Ed and I eloped at the Orlando courthouse one fairly grey afternoon in October of 2007. (I just had to check the math on that because I'm so bad at remembering the year of our wedding anniversary.) He wore cargo shorts and a black t-shirt with a samurai on it, drawn by an artist friend of ours. I wore black capri pants and one of his plain black t-shirts. The clerk who was marrying us wore jeans and an Orange County Courthouse employee t-shirt.
There are no pictures.
I don't regret any of it -- except for not having a big fancy wedding dress. I love wedding dresses. I love formalwear in general and playing dressup, but when the opportunity arose for me to go dress wild? I opted straight out. My one opportunity to dress unironically like a giant cupcake and I passed it up!
This was only partially due to expense. No, my bigest reason for not wearing a fancy dress to the courthouse that day was my sure and certain conviction that dress shopping as a fat bride would basically be the worst thing ever. The last thing I wanted was for a dress to have the power to shake all of my self-confidence and assurance. Especially since I'd have had to pay for that experience, too.
You know, let's just insert a generalized rant about the bridal industrial complex here. You can probably imagine what I am going to say about it. But right now I am watching "Say Yes To The Dress" and looking at a ton of amazing gowns and I want this to be a resource list.
(Note: I was recently at Wiscon, where I got to hang out with TYNAN and also with s.e. -- Tynan was basically everything that could be awesome about a person, especially given that my goal that night was to drink a bunch and I succeeded. There was a "Say Yes To The Dress" marathon on and s.e. made fun of me for having it on when ou got to my room. And then, after fifteen minutes, ou was all, "Oh, no, not that dress! That other dress!" So I consider that a significant victory for Randi and the others.)
So, let's get on with this. The first thing you have to be prepared for when hunting for a wedding dress is the sizing. Wedding dresses, like other formalwear, often runs small. Really small. If you are bothered by sizes (unlike Olga!), you might need to go in with a friend who can help with dresses without telling you the size you're in. Measurements are going to be far more important in dress shopping.
Another thing to consider: Off the rack is hard enough to fit in informal clothes. Anyone who has ever shopped for jeans knows this pain. Be prepared to buy a dress and then have it tailored. Alterations are part of the formalwear game because the fit has to be to your specific body for the dress to look like it belongs to you.
David's Bridal ostensibly carries plus sizes. But because formalwear runs small, if you're sized like I am, you're probably not going to have a lot of luck. I don't actually think David's Bridal is always a bad place -- I know a lot of women of all sizes who have had good experiences there! But I'm wary because the horror stories, particularly from fat brides, are fairly epic. And I just don't think anyone who is shopping for a wedding dress should be treated poorly.
The bad news first: Finding a truly excellent dress is going to be a challenge. While some boutiques might carry samples in larger sizes, the larger you are, the less likely these samples are to fit. While there is always a certain amount of imagining what a dress will look like when properly fitted, there might be an extra element of that for the fat bride.
But there is good news, too. In fact, there is AWESOME news: No matter what kind of bride you want to be (classic, traditional, elegant, unique, whatever other adjective), there are dresses out there so that you can make this work. And there are dresses at a bunch of different price points, too.
Regular Plus Size Retailers
I'm not surprised at all to find regular plus size retailers getting in on the wedding dress game. Even Lane Bryant used to work that angle, though the dresses were, well. Lane Bryantish. You can still find them on eBay sometimes.
But the offerings from Igigi, Kiyonna, and even SWAK Designs are super accessible for brides who are on a really tight budget or who are looking for something that says WEDDING without saying OMG I AM A CUPCAKE.
You can also check out options like Sydney's Closet, which is an online vendor for formalwear. They've got some fantastic options, grouped by style, and you can search by size. I feel like they're a little more traditional in style across all of the categories.
(I'd also recommend eShakti for bridesmaids dresses -- their selection changes constantly, so you have to check out the site on a regular basis to get a sense of what they offer.)
If you've got a bridal shop in your town, even if you think it's the snobbiest store ever, it still might be worth a quick visit. Because it might surprise you. Bridal boutiques are often intimidating but many of them know their local clientele -- and are very aware that fat folks get married, too. If you have the chance to try something on, even just to get an idea of the style you're looking for in your ultimate wedding dress, it's worth getting a supportive friend to go in with you.
Or, and this is something I recommend fat people do in almost any situation from doctors to dresses, call ahead and feel the store out. Ask what sample sizes they have in stock for plus size dresses; ask about their selection. Ask about designers like Alfred Angelo. It'll save you some driving around town -- and some stress -- and you might luck out.
Custom Wedding Dress Retailers Online
On the other end of the style spectrum, there are the gowns from Wedding Dress Fantasy. Their website is a little confusing, but they've recently expanded their size range to include fully customizable gowns from size 0-40. They are also, I will note, nowhere near the designer prices you'll find in a lot of boutiques. You should be able to score a gown for under $1000, though there are bigger ticket items, too. The biggest advantage here is that they specialize in nontraditional gowns. You can find your dress and have it made in almost any color you want. You're going to have to know what you want, though, as far as dress shape because there aren't any fat models.
Yosa, who I actually knew back in the glory days of alt.gothic.fashion, has been in the custom dress making business for years. If you want a custom dress that will look stunning against the castle you are getting married in, Yosa is the wedding dress source for you. Fans of historical fashion will love her in general, I suspect.
Another option is to browse eBay. There are a lot of companies overseas that will make you a wedding dress based on measurements. The risks here are obvious -- you don't get to try anything on and if something goes wrong, you're dealing with a company that is very far away. For those who try to shop ethically, this might be a complicated option as well.
Is there anything you can't buy on Etsy?
Ouma is a custom shop that specializes in tulle dresses. TULLE DRESSES. I basically want to wear all of their dresses to, like, work on a Tuesday. I think it'd make the day better.
Amanda Rose Bridal is another Etsy seller with dresses that make me swoon. Her work is mostly done in recycled and vintage materials, so you are definitely going to end up with something special made just for you.
If neither of those are your style, you might want to look at Madabby, Made By Heart. Custom gowns, some of which are very 20s in inspiration. All of which are super gorgeous.
Local Seamstresses And Designers
If you want a custom gown but you're nervous about ordering online, I'm going to suggest you contact some local seamstresses. I know, I know, it seems like that would be the most expensive option of all -- but it's often surprisingly within budget, especially for fat brides who are nervous about fit. Plus, buying local is an awesome ethical shopping thing to do!
If you don't know where to start, look in the yellow pages or online for a local sewing supply store. Then call them up and ask for recommendations. These kinds of stores, especially if they are locally owned and not a chain, will often be able to suggest great -- and reliable -- seamstresses who can work with you to create your dream dress.
You can also check out local costume designers, though they are sometimes harder to find. Personally, in the Orlando area, I'd go with Tuwanda Chandler -- her work is so awesome and I do like shopping locally.
Weddings are a LOT of work, and they can be the source of so much stress. Finding your wedding dress should be one of the most awesome parts of the process, no matter what size you wear and no matter what style you are. There ARE options out there -- a lot of people just don't know about them. So, awesome xoJaners, what are YOUR suggestions? Can you recommend a fantastic place to score a magical plus size wedding dress? Let us all know in comments -- let's turn this into the ultimate fat bride resource list.