3 Common Dress Shopping Mistakes and How to Avoid Them



This post isn't about prom dress. Its about FLOWY dresses. The ones that swoosh and swish and look AHHHH-mazing in field pictures. Those dresses you never want to take off because of how fun they are to twirl, run, and skip in.


Today we have something important to talk about! Dresses! WHAT? “Penny, are you seriously about to write an entire article about dresses? You sure? “ YES! And I promise, you need this, because we are addressing a specific problem, dress swishiness. That's right. Not just dresses, but we need to talk about swishy, swooshy, flowy dresses. Those dresses you just can't stop twirling in because they are just sooooo FLOWY!


Think I’m crazy if you must, but the following scenario has become too common:

Susie: “can we do those pictures where I swish my dress?”

ME: YESS! Girl, those are my fave! Let’s do it.” (I'm sure I really talk like that, but go with it).

Susie: “Awwww! My dress won’t swish right.” (insert confusion and sad face).

ME: Has to explain to Susie that the dress she’s wearing isn’t designed for optimal swooshing. Except I word it different….kinda. And it SUCKS to have to tell someone they can’t have their dream photo because of a silly wardrobe limitation.


So here’s the deal.

Dresses are an amazing and fun addition to any session wardrobe, but if you don’t understand the type of dress you need for the types of photos you want, you’ll likely be limited and disappointed. I’m here to save the day….obviously!


Here’s where many people get wrong while shopping swishy dresses and what you should do instead (It's a list and I make a lot them):

  1. Shopping at the wrong stores. I’ve tried to find the perfect dress locally and even not soo locally and they are not always so easy to find. This is especially true in popular chain stores. So let's be clear, there's moderate swishiness, and then there's AMAZING SWISHINESS. The most dramatic swish typically requires more material and cost a bit more than the average everyday $40 flowy dress. If you are hoping to find a more dramatic swishy dress you can try on in store, look into boutiques and places that may sell more unique clothing. Hollister, Target, American Eagle, Old Navy, and even TJ MAX are not typically places I find success in this area. They may have swishy, flowy dresses, but again, this post is about finding the most dramatic effect. Go it?

  2. Underestimating how much additional fabric is required for a dress to swish/buying too short, or too fitted. Less fabric on the bottom half =less flow. More fabric=more flow. What often happens is a client will purchase a super cute skirt or dress that has a few ripples and is kinda silky. In theory, this should be great. Where I’m sure it will swish a bit, for a more dramatic effect (especially in camera), we need that added lose material that almost falls in a similar way that a sheet would if you were to use a belt to tie it around your waist (OMG! did I just come up with a creative fashion shoot idea? Probably not haha).

  3. Waiting until the last minute to look for the right dress and don’t have time to find the right one. I’m picky about dresses, myself. If shopping stores by foot, you may be looking in quite a few places and may not find the right one quickly. This is especially true if you don’t know exactly where to look and are more accustomed to shopping at the more popular chain stores like mentioned above (again, nothing wrong with those stores, they just won’t fit this specific need). You’ll need to start your search early so that if you don’t find the perfect dress right away, you still have time to find the perfect dress. If you are shopping online (which may be a WHOLE lot easier), you may just not know where to shop. Even if shopping online, I recommend shopping early for several reasons. These popular dresses go quick at some realtors (*cough* VICIDOLLS) and you may need time to find one you love that has your size. Not to mention that ANYTIME you order something online you run risk of not liking it as well as hoped and you'll want to allow yourself time to return and order something else. Your photographer will not appreciate being asked to reschedule over a delayed order as this effects their income and isn't fair to other clients.



Let’s look at some examples of dresses that will not flow vs what will:


Notice how much extra fabric each of these dresses is made with. Pay attention to how many ripples you see.


Now let's look at dresses that a lot of people confuse for flowy swishy dresses, but actually produce minimal movement.