We’ve all poured over photos of Meghan Markle’s gorgeous Givenchy gown , and seen how beautiful Priyanka Chopra and Kim Kardashian looked in the shapely lace numbers they chose for their big day, but when it comes to making the big decision for ourselves, shopping for a bridal gown can be a minefield – especially since dress samples come in a rather limited number of sizes. While searching for the gown of your dreams should be a joyous rite of passage for every bride, it can also be a time consuming one, so a few tips from the professionals can help refine the process and give you a good idea about how to get started. According to Jacqueline Au, founder and creative director of The Loft Bridal boutique in Hong Kong, most gowns fall into one of five shapes: ball gown, mermaid, A-line, trumpet and column. “Brides should always tackle the shape first and details later. The shape and fit of a gown is everything,” she says. “You will then find it a lot easier to focus and won’t be wasting time nitpicking over details in the beginning, such as lace, embroidery or the bow.” And while the bride’s body shape is important, what’s also important is the silhouette she wishes to have in the final look, as well as things she wants to accentuate. Old hat? Why wedding headpieces are bang on trend in 2020 How to host a socially distanced, IG-friendly wedding ceremony The shape will also dictate the choice of material used to make the dress and embellishments. A ball gown is often a go-to for brides who crave a Cinderella moment and want to make a grand entrance. “While the ball gown can create the look of a narrow waist or offset a fuller bosom, this silhouette can be overwhelming on a petite bride,” Au says. But don’t let that deter you – gowns such as Vivienne Westwood’s Bagatelle offer convertible elements such as a detachable tulle petticoat, so those with a smaller frame aren’t swallowed by metres of fabric. “One important thing to note is that the waist is often a bride’s best asset and deserves great emphasis no matter which silhouette you go for,” Au says. Celebrities who married in recycled wedding dresses (or promised to next time) Those who find a ball gown too voluminous but wish to show off a nipped waistline may want to opt for an elongating A-line, a less dramatic alternative. If you have curves to spare though, the mermaid will be your go-to option, particularly for those who are tall, as it emphasises the body’s shape. One Day Bridal’s Sadie gown is a good example, plus its minimal embellishments make sure that all eyes stay on an hourglass figure. “But this shape can make a petite woman look shorter, as the skirt does not have a lot of room to flare out below the knee. However, with a trumpet shape, the skirt flares out just below the thigh to a graceful train that sweeps the floor.” A column shape is best suited for those with a slimmer or more boyish frame, particularly if the fabric is flowy without the typical boning and corsetry associated with bridal gowns – think Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy in that Narciso Rodriguez sheath. A modern take on this is Westwood’s Minerva gown, a silk-satin number with a draped neckline that sweeps across the shoulder, “creating the illusion of a fuller bosom”, Au notes. But while there are plenty of gowns to choose from on the market, many brides might still relish the opportunity to work with a custom gown designer. Noel Chu, an industry veteran, says women come to her more to execute unusual requirements. “They might have an unusual body type or want to combine elements of several dresses, or they want something not easy to find, like a folk costume or a jumpsuit,” she says. What makes the process more enjoyable for the bride is that she will dictate elements she desires. For example, a low back can emphasis curves, or a sheer bodice can be made a little more conservative for church by adding a detachable fabric panel. 7 royal wedding tiaras worn by Meghan Markle, Kate Middleton and others Chu will execute these requests in a way that naturally flatters the bride’s body type. “This is a dream factory. So we want to give a client what she wants, but I will also have them try on what I think will make them look good.” Typically Chu will create a mock-up gown at a low cost that is perfectly fitted, because most women don’t fit into typical body types. “A mock-up gives them the best idea of the final look, because sometimes people find custom designs very abstract,” she says. In one case, Chu says the bride’s body art dictated the design – she wished for a matching husband-and-wife back tattoo to be the focal point. “As important as body type is, the gown and silhouette needs to match the situation, and the photo opportunity, too,” Chu explains. Who is Sabyasachi Mukherjee, India’s A-list bridal designer? “In a church, you want to be more conservative, but you also want to make sure the gown has impact from behind, which is the way most guests will see it,” she adds. “For family and group photos, I would suggest a silhouette that makes the bride look slimmer, but also one that doesn’t block guests from standing right beside the bride. For the march in, you want it grand, and if there’s a high ceiling, you can carry off a dramatic silhouette.” Part of Chu’s job as a designer includes dispensing this sort of advice, particularly in a year in which social-distancing regulations mean wedding plans could change at short notice . “With so many differing situations, the trend is definitely to create convertible options. And this year, with so many wedding plans up in the air, many brides have had to forfeit their dreams, and sometimes have to even opt for a rental gown if they don’t have time for anything else. That is when all this advice comes in useful,” says Chu. Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .