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!


85 thoughts on “Petite-friendly wedding dress search

  • Reply Hope Howland October 3, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    Oh I love that full skirt one… gorgeous… However when I bought mine it was a trumpet/mermaid style… I love it till this day!

  • Reply Audrey Chrysalis October 3, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    I love the corset on the second dress. I got married last year and I made my own dress. It was this dress without the sleeves.
    I used polyester satin (as it had more body than silk satin), silk organza, lace and silk cotton to line it. The only tip I can give you is wear separate leg stockings, not tights or pantyhose. It makes going to the bathroom easier. Melx

  • Reply Emily October 3, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    Wow, you look exquisite in both! I'm partial to the Tadashi Soji piece (probably under the influence of the superb lighting in those photos). I've been following your blog for a month or so now, and it's been immensely helpful. Thanks Jean – keep the posts coming!

  • Reply OmbreVogue October 3, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    This was such a fun post to read! Keep them coming please as I am also on the hunt for the perfect wedding dress for me, and I need information about good bridal shops!

  • Reply Anonymous October 3, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    Jean, you look stunning. I'm loving all the beautiful dresses.


  • Reply xoyaoyao October 4, 2014 at 3:07 am

    Can't believe you are going to marry. You two make a wonderful couple (pretty + handsome). So nice that you share your wedding dress pictures with us. This alone makes me want to marry.

  • Reply Elizabeth Seeds October 4, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Wow stunning dress!! you look like a princess! Thanks for the name!

  • Reply Jessica October 4, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    I like the first one (mermaid). The princess gown has too much accent around the bust area to be sophisticated.

  • Reply Anonymous October 4, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    Hi Jean,

    Thank you for the great posts about your hunt for the perfect wedding dress. Being a long time follower of your blog, I imagine seeing you in a style that's both classic and timeless.

    Here's a link to a style of dress you would rock:

  • Reply Anonymous October 4, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    Btw, it's the "Kiana" dress from the collection. It would look great on a petite frame such as yours.

  • Reply Stacey Kim October 4, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    You are the most beautiful bride. 🙂

  • Reply prudence yeo October 6, 2014 at 5:24 am

    You look gorgeous in both the lace mermaid bridal dress and tulle nude pink gown! And it is really a good idea to go for separates to create the tulle gown look! Thanks for the advice.


  • Reply Ale Bellaire October 6, 2014 at 9:32 am

    Good choices!! I remember how hard was to find the right dress for a petite one… without looking stubby.

  • Reply Anonymous October 6, 2014 at 10:33 am

    I wish you had done this before I got married a couple of months ago! I wore a Saja dress that I picked up at their boutique in NYC. They are simple but really elegant and was wonderfully ethereal and light for a June wedding in DC. The owner/designer is very helpful and I had it tailored to fit my 5ft frame and it was perfect.

  • Reply {Fresh~Linen} October 6, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Can't wait for the day (after you're married) to see which dress you pick! You will be the most beautiful bride in anything you choose. You will know the minute you try it on!! Have fun and enjoy this time of trying on gorgeous gowns, unfortunately time goes by too quickly. Soak it all in!

  • Reply Anonymous October 6, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    I had the SAME exact issue with an Allure dress! Besides the issue I had with the consultant ordering a size too small, she advised me that it wouldn't be worth ordering to height. For reference, all Allure gowns are 59" hollow to hem, but when I tried the sample size on, it was only about an inch too long on me. I bought wedding shoes that were slightly taller than what I had worn at my initial appointment. Well, I just came back from the store. Not only is the waist too small, the length is far too long and will be too difficult to hem (lace gown) so I'm stuck having to sell the dress and look for a new one now.

    Lesson learned. I'll be much more discerning this time around.

  • Reply rodelma lopez October 6, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    enjoy the journey…whichever you pick you are gorgeous in it jean but I like the third one

  • Reply Donna Biderman October 6, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    Beautiful Jean as always! Either style looks good on you. I was married in 1991 – had our 23rd anniversary this year. I tried on a bunch of gorgeous dresses and knew my favorite. Then I was visiting my parents in NH and saw a gown in the window of a dry cleaner/tailor shop. I liked it but it had too much beading on the bodice. I went in to check. They were willing to take off a lot of the beading (and we discovered a Jewish star underneath for my Jewish wedding!). It was a size 10 and I was a size 6, but even with all the alterations, it was in the hundreds instead of a few thousands like my previous favorite. Even though I still preferred the more expensive one, I was willing to trade several thousand dollars and go with my close second. It was beautiful. But the most important thing was I married my best friend.

