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This past weekend I was helping my sister shop for her wedding dress, and we were amazed at just how few non-strapless dresses there were out there.  It seemed like the only dresses with straps were either extremely simple, or just plain old-looking.  I know that many women aren’t that comfortable showing all that skin on their wedding day, and for girls who have body image issues with their arms, a strapless dress will only make things 100 times worse.  As a wedding photographer, I have to admit that I am not a fan of strapless dresses, because they tend to be very difficult to work with and, more often than not, don’t fit the bride properly. Although I have to admit that the majority of the most beautiful wedding dresses out there are strapless, I also know that for many women, a strapless dress is less than ideal.

So what’s a gal to do?  Well, as I learned this weekend, many bridal ateliers can add cap sleeves to most dresses.  In the newest issue of Elegant Bride (just got mine in the mail this weekend!), I saw a bride (fellow wedding photographer Carrie Patterson, as a matter of fact) who added just two small gathered sections of tulle to create her straps, and it looked incredibly delicate and beautiful, and probably only cost her about $5 to do.

Image Courtesy of Nashan Photography

Image Courtesy of Nashan Photography

Another bride added a bit of scalloped allencon lace to make a halter, a look  just ADORE!

However, my favorite solution has to be the bolero.  Boleros are so trendy and hot right now, and they instantly couture-ify any wedding gown.  The best part is that they can be removed at any time, so you can go formal for the ceremony and photos, and then remove it when you bustle the gown for the reception.  It’s like having two dresses in one!  Bonzie on Etsy definitely has the cutest boleros, wraps, and bridal scarves I have ever seen, and her prices are very reasonable (most are below $100). Here are a few of my favorites:

bonzie bridal bolero

If you want something with a little more drama, Modern Romance on Etsy offers an amazing organza capelet that can also be dyed to match your wedding colors, and Countessa on Etsy has some really hot boleros and wraps, including an uber cute black and white damask wrap that I just ordered for myself!  If you want something more traditional, try this lace shrug from Rohm on Etsy or this ruffled neckpiece from indulgencecouture on Etsy.  Many brides think “There’s no way I can pull that off!” (like my sister when I tried to talk her into a birdcage veil), and if you’re a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl, then maybe a bolero or wrap isn’t for you.  However, if you’re looking at these photos and thinking “Oh my god that’s so cute I want to do that!” then chances are you are stylish enough that you can totally work it.  Remember, fashion is all about confidence – if you think you look hot in something, everyone else will too.  Just own it, girl!


  1. Heather said . . .

    I totally agree. Being a girl, I am always looking at pretty wedding dresses just to plan my imaginary wedding! I never can find one with sleeves. I remember prom wearing a strapless dress and how miserable I was because my dress did not stay up. I do not want that for my wedding at all!

    Posted April 6, 2009 at 9:40 am | Permalink
  2. Ceece said . . .

    how fabulously clever. I had a strapless dress and to this day wished I’d done something with straps. Great ideas!

    Posted April 6, 2009 at 1:31 pm | Permalink
  3. Jenny Burdett said . . .

    I love these! i so would of worn one of these for my wedding! so vintage!

    Posted April 7, 2009 at 12:28 pm | Permalink
  4. Alicia said . . .

    I was wondering if you would be able to do this with a strapless dress! I am looking for a halter-style dress to help minimize the shoulders (I am a firefighter so read – broad shoulders and muscular arms) and halter dresses look best. What a fantastic idea to have someone add a bit more fabric to get the look I’d like! Now I don’t have to be so picky when trying to find a dress for a budget conscious bride like me! Thanks!

    Posted April 10, 2009 at 9:33 am | Permalink
  5. Dana Goodson said . . .

    Hey there! I LOVE your new site. How do I subscribe to your blog though?

    Posted April 28, 2009 at 5:39 pm | Permalink
  6. Melanie said . . .

    I am so happy I found this….. I am getting married in one month today! I do really LOVE my dress but it is strapless (which I never thought I would go for in the first place…)I now want to cut the train off and make straps or some sort of wrap! I just need to find someone to do it for me.

    Posted May 27, 2009 at 3:54 pm | Permalink
  7. Katie said . . .

    Oh yes, that was one of my few wedding dress stipulations: I wanted STRAPS and I didn’t want my dress to be beaded. I found an amazing Yolanda Couture dress that provided the right amount of “special” without looking like just another strapless wedding dress (not to mention that it covered up the dreaded underarm fat that loves to make an appearance when I wear strapless dresses!). Amen, sista, preach it! :)

    Posted June 8, 2009 at 1:23 pm | Permalink
  8. Whitney said . . .

    I love the ideas above! Here is an idea for girls who love more formal and traditional weddings: I had a strapless and sweetheart wedding dress, I ask the seamstress to add straps and I kept them tucked into the back of my dress and then at our reception after a little while, I went and added the straps! It was perfect and I could dance my heart out without pulling at the top!

    Posted December 13, 2009 at 5:30 pm | Permalink
  9. Anne-Marie Juma said . . .

    Very unique Boleros , am definitely getting one…..

    Posted April 28, 2010 at 10:13 am | Permalink
  10. Kateri said . . .

    Where can I find the jacket on the top middle photo? It’s no where to be found on Bonzie’s web site, but is *exactly* what I want. Please e-mail me! Thanks.

    Posted September 22, 2010 at 7:48 am | Permalink
  11. Abby said . . .

    Lol Stacy! I just noticed you were suggesting Bonzie in this article! I read it, but I wasn’t even engaged yet! :-) But the Bonzie bolero is what I ended up with! You influenced me subliminally.

    Posted October 5, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Permalink
  12. Melanie Nashan said . . .

    Thank you for hosting my photo of Carrie and for giving credit. She was such a gorgeous bride.

    Posted July 23, 2011 at 9:19 am | Permalink

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] http://www.stacyreeves.com/2009/04/06/tips-for-brides-boleros/ « Featured Gown: Cosmobella | […]

  2. […] bridals! Notice something cool about Rebecca’s bridal ensemble? She read my T4B Straps and Wraps post and decided to add some tulle straps to her dress! I think it completely transformed the […]

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