Shopping for a wedding dress when you’re busty poses particular challenges. Not only do we need to find a dress we love, we have to find something that can accommodate our chests. Plus, we’ve got the extra challenge of finding an undergarment for the dress that fits and works with the dress’s style, which can be a maddening process, as Darlene noted here. While planning my wedding last year, I discovered some fabulous stores that are pros at accommodating women of all different shapes and sizes. This week, I’ll be sharing their secrets so shopping for your dress is as fun and painless as it ought to be!

To kick off my wedding dress hunt, I first stopped at Nicole Miller for their ready-to-wear bridal gowns. Though I’ve had some great success with their regular dresses with styles like this and this, the wedding dresses were a different story. The dresses didn’t have enough built-in support from the material, and the cuts were for women with smaller busts, as there simply wasn’t enough fabric to cover the twins! Alterations would have been up to me, out of house, since it’s an off-the-rack store. To make the dress work, I would have had to buy and add additional fabric to the top of the dress, and it was anyone’s guess if it would work structurally, never mind trying to find the right fabric. Based on how many alterations made to the top half of my actual wedding dress, as you’ll read about this week, my caution is this:

Tip #1: Finding a dress off-the-rack or at a sample sale can be risky (and time-consuming) business. It’s better to find a store that knows how to work with busty brides and can do in-house alterations.

But not all was lost at NM. I returned a few months later to find a dress that was perfect for the rehearsal festivities. Here are pics of the front and back, for a 32G. I wore a regular bra with this, which mostly worked except for when the top of the bra occasionally popped into view in the back. A little double-sided tape and that problem would’ve been solved. Because of the stretchy material used in some Nicole Miller cocktail dresses, they are worth trying on if you’re hunting for something to wear to an engagement party or rehearsal dinner. I’ve even found some great deals on the sales racks at Bloomingdale’s.

Lesson learned, I made my next appointment at Mark Ingram Bridal Atelier. Read about my experience there tomorrow!