With her gorgeous gown, elegant accessories, sleek coiffure and glowing visage, the bride is the quintessential icon of a wedding. But modern women also want their look to reflect their individuality. If that pressure has you in panic, take comfort. These beauty guidelines will get you feeling both chic and unique.

Dress for Success

You typically need to order a gown from a traditional wedding salon about six months in advance, so start shopping around early, visiting the go-to boutiques and shops in your city. If you’re in a rush, hit up places like David’s Bridal where you can buy off the rack and walk out the door. J. Crew and BHLDN also are good, quick resources. However, if you have ample time, you can often get amazing deals on designer dresses by checking out flash-sale sites like TheAisleNewYork.com or RueLaLa.com, or attending a Brides Against Breast Cancer event. (Note: dress prices can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand or more.)

Another possibility – if you need flexibility with the timeline, payment options and design elements – is having a custom gown created for you. Or, for a truly cost-effective way to wear something unique and meaningful, have your dressmaker redesign a beloved vintage wedding gown into a new style that feels contemporary.

Regardless, before you settle on a dress source, it’s helpful to think about details like the formality of your event – for example, if you’re having a church wedding, you should probably skip that backless number. That said, keep an open mind – you might be the avidly anti-strapless type, but it turns out this popular style is especially flattering for your body type.

Looking for some fashion-forward leads? Trends in short dresses include the ’60s trapeze look and a short-in-the-front/floor-length-in-the-back hemline, which can really showcase a fabulous shoe. Leonard says also seeing color on the bridal runways, including pale peach, a dark lilac and for the more gothic bride, black or a black-and-nude look. Other unconventional trends include low-draped and sheer backs, and front or side slits – just be sure to avoid ankle straps, as they can make legs look shorter and thicker.

Shortly after you order your dress, you’ll want to settle on your shoes – you should bring them to your first fitting, as they may affect the alterations. It’s possible to push purchasing a wrap and/or clutch to the last minute, but you’ll ideally want to decide on any hair accessories (a veil, fascinator, hat, crown or clip) and jewelry a few months prior, as they may impact your hair and makeup choices.

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