Shopping for a wedding dress is almost like a rite of passage, and is something a lot of brides have envisioned since they were young. For many, though, finding the perfect dress isn't as easy as it was in their childhood daydreams.
Though bridal fashion has made strides towards size-inclusive designs over the past few years, many plus-size brides still find it difficult to find "the one" when planning their big day. So, to make it as seamless and stress-free as possible, we consulted with a few experts for excellent tips and advice when it comes to shopping for plus-size wedding dresses. Read on below!
Look for Retailers That Specialize in Plus Sizes
Shopping for your wedding dress is inherently stressful, no matter what size you are. But, as a plus-size bride, it can seem even more intense. Lisa Litt, owner of the plus-size bridal salon Della Curva, says the benefits of shopping at size-inclusive bridal shops are that “they are the most knowledgeable and understanding of a plus-sized bride’s needs, desires, and, of course, have the best selection of sizes.”
Yesenia Torres, creative director at ELOQUII, also notes that it's important to find a retailer committed to the fit of a garment and not just its size offerings. "Have you loved their day, more casual dresses? Have you shopped and loved the fit of their special occasion looks? These are good signs that they prioritize fit in their wedding styles, as well," she says. "At ELOQUII, we design each and every style in-house, fit on models who are a size 18 (not on mannequins), continuously refine fit based on customer feedback, and practice the art of draping and patternmaking to get every single stitch of every single style to be wedding day worthy."
Be Selective With Your Entourage
When shopping for your dress, don’t feel pressured to bring people that don’t have your best wishes at heart. “Be very selective with your entourage. Bring only the people who will be supportive of your bridal vision,” says Amanda Cover, owner of a size-inclusive bridal boutique, Bombshell Bridal. “Your bridal appointment will be so much better when you're not surrounded with negative comments about your style or size, even if they're from well-meaning relatives.”
Cover also suggests having a conversation with your crew before trying on dresses, in order to let them know what you are looking for and to establish your personal boundaries. If you want them to absolutely avoid talking about your size or weight, be sure to make that clear before stepping into any bridal salon.
Ignore the Dress Sizes
Don’t focus on your dress size! “Keep in mind that bridal sizing may not match up with the size you most often find yourself wearing,” says Kat Eves, a professional stylist and former lead stylist and marketer for a bridalwear start-up. “It’s very common for people of all sizes (not just plus sizes) to need a size or two bigger than what they’re used to wearing.” Remember, it’s all about how the dress fits your beautiful body, not how you can fit into the dress.
For those who'd like a general understanding of what their dress size may be before shopping, Torres recommends using a tape measure to learn your exact proportions. "Take the time to learn how to take your own measurements and this will help you find your best fit," she advises.
Keep an Open Mind
By the time you've made an appointment to shop for your dress, you've probably done lots of research on the most-flattering silhouettes for your body type. While that's fantastic, it's important to start your search with an open mind, as well. “Many brides tend to hold back when trying on different styles from fear of our own body image issues,” says Curinne Polizzi, owner and resident bridal expert at Ivory & Main.
Try on the dress silhouettes that you think you’ll love, but don’t be afraid to consider a look outside of your usual comfort zone. "Keep an open mind and experiment with different styles for all your wedding events from engagement parties, bachelorette celebrations, bridal showers, and rehearsal dinners to the big day, post-wedding brunches, and everything in between," advises Torres.
Pay Attention to the Details
Do you plan to wear shapewear on your wedding day? Bring it with you to the salon, but keep in mind that shapewear is not a requirement to look your best. Beth Clark of Bridal Chateau, an inclusive family-owned bridal boutique in Williamsville, New York, gives this great advice: “If you do not want to wear [shapewear], then ditch it! I've had brides look better without the undergarments than with. The name of the game, though, is to show up how you would for your wedding to give you the best visual.”
Be sure to also pay attention to other details, like your veil, shoes, and jewelry, when shopping for your day-of attire. “Wearing your hair up? Throw it in a ponytail for your appointment. Looking to rock a bold lip for the wedding? Grab your best smudge-proof lipstick. It's amazing how something that simple can change the way you feel in a dress.” adds Clark.
Join Online Communities for Inspiration
The wonderful thing about social media is how it can connect you to different communities. Representation is so important, so finding online communities that'll assist you in finding your wedding gown is a great way to help you say "yes to the dress."
Follow the hashtags #CurvyBrides and #PlusSizeBrides on Instagram for dress inspiration, and to also find plus-size wedding dress designers. On TikTok, you can discover Ivory & Main’s lovely Curvy Godmothers series, which dishes out helpful advice for plus-size brides.
Search Beyond Bridal Shops
There are many non-traditional ways to obtain the perfect dress, so if budget or location is a barrier when looking for bridal shops, consider renting your gown. Laine London is a bridal rental shop in Atlanta that provides a high-end, luxurious bridal shopping experience at a more affordable price (they also carry up to size 28). Another option is ELOQUII, an online retailer that provides bridal looks for all occasions, and "trend-driven, feminine fashion to sizes 14 and above," as noted by Torres.
Lastly, if you've spotted a dress online and can't seem to forget about it, reach out to the bride or designer of the ensemble. “The smartest bride I ever met was the one who reached out to me via Instagram to ask if she could buy my wedding gown from me. It might seem like a bold move, but, as it turned out, I had a near carbon copy of my gown that was just sitting in the closet, and I was all too happy to gift it to her,” Eves says.
Take a deep breath and remember, this is all about celebrating the love between you and your future spouse. Make dress shopping and fittings a festive and happy occasion, and don't get caught up in any negative thoughts. You deserve to feel gorgeous, loved, and celebrated throughout this process.