10 Essential Tips For Plus-Size Wedding Dress Shopping

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Last year, the APW staff went to meet with the awesome ladies of The Wedding Party, an independent wedding dress store in Berkeley, California, and picked their brains about wedding dress shopping. We'd asked you to share your fears and concerns, and they had answers to your questions. I walked out of that interview with my perspective totally changed on wedding dress shopping in the most fundamental ways. What stuck with me most was their smart, practical, and empowering thoughts on plus-size wedding dress shopping. So, today, we're bringing you the boiled down and focused tips and tricks. But, the information doesn't end with us. This one is open to all of you. 

If you've bought a wedding dress and struggled with not being the sample size, what did you learn? What's your best advice? Ahead, our very best advice!

  • 1 of 10
    Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
    Call Ahead
    Pick up that phone and call stores. Tell them your size (no shame, no apologies) and ask them if they'll be able to work with you. The economics of wedding dress stores mean that they normally can only afford to carry one sample gown, and they aim for an average size (if their customers run the gamut between a size 2 and a 22, they’ll probably carry a 10).

    So, they may not have sample sizes that will fit, and that's normal for all ladies. What you're looking for is someone who's informed, confident, and excited to be working with you. If you don't get that, keep on calling.
    2 of 10
    Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
    Big Box Stores Are Your Friend
    Chain wedding dress stores get a bad rap, which they don't always deserve. But, (bless them) their business model is based on having All The Dresses in the store. They're great for normalizing your shopping experience: behold, dresses that actually fit! Whee! Whether or not you buy a dress, these stores are a great place to start seeing what looks good on you.
    3 of 10
    Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
    The Sales Person Is Your Resource
    When you go into a store, part of what you're paying for is your salesperson's expertise. Find someone who's excited to work with you (and hello, excited to get your commission) and put them to work. Ask questions, ask for recommendations, ask for opinions. You know your body; they know wedding dresses. Put that together to find something great.
    4 of 10
    Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
    It's Your Show
    The sales person does not get to control your shopping experience. Period.
    5 of 10
    Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
    Don't Worry About The Size
    Wedding dress sizes are wacky. More affordable brands will often use street sizes, pricier brands will often us "couture" sizes (code for teeny tiny, built for elves). In short, just ignore the number on the sizing tag. Does it fit? GREAT. Next order of business.
    6 of 10
    Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
    You Can Alter A Dress To Have Sleeves (Etc.)
    It can be frustrating to shop in a universe where it seems like everything is a strapless ball-gown — if a strapless ball-gown isn't going to be what flatters your boobs, or arms, or whatever you want flattered. Lots of sleeveless (not strapless) dresses can be altered post-production to add a sleeve. Dresses can be shortened, support can be added. Don't be afraid to ask if changes can be made, and don't be afraid to ask how much it will cost (hint: it should be reasonable).
    7 of 10
    Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
    Go Custom
    If nothing works like you want it to work, well, that's why God made a needle and thread. When navigating a world of sample sizes that don't fit and sales people without tact, it can get easy to fall into the trap of, "There is nothing for me. Whatever, this will do." We call bullshit. You can do better. Getting a custom dress made doesn't mean breaking the bank; it just means doing some research.
    8 of 10
    Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
    No Body Shaming Allowed
    We've all heard horror stories of sales ladies who ask you if you're going to lose weight for your wedding, or who generally body shame you. Let's reframe: That's not just "how the wedding industry is." Those are shitty sales people. If someone tries to shame you, nicely shut that shit down ("No, I'm not, and it's none of your business"). Then feel free to ask for a new salesperson.
    9 of 10
    Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
    Be Your Confident Self
    This one is more philosophical, but it might be the most important. The people you encounter while wedding dress shopping? They're working for you. If they're doing a shitty job, that's not on you. Take your dollars elsewhere to find your kick-ass dress. You are going to look beautiful on your wedding day, and your dress is out there waiting for you.
    10 of 10
    Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
    Have Fun
    Not just have fun, go into this with the idea that you can have fun buying a wedding dress. You're buying pretty lace/sparkles/layers of tulle/hot pink/pants/whatever you love and look hot in. And, you're buying for your WEDDING. You deserve to have some fun, lady.

    More on silk vs. poly, what alterations should really cost, what kind of dress you can get for various price points, and much more right here.