The ultimate guide to plus-size wedding dress shopping

January 22 | Guest post by Pisquared

While planning a wedding, I've noticed a lot of anxiety is centering around dress shopping — especially for the plus-sized. It's totally understandable. While decent plus-sized clothing has gotten a bit easier to come by, finding something stylish that you feel good in is still difficult, even for normal everyday clothes. Wedding dress shopping bumps the anxiety up a few notches.

I know for me, and I suspect a bunch of you out there, wedding dress shopping brought up a whole host of body issues and insecurities.

buy plus size panties on saleNow that I've been there, done that, I thought I would share my experience and show you that it can be a very happy and positive experience.

First off, I am overweight, there's no denying that. Sometimes I feel great about how I look. Other times I let a bad body image get the best of me. For a little perspective, I am 5'6", weigh 220lbs, and wear a street size 18 or 20, depending on the cut. Now, here's my guide to plus-size wedding dress shopping…

The models:

When you start your search for wedding dress inspiration, you will not see any large models, not even in plus-sized styles. Because of this, it's hard to picture what these dresses will look like on your body. It also had the undesired side effect of making me hate my body.

The internet is a great place to start looking and get ideas, just try not to fall into the trap of comparing your body to the models. I shed quite a few tears because I became convinced that there was no way I was going to find a dress that looks good on me, and I would just look ridiculous, and why does fiancé even want to be seen with me? It was a horrible downward spiral.

When you start getting that tinge of fear that you are horribly ugly and you're just going to look like an ugly girl in a pretty dress, it's time to turn off the computer and walk away. Seriously, don't torture yourself. Take a break from the internet and maybe all wedding porn for a while.

The shops:

The shop you go to, and the company you bring with you, is going to make or break the experience. I went to five separate shops, a couple of them more than once. Every one was a different experience, with some better than others. This is one of the most important things to keep in mind. Just because you have bad experience at one place, doesn't mean every dress will make you look like crap. Likewise, if the shop isn't treating you well, don't be afraid to speak with a manager or end the appointment.

How to prepare:

  • Wear underwear that make you feel good.
  • Bring some kind of strapless bra, if you have one. Some stores have bras you can wear while trying on stuff. Some gowns are structured enough that they don't require support garments.
  • If you have your wedding shoes already, bring those, too. If not, bring a pair of shoes around the same height that you intend to wear.
  • Also, if the store allows, bring a bottle of water. You'll be amazed how quickly dress shopping will dehydrate you.

Shape wear

I'm on the fence about shape wear. On one hand, you want to look your best, and I admit to wearing Spanx occasionally. On the other hand, you want to be comfortable. I lean more to the being comfortable side. My thought is that you will want to find a dress that looks great without the shape wear. Then if you want a little extra help, you can add the shape wear later.

There's an episode of The Simpsons (Simpson and Delilah, it's the one where Homer gets hair) where Homer is shopping for a suit with his secretary. Karl sees homer sucking his gut in while being measured. He stops Homer and says to him, "You. Let it out." Then turns to the tailor and says, "You. Disguise it." That's how I feel about wedding dresses. They should be cut in such a way as to make you look great, regardless of the presence of Spanx.

The clips

The first thing to know, is that dress shops only get samples in certain sizes. Don't be afraid, though. Most places will have enough samples for you to try on, and, as you can see,
zzey have vays of making zem fit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can see the clips and ties they used to put me in this size 14 gown. Don't feel bad about the clips; smaller girls get them, too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou'll also get the clip treatment if the sample dress is too big.

The best looks

Okay, with all of that out of the way, here's the dress-trying-on porn. I want to put some pictures of a bigger girl in different wedding dress styles out there so you can get an idea of what they might look like on you, and to allay your fears regarding dress shopping…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a slim A-line shape. I loved the material; it draped so well, and was soft, and felt like thicker lingerie material. I found the sweetheart neckline to be very flattering. Likewise, the ruching on the bodice. Those are two things I thought I'd stay away from. This dress is pretty much the opposite of what I thought I wanted in the beginning, so keep an open mind and try a bunch of different styles.

The corset back does't hurt, either. Here's me having an Oh-my-God-I-look-so-pretty moment. I found I looked the best in dresses with a corset back. You can cinch them up to give such great definition to your curves.

full A-line dressThis is a full A-line dress, with an empire waist and split front. Previously, I thought that combination would only make me look pregnant, but this dress is stunning. Check out the back!

Here is your standard princess ballgown. It's not too bad, but not great, either.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere's another ballgown. This one has kind of a criss-cross wrapping at the top and ruching. The top is actually pretty similar to the dress I eventually settled on. As you try on dresses, think about what you like and don't like about the dress. If you can narrow down specifics of what you like, then you can start to find dresses with those elements.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a more fitted dress. This is either a fit and flare or possibly a trumpet, I forget which. The David's Bridal bra they put me in fit a little funny. You can see it makes my boob look wrinkly.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis dress is somewhere between fitted and ballgown. There is a lot in between very tight, and very poofy.

Compare the above dress to this much fuller ballgown. This dress was heavy. I also confess this was my top contender at David's Bridal. Personally, I really liked the full skirt look on me. I have pretty broad shoulders, and the poofy skirt balances them out nicely.

Here's another A-line dress. I wasn't crazy about the skirt, but I liked the top and the back.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is an empire waist gown with a split front and A-line skirt. It's what I think of as "the Juliet dress." It was also just kind of meh, but it could be nice if you're going for more of a Renaissance or Medieval vibe.

