Curvalicious: Shopping For Your Wedding Dress as a Plus Size Bride
Shopping for a dress should be one of the most exciting parts of a wedding, but in reality it’s also one of the most stressful. This happens to be as true for the waif, as it is for the curvy bride. Only in recent years has the bridal industry shifted its focus to larger sizes, where designers are creating fashionable and beautiful gowns specifically for voluptuous women.
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All brides, regardless of their shape or size, deserve to wear the perfect dress on their wedding day, they just need some help acquiring it. We’ve created a step-by-step guide to help you find the frock of your dreams.
Set a Budget
There’s just no escaping the fact that wedding dresses are expensive, and plus-size gowns tend to be on the steeper side of the scale, as you’re charged for extra material, beading and lace. Decide on your limit and stick to it, and whatever you do, just don’t put on a dress that’s out of your price range. You’ll end up hugely disappointed (or broke!) if you love a dress and can’t afford it.
You may think that you have oodles of time, after all you only just got engaged, and the wedding is a whole year away, but with so much to arrange, you have to get organised. Begin your search for a dress 9-12 months ahead of your big day, especially if your heart is set on a bespoke gown. You also have to remember that all dresses need alterations to make them fit perfectly.
Do Your Homework
The best bride is a prepared bride. Use the sources available to you – the Internet, bridal magazines and wedding expos – to find inspiration. You can also search online to find stores that stock plus-size dresses. Large retail chains should be your first stop, as they tend to have the greatest variety of sample sizes. Even if you don’t ultimately get your dress here, it’s a good way to get an idea of what you like.
Before you visit any of these stores, phone ahead to check that they have a selection of dresses in your size. You don’t want to spend two hours driving in your car, only to find that – oh sorry, the online catalogue hasn’t been updated recently and we don’t have stock.
Pick a Support Group
Having a second opinion from someone you trust is an essential part of finding your dress. Don’t bring a small army with you, as the conflicting opinions are just going to confuse you. Ask two people who you know will give you honest feedback, who have your best interests at heart, and who you know will make this a fun experience.
Have an Open Mind
It’s fantastic if you have a definite idea of what you want, but you should also be willing to put on a style that you don’t normally wear, you may be pleasantly surprised with the result. Just because certain cuts aren’t customarily worn by curvy woman, doesn’t mean you can’t try on the dress. Break the rules – it’s your wedding day. You need to trust your consultant, after all this is her job, and she knows a thing or two about dress styles and body shapes.
How to Prepare For Your Fittings
What you wear under your dress is just as essential as the dress itself, because it’s your underwear that lays the foundation for your dress. If there was ever a time to splash out on a good bra and undies, today is that day. You should also consider shapewear, as it nips, tucks and streamlines your body in all the right places. Whatever underwear you choose to wear, it should make you feel confident and look fantastic.
Finding the Dress
The most important step in finding your ideal outfit is knowing your body shape. Simply put, some dress silhouettes will work better for you than others, so you need to find the style that flatters you the most. Don’t be distracted by trends and most of all, use the curves that you were born with.
– Silhouette: This common female shape means that you carry most of your weight in your lower half. You tend to have smaller shoulders, a defined waist, and curvy hips. The most flattering dresses on your shape are ball gown, empire and princess styles. These have a fitted bodice – to accentuate your slimmest area – and a gentle flare – which hides your wider hips and generous bottom. Embellishments on your waist will also make people look at this trimmer area of your torso.
– Neckline and sleeves: Balance out your proportions and pull attention upwards, to your décolletage, by wearing off-the-shoulder, bateau, scoop, strapless and V-necklines. Another way to bring the focus upwards is by wearing straps with jewels, or choosing detailed, fitted sleeves in a feminine fabric like lace. Stay away from sheath and mermaid-style dresses, and anything that clings to your superior posterior.
– Silhouette: Your legs and arms are often on the skinnier side, while you carry most of your weight between your bust and your booty. Because your torso is your widest area, pick a dress with a high waist to draw attention upwards. Empire styles with a cinched waist and a fitted bodice will give you shape, and elongate your silhouette. You should also consider a tea length dress to show off your legs.
– Neckline and sleeves: If you’re choosing the strapless route, opt for a sweetheart shape, or pick a wide V style or a scoop neckline with wide straps. These will support you and frame your bust, which pulls eyes away from your undefined waist.
Dresses to avoid are the fit-and-flare silhouettes, such as the mermaid, and the dropped waist.
– Silhouette: This ultra-feminine shape has a fuller bust and wider hips, but a slender, well-defined waist. To show off your va-va-voom curves, you should wear a mermaid or trumpet style. These dresses take advantage of your contours by nipping in at the waist, which takes the emphasis off your heavier bust and hips. Embellishments that are strategically placed on your slimmer waist will also highlight your voluptuous shape.
