The Ultimate Guide to Plus Size Wedding Dress Shopping


Ladies, this is admitedly a long post. If you're looking for something specific, skip ahead to the bullet point you find relevant. This post is based on my experience alone, which was a largely positive one. But that was because I was prepared. I hope this guide helps you a little. And to my readers who have already gone through it, please share your tips in the comments below.

For those asking, my dress is from Paloma Blanca Bridal and the style number is 4512. Visit their website for information on where to purchase.

Here we go:


10. START EARLY

I admittedly waited a long time to find my wedding dress and while I was lucky to find mine under the gun, I felt a bit rushed and therefore the process had its stressful moments. Understand that some dresses can take several months (up to a year even) to come in and then you need at least 2-3 alterations appointments. So you need to plan ahead.

If for some reason, you got engaged and are planning to wed quickly, you can certainly rush your order, but be prepared to pay a hefty fee for that. You can also buy off the rack, but the fact is, even though there are more options than there were a few years ago, they are still far more limited for plus size women.

I recommend starting with a chain store and then calling around to local boutiques to see if they carry your size. The last thing you want to do is walk into a store when you are in search of arguably the most memorable garment of your life and have the saleswoman tell you “we don’t carry your size.” 

On that same note …

9. UNDERSTAND BRIDAL SIZING

Let me tell you this and please understand and absorb it. Chances are, your wedding dress size is going to be about FOUR sizes bigger than your normal dress size. Accept it. Know it. Embrace it. That means if you wear a size 14, chances are your dress will be a size 18. If you wear a size 18, expect to buy a 22.

Also keep in mind that if your hip measures in at their 22, they’re going to tell you to buy that size 22, even if the rest of you is a 16. From there, you will need to have it altered to your measurements, which will cost you another few hundred dollars. So plan for that and be prepared.

If you opt to buy a smaller size believing you will lose weight, many boutiques will make you sign a waiver saying you went against what they recommended. This, of course, is fine if you know yourself and know you will actually accomplish getting to the size you want to be on the big day. But it’s best to be at least within reasonable distance of that size. Trust me, weddings are stressful as hell. It’s better to pay a little extra for alterations than to order a size 10 dress when you’re a size 18 and then you’re left eating nothing but broth and lettuce for two months to get into it. Or worse, not fitting into it at all. But obviously, to each woman her own.

Many bridal boutiques carry up to a size 22, with a few more carrying a size 24.

Here are a list of designers who make their dresses in extended sizes. Keep in mind, it is not for every gown that they go up to this size.

REMEMBER IT’S BRIDAL SIZING, SO YOU WILL BE 4 SIZES BIGGER, ON AVERAGE.

Maggie Sottero: Up to Size 28
James Clifford: Up to Size 24
Paloma Blanca (my designer): Up to Size 22
Alfred Angelo: Up to Size 30
Allure: Up to Size 32
Bonny Bridal: Up to Size 32
Jordan Bridal: Up to Size 30
David's Bridal (various): Up to Size 26, but note that gowns by the big designers like Vera Wang and Zac Posen mostly only go up to a bridal size 14 (more like a size 10). I personally think Oleg Cassini has the nicest plus options at David’s Bridal.
Morilee: Their plus line is called “Julietta” and goes up to 32W
Dina Davos for Kleinfeld’s: This is the name of their best known, exclusively plus collection. It ranges up to a size 22 I believe. Fyi - Kleinfeld's is famous and famously pricey!
Sydney’s Closet (exclusively plus): Up to Size 40
Wtoo: Up to 32W

Of course, there are many more options to consider, but this is a start.


8. DO YOUR RESEARCH

Do your research on bridal boutiques and designers by joining sites like The Knot, Wedding Wire or even just Googling it. Know who carries your size and who doesn’t. Read other brides' experiences and decide for yourself where you want to start looking.

(A bit on my experience)

Not to be biased, but I can’t recommend my boutique, Bridal Reflections, enough. If you’re in the tri-state area, (for my non East Coast readers, this means NY, NJ & CT), I HIGHLY recommend visiting one of their 3 boutiques. They are located on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, which houses their most expensive, couture dresses. They also have locations in Massapequa (on Long Island) and Westbury, both of which have their second-tier, more affordable prices (Keep in mind ladies, “affordable” for wedding dresses is NOT THE SAME as affordable for like, say, Forever 21. Please don’t do it to yourself because your jaw will drop when you get quoted a price – be in the know). They’ve dressed celebrities like Lala Vasquez and were recently seen on MTV for Snooki’s wedding (I know), but don’t be intimidated by this. They treat every bride like a celeb!