This reminds me of a Grecian goddess dress. It's an empire waist. I loved the material, and the way it draped.

Another A-line, this time with straps! I thought I wanted sleeves, or at least straps, but it turns out I like the way I look strapless better.

This is a simple, flowy, empire waisted dress. If I was getting married on a beach, I would wear this. Well, that and maybe a slip, because you can totally see my underwear in that picture.

This is a drop waisted ballgown with a crazy skirt. Again, I loved the criss-cross bodice. The dropped waist shows off my hips nicely. I must like those elements because the top is similar to what I ended up getting.

fit and flare dressThis is a fit and flare dress. It's much more fitted than an A-line, but not as tight as a mermaid style. I found walking around to be pretty easy. This was the first form fitting dress I had tried on, and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised at the results.

trumpet style dressI believe this is a trumpet style. It flares at the hips. It's more form fitting than an A-line, but less so than a fit and flare. So, on the scale of "poofy skirt to form-fitting skirt" dress silhouettes go: ballgown, A-line, trumpet, fit-and-flare, mermaid. Oh, and I guess sheath is thrown in there somewhere, too.

tea length dressThis is a fun tea length dress. The skirt is still A-line. The majority of wedding dresses fall into the A-line category, probably because that shape is pretty flattering on just about everyone. This dress was fun, and if I didn't want a full length dress, it would be a top contender.

 

Here's one more ballgown. The shape is similar to what I ended up getting. The picture's at an odd angle, but I really liked the way the bodice crosses over the hips before going into the full skirt.

sexy mermaid dressI was feeling brave enough towards the end of my first appointment that I tried on a mermaid dress. This is a style I never thought I could pull off, being as big as I am, but, holy curves, this thing really did look stunning. This is a dress that is meant to be seen walking away. It's great in photos. Not-so-much for moving around, though. It's so fitted through the thighs that I had a hard time stepping up onto the little pedestal.

The less-than-flattering looks

Not scared yet? Feeling like you can find a style to fit you? Good. Now, let's look at some less-than flattering-dresses.

…It's okay, feel free to mock these with me! Not everything is going to be a winner.

Keep that in mind as you try on dresses and try not to let the losers dampen your spirits too much. It also helps to have a good friend with you to make you feel better and to mock the ugly dresses with you.

This is a sheath dress with a lace overlay. It is way too small for me. The nice sales lady is explaing about the keyhole back and how pretty this dress would look if it was in my size. I don't believe her.

Another thing to keep in mind, is that what you like in pictures won't necessarily look good on you. This is the Elsie dress by Maggie Sottero. I fell in love with this dress online and in the window of a local bridal shop. I was really disappointed that it looked so bad on me. Granted, it's a few sizes too small. but, really, it's doing the exact opposite of what I want it to do. Oh, well. On to the next one…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis dress completely disguises my curves and makes me look like a rectangle! Compare that to the nicer looking ones. Some gowns are just more flattering than others.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bodice on this princess dress makes me look really top-heavy.

Here's another dress I liked online. Not-so-much in real life. I didn't like the material, it kind of made me think of curtains. (By the way, the nice lady holding my dress up is my future mother-in-law.)

Here's something more fitted, but not really doing much for me. I think the split in the skirt starts at an unfortunate place.

I actually like the way this dress looks, and I really liked the look of the cap sleeves. What I didn't like was that the sleeves prevented me from moving my arms up. I was on the pedestal, laughing, and being all "I'm a T-rex!" The sales lady was not as amused.

Sometimes, when you ask for larger sized dresses, they give them to you. This might not be too bad of a dress if it had actually fit. It strikes me as odd that women are expected to purchase a garment as important and expensive as a wedding dress without having tried on a version that fits properly.

Bad dress shopping experiences

Finally, this face says it all. I had driven about three-and-a-half hours to try on this specific dress. When I was calling around to area bridal shops, this one told me that they had the dress in a size 14. It wasn't ideal, but it would be do-able to at least try on. When I got to the shop, the dress was a size 10. I am a street size 18 on a good day. We somehow managed to defy physics and get me in the thing, but it's not sitting right at all, and is nowhere near closing in the back. Not cool, dress shop, not cool.

Actually, that was one of my worst dress shopping experiences. If this had been my first time out, I would have left feeling very bad about myself. It helped that I had a few positive experiences under my belt at this point and could call BS on the shop.

Rocking the dress on my wedding day.
Rocking the dress on my wedding day.

As a small aside, I did end up buying that dress, from shop close to my home where the sales people had been nice to me, after I had tried it on in a size much closer to my own. I speak with my wallet.

Having a positive dress shopping experience

The good thing that came out of that horrible dress shopping trip was that I got to spread a little of the offbeat love around by showing off my awesome red shoes. This poor lady on the pedestal next to me was getting flack from her family because she wanted to wear blue shoes with her dress. I lifted up my dress and let them know I was going to wear red. They seemed to lighten up a little after that.

So, yeah, not everything will be a winner. It helps if you can keep a sense of humour through the whole process. Remember that you're beautiful! Also remember that your partner thinks so, too. It's hard to keep a positive attitude, especially when it comes to wedding wear. Unfortunately, I don't have a cure for that. I spent the night before my first major dress shopping excursion crying into my pillow. In reality, we had a lot of fun and, in the end, I did walk away happier with my body. I just needed to see in person that I could look very pretty in a wedding dress.

