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dress shopping basics

Even if you haven't been envisioning your wedding dress since you were a little girl, odds are you want to make a statement on your wedding day. But between necklines, silhouettes, and other bridal gown details, there is a lot to keep in mind when you first start shopping for your wedding dress. Fortunately, we have all the advice and tips you need to make your wedding gown shopping trips go smoothly. First, do not be shy about shopping early. You want to start nine to 12 months before your wedding day to give yourself time to order a dress and get in all of your wedding dress fittings. If you start shopping less than six months out, you will probably have to be flexible about which dress you choose since most couture and custom wedding dress designers won't be able to produce the dress in time. Next, you need to find a good bridal salon. Word-of-mouth recommendations will be helpful for this, or you can check out our local resource guide for reputable bridal salons near you. For brides on a budget, bridal outlets or trunk shows can also be good options for wedding dress shopping. Outlets will stock "out of season" gowns (don't worry, this just means they were not in the most recent season's line, not that they won't be fashionable!) or dresses by lesser-known designers. Before you go shopping, it can be good to educate yourself on bridal gown lingo. Learn the parts of the dress -- from the train to the sleeve style -- and get a good idea about silhouettes like mermaid, trumpet, A-line, and sheath. You should also have an idea of what style dress you want -- if you are looking for a beach wedding dress, a formal princess ball gown might not fit into the look you are going for.

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Our Wedding Dresses 101 Editor, Jennie M.