Everything you should know when considering gowns that need a solid, structural foundation. By Alison McGill Updated on 11/22/22
PHOTO BY VALORIE DARLINGWhen you begin wedding dress shopping, there will be an important question you need to answer while searching for "the one": What should you wear underneath your dress? According to designer Katherine Tash, many brides-to-be are usually at a loss when it comes to dealing with the types of underpinnings they should wear on the big day. A wedding gown is a specialty item that requires very specific support in just the right places. This is especially true if you have chosen a strapless style or a slinky, figure-hugging silhouette that bares more than a little skin. The great news? Bridal designers are taking the mystery out of wedding dress undergarments, as they are now building them right into their gowns. We’re talking about layers of stretch lace that hug the body, built-in bras, corsets, and boning. “We have listened to women’s needs over the years and tailored our wedding dresses to reflect that,” shares Tash. “Brides want gowns that look effortless, but also provide incredible structure and support on the inside so they feel pulled together. As a result, we evolved our styles and the elements that go into creating them. Today, almost all our gowns have a full corset built into the bodice which is fully customizable to fit every size and body shape.” MEET THE EXPERT Katherine Tash is the owner and designer of Katherine Tash Bridal. She launched the Los Angeles-based brand in 2018, and her luxe designs feature sculptural silhouettes and romantic fabrics, walking the line between contemporary and classic. While built-in undergarments may seem like a simple addition to any bridal look, there are a few things to consider before opting for this design element. With the expert help of Tash, here are the pros and cons for built-ins, including a few tips to remember when considering gowns that need a solid, structural foundation. Built-In Undergarments 101 Wedding gowns aren't one size fits all, and thus, there are many variations of built-in undergarments to suit the extensive library of dresses that are available for brides today. This ranges from built-in bras to corsets and underwear, depending on the style and silhouette of the look you have chosen to wear down the aisle. “At a minimum, you can expect to see cups sewn into the bodice of gowns, with most strapless gowns having a greater version of support included,” explains Tash. “This can mean boning, grip tape, or a corset." Additionally, she notes that many gowns may have "mesh shorts" constructed into their designs, especially for dresses with a "naked look"—a rising trend in bridalwear. The Pros Since built-in undergarments are an added component that provides support for brides in their gowns, the advantages of having this design element are vast. For one, they help alleviate any anxiety that may come with figuring out what to wear under your dress, and in turn, help create a flattering bridal silhouette. “This design detail has become hugely important,” Tash shares. “A supportive gown built to flatter the body is a game changer. You should feel confident and beautiful in your dress and that is exactly what built-ins achieve. There is no guesswork, you just slip into the gown, zip up, and walk straight down the aisle." Another pro? They decrease the risk of a wardrobe malfunction. While it's highly recommended that you try on your dress, with all your underpinnings, prior to the wedding, unexpected accidents (like your bra straps breaking) may occur no matter how prepared you are. With built-ins, you can rest easy knowing that your body will fit perfectly into your dress because it was specifically designed that way. Plus, the color of your undergarments will perfectly match your ensemble, another relief as it's sometimes difficult to find the right underwear hue for a gown. The Cons Though the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to built-ins, there are a few things to consider when going this route. For example, if deciding to incorporate a corset (or anything heavily structured) into your gown, you may feel a bit uncomfortable if you're not used to wearing clothes with heavy internal boning. The good news, though, is that this can be easily solved at your dress fitting. “Any issues that come up usually happen at the beginning of the dress journey and the initial fitting,” notes Tash. Meaning, if you feel uncomfortable with anything that is being built into your dress, speak up and make all of your concerns known. "A great bridal stylist will be able to explain exactly how it will feel, look, and fit once the dress is made, and how anything on the inside can be tweaked in alterations until it’s the perfect fit," Tash adds. Another con to consider is that many dresses don't allow for built-in undergarments, depending on the style and silhouette of the gown. Additionally, built-ins are an added cost to any wedding dress (unless they're already included in the design), so you may have to skip this detail if you're trying to stay within a specific budget. Final Takeaways In general, if you'd like to minimize the stress of deciding what to wear under your wedding dress, built-in undergarments are a great choice to consider. They are an easy solution for most bridal ensembles and are easily accessible for most gowns. However, for those who'd prefer to opt-out of built-ins, there are other routes you can take when it comes to your bridal underwear. For strapless gowns, consider a seamless bustier with boning to give more structure and support. When it comes to very body-con silhouettes, you may want to purchase shapewear pieces, like seamless shorts or a bodysuit that'll hug you in all the right places. There's a multitude of shapewear designs that are lightweight and relatively comfortable to wear, so be sure to do your research and try on a few styles in order to find the best one for you.
EXPLORE A Guide to Bridal Shapewear and Undergarments
What to Wear Under a Wedding Dress
How to Shop for Bridal Undergarments