I'm Plus-Size and Had Trouble Wedding Dress Shopping—Here's What I Learned
Finding the perfect wedding dress is hard for any bride, but when you don't fit into the floor samples you're trying on, it can be downright discouraging. What's the good news? It doesn't have to be. We tapped Lauren Chan, a former Glamour fashion editor turned model and clothing designer to get her expert tips on having a positive wedding dress shopping experience, no matter your size.
"The bridal industry has a big diversity issue. Because it has long excluded women of color, women above sample size and women past their youth, it's perpetuated the idea that only thin, young, white women deserve love," says Chan. "I absorbed that message for a long time, and since I've been posting about my bridal experience online, I know that a lot of women feel the same way. Their stories about dress shopping in particular are heartbreaking. But on a positive note, I do think things are getting better. It's great to see brands like David's Bridal push for diversity. Until we see more of an industry-wide change, we have to remind ourselves that we aren't unworthy—because that's the truth."
Do Your Research
Before your first bridal salon appointment, take the time to figure out the type of wedding dress you love. Trying on gowns will be a lot less overwhelming if you have a starting point, like a favorite silhouette or designer. Once you find specific dresses you like, call local salons to make sure they carry that designer and that they have those samples in stock before your visit. Some designers will loan specific dresses to salons if you request them beforehand and pay a small fee (that will usually be credited towards your final purchase).
Calling ahead can also ensure that there will be dresses in your size that you'll be able to try on.
"Don't go to boutiques that don't carry samples close to your size (if you're only a few sizes off, they'll put it on you and clip you into it). Call ahead to ask and sleuth around online," says Chan. "I only shopped through sections of boutiques that were specifically meant for women above size 14. Otherwise I wouldn't have been able to fit into the samples, and didn't want to fall in love with something I couldn't try on before buying."
Shopping in-store has its perks, like having a dedicated stylist guide you and of course, being able to try on dresses IRL—but shopping online is also an option. "Despite having run the bridal boutique gamut, my search actually wasn't very exciting—I was looking for something chic and simple and couldn't find that in any store's plus-size offering," says Chan. "Once I came to terms with the fact that what I was looking for may not be on a rack, I took my search online."
Many brands like Watters, Morilee, Allure and Mon Cheri list salons on their sites that carry their plus-size lines in-store, while retailers like David's Bridal carry samples of all of their styles from 0-18 and 14W-26W and select styles up to a size 30W. Chan adds, "For wedding looks in sizes above 14, I would turn to ASOS or ModCloth as well as 11 Honoré, depending on your budget."
Think Outside the Box
The traditional white wedding dress isn't for everyone—and it doesn't have to be. There's no one way to look like a bride, so take advantage of wedding dress alternatives like colorful dresses, suits or jumpsuits, bridal separates or off-the-rack gowns. "Evening wear designers like Christian Siriano and Brandon Maxwell make some killer white gowns that are as beautiful as wedding dresses," says Chan. "Also consider bespoke—seriously! It's a way to get the exact size and style that are perfect for you. My veil was custom made by Anomalie, who also makes dresses."
Manage Your Expectations
Shopping for a wedding dress for the first time is a personal experience that won't look the same for every bride. You might find your dress in the very first salon you visit, or the fourth or fifth, so it's important not to get wrapped up in the idea that your experience has to look like your friend's or mirror what you've seen on TV.
"I had it in the back of my head that I could go the custom route or buy a non-bridal white gown. I'm glad I managed my expectations in that way, because if I thought I was going to have a Say Yes to the Dress moment in store, I would've been disappointed," says Chan. Researching different gowns, designers and salons beforehand can help narrow down what you're looking for and where you'll find it. "You—like all women, no matter their size—may not have a happy-tears moment. So if the experience isn't a 12/10, don't let it dampen all of your feelings towards your wedding. To be honest, it's just a dress. Your fiancé, friends and family are going to make your big day the best ever."