Top Wedding Dress Tips From A Bridalwear Expert

Top Wedding Dress Tips From A Bridalwear Expert

After working as a fashion stylist for 10 years, Charlie Brear founded her eponymous wedding dress company in 2006 – and we’re so glad she did. Her creativity and experimental streak has allowed her to create some truly original gowns and as such, she has succeeded in building her own bridalwear empire from the ground up. Here, the top London wedding dress designer gives us her top tips for getting the most out of your outfit for the big day…

As a bride, where do you start? 

Magazines, online blogs and Pinterest can be fun at first to source ideas, but you won’t know what suits you until you start trying dresses on. If you don’t already have a preferred designer in mind, browse online to get a sense of which designers and styles you like, then book an appointment with them. Once you visit a store you’ll be in the hands of experts who will be able to guide you through the process.

Should you go to a store with an idea, or stay open minded on the first appointment? 

With an open mind – you may suit a style that’s completely different to what you had initially envisioned. Be honest with your stylist/designer as they have a wealth of knowledge and ultimately want to help you find ‘The One’. Be open to trying on outfits suggested by your stylist as these are often the best surprise! Do come with an idea of the vibe you want to create though – think of the venue, flowers and bridesmaids, and explain how you see it all coming together.

What's the biggest worry brides have in regards to their dress?

Women want to look like the best possible version of themselves on their big day. They want their dress to wow their friends and family, but also be in line with their signature style. We advise all brides to wear something they feel totally at ease in, both physically and emotionally. A beautiful bride is one who appears relaxed and comfortable, and so it is important to pick a wedding day look that reflects you, whether that’s soft and romantic or pared back and minimal.

What styles are most popular right now?

Weddings tend to be much less formal now and consequently brides are more confident in choosing a look that reflects their own sense of style, rather than having to follow traditional notions of what bridalwear should look like. Brides are seeking out modern, effortless styles that maintain elements of tradition. Creating a look that’s fashion-led, clean and contemporary is really important to our clients. Standout pieces of the current collection include Avalon, an effortless strapless luxe crepe gown with a soft flared bodice overlay and long waist tie; Elua, a tailored dress with graphic dandelion lace, sheer sleeves and a back panel; and the Keala, a wide-sleeved boxy cropped lace top with optional eyelet lace trim neckline.

Would you ever advise against an idea a bride has in mind if you think it wouldn't suit her?

Yes. It’s our job as stylists to guide brides through the process to create a look that represents the best version of her. We would always encourage brides to try on something even if we believe it wouldn’t work – typically at this point they’d be able to see for themselves why it doesn’t work and we’ll be able to guide them to the styles that would be most flattering.

What brands do you stock?

Exclusively Charlie Brear for all bridalwear.

How much should you spend?

As much or as little as you can afford. You want to feel amazing in your dress as it’s a big moment in your life, but you don’t want to bankrupt yourself either! Set yourself a realistic budget before you begin your dress-shopping journey and allow a little room for movement – you don’t want to fall in love with something that is unattainable, so this will help determine the designers you can shortlist. It’s also important to factor in alteration costs and accessories to complete the look. Our dresses start from £1500.

How long before the big day should you start the dress hunt?

Ideally 6-12 months ahead. However, as our dresses are made in London we are able to work to a shorter time frame on occasions, should a bride be planning a quick engagement.

How long does it usually take?

It varies from person to person. Some women are very confident in their style and know exactly what they want so the process is very quick, whereas others need more reassurance and prefer to explore all options before making a decision. We will talk a bride through our collection, selecting a number of dresses to choose from based on their personal style and shape, and accessorising where appropriate.

How many fittings are there?

Typically, a bride would have their first fitting of the dress where it will be pinned, and once the work is complete they will go back again to check it’s perfect.

Are there ways to keep the cost down?

Our styling additions range is a great way to achieve an incredible look within an affordable budget. By choosing one of our simple crepe, chiffon or silk dresses and accessorising with a fabulous overskirt, jacket, top or belt you’re able to create multiple looks to carry you through the day.

Any tips for brides that don't want to go classic long and white?

Jumpsuits are a great option – we’ve had a number of jumpsuit styles within our last five seasons that sell really well. For 2019 our super popular Carson jumpsuit comes in smoke blue which is a great option for non-white outfits. 

What about bridesmaids? How do you tie their dresses in with the bride's?

As with brides, there’s no set rules for bridesmaids these days. Bridesmaids are now often seen in an array of dress styles and colours to suit their individual body shapes. Once you’ve chosen your dress, you’ll get a sense of the style of bridesmaid outfit that will best complement your look in terms of colour palette, fabric and shape.

What are your thoughts on veils? Are they still popular?

I personally love a veil as it’s the only day you’ll ever get the chance to wear one! That said, if you don’t feel comfortable wearing one it’s important to go with your own instinct and sense of style.

Tips for brides getting married on the beach or in a hot climate?

Look for fabrics that are breathable, such as chiffon and organza rather than silk or satin-silk gowns, and take into account how you will transport your dress. Go lightweight and choose a fabric that doesn’t crease as easily.

What about a city or registry office wedding?

The style of outfit will depend on whether the ceremony is taking place ahead of the wedding day or on the day itself. If it’s a small, intimate affair you may want to opt for a tea-length wedding dress like our Peploe, or a contemporary jumpsuit such as our Carson. Otherwise, if it’s taking place on the same day as the reception you could accessorise by overlaying a top for the ceremony which can then be removed to create a different look for the reception.