On a happy note, most of the shops I went to were very nice and all had stuff I could try on. No one made any negative comments on my size. David's Bridal can be hit or miss, but if there's one close to you, I would recommend it as a starting place to try on a variety of silhouettes.

  1. EPIC post. I want to flood Pinterest with pictures of you just so there's more variety in the world.

    147 agree
  2. I specifically sought out a plus-size salon after having a HORRIBLE dress shopping experience. The first place I approached essentially fat shamed me the entire session. Saying, "Well we only really have bigger sizes in A-line" or "I have seen a lot of bigger girls and most of them have never picked a mermaid shape." Um, thanks? I pointed to dresses and they would say, "You won't fit into that" Tell me how you really feel?
    I left feeling so terrible, I am a street size 12, and they really had NOTHING that I was interested in. It was uncomfortable and unprofessional.
    For my second dress experience, I researched plus-size salons and found one in the Midwest. The entire session was balls-amazing. EVERYTHING fit and the consultants were great at making me feel special. And I found my dress!
    So bear in mind curvy girls, if you want to try on every type of dress and have it fit (sometimes they were too big!), just go to a plus size salon. It was awesome.

    29 agree
    • "I have seen a lot of bigger girls and most of them have never picked a mermaid shape."

      HA!!! I'm a plus-sized curvy girl, and I am TOTALLY rocking a mermaid shape for my wedding. And it looks fantastic, versus a ton of A-lines that did nothing for me.

      You are absolutely right though — being somewhere where you can really try everything on (with awesome consultants) is definitely key.

      24 agree
      • You know, I've always hated those fishtail type dresses and have seen very slim girls wearing them and look awful, and thought they basically suited noone. But no – actually the plus size fishtail looks gorgeous! Maybe it is secretly a good shape for us bigger ladies and we're just conditioned to think that only thin bodies can get away with more unusual styles.

        22 agree
        • OMG yes! I was really wary of putting it on, but the sales lady told me to "hush and trust her", and I did and ZOMG I was like, "I have a waist? And sexy curves? And clevage that doesn't make me look god-awful? I WANT THIS!"

          Try on the weird stuff!

          8 agree
    • That's such bull that they told you that. The last wedding I went to where the bride was plus-sized, she wore a full-on mermaid dress and looked AMAZING.

      4 agree
    • I'm sorry– you're a size TWELVE and they were saying nothing would fit you?? (Was this the shop from "Mean Girls" where they only carry up to a size 5, or something?) I'm also a 10/12, and in my experience from bridesmaid and bridal dress shopping, most samples ARE those sizes! I'm so sorry you had that experience.

      25 agree
      • Not to mention that a size 12 technically isn't even plus-size, even by many bridal salons' standards.

        15 agree
        • Just some input- as a size 10-12 going dress shopping, it translates into a wedding dress size 14-16. Sample sizes were about 8-12 in wedding dress sizes, translating to a 4-8 in street size. I did end up trying on a few plus size dresses just because they were sure to fit.

          5 agree
      • i felt so bad for the family i had brought with me. i tried on two dresses and then the appointment was over. it was so embarrassing, everyone was so excited to come with and the appointment went south so quickly. like, really, there was nothing anyone could say to make light of the situation.

        3 agree
    • Where in the Midwest did you find such a place? I live in Wisconsin and am starting at the Madison Davids Bridal on Saturday. Very Nervous!

      1 agrees
    • Plus-sized salons are great, but there are also dressmakers who specialize in real sizes (oh hai). The whole reason I started making dresses for other people was because a friend of mine was made to feel horrible – and she is totally gorgeous. Making someone feel anything but amazing about their body is SO. NOT. OK.

      I'm so glad that you finally found a dress that worked for you and got the decent treatment that all of us deserve. Experiences like yours are why it's so important to remind each other what Beauty really is. Thanks for sharing details.

  3. Good advice. Ladies, don't stand for being treated anything less than awesome from a dress shop, no matter what your size. I had an appointment with one shop, but when I got there, they put my in a closet sized room (even though they had big rooms specifically for bridal appointments), and I'm not exaggerating when I say I could barely fit myself and a dress in the room, let alone someone to help me get into the dresses. The consultant barely even noticed I was there and never offered to help me into any dress. She kept pulling dresses that were size 10 or 14, and I couldn't get into any of them. Both I and my friend made it a point to tell her several times that I hadn't been able to get into any of the dresses she brought, and that I was going to need at least an 18, but she just kept bringing size 10. Needless to say, we left pretty quickly, and I ended up paying about $300 more for the dress I wanted at another shop, where I was treated very well.

    11 agree
  4. Lovely pictures.
    Sales ladies seem to not have a sense of humour. I would have laughed my butt off about t-rex arms. I also remember trying on a dress with a weird high neckline and asking for my garlic necklace please. At least my sister thought it was funny. 🙂

    17 agree
  5. Hello, just wondering if some of you lovely ladies would be able to share some of the names of the stores you guys tried? Perhaps I can find them in my area. Thank you!

    1 agrees
    • Luxe Bridal Couture in Minneapolis, MN is a plus-size bridal salon and they were AMAZING. i had the best experience, ask for Nikki!

      5 agree
      • Amanda, you just made my day! I'm in the Twin Cities and have been *dreading* looking for a wedding gown. Thank you so much!

