Wedding dress shopping for any bride can be as daunting an experience as it is exciting. But if you're a plus-size woman in a sea of sample-size-eight gowns, it can sometimes feel downright impossible. Shopping for the perfect dress however, regardless of size or shape, should never be an unpleasant experience. Also, you should never feel forced to settle for anything less than your dream gown.
Wedding style expert Julie Sabatino, founder of The Stylish Bride, has made a career out of helping women look flawless on their big day — below she shares 6 essential shopping tips for full-figured brides.
Don't discount your dream designer
If you've always dreamed of walking down the aisle wearing Vera Wang or Monique Lhullier, you should definitely go for it, says Sabatino. "Most couture wedding dress designers design up to a size 20-24 even if they don't have plus-size lines separated out in their collection. Some, such as Anna Maier-Ulla-Maija, even do custom measurements and fit the dress right to the bride." One thing to know, however, is that occasionally designers might have an additional fabric charge after a certain size, especially if you're getting a muslin made, too.
Call salons in advance
While size eight is the typical sample size for wedding dresses, some salons also carry the styles in a size 14. Call ahead before you go to the store to see if they carry larger sized samples. Even if the dresses on the floor don't fit you perfectly, there are ways to gauge what the style will look like on you. "There are ways to pin sample dresses to your undergarments that give a really good sense of what the dress will look like on, even if you're not in it," explains Sabatino. "Or if you can get the dress half on, you can get a good sense what the bottom silhouette looks on your body type. My advice is, don't discount any dresses or shapes until you've tried it."
Also, let the salon know about your personal style, plus the time and location of your wedding — this will help the consultant pull options that'll gel better with your personality in addition to your body type.
Be open to different styles
Just as you shouldn't let your shape preclude you from your dream designer, also don't let it overly dictate the style of the dress. Yes, there are some silhouettes that you will find work better for your body shape, but you might surprise yourself with the variety of looks that you can wear. "I've had so many curvier brides say they don't want a strapless dress, but then find a dress that fits them and gives them the right support, and nine times out of 10, they fall in love and end up with a strapless dress," Sabatino says.
Wear your wedding-day undergarments to the salon
If you're planning on wearing Spanx, a special bra, or a long line corset on your wedding day, go to the salon with them on, advises Sabatino. "Support garments can really change the shape of your body quite a bit, so make sure you bring them to your fittings if you're planning on wearing them on your wedding day."
Buy the size that fits the biggest part of your body
A lot of brides might think that buying a smaller wedding dress will motivate them to shed weight before the wedding, but the truth is, it just adds a lot of unnecessary stress. "A consultant at the salon will measure you and suggest the right size," she explains. "And you always have to go with the biggest size. This means, that if you're bust is measuring a size 12, but your hips are measuring a size 18 — you should buy the dress in a size 18 and alter it down to accommodate the rest of your body."
Bring a shopping buddy who has your best interest in mind
If you're going shopping with a friend, bring someone who is going to give you as unbiased an opinion as possible, advises Sabatino. "You want your shopping buddy to be someone you trust and someone who listens to and supports you, but isn't going to overly sugar coat things or try to sway you into decisions you might not feel comfortable with. Bring the person who wants you to feel confident and look great on your big day."