Getting the right dress usually starts with shopping intelligently. To shop intelligently doesn't mean simply shopping for price. It has to do with being able to tell quality from not, whether in the workmanship of your dress, or in the richness of its fabric. Always, when you shop, remember, that the most expensive doesn't mean the best. It only means the most expensive; and if it's the most expensive, it's probably because it's the most advertised--and that should never, ever be the reason why you buy something, especially something as one-time-only as your prom dress.
I. How to Choose a Gown
1. Choose for Your Body Type
First and most important, choose a gown that suits the type of body you have. Forget about what you see in the mags. Mags sell dreams, and what looks like a dream gown on the girl in the picture, might look like a nightmare on you. Why? The usual reason: you and she don't have the same type of body. Choosing the gown that suits your body is so important, we have an entire section on it. To see it,.
2. A Question of Quality
Choosing the right gown, once you've taken care of the body type issue, is mostly a question of quality: you need to be able to tell quality from cr-p, because if you buy cr-p, you will look like cr-p, and if you look like cr-p, people might think you're a loser. So here are some of the things you should look for:
- Manufacturing process.
Or, how is the dress made? Are the seams all wobbly and mangled looking? Are the sleeves finished right? What about the hems, how are they finished? And are the sleeves (if the dress has any) lined? Does the dress itself have lining? Do the seams wander so that the dress looks lopsided? Is the neck off- center or longer on one side than the other? Ask all these and a dozen more questions. Sometimes, when manufacturers make dresses, they're not as careful as they could be, and the result is a poor fitting product that makes you look horrible.
The better fabrics drape better. They also feel better. When it comes to fabric, you can usually tell quality by touching it (hence expressions like "soft as silk"). If you can't touch it, then ask. Or better yet, look for the quality guarantees that manufacturers supply. Many manufacturers tell you about their dresses and their fabrics--especially on their websites, where real-estate is cheap. If they say it's made with the finest fabrics available anywhere, or something like that, then you know you're getting something good. Just remember: if it's in print, they're liable (they can be sued!), so they won't take a chance on lying!
Couture: The most mystical of words! In French, it means simply "cut." And in the fashion world, it refers to "the cut" of the dress. So what is it? Actually, a combination of many things: the quality of the manufacturing process, the quality of the fabrics, and above all, an original design that transforms the wearer's body into a work of art.
So how do you know when a dress is couture?
Only one rule: The simpler the dress, the higher the couture (haute couture).
That's because in the fashion world simple equals elegant, refined, sophisticated and expensive in taste.
A dress that's full of trim, beads and sequins and other inessential fluff is usually considered gaudy--a total no no in terms of fashion. Sometimes manufacturers put this stuff on the dress to hide a poor couture. But a simple dress can't hide it's "cut." It's either a good couture, or it is not. So when you're looking, look for simple: It's that simple!
II. How to have a Gown Altered
In the best case scenario, you won't need alterations. However, if you do, there are basically two ways: you can have the boutique where you bought it do the alterations (if they do alterations, and if the boutique is local), or you can have a private seamstress do the alterations. Both methods are fine, and all you need to worry about is that the alterationists know what they're doing. It might help to ask them first if they've ever done dresses, and if so, would they mind showing you some samples. Also, ask about guarantees: what happens if they ruin the dress? who pays? Common-sense stuff, really, but worth making a note of.
III. How to Choose a Gown Size
You might think this is self-evident, but so many girls get it wrong so many times, that it's worth mentioning. So here goes. Manufacturers' size charts vary: there is no standard among them. This means that size 4, or size 6, etc., is not the same from one manufacturer to the next (why they do this, I don't know). So if you're a size 6 with manufacturer X, you might be a size 8 with manufacturer Y. And if you buy from manufacturer Y thinking you're a size 6, then you will own a dress you can't fit inside of. No fun.
To avoid the sizing problem, always look at a manufacturer's size charts. These list the Bust, Waist, and Hip dimensions for each size. So when you want to find out what size you really are according to that manufacturer, always start by taking your bust, waist, and hip measurements. Then look them up on the company's sizing charts.
A final note: it's always best to buy the size that corresponds to the largest of your bust, waist, or hip dimensions. In other words, if you're a size 36 bust and a size 26 waist, and the size chart says size 36 bust equals size 8, but size 26 waist equals size 6, then get size 8. You can always have the waist taken in afterward. The problem is that you can't always have the bust (or other dimension) taken out because there might not be enough fabric.