        10 agree
    • For those in the VT/Eastern NY region, I highly recommend A Trace of Lace in Rutland, VT. The store had a big selection of wedding gowns in size 14 and above in a variety of styles, even though it's not a plus sized store. It's a mother/daughter team running the store (daughter runs, mother assists). The mother is the one who helped me and she was amazing. She's a former OB/GYN nurse and knows how to make women feel comfortable with their bodies. Plus, they give you free bottled water and cookies.

      2 agree
      • For brides in Sydney, Australia and other towns in NSW, I recommend Calabro Bridal in Wetheril Park. They also have a store in Newcastle, NSW. They had most dresses from size 6 to 22+. They never once judged me for my body or style choices. The ladies there were absolutely lovely! I bought my dress from them purely because the one I tried on fit me perfectly and I didnt have to imagine what the dress would look like on me before I purchased it. Plus, the gowns are a good price!

        5 agree
  6. Love this post! Read it last week in the Tribe, and it was such a life saver. It really helped me mentally prepare for my own shopping trip.

    This weekend I went dress shopping at a DB in Manhattan and also to…ahem…that other famous dress shop in Manhattan…the one that starts with a K. Anyway, DB was a great way to get into the trenches, try a dozen shapes on, and get a feel for fabrics and silhouettes. (Trumpet and fit-and-flare FTW!)

    At K, we had a wonderful consultant who listened to my description of the wedding and my own style and brought flattering, sexy, comfortable gowns! I was thrilled. Customer service is key! I said "Yes" and couldn't wait to sign away. They took my measurements and then…all hell broke loose. Come to find out, this dress actually doesn't come in my size!!!! I'm a street 16/18, but somehow no one caught that this wasn't a viable option until AFTER I had fallen in love with it. (Were there other dresses I liked there? Would they have been available in my size? Sure. Was I emotionally and/or physically ready to say goodbye to my favorite and try on 5 more gowns? Nope.)

    So my worst nightmare of bridal-induced-body-hating came true. And you know what? I'm over it. There are other gorgeous dresses in the world and now I know exactly what makes me feel good. And I'm stronger now because I've walked into the ritzy-est salon, been "too big" (their words) for my dream gown, and lived to tell the tale. At the end of the day, it's just a dress. There are so many gorgeous options for all sizes, and as you've shown, it's totally worth shopping around – despite the ups and downs you might find.

    So my advice to add here is: be strong, be beautiful, embrace the adventure. It might also be good to know your measurements (because "sizes" are relative in bridal wear).

    And I heartily recommend Spanx or other shapers – the ones that are shorts and an open-bust cami all in one (http://www.spanx.com/shop/spanx/shapewear/skinny-britches-open-bust-mid-thigh-body-zid38-1909/cat-38-catid-tn_spx_sw?CategoryDomainName=SPXNA-38&vva_ColorCode=NATRL&_t=pfm%3Dcategory) because then you feel like you have clothes on the whole time! It's much easier to focus on being gorgeous when you aren't stripping in front of a stranger every 10 minutes!

    17 agree
  7. Great post!

    I went to a specialist plus size shop, which had a pretty wide variety.

    My absolute number one tip would be to try on as many different shapes as you can. I never would have tried on something figure hugging, but the sales lady put me in a very tight slinky mermaid (/trumpet?) and it looked AMAZING. I didn't go for it in the end, but I'm glad I had a go!

    Also, and this goes for everyone – don't get sucked in to the whole 'you must choose one NOW' hype. It's rubbish and will just stress you out.

    I ended up buying a bridesmaids dress, which I tried on in a sample 5 sizes too small for me. A pain, but it can be done!

    3 agree
    • This! I ended up getting the trumpet gown that the author tried on (about halfway down the page). Never thought it would look good on me (street size 16/18) but holy buggers, I rocked it! I went in with dresses I wanted to try on but if someone (mom, the consultant) suggested a dress in any style/shape, I'd at least try it on.
      And ditto for not being forced to buy it right away. I went back alone a second time to verify that I wanted it and decided to buy it then.

      2 agree
  8. Thank you SO much for the time and effort you put into this post.. I am also a size 18-20 and have been dreading going dress shopping. Seeing a real lovely woman such as yourself has given me such hope, and now I'm so much more excited to get started. YAY.

    17 agree
  9. A bad dress shopping experience can happen to anyone, regardless of size. I went to three shops looking for my dress and 2 were good fun. One just made me extremely uncomfortable and wasn't straightforward about price, at all. I don't think places like that should be rewarded with my business.

    5 agree
    • PREACH. I'm a size 4 avid Crossfitter, and my thin privilege was just shredded away by the experience of wedding dress shopping. I went to three stores in the Benelux region, and at each got nosy advice about what kind of shape would be 'flattering.' At one point the sales assistant, after I'd squeezed into a very form-fitting column gown, tapped my hip and gently scolded 'no, this isn't a good shape for such a solid girl.'

      I wound up buying a J Crew dress off the Internet and I love it. As an aside, the bride in this post is just gorgeous.

      7 agree
      • Hototogisu, I bought my first wedding dress at David's Bridal and had the same experience…with my fat-shaming mother in tow and rude sales staff . My mother was ashamed and horrified when at a size 2 I had to try on a size 4. Oh, the horror!! The sales ladies piled on the negativity when mermaids and sheaths weren't flattering on my athletic shape.

        It doesn't matter what our measurements are, there will always be someone around to try to knock you down a peg. I'm honestly now dreading buying a dress for my second wedding coming up in 6 months. Besides running out of time, I'm more muscular than four years ago and just can't tolerate the negativity. will probably go with the online shopping route. Did you find anything worth checking out at other online shops?