I paid a visit to their Massapequa, NY location because one of their stylists came HIGHLY recommended by an industry insider. I called and asked for Nicole by name and it was by far, the best decision I made during this process. When I arrived, I was the ultimate skeptic about finding the dress I would like. I had prepared myself with “no one is going to tell me what I should wear as a plus size woman” game face, but she eased my fears and made me relax immediately. She listened to me and paid attention to details. With some kind of styling magic that even I don’t understand, she used pins and elastic bands to show me how the sample size 8 would look on my body.  Above all else, I felt comfortable with her and that made it easier for me to say “yes” and “no” to the options she presented.

This is a family-owned business, so everyone who works there has experience and cares about you -- They aren’t just another hourly employee. They make you feel SPECIAL, as every bride should feel. It took me 2 visits to find my dress, but my stylist went above and beyond. I mean, Nicole emailed me from her PERSONAL email with information, after hours. She also Googled my blog to see my style and then tailored the options she showed me at our next appointment based on what she thought I would like. That is some seriously attentive service. I can’t gush enough about her. If you go and visit her, tell her I sent you. (Note -- I did not get paid for this, they didn’t sponsor me in any way – this is just my honest opinion).

7. UNDERGARMENTS MATTER

Ok – so here is the question I know will come – what kind of undergarments did I wear? My dress was completely sheer in the back, so I wore a strapless longline bra from Dominique, style number 6377. It had a low, scoop back and gives you an extra bit of shaping at the waist. The dress had construction in it, which gave me additional support (which was needed). On top of that, I wore a pair of my beloved Spanx in the bike short style. But that was it. I did not want to be in a corset or some crazy shapewear all night. I know many brides that do it and lord knows there are some magic girdles out there -- and that’s all up to you. I wanted to be able to sit and dance, so I felt great. I get claustrophobic with too much shapewear on. Decide on your desired level of comfort and stick with it.

Once you’ve decided on your dress silhouette, get a bra that can be your “fitting bra” and wear it to every fitting, and of course, the actual day. Ask your seamstress or stylist for a recommendation. For your first trip, wear a good-fitting bra that you already own, ideally in a nude shade so you can get an idea of how a dress will look. Please do yourself a favor and don’t come in with some rinky-dink strapless and some old grannies. First of all, you will most likely get undressed in front of the stylist (There’s no need to be shy, but you’ll feel better if you aren’t wearing your old undies with holes). Second of all, different bras changes the fit of your dress. It’s important to keep this in mind because you obviously don't want that. Some boutiques will carry undergarments as well, but it’s up to you to get measured and to purchase the proper undergarments.

My bra cost about $40 and my Spanx were about $30. So $70 is reasonable. I bought my bra on Amazon after speaking with the seamstress about the best option.

On that note:

6. YOUR SEAMSTRESS IS YOUR BEST FRIEND

I know alterations are expensive. And I know some seamstresses at bridal salons are overworked, especially during the height of wedding season, and therefore maybe a bit grumpy. But ladies, please treat your seamstress well, because she is so important in this process.

My seamtress works at the boutique I went to, and she was a wealth of information.  First of all, I wanted my dress tight, tight, tight (big shocker, given my favored style aesthetic). But she let me know that if it was TOO tight, it would create wrinkles in the dress because of the construction, when I was thinking the opposite. She was also patient and honest with me. She let me know that she is there to make me look my best on my day. My advice is to listen to her opinions, and if you disagree, calmly let her know and you can reach an agreement together. I tend to be defensive when people say things to me about dressing for my shape, etc. But when that happened, keeping a clear head was my best course of action. I ended up loving everything she did and feeling a peace of mind. And when she gave me a compliment about the dress at our final meeting, it meant a lot because I trusted her word after weeks of brutal honesty.

If for some reason, you don’t like your seamstress or the alterations are too expensive, you can always take your dress to a tailor of your choice.

On another note – Although my dress came with sleeves, during my search, my stylist informed me that my seamstress could ADD sleeves to any dress. This was like being told unicorns are real. I don’t like my arms and I didn’t want to wear sleeveless and strapless. Having that option to add sleeves changed my life.

And on that note …

5. SPEAK BRIDAL LANGUAGE AND HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WANT

When I say bridal language, I mean know your silhouette terms and know what you want in terms of beading/no beading, sleeves/sleeveless etc.

Let’s start with styles, since we are talking about them:

Guys – I hate strapless dresses on me. Lord Jesus knows there are FEW things I hate more than strapless, A-line gowns. They do nothing for my figure, call attention to the part of my body I hate most, and frankly, I don’t have the kind of boobs to pull of strapless. I didn’t want side-boob fat; saggy, old lady boobs; spillage or any other horror that comes along with strapless. There, I said it. 

The problem is, however, that most plus size gowns are strapless, A-line (who decided on this mess, I don't know). But honestly, I called out in my time of need and said “Fix It Jesus” and he did. Once I knew I could add sleeves, suddenly strapless didn’t seem so scary. And I DID give in and try on A-line, which only confirmed that it wasn’t right for me. I know it works beautifully on some women, but not my body.

