Your Wedding Dress: Lessons and Sage Advice From an Industry Pro

Illustration for article titled Your Wedding Dress: Lessons and Sage Advice From an Industry Pro

We were joined recently by Kpoene’ Kofi-Nicklin, the Creative Director of Mignonette Bridal in Chicago, who agreed to answer all the wedding dress questions our readers could think of.


We’ve rounded up many of Kpoene’s answers and loosely sorted them into categories for easier perusing. Questions and answers have been lightly edited for clarity.

Silhouette & Style

Q: I’m wondering how you deal with indecisive brides - people who, like myself, have never been particularly sure of their “personal style” and thusly struggle to pinpoint what they are after? Or brides who come in with 5,0000 photos of vastly different styles - is that maddening as hell? I already have anxiety about the dress-shopping process and I’m not even there yet. Any tips for the indecisive among us would be great.

A: It’s totally normal to like a million things, especially because there are so many different gowns to choose from. When a bride is not quite sure what she wants, I recommend that she go to a big store like Davids (they are really low-pressure and have a lot of sizes to choose from) and try on every silhouette they have. That really helps to narrow down what will actually look good on you, and then you can start to do more serious shopping.

Q: I have a figure that is not very wedding dress friendly. I am short (5’1), with a large chest, straight waist, and a tummy. I am actually dreading going wedding dress shopping, which I’ll have to do in the next couple months, along with my mother who is flying in from out of state just to watch. Yesterday a friend told me that she thinks a trumpet style would be a good silhouette for me because she thinks its flattering for curvy girls. I never considered a trumpet because I thought I should limit my search to A-line or ballgown. What do you think?

A: You sound gorgeous, and your friend is right. Trumpet/mermaid will balance you out. I recommend looking at gowns with a laced corset back, as they give you a more balanced and curvy figure. At the same time, if you’ve been dreaming about a beautiful a-line gown, go for it. Just know you’re not limited to that style by your figure. Good luck!

Q: I have a huge bust, 34G, with a pretty small frame (I weigh about 130 lb, 5’3”.) Any silhouettes come to mind that help with the top-heavy ladies?


A: If you are happy with the rest of your figure, a more fitted gown (as long as it has a lot of structure built into the top) can work for you! I really like corset-back gowns for fuller busts, as they are adjustable, and if you hate the way the laces look you can have them covered. A-line gowns are also amazing if you want to cover up your stomach.

Q: I’m very busty, very hourglass-y (my butt is big too), and tall (5’9) and I’ve always dreamed of a v-neck with a deep that out of the question for someone with my shape? I have NO idea where to start looking for dresses or types, thank god we haven’t set the date yet!


A: You can totally rock that as long as the gown has a lot of internal structure. Allure bridals might have a lot of good options for you, and Maggie Sottero too.

Q: I have a gay wedding question. What wedding outfits (for obvious lack of better term) for lesbians that are not particularly butch or femme would you recommend? And ideally, not too matchy-matchy, ya know.


A: The key here is for everything to fit perfectly. If you want something that’s not a full-on suit, a lot of ladies wear a beautifully-fitted jacket or really nicely-tailored shirt with tailored pants. For dresses that aren’t too “weddingy” I recommend Modcloth or Dolly Couture. There is an amazing blog,, that features gorgeous gay weddings, and I like to look at them for style inspiration.

Q: My dream dress has a deep scoop, bordering on off the shoulder, is a-line, super simple with SLEEVES (1/2, 3/4, long - I’ll take any of them)!! My question is, what brand(s) offer wedding dresses with sleeves? Is finding a dress with sleeves even necessary or are there certain types of dresses that sleeves could be added to relatively easily? Are there extremely convincing sleeve cover-ups out there? Basically, I am obsessed with the sleeve trend and would love any and all information on it.


A: Sleeves will be easier to find if your budget is higher than $2,200. Brands like Ivy and Aster and Elizabeth Dye are good choices, and if you can afford a gown more in the $5000+ range, Monique Lhullier (I spelled that wrong, oh well). You can have sleeves added- If you are going to go for that option, I suggest finding a strapless gown, or a gown with spaghetti straps. Take it to a reputable local designer or alterations specialist who specifies that they can be creative as well as doing the basic alterations stuff, as a lot of places will not change a gown, only alter it. I hope that helps! Also note - adding sleeves will cost you around $250-$350 depending on the complexity of the sleeves and the gown. Other shops might charge even more, so keep that in mind when shopping.

Q: What silhouette/recommendations do you have for someone with a skinny frame (no bust but moderate sized hips)?


A: Without seeing you I cannot be sure, but you sound like you would look great in a bias-cut gown or a sheath. I recommend Nicole Miller gowns - she does beautiful 1920’s styling at an incredible price point.

