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Tall? Short? Curvy? Straight up and down? There's a wedding dress for that

When it comes to wedding dresses and, specifically, which one will suit you, not all gowns are created equal.
The problem is, in the throes of Peak Dress Excitement (those heady weeks when you're giddier than a three-year-old on a sugar high and have enough Post-its on the go to fill an Officeworks store), it's tempting to run into your nearest bridal boutique and shout, "I'll try one of everything!"... only to leave completely overwhelmed by all the choices and no closer to finding your dream gown.

One easy way to avoid this scenario is to narrow in on your target - that is, the styles most likely to suit your shape. Finding wedding dresses for different body shapes also happens to be one of the topics we get asked about most at Bride HQ, so we recruited some of the best in the biz - two bridal couturiers and three celebrity stylists - to give us their expert opinions. And don't worry, there's no 'apples' and 'pears' here (we never understood that weird fruit salad situation, either), just general guidelines based around common physical traits. We've matched them to gorgeous gowns from our June issue, so you can see what these styles look like IRL, and also got our experts' general tips for a happy dress hunt. We're helpful like that.

Straight up and down

Aleem Yusuf, bridal couturier: "For a slim figure, long, flowing gowns look lovely. However, to achieve an hourglass look, a full A-line skirt with a strapless fitted bodice (with a sash and/or shoulder detail) and sweetheart neckline works like magic."

Bernadette Pimenta, bridal couturier: "Avoid dramatic fishtails and trumpet styles. Look for a style that will create an illusion of curves – bias cuts in soft silks or ball gowns that cinch in at your waistline will flatter your shape."

Lydia-Jane Saunders, stylist: "A basque waistline (V shape at the front) will craft a false waist for you, creating the enviable hourglass figure. Avoid any drop-waist dresses or simple sheath styles."

Cheryl Tan, stylist: "You need a dress to create the illusion of shape. I would recommend something that opens up at the chest, cinches in at the waist and falls naturally from the waist down, or opting for a dress with a peplum to create shape."

Jodi Wuestewald, stylist: "Add shape and volume, showing your curves – A-line gowns, full peplum, contoured seams, details on the chest and hips will give an hourglass shape."

Curvy

Aleem: "Depending on the proportions of your curves, scooped, square or V-necklines, long A-line flowing dresses, and cap sleeves with ruching around the waist would be recommended. In some instances, a strapless beaded top section and plain skirt would work well. For an hourglass curvy figure, show off those gorgeous curves with a cinched waist and strapless bodice complemented with either a flowing or full skirt."

Bernadette: "Avoid details on your hips, try gentle soft styles flowing from the hips. A-line skirts are best suited for this figure. Enhance your décolletage to showcase a more slender upper body."

Lydia-Jane: "Mermaid style gowns have a great slimming effect, as do high-waisted A-line gowns with a sweetheart or lower neckline. A fitted bodice would also be flattering. Sleeves are really popular at the moment, too. It's best to avoid any slinky bias-cut gowns, as well as spaghetti straps and strapless gowns."

Cheryl: "The best types of dresses to look for are empire-line dresses that start below the bust and just fall naturally on the body. Another tip to keep an eye on is asymmetrical pleating, as this will slim the body down."

Jodi: "Show off your smallest mid-section by choosing something that cinches in at the waist. Ball gowns are perfect for this. The eye will be drawn inwards with waist details, draping, embellishments and asymmetrical pleating. A mermaid shape will show up your curves. A high neckline with a train will lengthen, making you look leaner. Shiny fabric is not recommended because it highlights every bump. Choose structure over flowy." 

Tall

Aleem: "Shoulder detailing and a full skirt with lots of layers would look fabulous, combined with a low neckline and a lovely wide sash."   

Bernadette: "Even though most shapes would suit you, a simple silhouette will compliment your natural shape. Ensure that every aspect of your dress is made keeping your height in mind."

Lydia-Jane: "As a taller woman, you have so many more choices on style of gown and you can really go to town on a long and dramatic veil. Avoid headpieces that add too much extra height."

Cheryl: "If you're tall, it's great to consider dresses with horizontal detailing as this will shorten your frame."

Jodi: "You want to emphasise your natural shape and highlight any curves. Choose a simple silhouette – a sheath dress is perfect. A mermaid shape is suitable because it contours the body from the chest to the knee and then flares out. A high neck will emphasise your long torso, so choose V-neck or scoop neck."

Petite

Aleem: "Go for a strapless sweetheart neckline, fitted around the hips and flaring out from mid-thigh or knees. Empire line or an off-the-shoulder neckline with flowing skirts work well too."

Bernadette: "You can wear soft trumpets and sheath styles. Detailing should be minimal, mostly in the bodice area to draw the eye upward."

Lydia-Jane: "An A-line gown or a modern sheath style of dress will add length to your frame. A simple, clean-cut fabric with a tulle or sheer lace overlay is ideal. The petite body shape is one of the only ones where I approve of a strapless gown. Avoid too much material and embellishment."

