A Guide To Wedding Dress Shopping For The Dazed & Confused

by | Fashion Wisdom, Wisdom


PQ Fashions



Image via Anna Campbell Boutique Launch

Congratulations, you’re engaged! Now you need to find the perfect dress – and you have no idea where to start.

There are lots of ads in magazines, websites, blogs, but do any of them tell you what really happens when you go wedding dress shopping?

As someone who works in the industry, I’m here to give you a guide to wedding dress shopping so that it’s as easy as possible!

Bridal boutiques

Bridal boutiques are a great start for the bride who isn’t quite sure what she’s looking for. Most bridal boutiques cater to all tastes and carry a wide range of styles ranging from puffy princess gowns to romantic bohemian.

What will happen:

First, you need to make an appointment with the boutique. Most boutiques only allow for up to two guests to bring along (bridesmaids/mum/sister) with you to help you choose the right dress. You will be given little tags while you browse, and you should clip them onto the dresses that catch your fancy. When you are ready, the helpful assistants will bring the dresses to you to try on. You can pick about half a dozen different shapes and styles, to try and determine which shapes suits you the best. You may be asked to pay a deposit to try on the really delicate dresses.


If you fall in love with one of the dresses, the assistants will then take your size and order the closest dress size. The order time is generally 6-10 months, but allow yourself at least 3 extra months for shipping delays, and alterations.

Tip:  Dress in something comfortable and easy to change in and out of. Try not to put on too much makeup or fake tan, because you may be liable for cleaning costs if you get the dresses dirty.


Perhaps you’ve spent hours pouring over fashion magazines and admiring the beautiful wedding dresses at celebrity weddings.   Or maybe you have your heart set on a unique dress made just for you. If either of these sound like you, then your first stop should be to make an appointment with a specialised wedding dress designer. In Australia, designers such as J’Aton Couture and Steven Khalil have become celebrities, thanks to social media and celebrity endorsement and of course, their stunning designs. But there are also many local award winning designers who will help you design and make a dress.

What will happen:

First, make an appointment with the designer. Bring along some pictures of designs you like, and fabric ideas. The designer will ask you lots of questions regarding your style, look at your body shape and what your dream dress would look like. He or she may do up a sketch, incorporating your ideas and their design flare. Once your dream dress has been sketched and finalised, you will also get to choose your fabric. The designer may have fabric at their studio, or you may visit a designer fabric store together. Some designers even opt to make a toile (using calico fabric to make a dummy dress) before using your chosen fabric. There will be usually 3-5 fittings before the dress is completed.


Tips: Bargain. Some designers may be willing to change the price if the design is simple and you are an easy going bride.

Local dressmakers

Not everyone can afford designer dresses. When you already know exactly what you want, (eg Grace Kelly’s wedding dress) the best person to visit is a reputable dressmaker.

What will happen:

Make an appointment with your dressmaker and bring along the design of the dress you want. The dressmaker will help you with choosing the best fabric at local and designer fabric stores, and help you complete the design to make it suit you and the chosen fabric. There may be 2-4 fittings, and the completion time is around 2-3 months.


Tip: get a complete quote first and make sure there are no hidden charges later. Be clear about what you want and make sure the dressmaker is on the same page as you, to prevent getting a dress that is completely different to what you imagined.

Online shopping

There are now hundreds of websites promising good quality dresses at cheap prices and quick delivery times. I have seen a couple of success stories, but most of the time, they are disasters and end in tears. Just google “mail order wedding dresses”, and you will find hundreds of disaster dresses that did not live up to their promise. Most brides spend more to alter the dress than what they actually paid for it.


Tip: If you are going to order via the internet, make sure it is a reputable brand, with genuine testimonials. It’s best if you know someone who has ordered from them and has had success.

Swirl divider

Ms Gingham says: I love this comprehensive outline of pros and cons. It makes it all much clearer!

About Clare of PQ Fashions: Growing up being the daughter of a dressmaker, I am never far from beautiful fabrics and gowns. In all of my school and uni holidays, I would be in mum’s shop playing with fabrics, helping by unpicking stitches, and hand sewing sequins for customers. Tired of being a pharmacist, I began doing managing and marketing for PQ Fashions (mum’s business) full time from Feb 2011.

  • Audrey says:
    March 12, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    Such a helpful and informative article, as a new bride I’m just about to start the search for my perfect dress and reading this has helped to set me on my way!

  • Ms Stripey says:
    March 12, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    What a helpful article – dazed and confused no longer!

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