Vol.1, No.10

Wedding dress shopping tips for plus size women

This article gives a plus size bride some pointers on how to shop for a wedding gown.

Beautiful plus-size wedding dress
Photo Credit: Frans du Plessis
Any woman who wants a wedding, rather than a marriage ceremony, wants a beautiful wedding gown. The magazines and ads are full of gorgeous dresses. But, all the models are slim and all the dresses are a size 8. What does a plus size woman do when she wants a wonderful wedding gown? The good news is that many designers now have plus size lines. All a woman has to do is look around.

Most plus size women will probably go to the local bridal salon to look for a gown, and this is a good place to start. Even local salons will have a wide variety of gowns in stock, and a good salon will be able to tell a bride which designers have plus size gowns.

The Internet is another good source for finding plus size wedding gowns. A bride can usually search several designers' Web sites, to see what each has available. Many designers even have plus size models wearing the gowns, which is a great idea. It gives the bride a better idea of how a particular gown will look on her.

Now that a bride has some sources for acquiring a gown, what styles should she look for? It will differ from woman to woman, but a plus size bride should look for a gown that camouflages figure flaws, and emphasizes her good points.

Many plus size women have large upper arms. Brides who do will probably not want a sleeveless, strapless or halter-style dress. They will want at least cap sleeves, or a lacy jacket with longer sleeves, to wear over the gown. Short lacy sleeves will also camouflage larger arms. Short, puffy sleeves are acceptable, as long as they don't bind the bride's arm, but she should probably stay away from the leg o' mutton variety (puffy at the top, fitted at the bottom). These will make her arms look even larger. Long sleeves should fit smoothly, but not snugly, to the wrists. Long, lacy bell sleeves have also regained popularity and are a good look for a plus size woman.

The next item on the list is the gown's neckline. Halter, tank and strapless styles are current, but many plus size brides who are busty might feel uncomfortable in these styles. However, a "wedding band" or high neckline is equally unflattering on the plus size woman. However, there are still a number of necklines available. The portrait neckline is usually cut narrowly at the shoulders and curves down below the hollow of the throat. The sweetheart neckline is also cut narrow, but comes to a point below the throat, sometimes hinting at, or showing, a bit of decolletage. A square neckline may also be flattering, or the Queen Anne, which is high in the back, but has an ornate, sculptured neckline. Most plus size brides want a neckline that will lengthen their necks, without revealing too much skin.

The next gown feature a plus size bride will look for is the gown's overall style. Is it ballgown, sheath, A-line, empire? These decisions will depend largely on the bride's individual figure and comfort level. Sheaths are tricky. They may or may not be flattering. It all depends on the cut of the gown, and the fabric. Most brides will be able to wear a ballgown or A-line silhouette with little trouble. These fit through the waist and flare at the hips, camouflaging wide hips. An empire waist is also questionable, depending on how large the bride's tummy is. Because these gowns fit underneath the bustline and are loose from there to the floor, they can create a distinctly pregnant look. Again, it will depend on the bride.

Fabric is usually chosen depending on the wedding's season. Lace and lighter weight fabrics are good for spring, summer and early fall. Heavier fabrics such as shantung or ribbed silk are better for winter weddings. A bride should also think about issues such as beading on the dress. Beading adds weight. If the weather is very warm, a plus size bride will want to be careful about beading. Most brides will wear their gowns from three to five hours, so the gown should be comfortable for that long.

Trains and veils are not really issues for plus size brides. These choices will depend on what looks good on the bride, and personal preference.

Some designers and salons charge more for plus size dresses, ostensibly because they use more fabric, so a bride should budget accordingly. She should also think about alteration costs, since most brides will need the dress hemmed or altered in some way. There are cheaper bridal designers on the market, and a bride can usually find one who makes plus sizes, if she is on a budget. Most brides will spend between $500 and $1300 on a dress, and can expect to spend about $150 in alterations, depending on what needs to be done. These should be done as far in advance of the wedding as possible, to make certain the gown fits as it should on the big day.

Plus size brides should not allow themselves to be intimidated into buying a dress they don't like simply because it comes in their size, or because it is in stock. Even if the salesperson raves over a style, if the bride doesn't like it, she shouldn't buy it. This is why brides should also take a friend or two along, for second opinions. They also come in handy in the dressing rooms when salespeople are occupied elsewhere. Brides should ask about alterations, what's available, and if possible, should speak directly to the person who does the alterations, to ask what can be changed about a dress. They should also order as far in advance as possible, to make sure everything is done before the wedding day.

A plus size bride can find a knockout gown, if she is willing to do a little shopping around, and knows what she wants. Her dream dress is out there.