From the moment I got engaged (okay, maybe a tad earlier), I dreamed of finding the perfect dress
-- a mellifluous mixture of taffeta and tulle in creamy white. For weeks I pored over pictures in bridal magazines, visualizing what I thought would look fabulous on my tiny frame, before I finally made an appointment at a tony salon.
Armed with a folder stuffed with my top ten favorites, I walked in and proudly presented my dream selections to the saleslady. She looked me up and down, looked at my dream designs, then frowned. "This style isn't for you -- the torso is too long. You look swallowed up in this. There's no way you can carry it off." And on and on she went, ticking off each precious page, and crumpling my ego at the same time. Goodbye dream gown. Goodbye euphoria. We were down to one. "This might work." She may as well have said, "Welcome to the land of the tall."
Searching for a wedding dress doesn't have to be a disappointing venture. After all, thousands of small women find them everyday. But if you know what will flatter and what will be a flop it can help avoid any unnecessary sob sessions, and rude sales people, during a stressful day of salon appointments. "You want to make your body look the best that it can on your wedding day," says Judy Reseutek, manager of Flowerama Bridal Salons at Macy's. "If you try on a dress and it looks like you will have to take in a lot of fabric and distort the design, then it's telling you that you should look for another style." Although alterations are always part of a bridal fitting no matter what your size, too many could ruin a dress.So what looks good on a petite?
A great style -- and one that's the trendiest right now -- is the straight sheath
. Long and fitted close to the body, it's almost like a column dress and usually comes in a variety of silks, like shantung or organza. The sheath flatters and elongates the body, making up for the lack of volume with a sexy sophistication. One of the most important things to keep in mind is choosing a shape you feel confident in, so don't go for something simply because it's on the "hot" sheet.
If you prefer tradition, then opt for an A-line
or princess silhouette
over a big ballgown. In other words, a silhouette that is fitted at the top and widening to a cone shape, and a streamlined style that won't overwhelm. Another good rule of thumb is to look for a gown that has a natural waist
, rather than a drop waist or an empire, which can throw your proportions out of whack.
Necklines aren't as limiting; a petite frame can play up pretty shoulders with a bateau neck
and show off slender arms in a sleeveless scoop
. One thing to watch: Don't overdo it with details. Heavy beading can engulf you rather than enhance. As for color, ivory can be a chic alternative to white, and softer on the skin tone.
Even though my fantasy gown was just that, a fantasy, I did manage to find a perfect dress to wear when I walk down the aisle (as well as a great many helpful saleswomen). After trying on a number of designers who cut their dresses smaller -- Christos, Bianchi, Richard Glasgow, Jasmine and Amsale, to name a few -- I chose a strapless A-line by Amsale with taffeta rosettes in the back and an Alecon lace covering the bodice. It may not look exactly like the one in those earlier pipe dreams -- it looks even better. Now I'm wearing the dress, it's not wearing me.Printed courtesy of Itsybits.com
Browse 100s of A-line gowns in our gallery.
See More: Gowns , Fashion