Article by Lillian Crouse
Finding “The Dress” has never been high on my fantasy wedding to-do list. I’ve been 5’9” with the need to wear an underwire bra since fifth grade, so fashion was not really a burning passion of mine. Clothes shopping with mom consisted of whatever fit, was comfortable, and was appropriate for the event – be it grade school or a job interview. The recent addition of stores like Torrid have thankfully turned me towards a better direction, but finding a wedding dress that made me “feel like a bride” seemed like a weird fantasy meant for women half my size. It ended up taking three visits to separate stores with very separate experiences, to find the dress that changed my attitude towards the importance of “The Dress” forever.
The First Store
My first experience shopping was with my maid of honor at a warehouse style store. There were racks upon racks of dresses encapsulated in plastic bags, and the consultant walked with us as we looked to get an idea of my sense of style. The consultant was a lot of fun. She picked up on our sarcasm and love of cracking jokes easily, and made me feel very comfortable getting into the dresses and looking myself over in the wall of mirrors. I don’t think we stopped laughing the entire time we visited the store. We genuinely had fun trying on the myriad of white dresses, taking pictures for mom, and imagining the look on my fiancé’s face when he saw them.
While it was a fun experience and I came out feeling like I had seen some pretty options, but I hadn’t really developed a sense of what I was looking for. The consultant helped us have a great time (we even invited her back to my place to play board games and drink beer afterwards) but she didn’t offer suggestions for a different style or what might compliment my curves. I left with the same idea that I would find a dress that looked “good enough” for the right price and be happy.
The Second Store
To be honest, the second store was a disaster. Together with my maid of honor, a bridesmaid, and my future mother in law; I chose a chain bridal store that offers plus size dresses “for every bride”. I don’t think it is possible to be more disappointed. Our consultant was disinterested, did not let me look at the racks of dresses on my own, and simply hung ten dresses with their sterile plastic bags in the tiny cube dressing room. She left me on my own to figure out how to un hang, reassemble, and get into the dresses on my own. The consultant was even happy to tell me that if I needed help getting into the dress I could ask one of my bridesmaids. Every dress was met with a “that looks good” and a stone faced scowl from the consultant.
As I stood in the tiny dressing room, surrounded by all of those bags and all of those dresses, I almost began to cry. None of them fit, none of them flattered, none of them were right. It was obvious to me that I was the problem, after all the consultant to the bride in the next dressing room was in there with her, helping her into the dresses, finding her long bras to try on, offering suggestions. Her attitude made the entire shopping experience seem futile – no one else had ever made me feel as much like a “Plus Size Bride” as that consultant did. Finally I snuck back into my t-shirt and jeans, escaping the claustrophobic nightmare of the dressing room, put on a happy face and helped my friends look for dresses they could love.
All of us left disappointed that day, our high hopes shattered by rude comments about bra sizes and an upturned nose.
The Third Store
I decided to give the chain store another go after finding a dress that went along beautifully with the bridesmaids dresses we were able to find a department store the weekend before. Not wanting to give in and return to the previous physical store location, I took a morning to myself and drove to the next city over. The reception I received from the time I walked into the glass doors of the showroom was totally comfortable and welcoming. My consultant asked about what I had tried on before, what I was looking for comfort wise, and insisted that she would find me appropriate bra wear that fit in the store so that I would have something special to try on dresses with. I gave her the theme of my wedding along with the serial numbers of the dress I had found online and turned it into a whirlwind of similar dresses and sashes to pair with each option.
The consultant did not leave my side during one step of the process, helping me into the corset like contraption she found to fit me, and slid the dress over me. It was comfortable, it was light hearted, and I felt absolutely gorgeous when the consultant buttoned up the back. I looked in the mirror and saw how everything was showing, my hips were gorgeous, my chest supported and accentuated. My heart stopped for a moment as the consultant tied a silver ribbon around the waist of the dress, and finally I smiled at my reflection.
The Bottom Line
I bought the first dress I tried on at the third store. I didn’t even need to try anymore on. Through trying different stores and having a different consultant and supporting group, I finally fell in love with a dress. For a plus size bride, finding a consultant who offers suggestions, who isn’t afraid to offer advice and try different things is a key to finding that special dress. You need someone who understands what is going to flatter your unique body and who is confident enough to offer that knowledge. Don’t be afraid to ask for another person to help, and don’t be afraid to let someone know what you need to make your experience beautiful.