Most girls have dreamed of finding their prince (or princess) charming and having the perfect wedding since they could remember. And while some of our expectations might have changed since then, the desire for that dream wedding dress still holds. But for many brides who are beginning the search for a gown in size 16 or higher, that dream can feel more like fantasy than reality. Fears of not fitting into sample sizes or of only being presented with mundane, limited options can sour the dress hunt before it even begins.
However, Liz Corwin, store manager of Lillian Ruth Bride by Wedding Wonderland in Knoxville, TN, wants to keep that dream alive! Corwin insists that brides of any size can have a magical dress search experience and come away with a gown that truly makes them feel like a princess.
“If you’re not confident on your wedding day, you’re not going to be able to rock any dress…whether it’s a potato sack or something super high-end,” shared Corwin.
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So, in the pursuit of building up the confidence of brides of all sizes, this bridal consultant offered tips that we think all brides should follow as they begin the search for that perfect gown.
Don’t wait to shop!
“I’ve found that [plus size brides] tend to shop later, because they are nervous about the experience,” Corwin said. “Don’t ever be afraid of the mirror. Even if you can’t get into a sample size, I can hold it up and wrap it around you! A good bridal consultant can always help you to envision what a dress will look like when it’s put on.”
Corwin added that, by delaying the dress search, brides who are already nervous walk into the situation even more on-edge than they need to be. She also said that by coming in later, brides limit the options on what can be ordered and altered in time.
According to Corwin, many brides looking for plus size gowns also wait to dress shop intending to lose weight before they say yes to the dress. She insists that this is unnecessary.
“A dress that looks beautiful on you will look gorgeous in any size,” she said, “and a good seamstress can take a gown from a size 22 to a size 2 if you need to. Shop for the size you are now, and take it in later.”
Ignore dress quizzes
“The absolute worst thing a plus size bride can do, or any bride at all really, is pay attention to dress quizzes!”
When the subject of online dress quizzes arose, you could see the frustration in Corwin’s eyes. She said that, too often, brides come into the shop with an idea of what they are “supposed” to wear based on their weight, and not only does that limit options, but it also gives brides the idea that their body is flawed, keeping them from wearing certain styles.
Corwin emphasized that, no matter the size of the bride, some styles are going to look better than others, but that that has less to do with overall weight and more about weight distribution, height and proportion — a reality that women of all sizes face. She said that most brides looking for larger gowns think that they are limited to A-line dresses because of some quiz they took along the way, but that is definitely not always the case, so she encourages all brides to do the following:
Try on unexpected styles
“One thing that I’ve noticed with [plus size brides] is that they tend to stay away from a fitted gown, and that’s not always the best thing for them! You can be a size 28 and look absolutely amazing in a fitted dress, it’s just all about the right fit,” she said.
The variety of wedding gown styles is mind-blowing, and a bride looking for a plus size gown should consider them all! Corwin recommended drop-waist dresses and relaxed fit mermaid gowns as options brides may not consider but that often have incredibly flattering results.
And she even said not to be afraid of going strapless!
“If you decide you want to go with something strapless, you’re going to want to look for something with structure to it,” she said. “Structure is going to help hold your bust up, but it’s also going to give you a really good waist line and emphasize your hips.”
The boning will rest on your hipline and hold your bust up, but if the dress isn’t well structured, she recommends going with straps so you’ll be able to dance the night away worry-free.
Pay attention to detailing
Corwin said that, above all else, a wedding dress is meant to show off the woman inside it, drawing attention to her face, not distracting from it. To that end, going with a dress that isn’t covered in detailing will draw guests’ eyes to yours rather than to the dress. But she also said that clever use of detailing can draw eyes away from any areas that the bride may feel less confident about to her favorite features. Uncomfortable with emphasizing your bust area on your wedding day? Go with a gown that has detailing from the waist down. Looking to divert attention from your hips? Go with beading along the neckline. Fashion is all about creating an illusion, and wedding gowns are no different!
Rely on your consultant
During the time I spent with Corwin, she walked me through an array of recommendations she would give to brides with a bigger bust (go for something that gives you hips), a bigger behind (accentuate your upper half with beading and bedazzle) and anyone in between (you can never go wrong with an accentuated waist).
If you are nervous about the dress hunt or unsure of what you want, head in to your local boutique and ask for help. And if you don’t find the help you need at that store, feel free to move on to another. A good bridal consultant can walk you through the effects a fitted version of each dress will have on your body, helping you to envision yourself wearing it on your wedding day.
And Corwin’s final piece of advice to brides about to start the search for a plus size gown? “Show off those curves!” Searching for a wedding dress is a supercharged experience for every woman, no matter her size, so with emotions already ramped up to 11, the best wedding gift you can give yourself is to love who you are, exactly as you are! Using our tips, we hope your dress search is all you’ve hoped and dreamed it could be.