  • Reply Anonymous October 7, 2014 at 12:07 am

    Love the Seraphina gown on you with the beaded sash. Breathtakingly beautiful! Hope you choose that one.

  • Reply April October 7, 2014 at 10:39 am

    You should definitely check out Marisa gowns. They're similar in style to the Tadashi one you tried on; beautiful lace work and impeccable shapes. I just got married 2 months ago, and I wore the Martina Liana #504 which was a dream. Knew it was mine before I even tried it on. Wedding dress shopping for me was quite easy. I definitely suggest you take as few of people as possible with you when you shop so that you ensure you pick out the dress you know deep down is true to you and not someone else. Enjoy every minute, it goes by so fast!

  • Reply gourmetstylegirl October 7, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Just got married in September and I, too, surprised myself with my dress choice! After eight boutique appointments and two almost-purchases, I ended up with a Watters ball gown, the Ada, from the Wtoo line. I'm on the petite end of normal (5' 2" and a size 4) BUT with a size D chest, so the structured bodice of the Ada was ideal. My seamstress did a lot of customization and I don't know anyone who hasn't had to have some alterations – just remember to budget for it 🙂 She was so good, I didn't even have to wear a bra!

    That's the best advice I was given – don't leave the tailor until you are 100% satisfied with how your dress fits. Don't be afraid to keep asking and pushing for exactly what you want, otherwise you'll be uncomfortable or nervous about your dress all day and it's not worth it.

    Ultimately, I felt like a princess all day (it surprised me that I even wanted that princessy vibe) and loved my dress so much I never wanted to take it off.

    Best of luck to you in your search!

  • Reply DblHooMD October 7, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    SO beautiful!

  • Reply Anonymous October 9, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    My tailor sewed padding directly onto my wedding gown so I didn't wear a strapless bra. And it was wonderful not having to worry about it showing or the bra strap digging into my skin after wearing the gown for hours.

    Be sure to communicate to your tailor exactly what you want. And the bustle is very important as this is how you'll be wearing the gown after the ceremony (if you have a train of any sort). I had an issue with the bustle design my tailor did with my train. I wanted a triple French bustle and she made a one-point over bustle that did not flatter the gown design.

  • Reply Bela Anzu October 9, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    That is unfortunate to hear that you also had the dress ordered in a size too small! I'm not sure if this is too late, but the seamstress at the bridal store I ordered it from was able to enlarge the dress by two sizes so that I could fit into it. It was stressful because I didn't know if there would be enough fabric in the seam allowance to open it up, but I guess there was. Also, the bridal store paid for my alterations with their recommended seamstress since the sizing mistake was on their side.

    I hope everything works out for you!

  • Reply Montrealaise October 14, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    It's really a shame that most bridal shops don't allow pictures to be taken, since in my experience (and this applies to all clothes, not just bridal gowns) photographs give you a much more accurate and realistic view than mirrors. Besides, if you take pictures, you can really compare the gowns side by side and see which silhouette is most flattering on you.

  • Reply Wiggin October 14, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    Love the BHLDN look on you. I just recently got married and loved my allure wedding dress. It was the first one I tried on! They have great affordable $800-1500 romantic well-made dresses. I wanted a lace V neck for a more flattering neck line (I have broader shoulder for a petite person) and it was beautiful. I'm also super tiny (5'0 85lbs) and it needed a lot of alterations, but my tailor did it all for <$200. Anyway, hope this helps :) (it looks super busty on the model, but looked way more modest on me 😡

  • Reply Anonymous October 21, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Your dress looks so beautiful on you! I just got married last year too and was featured in San Diego Wedding Style Magazine. My dress is from Bonny Bridal and is vintage style perfect for a winery wedding. My dress was affordable too. I paint and design cherry blossom jewelry. Check out my blog of my wedding pictures, I hand made lots of the decor

  • Reply Anonymous October 23, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    Hi Jean!

