Considering how difficult it is to actually find photos of plus size models wearing plus size wedding dresses to post in this feature, I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to actually find one to try on! Which is why for the past week I’ve been calling wedding dress boutiques, designer flagships and chain retail stores attempting to find out who carries plus sizes. The results? I’m not going to sugarcoat it…they’re not awesome.
As a size 6 I have to admit the experience was both intimidating and humbling. While I’ve always had a hard time finding certain clothes (like jeans) that fit considering my height (6′ 1″), I’ve never NOT been able to at least try something on to get a sense of what something might look like (even if it did make me look like Forrest Gump). Since wedding dress sample sizes are typically 6, 8, or 10 (and wedding dresses tend to run a size small…which means they’ll most likely only fit if your regular dress size is 2, 4, or 6), I honestly never gave it a second thought. But after speaking to a plethora of wedding dress retailers this past week as an undercover bride in search of a size 16, I was truly surprised at how few of them carried plus size samples (anything over size 12, 14, or 16 depending on the designer/store) to try on. Every time a store had to sadly tell me “no,” this problem became more and more evident.
While a lot of couture wedding dress designers WILL go up to a size 14, 16, 18, or 20, the problem is actually finding a store that stocks one of those sizes to try on. And who wants to buy a wedding dress they can’t try on (especially one that is non-returnable)? So my search began…
I started in New York City, where most of the couture designers have stores. I spoke to a SUPER nice associate at the Reem Acra boutique (more on their plus size endeavors, below) who informed me they typically only stock sizes 6 or 8 (which she said is a problem for girls looking for smaller sizes as well). While you can order up to a size 20, again, trying it on is going to be an issue. A call to Vera Wang’s boutique resulted in a somewhat confused conversation with an associate who told me they DO carry sizes 8, 12, and 16 in-store (after initially telling me they didn’t), and that they can also order dresses up to a size 20. That seemed like somewhat of a silver lining if you’re looking for a couture wedding dress, or specifically a Vera Wang wedding dress. But what if you want to try on a wide range of wedding dress designers? Here’s where it starts to really suck…
Most local wedding boutiques and mass retail stores where a bride would typically go to try on an array of designers (like Saks and Nordstrom) won’t typically carry a wide selection of plus size samples for you to try on, either. One Saks I called had nothing larger than an 8, while a Nordstrom associate I spoke to told me they had one designer who offered dresses in size 20 and up, but that the rest of their samples were only up to sizes 10 and 12. (I was, however, actually told by a sales associate at a competitive store that Macy’s Bridal Salons tend to have a larger selection of plus size wedding dresses, which seemed worth noting.)
While not every local bridal boutique or store carries a wide range of plus size wedding dress samples to try on, there is still a chance that one in your area will. I would definitely set some time aside to call as many stores as you can to find out if they carry plus size wedding dresses that you can try on, and if not can they recommend any other place that would? (I found that the majority of sales associates I spoke to were extremely nice in guiding me to a different store that might be able to help.) One important thing to note is that even if you DO find a plus size wedding dress at a boutique that you really like, ordering a larger size MIGHT cost you anywhere from 10, 15, or 20% more. Sigh.
Just when it’s starting to feel like it’s time to pour another glass of wine, the news gets a little better: There are several EXCLUSIVELY plus-size wedding dress boutiques that if you’re lucky enough to live around you should definitely check out. It’s really sad how few of these are out there, but hopefully more and more designers and boutiques will follow suit! Curvaceous Couture is in the Baltimore/D.C. area and is the first plus-size wedding dress boutique to feature a complete collection of full-figured and one-of-a-kind wedding gowns. They currently carry bridal sizes 12-44, and one of my favorite wedding dress designers Reem Acra launched an exclusive collaboration with them in 2010. Haute & Co. is a luxury bridal boutique in Chicago specializing in sizes bridal sizes 12 to 28, and they offer great wedding dress designers such as Lea-Ann Belter, Pronovias and Essense of Australia.
You’re probably like…great, Lindsay. I don’t live in Chicago or Baltimore. Now what? I spoke to an extremely nice associate at a high-end bridal boutique in California (who also told me she was a size 16) and she recommended going to David’s Bridal to not only look at their collection of plus size wedding dresses to see if you find anything you love, but to also get a sense of which style you prefer (such as A-line, Mermaid, etc.). They also have their own line of plus size wedding dresses called David’s Bridal Woman (which comes in sizes 14W-26W), as well as other designer dresses (such as Melissa Sweet and Oleg Cassini) that go up to size 14. (For one woman’s take on the difference between “W” and non “W” sizes, read this.)
And David’s Bridal is by no means your only option. There are other bridal stores (typically larger ones or those with multiple locations) that will offer a somewhat decent collection of plus size wedding dresses to try on. If you live in New York (or need an excuse to take a trip out there) Kleinfeld has what they claim is the “largest selection of designer plus-size samples.” (An online search showed 90 plus-size samples in stock!) Other stores like Panache in California offer a nice collection of plus size wedding dresses as well. I found out the BHLDN bridal shop in Los Angeles carries some size 12’s, but for a 14 and 16 you would have to buy online (and take advantage of their 30-day return policy if it doesn’t fit).
If you’re looking for specific designers, all Watters and Wtoo wedding dresses are available in sizes 0-24, and Wtoo also has their Curve Plus bridal line (as does Mori Lee with their Julietta collection). Allure Bridal dresses come in sizes 2 – 32, and their “plus size” wedding dresses are available in sizes 16W – 32W (bridesmaids dresses are also available in sizes 2 – 28). Alfred Angelo wedding dresses also come in 16W to 26W at no extra charge, and Australia is kicking butt in the wedding dress department yet again with designer Roz la Kelin’s pretty Glamour Plus collection. You can also try speciality stores such as IGIGI and Sydney’s Closet, who offer their own custom selection of plus size wedding dresses, although they are a bit more limited.
If you’re not finding anything you love, another option is to look for a custom-made bridal boutique, like Grace Bridal Couture in Los Angeles. Price points for a custom-made wedding dress typically start at $2,500 and go up from there. If you have the budget I would definitely think about going that route to make sure you’re getting exactly what you want (and what you feel is custom made for YOU).
This list of where to start your plus size wedding dress search is by no means definitive. I honestly feel like I’m just getting started in terms of research for this. So if you’re a retailer, boutique and designer who offers a great selection of plus size wedding dresses and I’ve left you out, let me know! And hopefully more and more designers (and actors! Melissa McCarthy is debuting her plus size fashion line this fall) will start creating/stocking more sample sizes to make your wedding dress search as fun as it should be.
In the meantime, I did a little plus size wedding dress shopping and came up with a few favorites below. I’d also love to hear your feedback in terms of where you found your wedding dress and/or what your experience looking for a plus size wedding dress was like. Talk to me in the comments section, below!