That being said, my dress was a trumpet hem (not to be confused with her sister, the mermaid). Trumpet flares from around mid hip, while mermaid flares only at the hem. It has a sweep train, which I altered slightly so that I would not have to bustle it to dance.



This picture guide that I found on Pinterest (your wedding bestie) saved my life. Study it. Print it. Know it! Learn what works best for your shape (if you’re lost, ask a friend or your stylist), and shop accordingly.

Here's another one on bridal necklines:



Take a look at Instagram or Facebook and follow some bridal pages – I like Aisle Perfect, Style Me Pretty, Pretty Pear Bridal and of course Pinterest. Oh and if you sign up for The Knot or David’s Bridal ‘s website PLEASE give yourself a separate email address just for that. You will be BOMBARDED with emails.

4. PLAN A BUDGET (KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO SPLURGE ON)

Plan your budget for your dress, and then put aside a little more because you are likely going to go over it a bit. The worst nightmare is finding a dress you know is "the one" and you can't afford it. So allow yourself some wiggle room, if you can. You don’t have to pay for it all at once, but understand that it is an investment and looking/feeling great does carry value. That being said, budgets are relative. I know women who have paid more than $10,000 and I know women who have paid less than $500. And they all looked beautiful. The average bride spends somewhere in the realm of $1500, plus alterations. 

3. BUDGET (KNOW WHAT YOU CAN SAVE ON)

IF you are looking for a dress for around $100-$500, try “running of the brides” events, trunk shows (although you need to look for ones that have plus samples, because the average sample is a 10),  or find a discount store. (There’s a great store in Secaucus, NJ called Group USA where I saw plus size dresses for $100. And they were nice-looking – at least in the bag!). I also know you can buy a pre-owned dress, although I can't speak on that experience personally.

I knew I was investing in a dress and my shoes, BUT I saved money on my wedding by doing my own centerpieces, my own floral arrangements AND by buying my accessories by buying on Etsy. This made the price of my dress easier to swallow.

3a. ON VEILS

I knew I wanted a dramatic, cathedral length veil. The first one I saw and fell in love with was at Macy’s Bridal Salon and it was by Demetrios. It was everything I wanted – and it was $1100. I almost fell out of my chair at the thought of spending that much on something I would literally wear for about 2 hours of my entire life. I couldn’t do it. So I went to Etsy and found an almost identical replica from Powder Blue Bijoux for literally HUNDREDS of dollars less. And it was perfection.

I also bought my belt on Etsy, for a great price. In my opinion, bridal belts are ridiculously expensive for absolutely no reason. Especially when you can DIY it for probably less than $50 – maybe even less than $20 if you’re crafty. Don’t waste money on something unless you absolutely love it.

Here is a handy veil guide to follow (also via Pinterest). The part that goes over your face, by the way, is called a blusher.



2.  AVOID SHOPPING BLINDLY

I know as plus size women, we have gotten so used to online shopping. This is a wonderful way for us to have options and even save money. But ladies, I implore you, don’t just look at a dress, think it’s pretty and then order it. You need to try some things on. Even if you have decided to buy online, go into a a brick-and-mortar and try a few styles on first. Experiment with different silhouettes and designs. Try on different colors as well, as there are many more than just white. In fact, most dresses aren’t white anymore, but are instead a shade of ivory. There are many other colors as well, including blush pinks.

And please, dear God please, don’t order from one of those discount sites from China or Bangladesh. They show pictures of beautiful gowns by rockstar wedding couture designers like Galia Lahav and then you end up with some horrible cheap looking nightmare. Seriously, just read this  . And then read this.

 Don’t do it.

1. DON’T SETTLE

This is probably the most important thing I can tell you. Please, please don’t settle. Don’t just listen to what people tell you is “flattering.” Pick what makes YOU feel special. And don’t go with people who will rain on your parade. I don’t care if that means you can’t go with your mom or your sister  or THAT friend who throws unnecessary shade. If they make you feel bad about your size, don’t bring them with you. This is a magical time in your life and you should only be surrounded by love and support, without the snide comments.

If the stylist you are working with treats you badly, go somewhere else. If the store has an air about them, GO somewhere else.

We are so used to everyone telling us  how things are “slimming” or “that’s not made for us.” We do it to ourselves enough. If you would only give yourself a chance, you CAN find the right dress. There are more and more exclusively plus boutiques popping up, so if that would make you feel better, go to one of them. It may take some travel but it’s worth it. Chain stores are great, sure, but they are not the be-all and end-all.

Be happy, be excited, be CHOOSY and treat yourself like the queen you are.

If you have additional questions, please email me here or leave me a comment. I can make this bridal stuff a more regular part of the blog if you’d like (I swear it’s not just an excuse to post more of my photos, haha).

Happy shopping and congratulations!

Xoxo


Allie

CONVERSATION

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