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Maybe it's a runway gown you fell in love with right away, or perhaps it's your grandmother's gown that you want to craft into a modern design for your strut down the aisle. Either way - old, new, borrowed or blue, the dress is the iconic wedding piece brides love most. And there's no reason the hunt for the perfect gown should be anything but painless.

During your search, you may hear the old adage that the more dresses you try on, the more you look the same. So, instead of tackling the gown project for months and months, you may be best served by attacking a small window of time.

Like everything else wedding, your budget is vital to crossing the dress off of your planning list. If you have a budget of $1,000 for your gown, there's no sense in spending your time trying on $3,000 gowns when you're not going to be purchasing one and, more importantly, you could be trying on a dress that fits your budget and style. Stay focused until you find that perfect one.

Some dress shops may require appointments, so be sure to schedule your shopping extravaganza, if needed. FYI, "closed shops" keep the dresses in a storage area off-limits to shoppers; a sales associate brings the gowns to you in a private fitting area. "Open shops" display the dresses on the sales floor.

Chic styles

It's easy to get misguided by the models you see in magazines. But remember: what looks good on another woman might not be the best look for you. This is the time to play up your strengths. Here's a look at some of the modern styles and fabrics brides are going for:

Strapless gowns

Paired with a swooping neckline, these perennial favorites give any bride a slimming silhouette. These dresses work well for brides with sloping shoulders, which may cause spaghetti straps to fall.

A-line gowns

Taking the place of the princess ball gown, these modern gowns hug the body through the bodice then flare out below the hip, accentuating the waist.

Sheaths and Columns

With narrower silhouettes in vogue, brides are embracing these looks that drape the female form in sophistication. This style begs for vintage-inspired lace overlays, such as corded or Chantilly lace.

Short Gowns

Designers are rolling out higher hemlines for a fun, fresh look, which work great on their own or as a second, "reception" dress. Designer Amsale even has a whole collection of "little white dresses."

Price is dependent upon intricacy. The more lace, beading and embroidery a dress has, the pricier it will be. Today's trends are gearing toward clean lines and minimal but dramatically placed details; ornaments, mainly crystal and embroidery, are concentrated on bodices and hems. Consider these fabrics:

Organza: A thin, sheer plain-weave fabric made from silk, its lighter feel makes it ideal for summer-style weddings.

Taffeta: A crisp, smooth-woven fabric made from silk or synthetics that is known for its slight sheen and light weight. Thin enough for ruching, taffeta can add texture without bulk.

Tulle: A lightweight, fine netting that can be made from silk, nylon and rayon, which gives gowns stunning, flowing skirts.

Charmeuse: A lightweight fabric usually made from silk or polyester. It's smooth, soft and drapes beautifully.

Chiffon: A plain, sheer-woven fabric with a soft drape. It can be made from silk, polyester or rayon.

Dupioni: A plain weave using yarns to create a fabric with surface slubs. In silk, it has a distinctive rustic and sleek luster.

Georgette: A lightweight fabric usually made from silk or polyester that's heavier and less transparent than chiffon. The fabric's fibers are twisted, which gives it a springy quality.

Peau de Soie: Made from silk or polyester, this fabric is medium to heavy. Its dull luster is more flattering to curvier women than high-luster satins. Polyester peau de soie also doesn't water-spot as easily as silk.

And don't think you have to default to white, either. Shades of ivory and champagne are popular among brides looking for a nonwhite option, and they flatter most skin tones. White sometimes draws attention to veins or makes certain skin tones appear jaundiced, which is why a bride might opt for one of the neutral tones, or even light pastels like pale yellow and pink. Colorful sashes and embroidery are another way for brides to add a splash of brightness to the big day.

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