        2 agree
        • Madeline, that makes me so angry that staff would treat you like that. I hope for your next dress you only take along positive people who will have your back no matter what.
          I also think that if the staff make negative comments or say things that make you uncomfortable, end the appointment, and let them know you won't be buying from them.
          Also, see if anyone in your area has places with friendly staff they can recommend. All the best!

          2 agree
        • I can't *believe* you got treated like that. Oh, wait, I can. I hear these stories all the time and I am so, so sorry. You're right, they totally don't deserve your business or even a second look. Did you ever find a dress that worked for you?

  10. I love that you made this post! I generally love going shopping just to try on clothing, but I felt SO anxious about wedding dress shopping. You only ever see pictures of women looking way glammed up, but as it turns out, you won't magically look like this in the shop! Somehow fluorescent lighting on a dress that is 2 sizes too big/small in a cut that doesn't really flatter your body doesn't make you look like someone from Pinterest. Total shock to me.

    I would absolutely second the point about trying on dresses that aren't exactly what you're picturing in your mind. Even though I normally have a great sense of what fits my oddly proportioned body very well, I ended up in a few dresses that I thought would be perfect and turned out to be flops and vice versa. There's something about the cut of wedding dresses and the huge volume of fabric and boning that just makes them fit WAY differently than you're expecting.

    Definitely go with friends/family you can laugh with, and screw humorless shop ladies! If they don't like your jokes about having a picnic on the excessively long dress train, then they don't get you and don't get your dollars!

    3 agree
  11. Where was this post when I got married three years ago! I'm a very plus size bride (dress size 34 at the time) and I was completely and totally freaked out about the dress. I can't find regular dresses that fit me much less trying to find something in an industry that makes everything smaller. I did a bunch of looking online but couldn't find samples in my size. I finally found a place that sold dresses online but they had a store in Kentucky where I could try them on (they are now closed). Since I live in northern Illinois, my husband and I took a roadtrip and went to the store. I was so very nervous that I wouldn't be able to find things to try on, much less like, even though they promised they had my size gowns in stock to try. It ended up being an amazing experience. I found a dress I really liked and I could get the modifications I wanted. I cried at the first dress I tried on, even though I hated the dress, because I was sooo relieved to find something that fit. I ended up having a dress custom made but since I had tried on some dresses, I was better able to know that while I loved beachy and gauzy in theory, a structured princess looked seriously amazing on me. My dress is my favorite clothing I've ever owned and (thanks to a corset) something I wish I could wear every day.

    11 agree
  12. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing your photos! They are so helpful!

    12 agree
  13. I'm not in the market for a wedding dress, but I just wanted to say that you looked beautiful–and not just in the dress that you chose, but in a lot of them. Thanks for being willing to share the bad parts of your experience alongside the good ones. Also, I'll point out that everyone, no matter their size or body type, finds some dresses that just aren't flattering to them. Putting on a few klunkers is to be expected, so I admire that you let those roll off your back until you found a great dress.

    21 agree
  14. The fourth David's Bridal gown is what I went with for my wedding. When I pinned the skirt up after the wedding, it looked like a bustle – which I adored.

    1 agrees
  15. thanks so much for this helpful post!

    can anyone name any good plus-size bridal places in manhattan or brooklyn? i'm having a really hard time finding options that i can get to without leaving the city (i don't have a car or drive).

    i went to the david's in manhattan and had a great experience–just wasn't ready to commit to a dress at that time. i then went to another place that i had found online, a smaller and swankier place that claimed to have stuff for all shapes and sizes, only to find my choices there extremely limited. there were so many gorgeous dresses…that only ran up to 8 or 10 (i'm roughly the same size as the author of this post). salesgirl was nice enough, but seemed unenthused and the (lack of) selection left me feeling bad. i'll probably go back to david's…but i would love to find some other good options.

    thank you! and happy planning to all!

    • I would recommend RK bridal. It's a slightly different experience, because you pull your own dresses. They really seem to have a little of everything, though! Lots of designers and styles to choose from, and since you aren't paying for the "experience" the prices are reasonable.

      I also love their website – http://www.rkbridal.com/ – because you can look through ALL of the designers they carry and many of the dresses are available to buy online! The size charts are easy to find and use, so I have found it easy to discover great dresses for my measurements. This way, you can do the grunt work before you visit the shop. And if you don't find something at the store, it looks pretty easy to ship it to yourself.

      A friend of mine had a great time at Bridal Reflections, too, although I haven't been there myself.

      Hope this helps!

      4 agree
        • I highly recommend RK Bridal. Many of my friends have purchased their gowns there from size 4 through size 24. There are so many gowns to choose from in a wide range of sizes. I recommend them for bridesmaids dresses as well. I've purchased quite a few from there – they were gorgeous, priced well and same as the wedding gowns, they offered many different sizes to try on. When I'm on the hunt for a wedding gown (hopefully soon!), that's the #1 place on my list.

  16. This makes me feel so good about my dress purchase! I've struggled to feel as if my dress was really flattering or pretty but seeing you in dresses like the one I chose (we have similar bodies!) makes me feel confident that I am going to look awesome! Thanks so much for this post! Visibility is important!

    3 agree
  17. Damn girl! That mermaid dress was HOT on you!!

