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On your wedding day, you want to feel comfortable as well as look great. This means that your gown is tailored to fit you (not the mannequin the pattern was originally modeled around), with no tugs, puckers, or pulls. Although your fittings are an important part of this process, getting the right fit for your gown begins even before you start shopping. First, learn what the basic gown shapes and necklines are, and what styles are best suited to your body type. Then, once you've selected your dream dress and your order arrives, know what to look for when working with the seamstress during your fittings.

All wedding dresses fall under four basic silhouettes:

Ball Gown
The most traditional of all categories, the ball gown is typified by a full bodice and a waistline that leads to a very full skirt.

The hallmark of the empire style gown is a high waistline (right under the bust), which falls to a slimmer skirt.

A-line or Princess
An A-line or Princess shape features vertical seams flowing from the shoulders down to a flared skirt that create an inverted "V" -- or "A" -- shape.

The slim sheath silhouette closely follows the line of the body.

We all have things we'd like to change about our bodies if we could. Since we can't, it's best to work with what we've got when it comes to wedding gowns. Make a positive ID on your body type here to find out what flatters your figure best.

You're Petite
Dress Dos: It's best to keep it simple. A column-like sheath or A-line dress will work well -- these shapes create a long uninterrupted line. Stick to open, sexier necklines: Think strapless and off-the-shoulder styles. Dress Don'ts: Steer clear of big ball gowns and dresses with voluminous fabric, as they might look like they're wearing you.

You're Bony
Dress Dos: A ball gown will make you look like a beautiful ballerina. It's a very feminine shape that will balance out your overall silhouette. Try one with a dramatic cutout back or portrait neckline. The sheath is a shape that was made for you. Dress Don'ts: If you're concerned your collarbone is too prominent, don't choose portrait, off-the-shoulder, or halter necklines. And if you're also flat chested, avoid a darted bodice made of stiff fabric.

You're Pear Shaped
Dress Dos: A strapless ball gown will cover your bottom half and focus on your better half; an off-the-shoulder neckline will make your top look more in proportion to your bottom. Dress Don'ts: A sheath can be unflattering, and a V-neck will draw the eyes downward, where you don't want them to go.

You're Broad
Dress Dos: Expose your beautiful shoulders with a halter, or go for drama in a gown with long off-the-shoulder sleeves. Select a dress with a narrow bodice that offsets your shoulders and helps create an hourglass shape. Dress Don'ts: Trying to conceal your shoulders is not recommended -- it sometimes produces the opposite effect -- though avoid off-the-shoulder necklines, which produce a widening effect in the place you don't want it.

You're Full-Figured
Dress Dos: Try a ball gown with a basque waist, which has a slimming effect. A high-waist A-line with a low neckline also flatters curves. Dress Don'ts: A slim sheath or slinky bias cut will cling and may accent any extra inches; avoid spaghetti straps.

You're Busty (Hourglass)
Dress Dos: Accentuate the positive with an uplifting foundation garment and an off-the-shoulder bodice. Or curtail your curves with a one-piece minimizer worn under a gown that boasts a fitted bodice to emphasize your waist. Balance it all off with a full skirt. Dress Don'ts: Be careful not to over do the bareness -- you want the focus to be on your face. Keep away from a jewel neckline, which will make you appear bustier.

You're Tall
Dress Dos: Tall women look great in everything from sheaths (if you're also slim) to A-lines and full ball gowns. Accentuate your collarbone with a fitted bodice and open neckline. Dress Don'ts: Skip gowns that boast high necklines and long sleeves, and steer clear of updos and headpieces that add too much extra height.

You're Boxy
Dress Dos: Empire-waist gowns are made with you in mind. And a ball gown with a basque waist will give you the nipped-in look you crave. Dress Don'ts: Steer clear of sheaths and dropped waists, which will make you look even boxier.

You're Short-Waisted
Dress Dos: A princess-line silhouette, fitted at the bodice and opening up gradually to a full skirt, will elegantly elongate your figure. If you're comfortable with your shoulders, try a portrait or halter neckline. Dress Don'ts: Avoid a sheath -- its long, lean column shape may draw unwanted attention to your short waist.

You're Thick-Waisted
Dress Dos: The high waist of an empire gown will de-emphasize your waistline and provide a long, slimming look. Dress Don'ts: Stay away from a princess-line or basque waist, which will draw too much attention to your middle.

From first fitting to final, here's what to expect -- and what's expected of you.

Before Your First Fitting

  • Decide which accessories you want to wear with your dress and buy or order them.
  • Buy your undergarments and bridal shoes. You need your wedding-day lingerie and shoes for all your fittings -- a simple bra switch or change in heel height can cause your dress to fit improperly.

  • Your First Fitting
    The first fitting usually takes place about six weeks before your wedding day. Bring along one eagle-eyed friend or family member for advice. This fitting is to ensure two main things:
  • That your gown is the right size, color, and design (neckline, train, sleeves, etc.)
  • That your seamstress knows what she's doing. A seamstress will most likely have an assistant (maybe the salon salesperson or another member of the salon staff) who helps you get into your gown. The seamstress should then begin looking for places where your dress needs to be taken in, let out, shortened, lengthened, or altered -- hence the term "fitting".

  • Be sure to observe:
  • the way the material falls
  • how the waist feels
  • how the chest area fits
  • any funny puckering, bunching or bulging
  • the stitching, embroidery, and beading are all in good shape
  • everything is well-sewn

  • Look in the three-way mirrors to view all angles, and ask for another hand-held mirror if necessary. Speak up if you see anything that you don't like -- or forever hold your peace. The seamstress should be able to tell you why a problem exists, and what can be done to fix it. Though you shouldn't expect miracles, it is your prerogative to have as many fittings as it takes to get the perfect fit.

    Your Second Fitting
    About a month before your wedding, you should have a second fitting. Bring along your foundation garments, bridal shoes, jewelry, and any accessories you plan to wear on your big day. And if you're not quite sure which accessories to wear and which ones to leave home, bring along a Polaroid camera as well, so you can see how each option looks with your dress.

    In addition, you'll want to make sure:
  • All your concerns from the first fitting have been addressed and fixed
  • You can move comfortably in your gown
  • Your dress stays in one place as you move
  • There is no obvious wrinkling, bunching, or pulling of material
  • If you have a full-length dress, your hem skims the tops of the toes of your shoes

  • Once again, speak up if you see something that doesn't look right. If there is a problem, continue to schedule fittings until you are completely satisfied.

    Your Final Fitting
    When the day of your final fitting finally arrives, ask your mom and maid of honor to come along so they can learn about your gown. Think about the following:
  • Does your gown need bustling? (Ask the salesperson to teach your mom and MOH how to do it)
  • Does your gown have complicated straps or buttons? (Ditto above)
  • What about last-minute wrinkles? Should you use an iron? On what setting? Is steaming a better option?
  • What if you spill something on the gown? Are there certain products you should/shouldn't use?

  • When all is said and done, your gown should fit you like a glove. Take a look in the mirror, and join the ranks of gorgeous brides everywhere.