When it came to my wedding, all I’ve ever dreamed about was being a normal bride. I wanted every experience that all other brides got to have. I wanted an engagement party, a shower, a bachelorette party, unique rings, and most of all: a wedding dress that wowed.
Plus size clothes shopping has always been more of a vicious hunt than a relaxing pastime. While there are a handful of stores that offer stylish casual clothing in my size, (US 30,) they are almost all exclusively online. When I say that I wanted to be a normal bride, I meant for everything. I was adamant that I needed to go to a physical bridal shop with my mom and a few close friends and try on several dresses. I wanted to hear the “oohs” and “ahhs” and see how these expensive dresses looked over my many rolls and curves.
I started planning for wedding domination early, with intense research about wedding shops that had sample sizes above a size 22. From the get-go, I had to hunt with guns-blazing. There was a local shop that had only plus sizes, but samples were limited and the shop was very small. There were few popular shops which had larger plus sizes, some in California and Atlanta. All would be long shots, and I couldn’t afford to travel back and forth for fittings. Luckily, my family lives in New Jersey, and there were two shops in the state that had my size. I decided to go with a shop called Seng Couture, which had an entire store front for plus sizes and offered custom changes included with certain packages.
Eight months before my wedding, my mom, my bridesmaids, and I arrived at Seng Couture for my appointment. We were lead to the plus size dresses, which seemed endless! Each dress had a picture card attached with the size offerings, so my salesperson and my guests all knew to only pull dresses that went up to a size 28 or higher. I started in the dressing room with about seven dresses. Most of the sample sizes were not in my size, but the salesperson had countless tricks on helping me see myself in the dress. Some would fit, but not zip, so she had special clamps to hold the dress closed so I could show my friends how it looked.
With this method, we were able to weed out dresses that weren’t quite “me.” If a dress had too low of a waist, I would be brought something where the waist was shorter. If I didn’t like the beading, I was brought lace. I was able to try on dresses that I never would have looked at for myself, like dresses without sleeves and dresses that were form fitted. After about eight dresses, I put a dress on that I never wanted to take off. From the sweetheart neckline, to the unique lace overlay, to the layered tulle bodice: this was the dress better than what I ever dreamed of and that I never would have chosen for myself had I only seen it online.
The dress, a Maggie Sottero style called “Patience,” was only available up to a size 28. Bridal sizes run small, so the shop worked with me to make sure the dress fit perfectly. They ordered extra fabric and did the first alterations before I ever set foot back in the store, so that I wouldn’t have to try on a dress that didn’t fit over my body. They had straps added within hours, to make sure my breasts were well supported and once we noticed I needed more structure, they were able to add more boning to the waist. As long as I spoke up about what I needed, the shop worked with me to perfect it.
I truly believe that if shopping for everyday clothing could be that easy, I would choose to spend more on my clothing and have a small capsule wardrobe of perfectly fitted, well made clothing. With research and an open mind, I was able to find a store that could work with me and my body, not change my body to work with a dress, and I got to have more than the normal shopping experience, because I was pleased and felt confident the whole time.
The best advice I could give to another shopper searching for a dress above a size 26 is to expect no less than what other shoppers get. You are worth a perfect bridal experience and there are shops that can give that to you. Be open and willing to work with someone to get the perfect style and fit. Allow them to try their tricks to see how a dress will look. Knowing a dress DOESN’T work for you is the first step to learning what does. Finally, take a few minutes to research and call shops near you before going. Find out what lines run up to or close to your size and check to see they have a plus sample size. If you’re like me and larger than a size 28, be sure to budget for your alterations. A good seamstress should be able to create your size by ordering a less expensive dress that may be a size too small, with extra fabric. The months and days leading up to your wedding should be full of love, relaxation, and happiness, and you deserve to have every experience your heart desires!
Hi! I loved reading your insights about this and seeing your beautiful photos! I was wondering if you would mind sharing the price range of your dress and how much the additional alterations cost. I noticed when searching for my dress that bridal shops up charged for talks and plus sizes which seems totally unfair. Seems like they find ways to body shame us all under the guise of catering to the "average" woman’s body. 🙄
I was really lucky that I had help from my mother to pay for my dress. I know that my dress cost $1,000, which was the same price as the straight size range. My alterations, however, were expensive, since we ended up having to add an additional two sizes with matching fabric and we added straps. I didn’t see the final amount, but I believe it was around $500-800.
Keep an eye out for trunk shows for a designer you’re interested in. You’ll find some deep discounts that way! If you’re still looking, I wish you lots of luck and love!
Hi Natalie! There are a lot of independent seamstresses who will tend to be much more affordable than a bridal shop. The wonderful woman who did the work on my dress (Demetra Rowan of Duchess Designs in Atlanta http://www.duchessdesigns.com/) was referred to me by a woman at my local fabric store and she was very affordable. I only paid $100 for my alterations, which included adding a lace back panel, taking it in a bit, and shortening the sleeves slightly.