Starting The Journey to Find Your Ideal Wedding Dress

Saying ‘Yes!’ to the dress isn’t always the easiest decision. Couture wedding dress designer Sonia D’Ochoa shares her tips for when you’re starting on the journey to finding your perfect wedding dress. By Belinda Jackson

How do I know what is the dress for me? Photos and magazine clippings are a good start for creating the ideal wedding dress. But while your measurements might be key, the bride’s personality is equally important, says Sonia. “I need to see your body shape and your style,” she says, “but a wedding gown is about self-expression, and the bride should choose a dress that reflects who she is, above all else.” Not everyone knows their silks and laces, so take the time to look at the fabric samples supplied, and don’t be afraid to ask all the questions.

What about fitting in with my wedding’s style? The location is also vital: will your wedding be in a church, gardens or a winery? Perhaps the bride wants to get married in pants? “Whatever the style, the dress needs to be comfortable enough to be worn all afternoon and into the night, so you can dance, walk, eat and be hugged all day,” says Sonia. “You need to feel comfortable.”

I’m not a perfect 10: will I look ok?

“Not every style is for every body, so we work with little tricks that only the bride knows,” says Sonia. It might be padding a dress at the hips for a slim-hipped girl who has her heart set on a mermaid dress, or reducing the volume in the bodice for girls with bigger busts. Don’t be afraid to build onto the base idea of your dress – such as the very popular strapless dress – and adding a unique touch, such as a structured wrap, sleeves or a train. “What’s the point of making something that looks like every other dress? That’s a uniform, not a wedding dress,” says Sonia.

She provides one, two or three sketches to find the dress’s shape and style. You might have a tattoo or scar that you want to reveal or conceal, you may want sleeves, especially for weddings in the colder months: make a list of what you want and, just as importantly, what you don’t want.

How long does a dress take to have made? Budget six months from first contact with your dressmaker to the final gown. Brides should expect four to five fittings, the last one for simple tweaks of a button or overall length, and Sonia advises receiving the completed dress two weeks before the wedding. “Any closer to the day, and it’s simply too stressful,” she says. “Brides need to sleep well before their big day, not worrying about their dress.”

How much will my dress cost? You can order a cheap dress online and spend $900 on alterations, but for the simplest dress that is custom made for you no alteration is required, employing less-expensive fabrics such as crepe, twill, spandex, taffeta and some tulle laces, budget around $3,200, advises Sonia. The most expensive dress she has created cost $9600 made in the eternally popular Grace Kelly style, with the headpiece, veil, and quality Italian lace for the train. “This style of dress has a lot of fabric and must have high-quality lace, and there’s also a lot of work done by hand, so it’s going to be expensive.”