Comfortable, stylish and affordable plus-size ladies’ attire has blossomed into a thriving focus of the fashion industry worldwide. Being an inherently trend-centric market worth multi-millions annually itself from custom-couture gowns and custom orders to easy and accessible off-the-rack styles, the bridal fashion industry has fallen into step and made forward motion, but being a plus-size bride-to-be treading water among size-eight sample dresses can still feel like a fast way to drown in hopelessness.
It isn’t so much a conviction we hold as an out-and-out fact: every woman was born to be beautiful. Every little girl daydreams at least once that this one day, out of her entire storied life, will be the single most unforgettably beautiful she’ll ever feel. Best of all? She gets to share it with a proud assembly of her most loved family and friends in one singularly perfect gown she’ll remember forever.
It’s as storybook-wonderful as it is positively terrifying, never more so perhaps than for a woman left to assume some designers and salons have never glimpsed another woman outside of a Victoria’s Secret catalog.
Fortunately, if there are two forces in all this world that spring eternal, those would be love and hope. Yes, there is a right way to seek out a dress that unfurls and showcases a plus-size bride’s undeniable beauty with every stitch.
- First Rule: Don’t Despair
Never let your body alone talk you into forsaking the designer of your dreams, period. The rest of your life will come and go like spring rains and winter snows, but you have this one day to savor being the single happiest woman alive. Your righteous curves and the inimitable elegance of Vera Wang or Monique Lhullier are not mutually exclusive luxuries. Some couture wedding dress designers may not separate out plus-size bridal gowns among their collections, but most will happily design all the way up to a sign 20-24. You’ll likely even find a few like Anna MAier-Ulla-Maija who will fit their dresses immaculately to their brides with custom measurements. Worse comes to worse, beware that some designers compensate their additional fabric for plus-size gowns – especially when muslin is added to the order – with occasional extra charges.
- Keep an Open Mind
Your shopping sensibility has to flow both ways, if you’re to find the plus-size bridal dress of your dreams. No, you shouldn’t rule out the designer that most speaks to you strictly because your shape doesn’t fall somewhere between a size 4 and size 8, but just the same, don’t rule out some styles strictly based on your figure until you’ve tried the gown on. Let tried-and-true silhouettes be your guide. However, some salons and designers can every so often suggest a dress to a curvier bride that may not be of an ordinarily flattering cut, but individually just happens to fit uncommonly well on its own singular characteristics. Trust your instincts, but listen to the designer, too.
- Be Ready for Everything
For various reasons, bridal shopping is always best done with an unbiased-but-supportive friend by your side. Stick with people you trust implicitly, but won’t sugar-coat valuable critiques or nudge you toward something too far beyond your comfort zone. Your confidence, comfort and overall happiness on your big day should be important to your shopping companion as it is to you.
Let that friend also be the one to remind you to shop for your dress the way you’ll wear it. That means you should carry along, if not wear, whatever undergarment you plan to pair with your dress to the salon when being fitted and browsing. The effects of Spanx, a long-line corset or uniquely supportive bra can and probably will alter the way some dresses fit your body’s shape. The only way to avoid surprises or rule out what the right support garment may make into a perfect fit is to try the dress on the way you’ll be dressing on your wedding day itself.
Finally, and this is especially important for plus-size brides with uneven figures such as generously endowed or pear-shaped ladies, make the biggest part of your body the barometer for your chosen size. Never count on the unnecessary stress of a commitment to lose weight for a smaller size to do anything but send the wedding-day pressure into critical mass. Again, trust the salon consultant taking your measurement for a sound suggestion. Alterations can almost always rectify any fit that doesn’t flatter the remainder of your body.
Whatever you choose, remember that a plus-size bridal gown is designed to do one thing and one thing only: shine the light of the world on the happiest, most beautiful woman alive.