Petite-friendly wedding dress search

bhldn tadashi lace gown 1

Aside from the foremost joy of getting to marry my best friend, one of the wedding things I was really looking forward to was getting to try on gowns of all sorts – including ones out of my typical style and comfort zone (since I never know what might be a pleasant surprise!). I’ve received numerous requests to share my search with you guys, and was of course excited to do so.

tadashi short white lace dress

Isn’t this Tadashi Shoji lace dress perfect for a shower, rehearsal dinner, or other bridal activities? Please note I have a little excess fabric clipped back behind me. I also found several beautiful white lace dresses for less, below (click on any of the images to shop):

Unfortunately, most bridal shops I went to did not allow photography of any kind. I was told this policy is to prevent people from going home and replicating the gown – which doesn’t quite make sense to me since detailed photos of all the dresses I tried on are available online. Blogging aside, as a customer I would’ve loved the option to go home in a relaxed and sane state of mind, and review photos of how the dresses looked on my body before making a big purchasing decision (not to mention, share photos with relatives/friends who couldn’t join the appointments). Nevertheless I respect the store policies, and just won’t have too many styles to share about.

The only bridal shop I’ve visited so far that openly allowed photos was BHLDN (Anthropologie’s wedding brand). The Chicago boutique where I had my first appointment happily let us snap dressing room photos, and the Boston store had no issue with me taking these shots. The most affordable wedding dress I’ve tried on so far is this Tadashi Shoji number which was simple yet romantic and elegant. The belt does not come with it, but a statement belt of some sort is key in my opinion to accentuate the waistline.

bhldn tadashi lace gown 2

Making this petite-friendly: For dresses with pretty edging or trim detail on the bottom, make sure that trim can be removed and re-attached after a hem gets shortened. It looked like (also based on the website info) the scallop trim here is transferable in case the dress needs to be hemmed. True to the reviews online, the dress isn’t as mermaid-cut and shapely as the model makes it appear. This is not necessarily a bad thing since a tailor then has enough material to “shape” the sides based on your own curves and exact bust, waist, thigh and knee placement. Sizing starts at 00 regular, and reviews indicate it runs about a size big.

Next is this corset + full skirt set by Watters which was probably my favorite look at BHLDN. Although I do like my share of fit + flare shorter dresses, I never would’ve imagined myself to gravitate towards this princess-y ballgown look for a wedding dress. It turned out to be very flattering having a floor-length skirt flow from a higher waistline. Please note I’m standing on a dressing room platform in the photo below, so visually subtract at least ~6 inches in skirt length for reality.

watters dress

My dark phone photos don’t really do this set justice, as the corset detailing was gorgeous and the grosgrain ribbon waistband + tulle skirt was ethereal. I also did not mind the unconventional nude pink color. The main issue I had with this was how weighty the skirt was – I was told it’s made of 60 meters of soft tulle which felt like several pounds (perhaps would be better hemmed). Below is Watters‘ own shoot, which I adore down to the vintage-inspired birdcage veil.

watters shoot

Making this petite-friendly: Bridal “separates” versus a 1-piece dress can work nicely for petite women, or actually any woman who has torso length or waist placement that doesn’t usually fit standard sizing. It’s harder to alter a set-in waistline on a one-piece dress, especially if it has embellishments or if the shoulders can’t be raised, but it is easy to shift a skirt waistband up and down to the perfect spot and then taking in the width. You can also mix a different top or bottom half with separates to change up your look from the ceremony to reception.

Please note in all of my wedding dress photos on here and Instagram I’m trying on a sample size (ranging from 6 to 12), so the bust cups are not the proper size and extra material is clipped back. Based on my friends’ experiences, every single one (regardless of size or height) got a decent amount of alterations on their dress even after ordering their appropriate size, in order to achieve that perfect fit. For petite ladies who really want to minimize alterations, a few retailers like J.Crew, David’s Bridal, and Ann Taylor do offer ready-to-wear wedding dresses in petite sizing.

Readers who are married, I’d love to hear about your wedding dress story as well as any recommendations for custom gowns! Please also feel free to share a photo with me here – I have been absolutely loving all of your stunning dress pictures!

When you purchase through the links on this blog, I may earn a commission. Thank you for your support!

When you purchase through the links on this blog, I may earn a commission. Thank you for your support!