An a traditional church wedding?

Church weddings usually command a more modest dress so it’s best to avoid anything that’s backless or too revealing for a church ceremony. We often suggest adding beautiful sleeves, such as our Keala sleeves, or wearing a jacket or overdress, which can then be removed for a slinkier look at the reception. A church wedding is also a great opportunity to add a bit of drama to your look to really make an entrance; the addition of an overskirt, such as our Merletti skirt, worn over the dress is a great way to achieve this.

What do you suggest for older brides?

There shouldn’t be any rules for older brides, they deserve to feel just as beautiful as a younger bride! Like all brides, some have concerns about certain body areas and we always suggest styles that will flatter these areas, but often we have many older brides who are actually fitter and more at ease with their own style and look incredible in anything! 

Do you ever get brides who don't want to wear white? What do you advise? 

Yes, absolutely. Our 2019 collection will be in store from this summer and features luxurious, artisanal fabrics in a soft palette of blush pink, silver grey and metallic, to sit alongside traditional ivories and creams.

Do you have any tips for brides with big busts?

Bigger busted women will usually want to wear a bra so the outfit needs to work with this. We have many styles that suit this shape such as the Carenne, Harwood and Pallas dresses, as well as the Carson jumpsuit.

Curvy brides?

Our dresses look beautiful on brides of all sizes and many of our styles are available up to size 24. Again, a stylist will be able to advise on the best styles to flatter your body shape.

Smaller busts?

Super low backs – such as the one on our Iconics Torum gown – are very on trend and can’t be worn with a bra, so these work really well for a smaller bust. High neck dresses are also really flattering, as well as dresses with a deep, plunging neckline, such as the Nyika dress from our 2019 collection.


What about tall brides?

If you’re tall you’ll pretty much look good in anything, and we offer extra length on most of our gowns. Bias cut is also a great option. Our Merletti overskirt has lots of layers of chiffon and is a showstopper on a tall girl, as is the Onilie embroidered gown.

And petite?

Petite girls also look great in many different styles, as long as it doesn’t swamp them. Our polka dot Luna Top and Lyra Skirt in stores this summer looks amazing on petite girls and styles such as Ama and Avalon are also great options.

What about brides who want to hide their arms? 

Sleeves are the perfect solution and add beautiful detail to the dress whilst covering the arms too. Our Nyika gown and Luna and Lyra spot tops are ideal, and we have a beautiful new crepe piece being launched later this year for our Additions collection, that can go over a dress to cover arms.

What to do if you change your mind on the dress?

Our dresses are made to order; however, we do offer a 14-day ‘peace of mind’ policy, so if a bride changes her bride within this period she is able to cancel the order.

Do you have any favourite celebrity dresses?

Our stunning new Nyika dress was recently worn for the ceremony of style influencer Jessie Bush of @Wethepeople and looked incredible. Cat Deeley is a personal friend of mine and wore a handmade veil that was three meters long for her wedding, which looked amazing. Olivia Palermo and Nicole Kidman have also worn Charlie Brear pieces, but my all-time favourite was Olivia Wilde in a bespoke Haliton, worn with Catroux sleeves in the movie Rush.

Any tips for finishing touches on the day?

Accessories are key and can completely transform a bridal look from day to night. With our styling Additions collection, every bride has the opportunity to create her own individual take on a CB gown. Starting with a simple crepe, satin or chiffon dress and layering with everything from a sequinned overskirt and lace sleeve to washed silk sashes, a bespoke look can be effortlessly created and customised. Combinations of accessories allow endless possibilities!

What about hair and makeup? How much does the hairstylist need to see to ensure the whole look is right?

Once you’ve chosen your outfit, your hair stylist and makeup artist will be able to advise on styles that will work with your look if you don’t already have something in mind. Sometimes brides will have their hair and makeup done ahead of the final dress fitting so they can see the full look ahead of the big day.

Where do you start with lingerie on the day?

This depends on the style of dress chosen. If you’re wearing something very slinky in a soft fabric you’ll need to wear invisible lingerie that can’t be seen through the dress. Your stylist will be able to advise on lingerie once you’ve chosen your dress. Most importantly you need to feel good in it and be comfortable – there’s always the option to change into something ‘sexier’ later on if needed!

What underwear should you take to fittings?

Underwear is crucial when dress shopping. Nude, smooth underwear is best – it doesn’t have to be the exact lingerie you’ll wear on the day (that can be tried on at a later stage during alterations) but wear something that works under white.

Any tips on shoes – do you need to find them early on for the fittings?

The shoe needs to match the dress both in terms of style and practicality. The heel height will affect the length of the dress and if you’re wearing something in a delicate fabric, it’s important that you don’t have shoes with details that could catch the fabric. Ideally, it’s best to choose your shoe early on in the process if the shoes will be important to you, or as soon as you’ve selected your dress.

To what extent should you take trends into consideration?

Ultimately, you know best in terms of what you like and don’t like, so always go with your instinct. If you don’t feel comfortable in a dress it won’t look good, so it’s crucial that you choose a dress that represents your own unique sense of style.

Be Inspired @Charlie_Brear

Inspiration Credits:,,,,
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