Navigating Wedding Gown Shopping As A Curvy Bride

Finding your dream wedding dress can feel daunting, regardless of your dress size. For curvy brides, navigating the high-fashion world of wedding gowns can feel downright impossible. We understand the fear and apprehension that commonly accompanies bridal shopping when you don’t wear a sample size, but we also believe every woman should feel empowered when shopping for her Big Day. If you are a curvy bride-to-be searching for your perfect dress, you should know that it is absolutely out there. The key is having the right mindset, confidence and support system to help you overcome any insecurities or fears to find the dress of your dreams.

Sizing

Let’s start with one of the toughest parts of shopping for a wedding dress – the sizing. When you buy a pair of jeans or a dress off the rack at a run-of-the-mill clothing store, chances are good that the manufacturer employs vanity sizing. As the average size of a woman has increased over time, stores have adjusted the size of their clothing without increasing the nominal size. This means that an item that was sold as a size-twelve in a store in 1950 is smaller than the item sold as a size-twelve today. To make matters more complicated, stores all use their own sizing systems, so it’s entirely possible to wear an eight, twelve and fourteen in jeans that come from three different stores. Your waist obviously doesn’t change from store to store, but rather the number assigned to your clothes has little correlation to the actual measurements of the garments.

Now here’s where things get psychologically challenging. Wedding dresses are typically made following high-fashion sizing, which is based on European measurement charts. You should expect your wedding dress to be one to two sizes (or more) larger than your typical off-the-rack size. If you already have a difficult time with your number size, having to go up in number can feel soul-crushing. But here’s the thing – you haven’t changed size. You are still exactly the same, so it shouldn’t matter what the tag in your dress says. The reality is that it does matter to a lot of plus-size brides, so what can you do about it?

You have different options for dealing with the emotional impact of your wedding dress size. You can mentally prepare yourself for the size to be bigger, acknowledge the fact that wedding dress sizing runs small and accept the size of the dress you order as a reality that doesn’t affect how you look or feel in your dress. This strategy will work well for a lot of brides, but it isn’t enough for everyone. Another option is to simply not find out what size you are ordering. The sales associate will take your measurements and order your dress size based on your largest measurement, but you don’t have to know what size they order. Simply ask for that information to be withheld or redacted on any form or receipt you need to sign. You can have a friend cut out the tag when you receive your dress and never be the wiser. While this may sound dramatic, if the size of your dress will influence how you feel in it, it’s worth it to keep that negative information out of mind.

Shopping

Where you choose to shop for your gown and who you choose to invite with you will seriously affect your experience. You should put some serious thought and consideration into both decisions before making appointments or inviting anyone along. Your feelings matter the most here, so be careful and cautious.

Do some research to find plus-size friendly salons. We’ve got some incredible bridal boutiques in this issue who offer a range of plus-size gowns. Some brides also prefer smaller, more intimate salons where they don’t have to try on dresses surrounded by other brides. If you feel self-conscious, consider booking your appointment in an off-peak time or at a smaller store where you can be assured of privacy while you shop and try on dresses. You’ll also want to make sure you only make appointments at bridal salons that carry sizes you can try on. Sample sizes are generally a bridal size eight or – ten, and it can be challenging to get a true idea of what your dress will look like on you if the dress you try on is considerably smaller. It can also feel awkward and embarrassing to try on a dress that is clipped to you, with giant gaping holes in the back. Avoid this situation by shopping at bridal salons that carry plus-size samples.

Set yourself up for success by creating a support squad who will give you a boost of confidence without any underhanded or judgmental comments. It’s best to go with at least one other person so you have someone to give you feedback and make the experience feel more special. If you are unsure about bringing a crowd, consider a close, supportive friend, parent or family member as your plus-one. Alternatively, some brides find strength in numbers. If having a larger group to swoon over you in pretty dresses feels right, don’t hesitate to invite a crowd. Regardless of the number of supporters you invite, make sure each person included only brings good vibes. Even if your sister expects to be included, you may want to leave her off the list if she is known for offering biting or rude criticism. It might be uncomfortable in the moment, but be picky and only invite those you know will build you up and make sure you feel beautiful.

Alterations Matter

Once you have found your dream gown, don’t trust the alterations to just anyone. Virtually everyone has to have their wedding dress altered, so go ahead and plan for the expense and time requirements of some serious tailoring. It’s vital that you find a tailor who has ample experience with plus-size wedding gowns. A skilled seamstress can add boning, built-in bra cups and other structural support that can make quite the difference in the comfort and silhouette of your gown. Make sure the tailor takes the time to understand any specific concerns you have around the fit and any changes you wish to make. If you fell in love with a ball gown that is just too full for your shape or taste, you can have several layers of tulle or crinoline taken out during alterations. Ask your tailor to explain how any potential alterations will change and affect the fit.