For Daily Posts

Leave a Comment


  1. The first wedding dress looks amazing on you! These are some great silhouettes for me to keep in mind in the future since I'm super petite as well! Thanks x


    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  2. Ashleigh wrote:

    Well, you are absolutely going to look gorgeous in whatever lucky dress you choose……but I LOVE the corset and blush combo. It is not something you see everyday and has sort of a whimsical, fairy-tale feel to it (with still keeping it classy, girly and grown-up looking). Plus, if you want to keep a piece of your wedding dress, you can easily just keep the top! 🙂

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    OMG Jean…I am having my wedding in August next year and I am also searching for a dress that fits well and looks great. So happy to see your posts on this matter and good luck finding your perfect dress!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  4. I wore a dress from David's Bridal, even after trying on more dresses elsewhere. They have alterations in-store (some locs I think) and they did an excellent job, though not cheaper than other places. So you save on the dress but pay full price for the alterations. It wasn't a petite size but it shouldn't really matter since I was altering it anyways.Good luck and keep sharing. I love to re-live the whole wedding thing.

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  5. Anonymous wrote:

    Dear Jean, the first one is the right one. Have a nice weekend 🙂 –Anu from Finland

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  6. CynthiaC wrote:

    Beautiful dresses! But aren't you worried that your fiance will see your dress? I kept my dress secret from social media because, well…I didn't want him to see it until the big day!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  7. Tanya wrote:

    I want the first dress.

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  8. Kelly P. wrote:

    I'm 5'1" and found that the cut and silhouette of the dress made a big difference. Being broad-shouldered and a bit muscular (swimmer's body), strapless was just not going to work on me. I ended up with a lovely satin gown, ruched at the waist, with lace straps and partial bodice overlay. It allowed me to have a v-neck to add some height/length to my torso. The satin also had beautiful lace detailing from the small of my back down through the train.

    I got the dress from a boutique with a couple of in-house tailors. Had a couple of alterations visits. I have long-torso/stumpy-legs proportions, so I really had to have the gown hemmed. A lot.

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  9. mika wrote:

    i love reading this and feeling like i'm re-living my dress experience a bit (but without the stress!) dress shopping was definitely an exciting time for me, but also very discouraging and frustrating at times… i guess i had really specific ideas of what i wanted that were also very vague in that i had no way to actually verbalize what i wanted… there were certain details i liked but i couldn't find them all in one dress (and it probably wouldn't have worked anyway hahah). like you, i had the experience of all but one location preventing me from taking photos. Lovely Bride in LA was amazing and encouraged me to take pictures which was very helpful… honestly, i wanted to find a dress there just because the experience was so good. in general, after a few days of packed in dress shopping, i came away feeling discouraged and like nothing was right. i seriously considered settling on a couple of dresses simply because i didn't think i would find something that.. even with alterations, would look like it was meant for someone my size and shape. obviously all human shapes are different, but i feel like as petite ladies we are at a very particular disadvantage. i know that there are some great tailors out there, but i just felt like there wasn't a dress out there made to fit someone like me.

    so in the end, even though i knew it would likely be more expensive, but i ended up going custom. i had gone to Alina Pizzano in Pasadena during my few days of packed in dress shopping because my mom made an appointment not realizing that it was basically a private studio. We met with the designer and tried on many of her sample gowns. We were impressed with her detailing and that she did so much herself. I hadn't considered custom originally, so when we went back it was an entirely different experience. I still had the issue of not really knowing what i wanted… but knowing there were a lot of things i didn't like and certain details i did like. she asked me a ton of questions about what sorts of things i liked and came up with three different sketches all of which were amazing… we ended up going with one that sort of a combination of everything she drew up and it was absolutely fascinating going from paper to muslin to actual fabric….things i never imagined would work worked out beautifully and my dress was entirely unique and most importantly made to fit both my personality and style as well as my shape and size. Alina was great because always made me feel comfortable, but also appreciated my honesty and was honest in return. She was good about trying to stick within a budget and gave options that were more budget friendly. it was important to Alina that even years after the wedding, you still absolutely love your dress so she made it a point to make it everything you wanted but also timeless. ultimately, you have to do whatever is best for you and whatever makes you feel good!

    and i second the Little Bra Company Sascha! That is exactly what i had sewn into the front of my dress!

