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Catie Li plus size bridal outfits
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What Shopping for a Wedding Dress Is Like as a Plus-Size Bride

Model Catie Li shares her experience.

What is it like to be plus-size and a bride? Well, to be quite honest, it sucks. Many women dream about their wedding dresses and what they will look like; some brides-to-be even know exactly what they want before they start shopping. For me, this wasn't the case. Growing up I was always considered “bigger” than the average size, and I currently wear a size 14. I have been faced with clothing challenges my entire life, including not being able to find clothes in my size or in current trends.

Catie Li

Photo by Alison Le / Creative Direction by Ami Jenner/ HMU by Crystal Tran/ Dresses provided by Lovella Bridal/ Design by Tiana Crispino

I got engaged to my best friend two years ago, and, just like every other bride, the planning and daydreaming quickly began. I was in the living room throwing out ideas with my fiancé when suddenly the thought of my wedding dress came to mind. I immediately started to dread it. It wasn't going to be as easy for me. I knew I wouldn't be able to just walk into a bridal shop and try on any dress I would like. I knew I had to do my research to find out who sold plus-size dresses. 

With the current demand for inclusivity, I assumed that there had to be something out there. “It can’t be that difficult,” I thought. Unfortunately, I was wrong. The first issue I ran into was with my search online and on Pinterest. Representation of real plus-size brides for inspiration was non-existent. Many of the plus-size dresses were in outdated styles or simply not to my taste, but that didn't change the fact I needed a gown. 

My first appointment was at a local bridal shop, and I had my mother and future mother-in-law with me. As a model, I knew to come prepared: I bought three different types of shapewear and a strapless bra. I had previously selected dresses I liked with the bridal shop through their online portal, which meant they would be ready for me when I arrived. As it turned out, only one dress was in my size. The rest I would have to squeeze into.

Catie Li plus size bridal

Photo by Alison Le / Creative Direction by Ami Jenner/ HMU by Crystal Tran/ Dresses provided by Lovella Bridal/ Design by Tiana Crispino

The dresses I had to squeeze into made me feel awful about myself. When walking out, I was told, “I know this isn't your size, but we will have to imagine it.” I turned around and noticed they couldn't even clasp the back. I couldn't even imagine what the back would look like since it was so far apart from even closing. The front view was so unflattering due to the fit, and I thought, “Imagine? Who would ever want to 'imagine' what their dress is going to look like for the most important day of my life without even knowing how it will truly fit?" My mother began taking photos as any excited mom would. Looking back at the photos, I see that I did not smile and was sucking in my stomach, as I “tried to imagine” what I might look like on my wedding day. 

Old feelings came back from my childhood when my mother and I were at the mall, unable to find a simple pair of jeans for me to try because “plus-size” offerings for teens were just nonexistent. This time, the feeling was a little worse since my future mother-in-law was present. I was completely embarrassed. At one point, I had a dress pinned to the front of my body because I could not even get it past my hips. This was the alternative way of “seeing” the dress on. How ridiculous is that? 

I was lucky enough for my second go-around to have found Lovella Bridal in Glendale, California. Out of all the bridal shops I visited, Lovella provided the experience I should have received all along. I worked with Nayri, who calls herself the "wedding fashion expert"—and rightfully so. She listened to what I was looking for, and not only did every dress she had me try actually fit, but I loved each and every option. 

Although Lovella has a healthy selection of plus sizes, I can't help to think why not more? Why are we not seeing designers, brands, and boutiques carrying a healthy size selection in half their store and collections when the average dress size is 14 in America? Everyone is worthy, no matter what size they are. We all deserve to have that special moment trying on and searching for our wedding dress. I mean, it is one of the biggest days of our lives, right?

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