    Glad you found something easier to walk in for your wedding day, though, and you look gorgeous and glowy there. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    7 agree
  18. I just wanted to say that I read your entire story and loved some of the photos, some left me quite frustrated as a bridal dressmaker myself in the UK that anyone in a dress shop could be so rude or could make you feel bad about yourself!
    I'm VERY proud to say that I deliberately use people I know in my photoshoots, including myself. I like to make the point that no one is a 'standard size' so therefore have the lucky size 6 but with a big chest, the size 16 who is vertically challenged but gorgeous, right up to the size 24 with the shapely backside! I made the deliberate decision to not live up to the bridal shop norm, I am proud to be different and if this loses me customers then sobeit but I will never change that to give the impression that only model types are beautiful enough to get married!
    So, what I'm trying to say is THANK YOU for being so honest and also for highlighting that people shouldn't be frightened and it should be a fun experience! A fond memory like your 't-rex' moment (which sounds hilarious!) was a client of mine telling me she didn't want 'unicorn vomit' which is what she classed as a heavily beaded, sequinned style, that's stuck with me ever since and I've passed it on to other clients who didn't want similar!

    Be proud of those curves girls, thats what your partner fell in love with, you need to see you looking back in those wedding photos!

    22 agree
  19. "It strikes me as odd that women are expected to purchase a garment as important and expensive as a wedding dress without having tried on a version that fits properly." – a thousand times THIS!

    I wish I had seen this before the first few times I went out – they were exhausting, stressful and miserable, and I just stopped looking for a dress out of frustration.

    Luckily a few months later my mom was in town visiting for all of 2 days and we happened to stop by a dress shop that advertised "plus sized dresses" and I had a wonderful experience and found a beautiful dress.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences!

    12 agree
  20. This post is fanTAStic!! Thank you so much for not only sharing your dress shopping experience in detail, but also providing pictures.

    I think that a lot of ladies who have bodies that are hard to dress in standard sizes (either because we're not clothing-industry-proportional, or because we're too big or too small, or both) get a lot of anxiety when it comes to clothes shopping. Most of us have experienced shopping where nothing fits and everything looks terrible. But figure flattery is one of the greatest things I've learned as I've grown to love my body–the idea is that the clothes are wrong, but you're not. And that means that when you start trying on clothes that fit better, or that are shaped differently from all the stuff that's always looked wrong on you, you start to really FEEL beautiful.

    I remember when I first tried on a dress that I thought would look terrible, and then realized it looked AMAZING. I had always assumed I should wear empire waisted dresses because they fit me more easily; a dress would just have to fit my boobs and then it could flow all around me and hide my tummy and huge hips. Because of that, usually these dresses had straight-across necklines as well. Then one day, my then-boyfriend convinced me to try on a dress that looked AWFUL to me. The long bodice would just make my long torso look even longer, and there was a seam RIGHT at my hips. And wouldn't the neckline be too much boob?

    Well, the dress was so amazingly flattering that it was my starting point when I started wedding dress shopping. I knew I wanted something strapless and sweetheart, and it had to have a dropped waist.

    It's not about hiding my tummy–it's about showing off my waist. It's not about hiding my arms–it's about showing off my shoulders and bust.

    I'm so glad that you had enough good dress experiences to know that the size 10 dress only looked terrible because it was too small. It is an INCREDIBLE dress, and it looks absolutely incredible on you in your wedding photos. That dress was MADE for you.

    5 agree
  21. I wish I had seen this sooner!

    I was so nervous about the not being able to try on dresses that I avoided the boutique type places all-together (Price was a factor too). I knew DB would have my size, and bigger, and smaller too, so I decided to simplify for myself and just went there. I had a pretty good experience and, because I'm such a self-conscious person, being able to try on dresses that all fit did wonders for my self-esteem. I just ignored the size, which is always at least 2 sizes larger in wedding dresses, and paid attention to the fact that all these fun dresses fit me.

    I know myself, and I was unwilling to have that hit to my self-esteem. Some might say I wimped out, but I think I did what I had to to keep myself from going crazy.

    1 agrees
    • I don't think skipping certain types of shops is "wimping out" at all. You know yourself and you did what felt best for your self-esteem and well-being. Props to that!

      3 agree
  22. I went to a bridal expo in Madison, WI and at all dress shop booths I asked "How many plus size dresses do you have in your shop available to try on?" One shop said "Oh, at least a half dozen!" Really, looking at my short size 24 body, do you think that's a good answer?

    I shopped first at David's Bridal with some luck. Just didn't like sharing a consultant.

    Then I went to Bridal Elegance in Ottawa, IL (near my mom & sister) – it's the largest bridal shop in Illinois! Huge, tons of options. When I saw them at a bridal expo in Illinois and asked how many plus size dresses in stock, they said "5 or 6, maybe 7… dozen." And they weren't kidding. Racks and racks and racks of dresses. I didn't try on dresses that I didn't like simply because there wasn't much choice, like I did at David's. I must have tried on at least 2 dozen dresses that day at Bridal Elegance, with at least 3 being top contenders. We bought my dress that day.

    My dress is a Mori Lee A-line sleeveless dress (I hate to say it has straps because it's a V-neck) size 30 which we shortened to tea length and I love it. I added Mary Jane shoes and a birdcage veil to give a slight vintage feel to it. I felt so beautiful that day in that dress.

    I have pictures on my blog if you click on my name up there.

    And Pisquared, you're beautiful! Congratulations on your marriage!