    Good luck!!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  10. Isabel wrote:

    I opted not to bother with the bridal boutiques (personal preference – I'm awkward in situations like that) and found my gown secondhand online at The seller and I actually became cross country friends as a result of the transaction and I couldn't have been more pleased with the Wtoo Lycette gown and beaded sash. It was elegant, comfortable (big points) and refreshingly different from what I had envisioned myself wearing. Because the seller was petite and somewhat similar in frame to me, her alterations already absorbed much of the hassle and cost that I would've had to incur if I had purchased off the rack. The only thing I did was find a reputable tailor to carefully remove the lace overlay to adjust the bust to my size. I have no regrets buying secondhand and think it's a great way to give gowns a longer life than one wear, especially if the seller took great care in the gown, as mine did.

    Also, I love the look of the Bhldn gown on you and agree that it is very flattering!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  11. Oh – and I'm in Boston as well and would HIGHLY recommend Precious Memories bridal salon in Malden. They have a huge shop, fantastic assistants, great prices, and labels for everyone! I hope you make it over there!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  12. I'm only 5'-0" tall and I wore a Maggie Sottero which worked beautifully on my shorter frame. The alterations included the length (obviously) as well as the shoulders and worked out fine. I love that Watters dress!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  13. Anonymous wrote:

    I love the Watters gown on you. I'm also petite at 4"10' and 95lbs. The Vera Wang gowns at Davids Bridals size 0 fit me great off the rack and only needed hemming on the bottom. This definitely saved me a lot of alteration costs. You should definitely give it a try!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  14. Anonymous wrote:

    The first look is just stunning!So classic, so elegant, and so you!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  15. Cee wrote:

    Beautiful, Jean! Nick took these photos I assume? I'm not superstitious either about the groom not seeing the dress beforehand.

    I went with a friend to David's Bridal when she was shopping for dresses. Oh my gosh, the place was a huge warehouse. There were hundreds of dresses in all kinds of styles and very, very affordable, imo. My friend didn't want to spend more than $400 and there were still plenty of dresses to choose from. They also allow for photos, so you can try on all sorts of styles to see which one is most flattering. Then if you wish to buy from elsewhere, you'll at least know what silhouettes to look for.

    When we were in SF, Elle and I were talking about how we can't wait to see what dress you'll pick. Didn't put any money down on any particular style, but there's still time 😉

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  16. Midori wrote:

    HATED dress shopping–and my first appointment was at a place that not only did not allow photos but actually ripped out all the labels from inside the samples so you couldn't even look it up later. AWFUL. NEVER AGAIN. Saks bridal salon, Vera Wang, and another boutique I went to (The White Dress in Corona del Mar, CA) were all fantastic. They allowed photography and wrote down all of the info (designer, style, price, etc) for my first choice out of the dresses I tried. I ended up going with Vera but highly, highly recommend Saks and White Dress for anyone in the area looking for dresses.

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  17. FW wrote:

    The hollow-to-hem measurement is definitely great for petite frames. I absolutely loved my wedding dress and it would not have been the same if I did not get the hollow to hem measurement since I had a fit-to-flare dressed. My gown was from Alvina Valenta.

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  18. Anonymous wrote:

    I honestly spent more on my Ao Dai and bought my dress off of Ebay. Everyone still liked my dress but it wasn't designer or totally amazing, however, I spent most of the day (morning and table-side toasting) in my Ao Dai, so that was my #1 priority. I enjoyed my Ebay wedding dress, just had to read reviews carefully and really really know my size. The measurements were exactly as described on the listing. Dress came in 1 week and I didn't have to worry about alterations. I'm 5'1" and 110lbs. I could have cinched the waist in more if I was going to lose more weight (stress weight haha), but it all worked out. My dress was only $130 and I don't regret it at all.

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  19. Gorgeous!! I got my dress at BHLDN and couldn't be happier 🙂 ps. Isn't their Boston staff the sweetest?!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  20. Anonymous wrote:

    You look do beautiful! I'm also a petite girl and afraid to wear gowns, may I know your height please?! Thanks!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  21. Anonymous wrote:

    Thank you for posting this! While I'm not getting marry I'm petite as well. I'm worry for myself in the future. I'm 4'11 and about 95 lbs. 🙁

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  22. I'm pretty sure I screamed and got way too excited when you posted you were engaged. I'm just about dying over these two dresses. That first one looked incredible. I love how it fanned out at the bottom, but the second one is gorgeous. I've always dreamed of a princess dress like that and I am swooning. I love that you included the petite friendly tip. Although I'm not getting married anytime soon, I always think about that future struggle!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  23. Petite-ish wrote:

    I'm so excited for you, Jean! You are going to make such a beautiful bride! And what a lovely and thoughtful post! FYI, I actually found that most of the stores I went to around Boston allowed photos (even if they don't expressly say this). These include: L'Elite, Vera Wang, and Vows (a discount dress store that carries many designer one-ofs, it is worth checking out but I found it a bit overwhelming since you have to purchase within a few days or it may get sold). I also loved an adorable boutique called Everthine in Connecticut (which allowed photos of Jenny Packham dresses 😉 Happy hunting!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  24. Audrey Tom wrote:

    Ohmigosh, that Tadashi Shoji dress is BEAUTIFUL and like you said, totally, totally affordable. You look stunning in it!

