The Dress Test

By Sharon Naylor

November 16, 2011 5 min read

Your dream wedding dress will surely be beautiful, but will you be able to move in it? Can you sit in it? Dance in it? Lift your arms to throw your bouquet? Can you bend over without giving the room too much of a view? As important as it is to choose a dress that looks beautiful on you while you're standing in front of a full-length mirror in a bridal salon, it's even more important to test your dream dress to be sure it allows you full comfort and full coverage in any situation.

As you try on dresses, move in them. Don't stand still. You'll get a feel for the tug of off-the-shoulder sleeves and decide whether the romantic look is worth the restriction on your movement. A tightly fitting mermaid-style dress also should be moved in to be sure you can walk in it.

Don't forget that a professional seamstress will provide several rounds of alterations to your chosen dress, so most sections of your gown can be adjusted to give you more comfort. Everything from sleeves and seams to lace sections can be moved and/or removed, to make that dress perfect for your shape and make you feel more confident wearing it.

The best way to ensure comfort in your gown is to subject it to the following eight movement tests as your seamstress looks on, with pins ready to adjust whatever you might need.

1) Lift your arms. As you're dancing with your groom, you'll have your arms lifted to his shoulder height. It would be a disaster if your off-the shoulder or full sleeves didn't allow you to lift your arms that high. If your raised arms stretch the dress as you're dancing, it also ruins the lines of the dress and can create an unattractive bumpy look all down your back. Not only is it uncomfortable, your dress' strain will show in your wedding photos and video. So lift your arms and allow your seamstress to tailor where the dress needs to be let out slightly or taken in slightly.

2) Swing your arms. If your dress has sleeveless straps, it's important to be sure the armholes allow you plenty of room. A bad fit will cause the thicker fabric of the dress to rub against your inner arms, causing chafing.

3) Walk forward. Does the skirt of the dress allow you to take comfortable steps? A sleek-fitting mermaid dress could cause you to shuffle like Morticia Addams in your dress, which isn't the effect you're likely after.

4) Walk up and down stairs. At your wedding sites, you might need to walk down a flight of stairs, perhaps as part of your ceremony. It's very important that you can do so gracefully.

5) Sit down. You will be sitting, albeit briefly, during your reception, so be sure that the dress' shape and fit will allow you to sit without the risk of tearing your seams or making it hard for you to breathe.

6) Bend over. Too much cleavage showing is the danger here, so bend over as if to pick something up from a chair or talk to a flowergirl, and assess how much skin you're showing. Bridal-gown expert Nancy Aucone says that having the right fit and style of bodice is key. For this portion of the movement tests, your corset or bra will play a part in your dress's appearance on top. "Ideally, you should not even try on a bridal gown without the proper undergarment," Aucone says. "And you certainly should not have your final fitting without one." With your wedding-day undergarments on, test your neckline to be sure that the undergarment doesn't show and that the dress alteration covers you well.

7) Dance. Yes, dance in the bridal boutique, to see whether you'll be able to enjoy each and every song, fast or slow. "I didn't test this, and when my new husband went to dip me during our first dance, I almost fell to the floor," says new bride Stacie Aarons. "If I could go back and do it again, I'd twirl around and bend backwards a little just to be sure the dress cooperated." If you're wearing a short dress, as is a popular casual style now, twirl in the dress to be sure it doesn't fly up too high. Your seamstress can make adjustments to limit your skirt's twirling height.

8) Stand up from a sitting position and walk. A too-long crinoline or slip might prove dangerous if you take your first step into it. Brides have torn the fronts of their dresses and also taken a tumble because they didn't test this particular movement in their dresses, especially when they hear a song they love and rush to get to the dance floor.

When you test your dream dress, any solution can be created to help you look beautiful and move beautifully.

Sharon Naylor has written more than three dozen wedding books.

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