It was like a moment from the film Pretty Woman. ‘We don’t have your size here.’ said the stuck up sales assistant.
With so much money to be made in the bridal industry, and with brides coming in all shapes and sizes, you would think that these words would never be uttered with such disdain from people within the industry. But unfortunately Beth felt the slap of the sharp words and left the shop in tears.
Her story was relayed to me one day while shopping for plus size clothing and I found it very hard to understand how it was possible to still have such sizeism in a shop that did actually stock wedding gowns in some larger sizes. Luckily Beth called the owner of the boutique to complain and the shop assistant was fired. One small victory for the curvy ladies!
Although many women wish to lose weight for their special day, others are more interested in just being themselves and looking beautiful as they are. Thankfully a handful of specialist shops are out there for plus size ladies who wish to find their perfect wedding gown.
Every woman wants their special day to be perfect, and the wedding gown is traditionally known as the piece de resistance. Though there are many more options for ‘off the rack’ gowns for slimmer ladies, there are very few of these options for the curvy lady. Most plus size gowns are made to order, which gives the bride to be a chance to choose her design to flatter her curves. This is very important as different styles suit different shapes or heights.
When choosing a style for you, it’s important to firstly pick the silhouette that you wish to create. Silhouettes range from Ball gowns, to A-line, Mermaid, Sheath, and fishtail. Donna Mineo, formerly a plus size wedding dress designer with over 20 years experience in the bridal industry, says ‘If in doubt, everyone suits an A-line silhouette.’
The next thing to consider is the waist line. There are three main types of waistline. Empire line, which sits just below the bust, the traditional waist line sits on the waist, and a drop waist line sits on the hips. The empire line is a particularly flattering style for the plus size lady with bigger hips, who wants to draw attention to the bust and shoulders, while averting attention from the bottom half.
You’ll also need to consider what type of neckline you’d like. Would you rather halter neck, v-neck, strapless or straight neck? It’s a good idea to consider the function of the neckline. Though a strapless dress may look beautiful, if you are a woman with a full bust, you may need extra support to avoid any embarrassing slip ups on the day. You don’t want a Janet Jackson style ‘wardrobe malfunction’!
If you have some areas of your body that you’d rather take attention away from, then there is always a way around. Many plus size women prefer to cover their arms, so you need to consider a range of sleeves from cap sleeves to short or long sleeves. Puffy sleeves are not a good look these days though, so if you want to cover your arms, either consider a sleeve or a bolero style sheer cover.
The next choices to make are colour, fabric, and detailed embellishments. Donna’s advice on fabric is to stay away from shiny fabrics, and keep to a matt fabric. A shiny fabric will attract the light and show up all types of lumps and bumps.
Detail embellishment should be strategically placed to draw your eye to the areas you wish to highlight, making sure that they are never placed in the areas you wish to hide.
When it comes to shapewear, you want to make sure you have a nude colour on underneath, because if you wear a white coloured corset or shapewear, it will show up in photos, so nude will blend in and remain hidden, whilst offering a lovely smooth look.
With so many options available, it’s hard to know which way to go for the newly engaged plus size bride to be. Normal bridal magazines don’t often cover many plus size wedding gown options, so to see a curvy gal in a wedding gown, you need to search online, or watch one of the shows from the USA like Say Yes To The Dress: Big Bliss, or Curvy Brides, which are set in a bridal boutique. These types of shows will introduce you to bigger brides, and you’ll have the opportunity to see what looks good on a bigger silhouette that may be similar to your own.
When you think you have an idea of what you’re looking for, your best bet is to book an appointment with a specialist in bridal wear couture for the plus size bride. For this, you are best off knowing your budget to start with, and asking the designer to create a dress within your budget, that takes into account your specifications as couture options generally come with a bigger price tag.
If you’re on a smaller budget and want to buy online, second hand, or off the rack, you’ll need to do your homework and have a dress maker handy who can fit the dress perfectly to your body once you’ve bought it. Looking for off the rack wedding dresses can be tough due to a lack of information out there as to where to buy them. But once you’ve found the shops who stock them, get ready for a shopping marathon, and make sure you take some positive friends or family who will give an honest opinion, as well as respecting yours!
For those ladies who do choose to buy from a cheaper online supplier, make sure that you purchase from a genuine plus size designer to avoid many of the pitfalls of buying online. And make sure that you have plenty of time up your sleeve, so that you can get exactly what you want with time to make adjustments. The appeal is high for some women to simply buy from cheap Chinese manufacturers, but the internet is littered with warnings about the quality and fit, so do your research first or you could end up paying more for alterations than the dress cost in the first place, or starting from scratch.
However you choose to shop, whatever you choose to wear, hold your head up high on your special day, and know that you are beautiful! Take as many photos as you can, and capture as many memories as possible, because this is your day to celebrate the love that you’ve found with your special someone!
By Sharona Radovsky