1. Read the description section very closely, and pay special attention to which fabrics are used to make the dress and how they’re constructed. Ziems says traditional gowns made from rigid fabrics, boning, and structure are high-risk purchases because they have no give if the sizing isn’t spot on. A stretch material, like a stretch lace, is the best way to go to ensure a good fit.
2. Look for key terms to see if your white gown will be see-through or not. White clothing in general is tricky to shop for online, because it’s difficult to tell if something will be sheer based on a staged photo. If the details of the garment say “fully lined,” that means the dress is constructed with a separate layer of fabric on the inside, which will prevent it from being see-through. If it’s only “partially lined,” that could mean the gown is sheer, or at least in some areas, so send an inquiry for more information.
3. Not all places allow you to try before you buy, so know what you’re getting into. If you’re lucky enough to live close to a brand’s showroom, stop by and try on a sample before submitting your order. If not, there are other ways to tell the look and feel of your dress before buying. Online wedding boutique Floravere allows you try on sample gowns in your home before making your selection for a small rental fee of $25 per item (but it can be credited toward your final purchase!). Daughters of Simone and Grace Loves Lace offer the option to order a swatch of fabric from the dress to see the color and quality in person. Or shop fast-fashion brands, like Reformation, which offer the same standard return policy for all online orders.
4. Deciding between true white and ivory isn’t as big of a decision as you might think. Ziems says this decision is a matter of taste more than anything else and says most people suit all. If your wedding has a soft and romantic vibe, go with ivory. Or if you prefer a striking, crisp look, Ziems says to opt for true white.
5. Don’t be afraid to try a new silhouette. If you know which shape works for you and want to stick with it, by all means. But Ziems encourages brides to not be afraid to try something a little different — your wedding day is your day to stand out, and sometimes wearing the unexpected is even better. Choose the parts of your body you’d like to highlight, and let that be your guide.
6. But if in doubt, choose a dress with a fitted bodice and loose skirt. A dress with a fitted bust, under bust, and waist is a traditional wedding shape and suits many body types.
7. If you prefer support in the bust area, search for keywords for that as well. Descriptions like “bust support” or “built-in cups” (or lack thereof!) are key when shopping for a dress that’ll give you the coverage you want.
8. Search social tags to see how the dresses look in real life on real brides. If a website looks sketchy or too good to be true, it probably is, but see if you can find any brides who shopped there for their big day.
9. Take advantage of the live chat help. If your online bridal retailer of choice doesn’t offer that, reach out to them by e-mail or social media to get a conversation going. Although you might know your body and taste, the team of stylists on the other end know the dresses best and can help if you communicate clearly what you want.
11. Know how to take your own measurements. It’s key to ensuring a good fit. Find a friend to help you and a tape measure, and follow a tutorial to make sure you’re measuring exactly the right areas.
12. Don’t forget to factor in extra costs, like shipping, taxes, and additional tailoring. If you’re shopping online to save money, remember that the price you see on the site isn’t necessarily the final amount you’ll spend on the dress. If the gown isn’t made-to-order, you’ll likely need to see a tailor, which will cost extra.
13. Just because you’re ordering your dress online doesn’t necessarily mean it will be ready in a few days. Just like going to a traditional shop, the gowns are often custom-made and can take up to five months to complete. As with anything, a rush fee is always an option, but don’t assume that buying online ensures a 2-3 day delivery.