First and most important, choose a gown that suits the type of body you have. Forget about what you see in the mags. Mags sell dreams, and what looks like a dream gown on the girl in the picture, might look like a nightmare on you. Why? The usual reason: you and she don't have the same type of body. Choosing the gown that suits your body is so important, we have an entire section on it. To see it, click here.
Choosing the right gown, once you've taken care of the body type issue, is mostly a question of quality: you need to be able to tell quality from cr-p, because if you buy cr-p, you will look like cr-p, and if you look like cr-p, people might think you're a loser. So here are some of the things you should look for:
So how do you know when a dress is couture?
Only one rule: The simpler the dress, the higher the couture (haute couture).
That's because in the fashion world simple equals elegant, refined, sophisticated and expensive in taste.
A dress that's full of trim, beads and sequins and other inessential fluff is usually considered gaudy--a total no no in terms of fashion. Sometimes manufacturers put this stuff on the dress to hide a poor couture. But a simple dress can't hide it's "cut." It's either a good couture, or it is not. So when you're looking, look for simple: It's that simple!
In the best case scenario, you won't need alterations. However, if you do, there are basically two ways: you can have the boutique where you bought it do the alterations (if they do alterations, and if the boutique is local), or you can have a private seamstress do the alterations. Both methods are fine, and all you need to worry about is that the alterationists know what they're doing. It might help to ask them first if they've ever done dresses, and if so, would they mind showing you some samples. Also, ask about guarantees: what happens if they ruin the dress? who pays? Common-sense stuff, really, but worth making a note of.
You might think this is self-evident, but so many girls get it wrong so many times, that it's worth mentioning. So here goes. Manufacturers' size charts vary: there is no standard among them. This means that size 4, or size 6, etc., is not the same from one manufacturer to the next (why they do this, I don't know). So if you're a size 6 with manufacturer X, you might be a size 8 with manufacturer Y. And if you buy from manufacturer Y thinking you're a size 6, then you will own a dress you can't fit inside of. No fun.
To avoid the sizing problem, always look at a manufacturer's size charts. Manufacturers like Mari Simone dresses, based on Clarisse prom dresses, Mori Lee prom dresses 2010, or homecoming dresses. These list the Bust, Waist, and Hip dimensions for each size. So when you want to find out what size you really are according to that manufacturer, always start by taking your bust, waist, and hip measurements. Then look them up on the company's sizing charts.
A final note: it's always best to buy the size that corresponds to the largest of your bust, waist, or hip dimensions. In other words, if you're a size 36 bust and a size 26 waist, and the size chart says size 36 bust equals size 8, but size 26 waist equals size 6, then get size 8. You can always have the waist taken in afterward. The problem is that you can't always have the bust (or other dimension) taken out because there might not be enough fabric.