    3 agree
  23. You're pretty rad. I a little bit wish this had existed to read a while ago, but I think I can live with my choices.
    I'm getting married in April and I'm a street size 16-20 on top or 20-26 (thanks shops) on the bottom. And I decided, after yucky comments and treatment as a bridesmaid at bridally shops, to just damn well go ahead and make my own dress. Currently working on it, but everything should be hunky dory, and it will fit the way I want it to, and look the way I want it to, and I don't have to spend more hours crying about my stupid body.

    Anyway, thanks for being happy and amazing and I hope this post works really well for everyone!!

    2 agree
  24. Things have really changed since I was engaged. I was a size 14 at the time. The first place I went only had samples in size 2. They were all too willing to sell me a non-refundable dress I'd never seen myself in that I could spend thousands altering though. Next place I went had 3 off-the-rack plus size dresses that were ugly sacks, and lots of size 2 samples. Same deal – buy something that I'd never seen and spend 2-3x the cost of the gown to alter it. I quit looking at that point.

    3 agree
  25. I LOVED my wedding dress, but had a not great experience purchasing it. When I tried it on in the store (at David's Bridal, so it was in my size), the saleswoman encouraged me to buy a size smaller since I was over a year out from my wedding and had been losing weight steadily (at the time, I was 70 pounds lighter than my heaviest weight). I took her advice, and, of course, the dress I purchased never fit. My dress was discontinued, so I couldn't return or exchange it (since I bought it so far out). However, when I brought it in for alterations, they were really nice about the whole thing, and did a good job with the alterations – but it never fit quite as well as that sample dress I first tried on in my actual size (the altered dress had some light wrinkling that would not go away towards the waist, presumably because it was still a little too small there).

    TL;DR: Buy a dress in YOUR SIZE, and don't buy it too early.

    9 agree
  26. What a great blog! Thank you for being educational and informative!!! 🙂 I LOVED reading it!

    1 agrees
  27. CA brides check out http://dellacurva.com/ Della Curva is Southern California's first plus-size bridal salon exclusively catering to full-figured curvy brides sized 16-30. Their sister store Lili Bridals is also awesome if you need any sizes under 16. Hope this helps!

    3 agree
  28. I have the added issues of being a 5'9" size 18 wedding dress shopper with absolutely NO interest in white and too much knowledge of how the typical rack dress is made/marked up. I've yet to set foot in a bridal shop for myself, and I have an awesome friend making sure I don't need to, which brings me to this:

    All of the above advice is AWESOME, but for those who might also have the "I don't want white" issue or the "I can't tell what a dress will look like on someone my size"– don't look at wedding dresses for the inspiration. Look at Dresses– day dresses, prom dresses, bridesmaid's dresses, costumes from historical periods. The shapes and body sizes thought "beautiful" by the main stream have changed SO MUCH in the past 200 years, that it *WILL* be easier to find design elements you like from things that aren't a modern white wedding dress. From there, you can go to a shop (or dressmaker!) armed with terms and images that you're more confident will have the effect you want. Just because you want a white dress for your wedding day doesn't mean white dresses called "wedding dresses" should be the only things you research. 🙂 They're all inspired by fashion through history anyway.

    6 agree
  29. Thank you for this post!

    I also highly recommend consignment shops. The first shop I went to was a consignment shop and they were amazing. They carried dresses in a wide range of sizes and silhouettes (I called and asked beforehand to make sure this was the case), and I was able to learn what shapes I liked and roughly what size I was. I also loved that most of the dresses came with happy stories of the people who'd worn them before.

  30. I really enjoyed your article about shopping for a wedding dress as a plus size bride. I run a formal clothing closet that provides formal clothing for families in need in our community. I found it informative and entertaining. Thank you for being brave enough to share your experiences.

  31. I LOVE that you did this!! I've been very self conscious about my body and finding a dress that I'll like the way I look in. I haven't cried too much, but I've been dreading dress shopping. Thank you sooooo much for this!! You'll never know how much this post really means to my plus-sized self (^_^)!!!!!

    4 agree
  32. Seriously the best thing ever written for dresses.

    While I hope to be more toned for my wedding, I know that my shape is always curvy curvy and looking at all the models, it really has been hard to picture myself in a dress. I do not hit the stores to actually try on dresses until January 2015 BUT I am drooling online already and now with this post, look forward to the experience that much more. Woot woot!

  33. I found this sooo helpful!!! I have read lots of articles on plus size wedding dress shopping but having the photos of you in all those dresses was amazing and a real confidence boost!

    Also no one told me about the clips I'm any of those articles! I thought I would have to find a bridal which only had my size!

    Thanks so much 😀

  34. Thank you for sharing your experience shopping for plus size wedding gowns. I thought you looked amazing in the mermaid gown. Sad to say, many plus sized brides don't get the same TLC as size 6 brides do in some boutiques. Don't ever spend a dime anywhere you're not treated like a princess!

  35. Aw, shucks, guys. Thanks for all the kind comments. If anyone has specific questions you'd like to ask about being a plus-sized bride, feel free to message me from the Tribe.

    • THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH FOR THIS POST! It just made me look forward to actually go dress-shopping… I have been dreading and postponing it for months. So I'm gonna put my big girl panties and red heels on and go find me my dress! I can not thank you enough 🙂
      You looked awesome in all those dresses by the way and shone like a diamond in YOUR dress!

  36. You look very beautiful in your final pick, PiSquared. And those red shoes are to die for!

  37. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! I already bought my dress but I didn't have a chance to try on very many so i had no perspective about my purchase. It's so different from what I had pictured, when I pictured a wedding dress at all. You've done a wonderful thing for me!!

