If you're just starting to look for the perfect plus-size wedding dress, you know that it can be a bit of a challenge. Never mind that salon sample sizes aren't always full-figure friendly — there's also a seemingly endless number of trends, fabrics, and silhouettes to choose from. To help you get started in the right direction, we turned to Kleinfeld Bridal's fashion director Terry Hall for a few guidelines when it comes to plus-size wedding dress shopping. Here, his tips to help you find a dress that makes you feel as great as you look.
Do: Look for ruching
"Anything with ruching can be very forgiving, regardless of your shape or height," advises Hall. "It also helps to add support and gives the dress more structure." In particular, look for dresses that are ruched in an asymmetrical pattern — for instance gathered on one side of the dress. "That pattern brings the eyes up to the face and creates a vertical shape to the gown," says Hall.
Don't: Go for a piece-meal gown
"Avoid gowns that look pieced together. For example, the bodice is one style and then the hip or skirt is a completely different fabric or texture. Different shapes or fabrics that don't transition smoothly can visually cut the body in unflattering ways," explains Hall. "It doesn't mean the whole gown has to be the same fabric, but make sure each section segues fluidly and flows together."
Do: Consider A-line for maximum coverage
"Anything A-line, especially if it has an empire waist, can be very flattering, especially if you want more coverage," says Hall (Check out the gorgeous Jenny Packham dress, above, for proof!). "Because the waist starts right under the bust line and immediately goes out into an A-line, it's an ideal silhouette for brides who want to be more discreet."
Do: Accentuate your curves with a dropped waist or mermaid gown
"For a plus-size bride who wants to accentuate her shape, a dropped waist corseted gown can be very sexy because it helps to create curves," says Hall. "A bride might think that she doesn't have a waist, but a bodice top can carve one out." A drop waist dress also lets you have some fullness at the bottom of the gown and a flare at the bottom of the dress similar to the ever-popular mermaid silhouette. This style can also accentuate the hips in a flattering way.
Don't: Go for flimsy fabrics
Avoid thin fabrics such as silk charmeuse or chiffon, which just skim the body and can magnify every little detail, says Hall. But other than that, feel free to go for anything: "Taffeta, organza, lace, and duchess satin are all very flattering for plus-size brides."
Do: Choose something that reflects your personality
"If there's ever a time that a bride has to wear something that she loves when it comes to fashion, it should be on her wedding day," encourages Hall. "Every shape, embellishment, and detail comes in plus size, so if you want to have ruffles, bows, flowers, or beading — go for it!" The only rule to keep in mind? Look for something that's asymmetrical, which is not only more flattering, but more artistic as well.