Finding the perfect wedding dress for a transgender bride

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Transgender wedding dresses
Adorable Eyelet Lace Classic from Whirling Turban

I’m a bridesmaid in a close friend’s wedding this summer — R is transgender, and she’s struggling to find a dress on a budget. R is a gorgeous woman who gets her curves from her post-transition hormones and her shoulders from her pre-transition adolescence. Dresses that look gorgeous on a model online look totally different when she tries them on, and she doesn’t have the budget to have something completely hand-made. Since you did such a great write-up about finding suits for FTM transgender dudes and butch women, I was hoping you might be able to help us out a bit. -Beth

Thanks for writing, Beth — and congratulations to R on her engagement! I’ve got opinions a plenty, but I figured I’d bring in some experts to help me answer your question. I shared your email with four of my favorite independent wedding dress designers, and here was their advice…

Maybe this custom A-line dress from PixiePocket would be the perfect wedding dress for a transgender bride?

“Look for something body–skimming (not body-hugging) with an A-line shape for the skirt to make R’s waist look smaller.” Katherine from Whirlingturban Boutique said. Katherine went on to advise, “For inspiration, look at traditional 1940s wedding and evening gowns, then look for something new like that but with clean lines and FAR less detail and less modest coverage. Don’t use shoulder pads because R is lucky enough to have au naturelle shoulder pads.”

Dianna DiNoble from Starkers! agreed on the A-line idea, suggesting “A full or A-line skirt — with a corset of course!” She went on to clarify that she’d suggest R aim for “either tea-length or full skirt to accentuate a small waist and hide narrower hips.”

Transgender wedding dresses
Verbena Dress from Wai-Ching

When I emailed Chrissy Wai-Ching to ask her thoughts on R’s dilemma, she recommended “hourglass shapes with flowing skirts, with a halter and sweetheart neckline. Those would help to soften R’s broad shoulders and create curves.” She added a little plug saying, “My Athena Dress or Samsara Dress with a sweetheart neckline could be really flattering.”

Transgender wedding dresses
Dress by Blue Velvet Vintage

Joi from Dress Forms Design Studio got meta on the issue, explaining “On any person you want to accentuate the best feature. If R is worried about wide shoulders, then she wants a line in the garment that makes them look narrow. Draw a silhouette of the person, then imagine drawing an arrow pointing inward. That is the line or illusion you want for wide shoulders.”

Getting more specific, Joi explained: “Halter necklines create a line angling in, portrait collars are also nice (not an off the shoulder, but one that covers the shoulder and goes up the shoulder and overlaps in the front), and a surplice neckline (a bodice that overlaps) would be wonderful. These are necklines I use on clients with broad shoulders — such as swimmers, for example.”

Transgender wedding dresses
A corset-top dress by Starkers Corsetry

So, in summary:

  • Skirt: A-line full skirt, likely tea-length or full length
  • Bodice: corset or halter top

Many thanks to Katherine, Dianna, Chrissy, and Joi for taking the time to share their wisdom!

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Comments on Finding the perfect wedding dress for a transgender bride

  1. That first dress is perfect for more rectangular bodies.

    And may the Flying Spaghetti Monster bless you with heaps of sauces and noodles for posting this! THIS is why I love this site,

  2. Not that the article personally effects me or anyone I know… but THANK YOU for posting it. It makes me incredibly happy to see inclusive tolerant hopeful HELPFUL things for a group of people who are largely ignored. Totally made my day. And hopefully helped our R as well….

    Congrats R! I hope your wedding is absolutely everything you want it to be…

  3. My partner (fiancee!) is a trans woman, and she just rocked out a really sexy halter dress with an a-line skirt at our engagement party. Her proportions sound similar to R's. She will likely wear something similar for our wedding. It's a really flattering cut. She wore a lovely flowing cardigan as a cover-up. She had it made at Fashion Crimes in Toronto — they will alter any existing sizes. or custom-make any of their dresses for $40% more — still much cheaper than having a custom wedding gown made: http://fashioncrimes.ca/

  4. In my experience, a lot of transgendered ladies are a bit self-conscious of their arms and shoulders. Actually, I'd revise that to say a whole lot of ladies feel that way for one reason or another. My advice is always nip the silhouette at the slimmest part, then create an hourglass out from there. If you choose to wear sleeves, you can still create that illusion! I recommend choosing sleeves that end above the waistline, or choosing a top with gathered and wrapped fabric that creates the magical arrow that Joi mentioned.
    If you feel like your shoulders are too broad and you're thinking about choosing a dress that downplays that, I would recommend against spaghetti straps or super thin straps of any sort.

  5. Thank you. I'm a bridesmaid with a swimmer's body and these tips are really helpful. Since we cannot get away from strapless (daaaammmmn), I've found a sweetheart neckline and assymetrical gathering brings out whatever curves I have. On the corset tip, I seriously am lost. I haven't worn one in eons, and don't know what to get that won't show under a satin dress. Where to start?

  6. I am also totally self conscious about my arms and shoulders, this post is great. I generally avoid halters for fear of accentuating them, but now I've got to try it!

  7. i used to be in bodybuilding and totally back the halter in downplaying the shoulders!! Congrats R and finacee!

    • Surprisingly, they do just the opposite. I have "linebacker" shoulders, and was shocked to find that a halter line was much more flattering than almost anything else.

    • Actually, it depends on the rest of your body. If you're athletically-built with wide shoulders and a narrow body, a halter can do a lot to even things out. If your shoulders are the widest part of your body, the straps of a halter "break up" the expanse of shoulder, and the vertical pieces of fabric draw the eye down. A dress that is completely strapless (particularly if it is a sheath dress-witness every formal gown put on C.J. Cregg in "The West Wing") will emphasize the shoulders, because you are left with an expanse of skin with nothing to break it up or draw the eye away.

    • I discovered halters for my broad shoulders when I was in high school, and haven't gone back since!

  8. Great post. My only comment is one of surprise that shoulder pads should be avoided. First, obviously. 🙂 Secondly, does anyone wear, make, or design dresses with shoulder pads these days??? Blast from the past. 🙂

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