– Neckline and sleeves: Luckily for you most necklines are pretty flattering, but the most popular is the strapless, with a sweetheart shape. A scoop and V-neckline will show off your shoulders, and thicker straps will provide you with the bosom support that you need.
Don’t choose an empire style dress, as it hides your waist. What you should really be doing is showing it off.
– Silhouette: Brides that have been endowed with a large chest, should tastefully show off what they’ve been given. A mermaid and trumpet style will define your waist and balance your top and bottom, and an A-line skirt with a fitted bodice will give you an hourglass figure. Diagonal and criss-cross ruching on the midriff is your best ally, as it shrinks and shapes your bust.
– Neckline and sleeves: Covering up your ample chest can actually make it look bigger, so pick a style that displays your décolletage without flashing too much flesh. A modest scoop is flattering and an off-the shoulder style creates an elegant V-neckline, which takes the focus off your cleavage and onto your collarbone. Wide straps and a good supportive bra will go a long way to making you feel confident on your wedding day. If you’re going the strapless route, choose a sweetheart neckline, rather than a straight one, and make sure there’s plenty of structure to keep everything in its place.
The necklines to skip are halter, one-shoulder and bateau, and anything plunging or jewelled. Spaghetti straps usually don’t give the top-heavy bride enough support, and they show too much skin.
– Silhouette: You don’t need shoulders like a swimmer to be considered broad, but if your shoulders are wider than your hips, you tend to fall into this category. To balance your shape, choose a fuller A-line skirt and a fitted bodice, like the popular princess or ball gown styles. This helps you create an hourglass figure, and takes the emphasis away from your expansive shoulders. Look for a dress with detail on the hips, or an accessory that draws attention towards the middle of your body. A belted waistline, a sash with embellishments or carefully placed brooch would work perfectly.
– Neckline and sleeves: Strapless dresses dominate the bridal market, but they can make your shoulders look wider than they are. A halter top or a scoop neckline with narrow straps, will focus the attention inwards, giving the illusion of narrower shoulders.
Stay away from oversized, puffed, ruffled and cap sleeves, which give you volume where you don’t need it. Off-the-shoulder styles, and necklines that have straps set wide apart should also be avoided.
– Silhouette: Many women feel self-conscious about their arms, but if you feel yours are on the heavier side, there are ways to help you disguise this problem area. Dresses with a wider bottom, like an A-line, will take attention away from your arms. You can of course choose to cover up with a delicate and feminine bolero, lace wrap or shawl.
– Neckline and sleeves: The easiest way to hide your arms is by wearing sleeves. Long, three-quarter, or elbow-length are practical and elegant, particularly if they’re made from tulle or lace, to show the skin underneath. The sleeve needs to end at your slimmest part, and make sure the material doesn’t squeeze your arms. You can also pick a V-neck, which takes attention away from your limbs.
Cap sleeves that are too short will highlight what you’re trying to hide; just say no to this style! Big puffy sleeves are another bad choice, if you’re worried about the size of your arms.
The material for your dress needs to fit in with the style and setting of your wedding, and of course the season. Thicker fabrics – like taffeta and lace – will smooth out any bumps and create a streamlined silhouette. Organza is another favourite option as it’s flowy but forgiving, and it’s typically used as an overlay, while duchess satin is smooth, luxurious and drapes well, covering your imperfections.
You should definitely look at materials that ruche easily, as the pleats and folds disguise areas where you’re heavier. Use ruching in an asymmetrical pattern because nothing trims your body like diagonal draping.
Clothing sizes vary according to manufacturers, so you shouldn’t focus on the tag on the dress. Be realistic and practical about your size and buy a dress that fits you now, not one that you hope to fit into. If you’re in doubt, try a bigger size as it’s easier to make a dress smaller than it is to make it larger. Feel confident about your body shape and don’t be bullied into settling for anything less than perfect.
Trying on wedding dresses should be a fun and exciting experience, and if you don’t feel that the bridal consultant is treating you well, then go somewhere else. Don’t be afraid to tell the consultant exactly what you do and don’t want, and when you ask questions, be sure to listen to their recommendations.
It’s a terrible four-letter word, but it weighs on the minds of most brides. It’s perfectly natural to want to look your best on your wedding day, but starting a crash diet is unhealthy and unsustainable, and the last thing you want is to put on extra kilograms. Choosing a dress in a smaller size with the intention to lose weight puts extra stress on you, rather pick the outfit that looks good today. After all, your fiancé proposed to you, as you are right now.
This will probably be the most expensive dress you’ll ever own, so don’t settle because you think you won’t find anything else and don’t go for something lacklustre that hides your shape. The right dress should make you feel comfortable and gorgeous, and it should celebrate your feminine form. Even the curviest bride deserves to find her dream wedding dress.