    I've been a stalker on your blog for a while and absolutely love your blog and style! For the record, both of the dresses look lovely on you, although I do feel like with the first Tadashi dress, you notice more how beautiful YOU look rather than the dress itself, whereas with the Watters dress, it feels a bit more like the dress is wearing you.

    As I am currently in the process of wedding planning I have tried on many, many dresses and finally decided on one (see below for the link if you're interested). Here are my two cents for you and for other ladies in the process!

    1) Fit/shape:
    As a petite asian girl with relatively few curves, after trying on various dresses, I do think the most flattering cut I found on me was either a slim A-line or a fit-n-flare. The key was finding a "well-constructed and structured" dress that could really accent the feminine shape. Over time, I felt that often the quality/construction on the dress depended on the built in boning and quality of material. As a side note- the "softer" the material (i.e. chiffon, tulle), the less structured the dress will be, whereas taffeta/satin is on the other end of the spectrum; lace lies somewhere in the middle.

    I at first gravitated to the simplicity of sheath-type dresses, but found that they did not provide enough underlying structure and felt the shape turned "blah". For the larger a-line/ball gown cuts, I thought these made the waistline very tiny and flattering, but tended to overwhelm my petite figure.

    2) Some great bridal stores in the Boston area:
    – Precious Memories in Malden; great service and selection, VERY reasonably priced
    – Christina's in Andover: this is much more pricey, but they do have a beautiful selection of dresses
    – Alexandra's Boutique: huge selection at fairly reasonable prices, if you're looking for a "Say yes to the dress" experience, it is a great place to go and their service is truly excellent
    – Quick tip: if you find a dress you like in Boston, it may be worth calling stores in LA for a price quote, as their prices can be MUCH cheaper for the same exact dress

    3) Some great "petite"-friendly brands:
    – Maggie Sottero and Casablanca both offer the "hollow to hem" measurement that can "shrink" dresses down to the correct proportion
    – Pronovias offers three different lengths to their dresses
    – Enzoani (especially their Blue line) offers extremely stylish and well-constructed dresses for VERY reasonable prices

    For those interested, after much ado, I ended up with this dress (for less than $1000) and am extremely happy:

  • Reply Anonymous October 24, 2014 at 1:04 am

    I was also a very short bride (4 ft 10) and lucked out going a nonconventional route for wedding dress – found a spectacular floor length Sue Wong beaded spaghetti strap dress in very pale ivory at Neiman Marcus. Because it was not a "wedding" dress it was much easier on the pocket book (about $500-$600) and came in size 0 so alterations were pretty minimal – just hemming and shortening the straps. I was so happy with how it turned out and that it looked like it was actually proportionate to me (unlike so many of the dresses I tried on in bridal stores!) I will say I would have never guessed before trying it on that that was the dress I'd go for so by all means think outside your usual box for dress choices! Best wishes! Hope you find the perfect dress for you! 🙂

  • Reply Anonymous November 19, 2014 at 1:40 am

    love the first one, you are the most beautiful bride,jean.

  • Reply Unknown December 2, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    I'm not sure if you've already decided on a dress, but if not, here is my two cents. I am 5' tall and I wore an Anne Barge gown. I got my gown from Kleinfeld's during an Anne Barge Trunk show. I was able to meet her and she is definitely shorter than I am! She said that she tries to design gowns that are flattering on short women, as she knows how difficult it is to find garments to fit right. Good luck!

  • Reply Anonymous December 5, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    Wish I had you and your blog with me while I was shopping for my own wedding dress! With alterations needed on my 5'1" frame, most dressed priced themselves out of my range. Also, so many of the sample sizes were so large that it was impossible to imagine myself looking good in them at all. J.Crew was the best out of all of them (BHLDN wasn't open by then) but I ended up creating my own outfit for a tropical elopement that perfectly fit me! Corset tops from White House Black Market in 00 are perfect for petites with small busts!

  • Reply Anonymous April 23, 2015 at 1:07 am

    A great resource for getting a dream couture wedding gowns is at like this romantic Monique Lhuillier Wedding Gown.

  • Reply Na Gbridal May 15, 2015 at 4:32 am

    Thanks, look perfect simple lace mermaid wedding dress

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