From shapewear to lingerie, our experts reveal how undergarments can make you look sleek and feel sexy on your wedding day.
Words by Eileen Smith Dallabrida
From a fashion standpoint, a bridal gown is the star of the show at a wedding. And like every leading lady, the gown relies on a talented supporting cast.
Bras, bustiers, shapewear and other underthings provide a foundation that will maximize the bride’s assets, minimize her figure flaws and provide a smooth silhouette for the dress.
At Bare Essentials, a lingerie boutique in North Wilmington, the mantra is: Everyone is beautiful. We just provide the support.
Because the role of undergarments is to enhance the dress, it’s a good idea to bring the gown while shopping.
“If they have the dress with them, that’s ideal,” says Helen Serth, owner of Bare Essentials boutique. “If not, we can work from pictures taken when she is trying on the dress.”
Finding the perfect bra is a complex process, starting with a fitting. Other considerations are the cut of the gown and the bride’s figure.
“How full is the bustline?” is one question Serth asks. “Do your breasts have a lot of elasticity?”
The sticking point
A bustier will cinch the waistline and enhance cleavage to help create an hourglass shape for a small-busted bride. “It’s a nice pushup,” Serth says.
This season, backless gowns are sweeping down the aisle. But how to provide support without exposed bra straps?
Bare Essentials carries so-called “sticky bras,” essentially adhesive cups that are applied directly to the breast. For larger busts, Serth recommends the Fashion Forms collection, which carries sizes up to an H cup.
To complete the look, she suggests Spanx, shapewear that can trim an inch or two off the bride’s middle and create a smooth line for the dress.
And what about something blue? Hanky Panky makes bridal panties with a silky ribbon of blue woven into the waistline.
Most brides will wear their gown only once. The same goes for the specialized foundation garments under the dress. But many bridesmaids and mothers of the bride will invest in pretty and practical high-end pieces they will wear happily ever after the Big Day.
French label Empreinte offers an assortment of luxurious bras and panties, with larger cup sizes in mind; bras start at size C and run through H, with band sizes from 30 to 42. Parisian influence shows in the delicate lace details and intricate embroidery the brand is known for. (Prices range from $159 to $194).
“They are gorgeous bras, very high-end,” Serth says. “We have customers who never thought they would spend that much for a bra, and once they try one on, they keep coming back for more.”
Nordstrom, with locations in King of Prussia and Christiana, sells the Vince Camuto line of bridal lingerie. A sheer, long-line bralette with lightly padded cups ($38) and matching high-waisted thong-back panties are a good choice for a bride who will take her vows in something low-cut and flowy.
With the strapless and low-back trends remaining strong, brides are looking for support and reliability, says Olga Muromtseva, general manager and buyer at Something Comfortable in Rehoboth Beach, which carries bras in A through I cups.
“The best strapless bra is the one that stays up and doesn’t go anywhere,” she says.
Wacoal’s Red Carpet strapless bra ($68) is popular among brides planning a beach wedding or a honeymoon to a warm-weather location. Another good choice is the Absolute Invisible Smooth Strapless bra by Chantelle ($78).
“They also work great under a sundress,” says Muromtseva, who also suggests investing in a pair of Spanx that run all the way up to the bra line and down to the mid-thighs.
For bridal dresses with a low back, she recommends a bustier or a quality sticky bra, such as one from the NuBra line.
“They are easy to apply and they do not fall off,” she says. They can be used up to 50 times. Just clean with a little soap and water, let them air dry and “you are good to go,” Muromtseva says.
Pursuit of perfection
Bra Spectrum in Bryn Mawr specializes in European brands not available online. Ivette Bridal, based in Barcelona, has been making elegant undies since the 1940s with such details as handmade lace, crystals and tiny pearls.
“They make the most breathtaking foundation garments in the world,” says Thomas Dorsey, who owns the store with his wife, Tatyana Ponomareva.
The pursuit of perfection can be a time-consuming process, so expect to invest up to 40 minutes (20 minutes is the average) in a meticulously detailed bra fitting.
“We measure in centimeters rather than inches because it’s more precise,” Ponomareva says. “There are 2.5 centimeters in one inch, and so we are getting a more accurate measurement.”
Because brides come in all shapes and sizes, Bra Spectrum carries an extensive inventory with cups up to size K. In addition to bras, they offer bustiers and corsets that smooth the middle and provide breast support. The Corin line from Poland is especially popular with full-figured women.
“It’s the perfect bra because it eliminates the pressure points associated with most other bras,” Dorsey explains. “It’s all about engineering. It’s driven by a woman’s body, and the larger she is, the more involved the engineering is.”
Last-minute weight changes can significantly impact the fit of your bra. Your lingerie store may be able to make adjustments or refer you to someone who can. But don’t leave it to the last minute.
For brides wearing a ballgown-style dress, a petticoat is in order. For slinky and form-fitting frocks, Ponomareva recommends EuroSkins, the shapewear division of Eurotard, the long-time maker of ballet tights for girls.
“They make a whole array of shapewear, from very heavy to much lighter,” she says. “We can find just the right EuroSkin that will do the job and still ensure the bride is comfortable.”
The trick is to choose the right shapewear so lines where the undergarment begins and ends aren’t apparent.
Attention to detail
Muromtseva encourages brides to choose at least one piece that makes them smile.
“Hanky Panky makes nice bridal wear, including signature lace thongs with ‘I Do’ embroidered in Swarovski crystals,” she says. The Rosa Faia collection offers bras and panties with “scallops of lace.” Chantelle bras are accented with details like lace inserts and petite bows. Latvian line Lauma flirts with florals. And French-made Lise Charmel carries corsets that lace up the front and feature such niceties as silky panels and pleated lace trim.
Guests won’t see the pearls, appliques and other embellishments on bridal undies, says Muromtseva. But the bride will know they are there—and there’s just something about romantic underthings that makes a woman exude sexiness. And who doesn’t want an extra “bust” of confidence on their big day?