Written By : Angela O’Brien & Florenda Picket

Esteem Lingerie

For most dress providers in wedding industry my opening title sounds like a declaration of war.  For years many lingerie experts and alterationists have shaken our heads as Brides get duped into purchasing dresses that “just need the right underwear and a few alterations to make it perfect”. The reason why we shake our collective heads is because buying formal wear without the right underwear first is like framing up a house with no foundation.

Regardless of the clothing, your underwear is the key determining factor in how a garment will present on your body. Here are our tips to reduce the “Dress Stress”!

As underwear is the foundation that your dress relies on.

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Most women have an image of what kind of dress they are looking for. For Brides we see a number of style all revolving around the strapless dress design. If your heart is set on a strapless dress getting professionally fit into a strapless bra before you choose your dress can make the difference between happiness and stress. Most strapless dresses are designed around a petite breast (a “C” or small “D” cup). The challenge is that the average cup size for most women in North America is bigger than that. 

If the cup area is too shallow in a strapless dress the breast either gets pressed down on the body onto the stomach making the stomach area look bigger or the breast bubbles out of the top of the dress. The other issue is that with most strapless dresses, the weight of the dress is pulling down on the breasts so if there isn’t enough structure to push the breasts up – gravity and physics win and you end up with a flattened shape.

By getting fitted in a great fitting strapless bra before you go dress shopping you will have the breasts in the right position to better evaluate the fit of the dress including what alterations are needed before you purchase the dress. If you have already purchased the dress and need some underwear help, always bring the dress with you to the lingerie shop. By bringing the dress with you, the bra fitter can ensure that the underwear works under the dress.

Beware if in order to get the “girls” to fit into that bodice the dress has to be ordered in a  bigger size. The bigger size will tend to offer more bust room, however it may then require significant alterations to make the dress fit. On corset style strapless dresses the alterationist needs to have specialized knowledge of corsetry to make the right alterations – they also tend to take more time and therefore cost more money.

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As the daughter of a Tailor and Custom Bra Maker there is one rule that I have always abided by… NEVER get a garment altered until you have proper fitting underwear for the alterationist to customize the garment to. Your underwear will change the shape of your body and if you tailor the garment to bad fitting or nonexistent underwear then when you try to put underwear under that dress after the fact the dress won’t fit properly. (Hint – if a tailor or alterationist doesn’t insist on you having the proper underwear on before a fitting  – it is a really good indicator they may not be as experienced with formal wear alterations as you would like.)

Final tip on alterations: If you are wanting to lose weight make sure that you are done dieting before you start your alterations. Continuing to actively diet after you have your dress taken in is only going to ensure that you will have to have the dress altered again and usually at panic time just before the wedding.

The starting with your underwear first guideline also applies to shapewear! If you think you want to wear shapewear under your wedding dress bring it with you before you buy the dress. Depending on the style of the dress there may not be room inside the dress for you and the shapewear! Please also keep in mind that while shapewear can make those pictures look fabulous you still need to be able to enjoy your day! If you can’t sit, breathe, go to the bathroom without a team assisting you, then is the shapewear really worth it! Consider a different dress style that will be more figure flattering to you.

From my own personal experience, I remember that one of the best moments of my wedding day was when my husband assisted me out of my dress on the wedding night. He encountered a beautiful bra and panty set. Is your new husband going to encounter a nude coloured garment that looks like you have been mummified and need to be cut out of it? Shapewear is rarely sexy.

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One of the looks for wedding night festivities that women ask for is a variation of what is called a “Merry Widow”. The ensemble can include a bra or corset with panties and garter belt and thigh high stockings or combinations of the pieces.  Without a doubt a well fitted corset combines the benefits of shapewear with the sexiness of lingerie and can be a great foundation under many dresses. The one caution I would offer is if you have your heart set on the strapless style dress skip the corset and aim for a strapless bra for support. If the dress already has layers of support and boning incorporated into the dress adding a corset underneath just doubles up on the layers and boning – bulking out the dress and making it almost impossible to sit.   

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Regardless of the underwear or the dress what often is the deciding factor on whether or not the dress or underwear works is one thing and it is free… YOUR POSTURE! Standing up straight is an absolute requirement especially under formal attire.

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One thing I know for sure is that if you are buying a wedding dress then that means that your groom already knows what a beautiful woman you are. Love your body for what it is. Get underwear that fits and flatters YOUR figure. Then choose a dress that accentuates your beauty… the dress should fit you,  not the other way around.

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Wrong – when women wear underwear that fits their body a couple of things happen. First the body is proportioned so that clothes hang on the body better. Second, women wearing underwear that fits their body tend to stand straighter, with better posture presenting a slimmer more  confident image. Plus the most important person in the world is  always seeing your underwear – YOU!

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A good bra can be worn under most clothing – we wear bras everyday! How often are you going to get to wear your formal attire or wedding dress? You will get far more use and value for your money out of your quality underwear. Plus getting properly fitted for your bras can lead to years of comfort, fit  and happiness in your underwear.

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1. Always start with your underwear first – It is the foundation to your garments.

2. Good Posture is essential! Strapless fashions will not sit properly on a body that is slumped over.

3. If you are buying your underwear after you have gotten your dress – make sure you bring your dress to the lingerie shop so we can make sure that the underwear will work under the dress.

4. Don’t get a dress altered till you have your underwear and shapewear for your dress.