Mikado ballgown and a strappy, lace, backless number.
I’ve always loved Berta’s looks, so I was thrilled by a chance to get glam. After trying on my roaring ’20s dream dress (Berta’s style 20-121), though, I quickly realised that sleeves weren’t my bag. Despite being obsessed with the silhouette (the cowl back and deep V-neck showed the perfect amount of skin), I felt a little restricted.
The sizes of the sample dresses had been a concern, as I wasn’t sure how I’d look in a gown that wasn’t going to be my usual size 6, but I needn’t have worried: Susan pinned the dresses (typically 12s and 14s) so they fitted like a glove.
She also helped me walk around the salon, carrying the copious amounts of fabric that trailed behind me, informing me that once a bride has chosen her dress and had it altered, she’ll be invited back to the boutique to practise walking the ‘aisle’ – giving really welcome reassurance before the big day.
I think I was most surprised by the Enzoani Pearl gown and how confident and ‘bridal’ I felt in it, despite it not having sleeves. The delicate diamanté straps and floral lace detailing really caught my eye, but it was the impeccable cut and hidden boned corset that gave me the best support, great posture and drew the gaze to all the right places.
With Susan’s help, I found my horizons had been broadened and was so surprised by how at ease I felt while slipping into dresses that were so far from what I’d normally wear.
Glasgow Gowns in Hamilton prides itself on offering alternative bridal looks, so I was looking forward to something a bit different. Hayley invited me and my mum to pick out something to try on. I chose the cool Eliana two-piece by Scottish designer Alyce Jayne Bridal, complete with boned corset and tulle polka-dot skirt. Despite having never considered going for that kind of look, I felt more like ‘me’ in it than in any of the others.
Hayley then suggested the stylish Anela, also by Alyce Jayne Bridal, consisting of a strappy mini-dress and long-sleeved polka-dot tulle overlay. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed wearing it. It felt a lot less structured and formal – perfect for someone like me who’d prefer a more laid-back look. I’m glad I tried it on – it showed that wedding dresses can take many different forms and it’s important to wear something that makes you feel like yourself.
In the end, I felt I was best served by listening to the bridal stylists’ advice. Before this, you’d never have changed this stubborn Taurus’s mind on long sleeves, but once I was actually wearing strapless bodices and spaghetti straps, I realised they suited my frame a lot more than I’d imagined – and I actually preferred them.
This also opened my eyes to what doesn’t suit my shape and height, so that if the time ever comes for me to tie the knot, I’ll know to avoid ballgowns and stick to something a little more ‘me’ to walk the aisle in.
Nicole’s top tip: A dress on the hanger will look completely different once it’s on your body. For that reason, it’s worth trying on a variety of styles to see what actually suits you. Something you might have disregarded on the rail could end up being ‘the one’.
For Olivia Simpson, finding clothes that fit her six-foot frame can be a tall order, so how did wedding dress shopping measure up for her?
I hit the lofty heights of six foot at the tender age of 15, meaning I’ve spent more than a decade hunting for jeans that actually make it past my ankles and tops that sit lower than my belly button. In recent years, I’ve learned that vintage stores and charity shops work best for me: there, I’m free to move between menswear and womenswear, using my well-honed eye to judge what’ll fit my curvy body.
The result is a personal style that relies heavily on menswear classics like tailoring, workwear and structured fabrics – a million miles away from the soft, girly world of bridalwear. So, would Scotland’s bridal experts be able to find me something that fits? And even if they did, would it suit my style?
Kudos Bridal Boutiques (Edinburgh)
I brought my mum and grandma along on my jaunt to the capital, trusting them to provide encouragement for the dresses that worked and iconic one-liners for those that definitely didn’t. In the end, though, there was no comedy gold from those two, just beaming smiles as I tried on a range of dresses pre-selected for me by the knowledgeable team.
Some of their picks definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, but the quality of the fabrics and the impeccable cuts made me feel supported and confident in them, and I was delighted to discover that all were a good length on me. Since dresses are almost always altered for the perfect fit, they’re designed on the longer side so they’ll work for as many body types as possible, making my time at Kudos and, later, Joyce Young Design Studios, some of the easiest shopping experiences I’ve ever had.
When checking out the dresses stocked by Kudos, I’d earmarked the Amanda by Rosa Clará as a must-try, since it had the long sleeves, V-neckline and relaxed feel I thought I was after. Once it was on, though, I was surprised to discover its boho vibe just didn’t feel like me.
My favourite dress ended up being the very opposite of what I’d imagined: a satin ballgown style from Essense of Australia (style D2761) that soon had me sashaying my way down an imaginary aisle. The off-the-shoulder straps and plunge neckline (with just enough nude illusion panelling to keep Grandma happy) bring this classic up to date and the belt detailing nipped me in at just the right spot.
Joyce Young Design Studios
The following day, my friend Nicole and I headed to Joyce Young Design Studios in Glasgow. As you can imagine, I had inundated our WhatsApp group chat with photos from the day before, but that didn’t stop Nicole from looking genuinely shocked when I first came out in one of Joyce’s elegant options.
The Austin by Freda Bennet has been a favourite of mine since I first saw its playful puff sleeves on Instagram, and it didn’t disappoint in person: the perfect mix of refinement and fun, it had me feeling like a bride without losing my own style in the process.
A childhood spent watching problematic noughties makeover shows had me believing that my body type (curvy with a larger chest) would only suit V-necks, but the Manhattan by Freda Bennet proved once again that rules are made to be broken. The chic bateau neckline is balanced out by a low back with an oversized bow, and I found myself drawn in by this blend of formality and whimsy.
As the saying (sort of) goes, all glamorous things must come to an end, and when it came time to de-frock, I did so in a spectacularly inelegant manner, donning a swimming costume and old gym gear to head for a dip in a loch on a hot summer’s evening.
Somehow, even that sartorial crash back to earth couldn’t stop me from riding the wave of confidence that comes from seeing yourself in beautiful clothes you never imagined would look good on you, a truly remarkable experience for someone who is more used to leaving a shopping trip defeated than elated.
Olivia’s top tip: As tempting as it might be, don’t make your dress your first planning priority. Personally, I wouldn’t buy a gown until I’d booked a venue – that billowing ballgown might be perfect for a stately home, but it could look out of place in a rustic barn.