  38. Thank you so much for this. I was so nervous about dress shopping being that I am plus size and that a girl from highschool (I guess trying to be helpful) emailed me saying how terrible it is and theres hardly anything out there for us bigger girls. So I've been freaking out. This post assures me that you're gonna have some bad but there's humor in it and there's something for everyone. You made this bride's day 🙂

    1 agrees
  39. This post really is so spot on and important for all brides to see. I watched my 2 BFFs go through HELL at bridal salons. I think the biggest thing they had problems accepting was that even if they are normally a street size 16-18, in some lines that meant up to a size 26-28 in wedding dress size. The tears… oh, it was AWFUL. My advice is don't get hung up on the size, get hung up on the dress that YOU want. I am also plus sized and after watching what they went through (and wanting a gray dress), I never even went to try on wedding dresses, I went straight to a dress maker and had a custom gown made. It is so awesome that you did this for other brides to see 🙂

    3 agree
  40. Pisquared thank you so much for this detailed post! It is really helpful for getting an idea of what may or may not work for those that aren't itty bitty and made me feel slightly less anxious about when I finally go to look.

  41. I just want to thank you so so much!
    Your article has really helped to pull me out of a dress shopping depression I've sunk into recently… looking at all the dress pictures online makes me feel awful and sick to the stomach about how awful i'm going to look compared to the amazing venue and decorations.

    I'm a UK size 20 and have had my first/only dress experience recently which made me feel like a hippo and have been on a diet since.. I'm nearly 1 stone lighter and feeling better for it… yet the whole experience I think has traumatised me because thinking about going again makes me go into a cold sweat. I've been over-compensating by making sure my venue looks stunningly decorated but I think this will only make me stand out more if i look awful.

    Being able to see a normal girl like me in all the shapes and styles has helped me no end to know what I like the look of and what will suit my shape. It's so comforting and i have saved your article so i can look back again and again over the coming months.

    I owe you so many hugs! Thank you, Cat

    2 agree
  42. Gorgeous bride and thorough and thoughtful writing, thanks for making this post! Gonna share everywhere.

  43. Wow, just wanted to say that you are amazing. Thank you for sharing so much! I think I am your size and it feels like I astroprojected and kind of tried those dresses on… I have been going nuts trying to pick out a dress. And being a size 16/18 does not help. You are an inspiration and a true beauty.

    3 agree
  44. Thank you, Thank you, THANK YOU SO MUCH for posting this! We are basically the same size/shape (inverted triangle) but I'm about 20lbs heavier and have thought I'm going to look like a fat linebacker wearing a comforter. I have been looking for REAL plus size women in dresses and you took so many pictures. Almost in tears because a lot of those dresses looked really beautiful on you. I'm so glad you didn't take the 2nd dress you tried on just because it kinda made you look good and waited for something great. 😀

    2 agree
  45. Thank you so much for this, I was at breaking point last night, thinking why I am even trying to find something nice to wear when i won't look good in it.. I am a uk size 16/18 currently (have already lost 24 lbs). I don't plan to start dress shopping till November this year, but i have been dreading it sick to my stomach about it. It's also my 2nd wedding, his first, so my orders are to look bridal, but I am planning to try and twist it a little to reflect me, rather then just wear white which washing me out (plus i have 2 children so don't see it staying white for long)

    You looked amazing in your photos and its so helpful to see the different styles….

  46. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I started off stressing a bit about being a larger woman and wanting to look fabulous. I've ended up getting my dress made. Your guide is practical, empowering and funny. You rock.

  47. Love this!! Having worked in the bridal industry, I have seen first hand how disappointing it can be for the curvy bride. Thank you for showing that persistence pays off. A lot of bridal stores don't carry very many plus size dresses because there are still too many plus size brides who feel they don't deserve a beautiful dress unless they're skinny. Therefore the store may end up with expensive dresses that they will end up losing money on, having to sell them below cost to try to keep up with the trends.

    • Denise – just saw your comment, so I apologize for responding a month after you posted it. If this is truly what bridal (and other clothing stores) think, than they are downright delousional. I'm a size 24. Most of my friends are plus size. And I don't know a single one who didn't want to look fabulous on their wedding day (or any other day). The problem isn't that we feel we don't deserve it, the problem is that we know it's an uphill battle to find it. Did you know that the flagship Nordstrom store in Seattle has three floors dedicated to "regular" sized clothing, and has one small area (maybe 1/8th of a floor) that they dedicate to plus size? I can't even begin to count the number of "regular" sized fashion outlets in my area, but I can count the number dedicated to plus sized women on one hand, and have a finger or two left over. The average American is a size 14. That's the very top end of "regular" clothing, and the low end of "plus". Millions of women are plus size. You can't tell me that it isn't a profitable business venture to cater to them. We aren't all shriveling wall flowers that don't think we're good enough. We rock our curves, and we want to look fantastic. I wish more designers would see that…. Maybe then they wouldn't be left with the two or three wedding dresses they bothered to stock rotting on the shelves…. (Not yelling at you, btw… I just think that businesses need to quit thinking that nice clothes for big girls won't sell….)

      2 agree
  48. Good point about the lack of plus sized dress models. Silly that the stores can't be more supportive of a variety of women.

  49. Why hasn't a dress designer or two made $ millions $ of dollars in the plus size wedding dress business? There is a crying need for more styles.
    Most of the dresses in stores & online are strapless. A few times I wondered if the bride would have chosen something different if there were more choices in her size.

    3 agree
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