Customization

There’s a wide range of customization available when it comes to wedding gowns. From a completely custom creation to small changes, curvy brides should be discerning when it comes to customizing their gowns. You may find a dress that checks all of your wants, except for the neckline. Don’t despair! See if there is a way to change up the look, like deepening a V-neckline or adding lacy sleeves to a strapless design. You can make some pretty significant changes if necessary.

If you can’t find anything that fits your needs, it may be best to go custom to avoid an ill-fitting gown. Research designers and seamstresses who specialize in custom plus-size gowns and explore the possibilities. Don’t let the potential price tag scare you off from a custom gown – you may be surprised at how reasonable a custom creation can be. Your wedding gown is one of the most important aspects of how you look and feel on your Big Day, so don’t be afraid to spend the time and dollars necessary to find the right dress.

Self-Confidence

You deserve to feel incredible and look amazing on your Big Day. Prepare mentally, physically and emotionally for wedding dress shopping to give yourself the self-confidence to enjoy the experience. Being intentional about your attitude and outlook can dramatically shift the tone of your shopping day.

If you’re planning on trying to lose weight before your wedding day, it can be tempting to put off dress shopping until you’re down a few pounds. However, don’t wait too long or you won’t have time for a made-to-order gown. Most wedding dresses take around at least eight months to arrive, and you’ll need a month or two for alterations once you receive your gown, so plan accordingly. Remember, your partner loves you for who you are, and they think you look amazing exactly as you are right now. There’s nothing you need to change in order to find your dream dress.

Once you’ve made your bridal appointments, it’s time to get ready for the day. It’s good to have an idea of the styles you like, but it’s definitely not required. Forget any notion of anything you aren’t “allowed” to wear. Plus-size brides, just like every other bride, look good in a wide variety of styles – ball gowns, fit-and-flare, mermaid and more. Bridal fashion is extensive and your size does not determine what is available to you, so don’t rule out that deep v-neckline, illusion back. Think about when you feel the most confident and what aspects of your body you want to highlight. If you love your full hips or your strong shoulders, you may want to find a style that accentuates the parts of your body you’re proud of.

To physically prepare for the day, consider laying off salty, fatty foods for a few days before your appointment. Drink plenty of water and get ample sleep. These small efforts will leave you feeling stronger and physically ready for trying on dresses. Wear an outfit you love and take the time to fix your hair and follow any beauty habits that make you feel better. Eat a healthy breakfast and make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get to your appointments on time. Feeling calm and confident will go a long way to making your fitting a success.

You are your own worst critic, so do a little emotional homework before taking on the bridal boutiques. Make a list of the things you love about yourself: physical traits, personality characteristics and achievements. Ask your partner to give you a pep talk if that feels helpful. Focus on the positive and think about how you want to feel walking down the aisle on your wedding day. Go into your appointment with the knowledge that you will find a dress that makes you feel like a bride. Acknowledge any concerns or worries you have, name them and let them go.

Inspiration

One of the best ways to feel confident about your body is to surround yourself with images of women with a body shape that reflects your own. Don’t build Pinterest boards and wedding dress inspiration that only feature thin models. Find body positive photos of plus-size models, real life brides and other curvy women with whom you can identify. Seeing wedding gowns on women similar to yourself will help you feel more comfortable when you try on a wedding gown and look in the mirror for the first time.

Along with curating a collection of curvy brides for dress inspiration, you should also take some time to find emotional inspiration. Consider how you want to feel on your wedding day. Maybe it’s most important that you feel sexy or perhaps you want to feel like a princess. These emotions, unique to each individual bride, should drive your wedding gown shopping more than anything else. Focus on the emotions that are most predominant when you imagine yourself as a bride on your own wedding day and keep those feelings in mind when trying on dresses. Don’t buy something that doesn’t fulfill your emotional desires, even if it fits well or your friends love it.

Celebrate

Make a big deal out of your wedding dress shopping day (or days)! Invite your best supporters, look and feel your best, and then pop some bubbly and celebrate once you find your dress. Make a whole day out of it – with a stop to get your nails done, a celebratory brunch or a relaxing spa treatment after the shopping is over. Even if you aren’t looking forward to dress shopping itself, bookend the trip with things you do love so you have something to look forward to. The excitement and enthusiasm will naturally carry over to your dress appointment as well.

Remember that your wedding day is about you and your partner – not a model you saw on Pinterest. Your confidence and inner beauty reflect on the outside, so feeling good about yourself and being confident will do wonders for how you see yourself in that bridal salon mirror. You and your wedding dress are no less important than anyone else just because you have a larger number on a tag in your gown. It’s also a healthy practice to remind yourself that everyone compares themselves to others and feels insecure about something, so there’s really no escaping those doubts. You can make sure your wedding dress shopping experience is fun, successful and enjoyable by setting the right tone and mood and going into it with a positive outlook. The truth is that you will find a dress that works for you! It might not be what you expect, so always keep an open mind when trying on different styles, but you will slip into a gown that feels just right and that makes it easy to imagine walking down the aisle to marry the one you love.