Shopping for wedding dresses can be stressful for any bride, but for the plus size bride it can be downright traumatic. We’ve all heard the horror stories of judgmental shop girls and embarrassingly small assortments that leave brides-to-be shaking in their bridal shoes. Thankfully, we’ve got the inside scoop to help you avoid becoming another cautionary tale. With the body positive movement has come a gigantic selection of plus size dresses from size 20 up to size 44, so you can be sure that you’ll find one that makes you look and feel like your baddest, most beautiful self. Below, we’ve laid out all you need to know about shopping for plus size wedding dresses, so sit back, relax, and above all, have fun!
1. Call ahead.
Most salons stock sample dresses for the “average” bride, which generally fall around a size 10. You’ll want to be sure that you can try on dresses in larger sizes, so call ahead of your visit to be sure they have a variety of plus size sample styles for you to try.
2. Find a specialist.
While you’re at it, request a specialist who’s well versed in plus size dressing to make the most of your visit. Look for someone who’s not only knowledgeable but is excited to work with you. Remember, you’re not just paying for the dress, but for your salesperson’s expertise, so take full advantage and ask plenty of questions. Take her advice to heart – she’s the expert, after all!
3. Ignore the numbers.
Pricier brands often use “couture” sizing (read: teeny tiny), so your bridal size will likely be significantly higher than what you would wear in your everyday duds. Your best bet is to ignore the number entirely and focus on the overall look and fit. If you find a gown that helps channel your inner Beyoncé, then who cares about the number?
4. Leave your comfort zone.
You may be married to the idea (pun intended) of an A-line silhouette, but if your bridal stylist recommends a fit and flare that she swears up and down will look gorgeous on you, then give it a go. She’s the expert, so keep an open mind and heed her advice. Worst-case scenario, you’re just not feeling it. Best-case scenario, you find the dress of your dreams!
5. Take cues from other brides.
Choose whatever frock makes you feel your most beautiful, stereotypes be damned. That said, there are a few tried and true styles that’ll help you begin your journey if you’re not sure where to start: A+ for the A-line.
A fitted bodice helps mask any perceive imperfections up top while cinching the waist, while a slim A-line skirt effectively masks the hips and thighs without adding volume, thanks to the slender cut. And it’s not just for curvy girls – brides of all shapes and sizes adore this cut, as it’s flattering on literally. Dare to bare in the strapless Julietta by Mori Lee Micaela bridal gown, or choose a more modest style like the Maggie Sottero Phyllis, which boasts a slimming waist detail and straps for added support.
Ruching is your friend.
Some girls opt to steer clear of ruching, operating under the assumption that they draw attention to problem areas, but those girls are sadly misinformed. In reality, ruching creates a clever optical illusion, helping to mask those areas beneath strategically placed folds. Need proof? Look no further than the Allure Women W284, an insanely flattering fit and flare silhouette that creates the perfect hourglass shape.
Thicker fabrics are most forgiving.
Weighty fabrics like satin are best for the plus size bride, as they’re incredibly effective at smoothing the frame and masking those lumps and bumps (check out Allure W412 for some serious inspo). By that same token, you’ll want to be careful with styles that are heavily embellished, which can draw attention to areas that you’d rather keep under cover.
Flaunt it if you’ve got it.
Instead of focusing on what you’d rather hide, think about what features you want to highlight. Love your décolletage? Choose a V-neckline cut down to there to show off your fabulous bust, like the Julietta by Mori Lee Merida. Got a killer caboose? Rock a fit and flare silhouette like the Allure Women W395, which perfectly embraces each and every sexy curve.
6. Don’t wait on the weight.
We’re all for shedding for the wedding – or really, anything that motivates you to live a healthy lifestyle and feel your best – but don’t wait till you’ve lost the pounds to find your wedding style. Production can take anywhere from six to eight months, so wait too long and you’ll risk being limited to what’s already in stock – the B-squad of wedding dresses. Gowns can always be taken in, so worry about finding your perfect style first and fix the fit later if needed.
7. Details can be added.
Say you’ve fallen in love with a sleeveless style, but you’re looking specifically for something a bit more modest. The solution is simple – add a sleeve! Take it in or let it out, shorten the hem or add a bit of built-in support…You name it, and it can likely be done post-production. Don’t be afraid to ask about specific alterations and the costs attached. They should be reasonable, so customize away!
8. Put comfort first.
Weddings are a marathon, not a sprint. Sure, you may have fallen in love with a gorgeous gown that’s two sizes two small, convincing yourself that you’ll be fine, but you won’t. Just trust us on this. You’ll be up, down and moving around all day and all night long, so you’ll need all your faculties to make it to the finish line.
9. Embrace the chain store.
Hear us out here – a chain wedding store may not be high on your list (or on it at all), but unlike specialty shops, which normally carry an “average” sample size only for try-ons, chain stores stock a full range of sizes, thanks to their “something for everyone” business model. While their stock may not include your dream gown, it’s a good place to start to get a handle on sizing, fabrics and silhouettes that fit and flatter your specific shape.
10. A good tailor is a non-negotiable.
A seamstress with proven skill (hello, social media!) and ample experience in bridal dressing can make a world of difference by adding boning, straps or bra cups for customized support and a fit that conforms perfectly to your frame.
11. Foundation is everything.
Your wedding should be spent celebrating with loved ones and dancing the night away with the man of your dreams, not tugging at your dress or constantly pulling at uncomfortable undergarments. Every style could use a little extra help, even your so-called perfect gown. So find a lingerie store with personalized service and get fitted for a supportive bra or the appropriate shapewear to help keep everything in place on your big day.
12. Shut down the shamers.
Unfortunately, there are some super-judgy salespeople out there that will openly body shame their charges, whether they’re even aware of it or not. This is why it’s so important to find a specialist that’s right for you, with tons of experience in plus size bridal dressing and, of course, zero judgment. And don’t forget that we can sometimes be our own shamers, so no talk of losing weight or negative body comments at all, as tempting as it may be. Positive vibes only!
13. When all else fails, go custom.
So you’ve looked high and low but you still haven’t found the one. Don’t be discouraged! There’s no need to settle for anything less than perfection on one of the most important days of your life when your dream dress can easily become a reality. Don’t let the dollar signs running through your head scare you off from a custom design; with a bit of research, a reasonably priced gown can be had. Shopping for plus size dresses doesn’t have to be discouraging. Keep our handy tips in mind, and it can be downright awesome!
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