    Mine was Maggie Sottero. It was one of the first ones I tried on, but I went around to different shops and tried a billion more because I wasn't sure and usually neurotically (to my detriment) exhaust all options. Finally, once I noticed I kept comparing all the dresses to the Maggie Sottero dress I realized that was the dress for me. We just hit our 6 year anniversary and I still have my dress and still love it!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  25. Sarah wrote:

    In 2012, I bought my silk crepe wedding gown from Ann Taylor, and it didn't need any alterations. Ann Taylor is a great choice if one wants something simple and elegant – I wanted something simple to go with a waltz-length veil. Though I just took a look at this year's collection, and the designs look more black-tie than wedding-gown.

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  26. Bela Anzu wrote:

    Hi Jean,

    You look lovely in the Seraphina gown. The heart-shaped neckline and silhouette with the defined waist and hips look very flattering on you. I love seeing some of the different styles you've tried on so far.

    For my wedding gown, I ordered "Allure Bridals" through a local bridal store. Since it was a lace gown, length alterations would have been trickier, but fortunately they give you the option of allowing you to order the gown to your height. They measure your "hollow-to-hem" like someone above mentioned and have it made in China. For an additional cost, I was also able to order an additional piece of lace (an extra sleeve), so that I could have the neckline and back keyhole opening altered. My dress had cap sleeves which didn't sit on my shoulders correctly, but the seamstress was able to alter it to fit me. (She might have taken the lace sleeves off the bodice and sewed it back.)

    For anyone interested in Allure Bridals, I learned through the hard way that their size charts are accurate (i.e. true to size). The employee who took my measurements decided to order my gown two sizes smaller than what it was suppose to be. Later on when my gown arrived and I couldn't fit into it, another employee who saw the predicament I was in, said that she wouldn't have ordered it in that size given the size chart.

    For one of my evening gowns, I purchased the fabric from a bridal fabric store and had a seamstress who specializes in wedding gowns make it for me. I loved this gown more than my wedding one because I was able to choose the type of fabric, colour and style.

    I hope you're able to find a wedding gown you love!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  27. Julie wrote:

    Wow, thanks so much for sharing this thorough review! I'm wedding dress shopping too and hadn't thought to go the Anthropologie boutique. Now I definitely will–that first dress is gorgeous!

    Style by Joules

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  28. Nora wrote:

    Hi Jean! You look wonderful in that Tadashi dress. I am roughly the same body type as you and I find those clothes to always flatter. I am getting married in a few weeks and I ended up with a Liancarlo dress that is actually very similar. A little more expensive though! But, though the sample dress was too big and long all over, each dress is made to order so they were able to shorten it to my proportions (I'm 5"1'), which will eliminate all of the really intricate alterations that are needed. The lace bottom makes alterations really tricky, as I'm sure you know, so that little detail was incredibly helpful! No matter what you choose, though, I'm sure you'll look wonderful. I adore the two options you were able to show us. Hope we'll be able to see more!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  29. Anonymous wrote:

    Sorry, not "Jenny Wu," it's "Jenny YOO."

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  30. Anonymous wrote:

    FYI, the Jenny Wu boutique in NYC allows tons of photos! During my dress search I went there with a bunch of girlfriends and was able to send photos back home to my mom. Her dresses are gorgeous and simple, as well.

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  31. Anonymous wrote:

    Hi Jean! You are just beautiful and will look gorgeous in whichever gown you choose! I got married last summer and wanted to share some gown info with you. I got a fit and flare gown from Maggie Sottero and they have the option of getting petite sizing as well as getting 5" taken off the length of your gown when you order it. I am just shy of 5' and was pleasantly surprised to find that the length of my gown was perfect when it arrived and I did not need to have any additional length taken off. Just needed some adjustments in the top. It was also a corset back so that helped as well. Good luck to you and enjoy this exciting time!!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  32. Sasa Zoe wrote:

    Stunning! So in love with the dress<3

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  33. Deb wrote:

    For my wedding dress, they ended up ordering a custom bodice for me (so the waist would be at the right point), it cost extra but meant that alterations were easier (they still ended up having to take in the shoulders, which annoyed me to a great degree.