Cheryl: "Steer away from anything that drops low on the waistline and dresses with big skirts, as it's easy to get lost in them."

Jodi: "Selecting a dress for the petite frame is about proportion. A full gown will overwhelm a small frame. Choose simple, minimalist dresses with slim structured skirts over full. A sheath and empire waist will lengthen, and a trumpet style will give you a full dress feeling and highlight curves. Vertical details over horizontal will elongate, including a vertical neckline, and small details will be in proportion with your body. Avoid drop-waist or calf-length dresses, which will shorten legs."

Big boobs

Aleem: "A V-neckline or fitted bodice works well; stay away from drawing in the waistline. Beading or lace detailing on the skirt or hemline is recommended."

Bernadette: "Sweetheart and scooped necklines will suit best. Make sure your corsetry is well made to hold up the bust."

Lydia-Jane: "A V-neck corset style dress that emphasises your assets but doesn’t reveal too much is ideal. A full skirt will also balance out your top half. Avoid strapless styles, as you will spend all day pulling your dress up."

Cheryl: "Square necklines are great for girls with a larger bust as they aren't too revealing. You can also look at dresses with a fuller skirt to balance the fullness up top."

Jodi: "The bosom needs to be minimised and balanced, which is easily done with a full skirt. A scoop, V or square neckline will open up your face. Strapless gowns require some shape such as a dip or sweetheart neckline, rather than straight across. Lace up the top will provide coverage while allowing skin to show. Avoid shiny fabric, which draws attention to a shapely bust."

Small boobs

Aleem: "A dipped sweetheart, off-the-shoulder or halter neckline with cinched waist."

Bernadette: "Look for a gown that has bodice detail, either ruching or beading that will create an illusion of a larger bust line."

Lydia-Jane: "A sweetheart neckline is ideal for enhancing your bust. A plunging V-neck would be flattering also. Avoid straight or high necklines."

Cheryl: "Ruching is your best friend around the bust as this always creates the illusion of a bigger bust."

Jodi: "Balance a small bust by adding shape and volume up the top. Opt for a bodice with detail and texture to create shape, such as ruching and lace. Choose a skirt that is not too full. An empire waist can enhance the bust because it cinches in where it’s smaller."

Pregnant

Aleem: "Go for an empire waistline with a beaded top section, scooped neckline and a long, flowing skirt in soft fabrics."

Bernadette: "Empire lines, or fabric caught under the bust, with soft fabrics will be best suited and most comfortable. Avoid very stiff fabrics."

Lydia-Jane: "This is the trickiest shape to dress as you will grow before the big day. Try an empire line gown that can grow as your tummy does. The loose and relaxed silhouette will flatter you. Avoid anything too tight and restrictive."

Cheryl: "Once again, if you have a growing bump, the most flattering dress is an empire line dress as it's fitted across the bust and falls nicely over your bump."

Jodi: "Details up the top of a dress will balance out a pregnant belly. The empire waistline is perfect for a pregnant bride because it cinches in at the small part of the waist above your belly."

One last thing...

Aleem: "Allow plenty of time in advance when choosing your wedding dress or having it custom made. The magic of fabric manipulation and positioning of lace and beading works wonders in accentuating your best features and enhancing your own unique personality. Avoid asking for too many opinions as it causes confusion. Try on all different styles so you know what you want and don't want. Most importantly, think about being comfortable in your dress on your wedding day to be able to enjoy your day and have fun as well."

Lydia-Jane: "Searching for the perfect dress can be stressful, so start early to avoid feeling rushed. If you can take some time off work to go, I highly recommend a weekday rather than a weekend, which is the busiest time. Having too many people with you will add extra stress and opinions, so take your mum and/or your best friend only. Have your budget in mind. Do not try on anything out of your budget because it is likely you will end up wanting that one. I see a lot of brides who order a dress that is too small hoping to lose weight; this is a big no-no. Buy the dress for the size you are now - a dress can always be taken in but it can’t be taken out. My biggest tip though would be to just have fun, it’s meant to be one of the most exciting times in your life!"

Cheryl: "Don't over-try the dresses. Have a look online for types of dresses you like and have a clear idea of what you would like before shopping for the dress. There is nothing worse than being even more confused than when you started because you've looked at too many. Don't start shopping for your dress too early - the best time to start looking is when you have a good idea of the style of wedding you plan on having and when, before you get the dress. Set yourself a budget and stick within that budget."

Jodi: "Begin your dress search by gathering pictures of gowns you like, then make your appointments to try on gowns. This will narrow down a style that you feel comfortable in. I recommend selecting a more classic style over a trend-driven gown so you'll still be happy with the photos in years to come. Choosing the correct dress shape for your body is about showing off your assets and visually balancing out your shape."

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