Q: I’ve been engaged for about a month and I’ve only just started to really look at dresses, but I feel like most of the ones I’ve seen so far have seemed a little I guess overly embellished for my taste - do you have any designer recommendations for a bride looking for something more minimalist and modern? I’m wondering if I would find more in that realm if I head to a department store and just buy something in an ivory/cream/silver/blush - is there any specific advantage to buying a wedding dress over a department store dress, beyond the bridal gown being made specifically for you?


A: There are a lot of simple, gorgeous wedding gowns out there. For brides who want a clean look and a soft shape, J Crew, Jenny Yoo, Caroline Devillo (a Chicagoan!) and Nicole Miller have a lot to offer. Since it’s prom time right now, going to the formalwear department and checking out the dresses there is a great idea. I’m a big fan of wearing whatever makes you happy, there’s no ‘right’ thing to wear. I probably shouldn’t say that, but it’s true. If you want something that is heirloom-quality, wedding gowns tend to be sturdier and made of more luxurious fabrics, but if that’s not high on your priority list, definitely check out the formalwear departments of places like Nordstrom!

Alterations & Fit

Q: I’m so scared of buying a wedding dress now (for my October wedding) because I think (hope) I’m going to lose a lot of weight in between now and the wedding, making alterations super expensive if my body changes shape dramatically between now and then (I have lost a great deal of weight in that amount of time before). Am I in trouble because I don’t have a dress yet? I am not looking for a traditional gown, if that helps at all.


A: You’re okay, but you should get going no later than mid-June if possible. Wait until mid-July to start alterations. If you were our bride, I would see you first in August, then September, then October, to catch any weight loss.

Q: Is it possible that a dress wouldn’t need ANY alterations at all, or is that just a pipe dream?


A: It is totally possible to not need alterations, but it’s unlikely that it won’t need to at least be hemmed.

Q: I bought a beautiful gown off of Etsy and it’s a size too small. Generally speaking, how much will it eff up a dress to take it out one size? Also, what would you recommend to look for when choosing a wedding dress tailor?


A: When looking for a tailor, look for someone who specifies that they only do wedding gowns and formalwear. This is not the time to just go to the dry cleaners on the corner. I recommend searching “wedding gown alterations” on Yelp. Once you find that person, ask them about the dress. They will tell you if it has enough seam allowance to let out. Good luck, it’ll be great!

Q: I tried on a dress I love in the store’s sample size 16. When they measured me, I fell between a 6 and 8. The dress has a corset back, and they recommended I get a size 6. I’m terrified now that it won’t fit my bust (32DD) since I didn’t get to try the real size. I’ve always heard you should size up in bridal and alter it down. The sales associate was really young and I’m worried she’s steered me wrong. Do you find that it’s okay to size down with a corset back? I don’t really plan to lose any weight in terms of my measurements, I am planning to gain muscle if anything since I lift regularly anyway.


A: I would trust the associate, actually. With a corset back, the dress still has to fit within 1 or two sizes, so if you’re busty, get the bigger size and have it tailored down. You’ll get a perfect fit and not have to worry about busting (ha!) out of the gown during the reception.


Q: I am planning to wear a dress with a pretty low back. I also hardly even have a bust to speak of (thanks, genetics, I think.) My bigger concern is my stomach. Is there a bustier that can hold in a “spare tire” that could also be lowered? Control top underwear/shapewear of the Spanx variety hasn’t really helped. Thank you!


A: I recommend a bustier that goes down past the waist. I am a huge fan of the Caress brand bustiers, and you can always wear it with Spanx over it for a little extra sucking-in. Lowering the back of that bustier to work with your gown is a job for a seriously good alterationist but it can be done. If you can actually go to a specialty shop and get fitted for one I recommend that - it makes a huge difference to have one that flatters the bust. otherwise it will actually cause fit problems with the gown.

Q: So the dress I bought for my wedding, which I fell in love with, is weirdly low back and a drapey front, making a bra pretty impossible. I have decently (?) perky 34Ds and was planning on wearing a sticky bra but am getting SO NERVOUS about that. It’s in the end of June so I’m worried about sweat making it slide down. The dress is the Nicole Miller Clara, which is all over google images but not on Nicole Miller’s site anymore. It fits me a bit differently, not showing cleavage like the model. Do you have any other suggestions?


A: I’m 85% sure you can have a bra sewn into that. Get a well-fitting bra with smooth cups (otherwise the texture will show through the dress) and take it to a professional gown specialist, who should be able to sew it at the side seams and carefully to the inside, and then cut off the back strap. If that makes you nervous, you can also try one of those convertible bras that crosses at the low back; you can have a specialist tack it in. Don’t despair, it’s going to be awesome.

Q: I just bought my bridal gown, the Livia from bhldn, which is a simple silk sheath with a low back. Here’s the situation, I am a natural 32 DD, so I assume I would need some kind of minimizing bustier? I’m concerned with the back being so low on the dress though. What do you recommend?


A: We work on the Livia all the time! You can wear a bustier with that one as long as it ends at the natural waist, and you cover the waist seam with a sash. You can also have cups sewn in and the front tacked so that it doesn’t fly open. You don’t need a minimizer, a regular bustier should do.

Q: I’m a year out from my wedding, but tried on and fell in love with the Persiphone gown from BHLDN on my first dress shopping trip. Is it too soon to buy a dress or should I keep shopping around? Also what kind of undergarments do you recommend for a dress like this (I’m pretty flat chested). I’m totally clueless about what to do in that area.


A: With the Persiphone we have sewn in a bustier that stops at the waist (the back is sheer but the bustier blended perfectly somehow). If you love the gown, buy it! It’s a gorgeous dress.


Q: I’m getting married at the end of June. I want to wear a tea-length dress, but I hate heels. What sort of shoe do you think would be appropriate? I also want to add a bit of color. I would really love to have a colored petticoat underneath my dress, but I’m not sure if that’s too trendy.


A: LOVE the idea of a colored petticoat, go for it if it makes you smile. If you want to elongate your figure without wearing a heel, an open-toe flat, low wedge, or d-orsay flat with a pointed toe will make our legs look great without adding height.

Q: I am borrowing a strapless dress from a friend for my wedding which is lovely— but I prefer a bit more coverage so am looking to customize with accessories! Do you have any fave contemporary looks for cover ups? The dress has a drop waist which makes it a bit harder. I need advice for both inspiration and purchase purposes :)


A: Yay for having the something borrowed be the gown! You can have a coverup made, or wear a lace shawl or shrug - it’s more important that the coverup flatter your neckline than anything else. Does that help? Keep asking questions if that doesn’t help. BHLDN actually has some really beautiful capelets that are a bit longer and looser and might do that job perfectly.

Q: I’m wearing my Mom’s cathedral length veil that is 35 years old. It has a lot of lace that is lovely but yellowed, any suggestions on restoring the white?


A: We soak vintage lace in Borax that usually takes care of the worst discoloration.


Q: How would you suggest going about to find someone to transform/update an heirloom wedding dress? Obviously, visiting you in Chicago would be awesome, but paying someone to dream up something is a bit frightening.


A: Don’t be frightened by bespoke, it’s a lot of fun. If you aren’t sure how to start, just googling “custom wedding gown minneapolis” (or wherever you’re from) should get you some leads. Make sure you have ideas for what you might want the gown to look like when it’s done, and ask the person if what you want is realistic. If they seem freaked out by it, move on, but if they are confident, you’ll love the end result. Revamps are my favorite thing to do, it’s so fun to work with heirloom gowns!

Q: I’ve been looking at dresses for a while. I’ve ended up falling in love with several designers that unfortunately are unavailable anywhere in the US except in NYC. One or two of the designers offer online ordering, but being from the UK, the price is OUTRAGEOUS to ship here (and I wouldn’t dare order a dress without trying it on first)! Is there a way for brides to get around a barrier like that, or do they/we just need to move on and hope to find something similar on this continent?


A: Try looking for the gowns on a site like Oncewed or, or see if any of the higher-end salons in your town (or the nearest large city) would consider ordering a sample for you to try on. Here in Chicago we have Glamour Closet, which sells preloved designer wedding gowns, your town might have something similar! Just don’t try to buy a knockoff, you’ll be bummed with the results.

Q: I’ve been sewing for the last 21 years and am very comfortable around sewing machines/sergers/etc. I am considering making my own wedding dress, since everything I like is out of my price point. Would you ever recommend a bride make her own gown? Why or why not?


A: If you feel confident making your gown, go for it! Find a pattern you like (I recommend Vogue patterns, or if you want a more vintage style, Decades of Style patterns), and make a mock-up in a cheap fabric. That way you’ll know what challenges are coming down the pipeline when you go to make the real one.

Q: How do you suggest transporting a bridal gown via plane? I’m from the States, getting married in the UK, desperate for knowledge in this department!


A: Keep it in the garment bag, and finding a friendly-looking flight attendant who is willing to hang the gown in the first class closet for you. Tell them what it is and get a little teary, it usually works. But make sure it’s your carry-on, don’t check it in case your luggage gets lost (yikes).

Q: Do you have any advice for someone attending a “pop up dress sale” this weekend, the kind held in a hotel conference room and will possibly be insane? I’m really only going for a weekend away with a friend, and to see what’s out there in a non-pressure environment. I have no pressure to find something that weekend - and I actually have a very nice dress on hold at a consignment shop.


A: I recommend going to the sale with a budget in mind + $250 for alterations, and the knowledge that you don’t have to buy anything. Also, wear Spanx, bring heels, and wear a strapless bra that is fairly new and very flattering, as undergarments are the most important part of the outfit sometimes.

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SLEEVES. This was my endless quest. To the person who asked for sleeves, I also really wanted sleeves when I got married last year! You could try what I did out of desperation: Chop a sleeved dress in half (have a tailor put some elastic on the bottom) and stick it on top of a skirt you like! It was really cheap actually, especially considering the top used to be a gold booty dress from a Forever 21-style online store. #weddingcroptop #sorrynotsorry

This was me: