Before I started booking appointments, I came up with some criteria the stores HAD to meet:
- Be within an hour drive of our home. I just didn't have the time or desire to commute more. If you do, go for it!
- Allow pictures - preferably in multiple lighting situations. I was surprised at the number of salons that didn't allow pictures, but I guess when you're trying to sucker a bride into a spur of the moment decision you do what you must. I figure a salon that doesn't allow pictures doesn't have 100% confidence in its stock or its alterations department - and knows you won't either if you take home photographic evidence. In this day and age of internet research, saying you "might copy the dress" if allowed to take photos is a load of crap. Photos and memories are what you are left with after the big day! If you don't like how the dress photographs on you, you have a right to know before you invest. The photos of dresses allowed me to see that certain shapes truly did not compliment my figure, and that the lace patterning I sort-of noticed in the dressing room made it look like my hips were garland draped in photos. They also let me see how a particular line of the dress looked from the back on my body.
- Not be condescending or bitchy. Obviously this one is hard to judge before you go, but once you are there you will know. Know you have every right to just walk out of an appointment if you feel you aren't being treated respectfully. Though also know if you are being a bitchy bridezilla, it may not matter where you go - because your attitude is reflecting back at you. If you go in with a positive, sunny attitude, 99% of the time your fitter will reflect that back.
The First Store: A Small, Open Stock Boutique
The stock was limited in number of dresses, but the options to customize their dresses and to work with the designers were unparalleled. However, because the sample size range was tiny, I never felt like I could get a good idea of how I looked in the dresses. It didn't help that the other bride in the store was exactly sample sized and looked amazing in every gown she tried on, whereas I had clamps all over the back because my breasts were too big.
The Second Store: The Large, Well-Established, Closed Stock In-Town Bridal Store
Although the experience was lovely, the closed stock left me wary of committing. Each time I booked an appointment there, the fitters would put me in very different dresses, even though I was asking for the same styles, materials, cuts, etc. I hadn't yet found a dress I loved, and it always felt like they were holding back. On top of it all, I felt like the fitters didn't listen when I said I did not want an empire seam on the dress, and that I would never in a million years wear a strapless again in my life unless I had plate armor underneath it holding my breasts up.
Side note: My breast tissue is full on the bottom and saggy. I've tried many different strapless options, and have yet to find one that holds my breast tissue in a way that isn't drooping after an hour or holding my breasts out to either side. I hold out hope that one day I'll find a strapless option, but until that day strapless are off the table.
The Third Store: The Small Town Open Stock Bridal Store
The store I ended up committing to a dress at was here. It was by far and away my best dress shopping experience, and I never felt pressured to buy. I knew exactly what dresses they had, and the fitting rooms and mirror areas were exceptionally well lit, with an option to stand by several windows and see the dress in sunlight as well.
My take-away from this whole process with regards to my boobs? Unless you are sized the same as the sample, you will not get the whole picture at the try on. However, you can still get a feel for the fabrics, patterning, where the seams lie on the dresses (super important for some alterations), as well as what features you like in a wedding dress.