    I really encourage looking at Victor Harper which really flattered my petite self (its Kenneth Pool/Austin Scarlett designing under a different name). They are seriously gorgeous dresses.

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  34. petitecook wrote:

    Congrats, Jean! My dress was made by Jenny Lee. She is a petite designer herself, so she makes some petite-friendly dresses.

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  35. I am in love with the nude pink dress. It is beyond divine!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  36. I LOVE the tulle skirt!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  37. Anonymous wrote:

    Many wedding dress designer offer "hollow-to-hem" adjustment for just a little extra money , which means the whole dress length is scaled down in proportion to fit the shorter distance between your neck hollow and where the hem should be. It's well worth it if you are petite and need an overall scaled-down dress and not just a simple hemming job on the skirt part. I am petite myself (5.2m, 00P) and bought my wedding gown from Birnbaum & Bullock, a NY-based designer. They offer hollow-to-hem adjustment for just an extra $100. I went for this option and otherwise ordered the smallest regular size, which was a zero. The proportions and length of the dress were absolutely perfect on me and I just had to take in the sides a bit, which was an easy job for the seamstress and not very expensive either. So, if you are unsure about where to find a wedding dress for petites, look for designers that offer hollow-to-hem adjustment.

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  38. Cindy Khor wrote:

    This post comes just in time as I'm planing to scout for a wedding dress for my wedding (although that's next year but a girl's gotta what she's gotta do, right!?). Your tips on the bra compartment and the statement accessories are so useful. Will check that bra out.

    To be honest, I love you in both slim elegant silhouette and princess-y full gown. Both suited you well and I don't think you look bottom-heavy for the princess gown. Maybe its due to the tulle being all soft and flowy which doesn't feel heavy on the bottom. The colour palette is perfect for your skin tone too. Congrats once again (don't remember congratulating you).

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  39. The first one is amazing! You're so beautiful!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  40. Hi Jean, these gowns are gorgeous and the second one looks so much like you. Very delicate and elegant! I've written about my adventures on finding THE wedding dress, together with some tips for all brides out there:

    Good luck with the dress hunt! I'm looking forward to seeing your wedding pictures 🙂

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  41. Faye Y wrote:

    Looking really gorgeous! 😀 I do get how weird it is that they don't allow photography in some shops, because surely the whole point is to try on all teh things (not necessarily in the same shop) and try to consider more objectively later with phone evidence, rather than rely on overexcited OMG DRESS recollections!

    Anyway, these two gowns look gorgeous on you, and really does reflect the classic and elegant aesthetic you have shown in your daily wear! 😀

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  42. Love the belt with the first dress!
    I found that `no photo' policies in these bridal shops weird…it is very difficult for brides-to-be to make a sane decision on the site…
    Anyway, you look absolutely amazing!


    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  43. LOVE the first dress. You look stunning.

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  44. andrea wrote:

    I love the blush fit + flare dress on you! So excited to read along as your dress search continues!


    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  45. You're right in trying different styles, even those you think aren't "you!" I was set on a princess style and ended up with a mermaid silhouette. Mine was Vera Wang organza, with an added custom floral Vera sash to accentuate the waist, exactly like you mentioned. Enjoy your dress shopping, you will definitely remember it! 🙂

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  46. I love the first dress the most! It looks amazing on you!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  47. Ping wrote:

    I love the first dress!!! I'm a big fan of the trumpet style. yes most bridal boutiques don't allow pictures! they r scared of people copying their design and if you go to their website, most often times the images r kind of low res and u can't zoom into it for that reason!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  48. Anonymous wrote:

    The Watters one is so stunning on you. You make it look better than the model. Gorgeous!

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  49. Julia wrote:

    The first one is my favorite! The silhouette with a nicely jeweled touch is perfect on you! I just attended a friend's wedding yesterday and her gown had a similar style as yours. Would love to see you in that during your wedding 🙂

    Julia || Closet de Jules
    Recent Post: Workwear – Playful Yet Professional

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply
  50. Anonymous wrote:

    You are the most beautiful bride Jean. You have the best taste

    Posted 10.3.14 Reply

Get the newsletter!

What updates would you like?