The Curvaceous Brides Guide to Finding The Perfect Wedding Dress…

Hi everyone 🙂 Regulars may recall this post I wrote some months back about why size doesn’t matter.  I still stand by everything I said in that post, but today, I’m flipping the statement on it’s head and considering when sizes does matter.  Because there are some occasions in life, when it really, really does.  Let me explain…

For a few weeks now, I’ve been doing some research into the issue of wedding dress shopping for the more curvaceous Bride. Now, I’ll apologise right now for any language I use in my feature here that ends up offending anyone – and I really mean that.  I had been using the term ‘plus size Bride’ when it suddenly dawned on my how much I dislike the phrase – and so it seems, many of you do too.  I think ‘curvy ladies’ sounds a little more flattering but please, put me right if I am wrong.

My readers mean the absolute world to me and I have a genuine passion for bridal wear and weddings in general {which I pretty much eat, sleep and breath these days!}.  Nothing makes me happier than to receive an email from a reader telling me what a magical wedding day she had. I could stare at happy wedding photos all day long.  On the other hand, nothing makes me sadder and more frustrated than hearing from a reader that their dress didn’t fit on the day, or that they were laughed out of a bridal wear boutique for being a size 18 or that they felt sick nervous even approaching a wedding dress shop at all because they considered themselves too big.

It’s no wonder, of course.  We are bombarded every day with images of the perfect figure, the aspirational petite beauty who proudly boasts her size 8 waistline in the latest designer wedding dresses, page, after page, after page of adverts in the glossy wedding magazines before we even get to anything we can read…

curvy bride, curvaceous bride, plus size bride

Dress by The Couture Company

Nothing pains me more than seeing a beautiful Bride squeezed within an inch of her life into a wedding dress that does not fit or flatter her simply because she has been ill advised by people passing themselves off as ‘bridal wear experts’, or by well meaning friends and family who daren’t be honest or really just don’t have a clue what to say, or because she has caved under the pressure of all those full page ad’s with their perfect size 10’s.

This blog post is an attempt to make a connection with curvaceous women who are having doubts about their wedding dress shopping experience. To give them a confidence boost, to provide sensible ‘dress hunting’ advice and to reassure them that they can feel confident and look completely beautiful on their wedding day, with a well cut dress that fits and flatters and enhances all the very best bits.

This blog post is also a notice to all those bridal wear boutique owners and dress designers out there who are shamefully shattering the confidence of many a Bride to be by ill advising them and inappropriately squeezing these ladies in to dresses that do not fit.   You know who you are and I would encourage you to consider looking at your business from a different perspective.  Sending  unhappy Brides away with bad experiences is not good for your reputation.  Word of mouth travels fast…

curvy brides

Dress by Dana Bolton

The Horror Stories

I’ve heard a lot of horror stories in the past few months, mostly from Brides who are or consider themselves to be ‘curvy’.  My reaction to what I’ve heard is what has prompted me to consider this whole issue on more detail.  The accounts below are but a mere dip in the ocean of experiences that have flooded in to my inbox in the past 2 weeks.

How can any of what you read below be acceptable?

“As I undressed in the changing room, I went through panic and out the other side into some clear zen place. This had no longer become something I was anticipating but something to be endured.  None of the dresses would even begin to do up so they were pinned in place or the lacing held together with rubber bands so all I could see was my back fat spilling out the back of the dress.”

“I was the last customer so the two shop girls and the owner crowded round to rain compliments on me. I’m still angry that I didn’t say anything beyond the weak sentence ‘that it was pretty hard to tell whether the dresses suited me given that they were several sizes too small.’ Pretty hard = impossible. But I didn’t want to acknowledge the elephant in the room, me 🙂 I also didn’t want to ruin this experience for my mum, little did I know she was thinking the same thing. So I put on an act as I was tugged in and out of dresses. All the while I gritted my teeth. I was not going to be the girl that cried in the wedding dress shop.”

“The very thought of walking through the door of a bridal shop filled mr with terror and brought me out in a cold sweat. Not only am I curvaceous (so much better than the term plus size which makes me feel fat !) but I’m also short and on the wrong side of 50!”

“My experience has put me off looking again until I make peace with my size or the weight watchers kicks in! It’s fair to say I’m not happy with my weight, but I don’t want to lose weight just because I’m getting hitched: I want to lose it because I’m not myself at the size I am now. But I also want to eat a stack of ferrero rocher right in front of that awful ‘stylist’ and then buy that beautiful dress. But I don’t want her to get any commission.”

“I have finally bought the dress, And guess what, it’s strapless, A line, corset backed etc etc. My dream dress just doesn’t exist within my budget and anything  that isn’t boned just doesn’t suit me. I constantly have wedding dress wobbles and am disappointed that I feel that I’m making do.  The one thing I did learn from one boutique is that dress shops will quite often see a larger bride and assume we want to wear something frumpy/frilly/asymmetric!

“I went to a large, reputable bridal shop and they stock the usual suspects. My budget is about £1,000 – they had some gorgeous lace dresses, which is what I’m after. The largest sizes they had in stock for these dresses was a size 12, which came up small {more like a 10}. There was a rack of plus-sized dresses, all the same, classic wedding dress, just different beading really. That was all I could try on. I was almost in tears – I don’t want your bog-standard wedding dress and I felt unworthy of a nice dress in that shop.”

“What happened when I went dress shopping? I cried, a lot on the bus on the way home and then I decided I wasn’t going to wear a dress but a paper bag instead.  I’d held in my tears through 3 dress shops but on the way home I just couldn’t handle it anymore and despite how happy I was to be engaged I had never felt so hideously unattractive.  I didn’t want a ‘traditional’ wedding dress but I did want a dress I loved and I wanted to feel special not like a lump. Comments varied from ‘you are an unusual size’ to ‘have you thought about having something made’ and my personal favourite ‘this is really for someone tall and slender’.  No one should be made to feel rubbish about the way they look and when you’re being bombarded with ‘buying your dress is the best experience ever’ stuff then when it’s a horrid experience it’s extra horrid.”

curvy bride, curvaceous bride, plus size bride

Photography Copyright (c) 2011, Assassynation
Dress by Claire Pettibone via Blackburn Bridal Couture

Why should someone have to be subjected to this hideous level of customer service and lack of choice because they are not the UK average size 14.  Have the brands catering for the bridal market not done their research?  One in every four women in the UK is size 18 and above – but where is the provision for them when it comes to a good choice of wedding dresses?

I spoke to Emma Meek, owner at Surrey based Miss Bush Bridal.

We stock sample dresses from a size 4 through to a size 18, depending on the label and style. If you look at the definition of ”plus size’ with regards to mainstream fashion Miss Bush has lots of choice. If you look, as I have done briefly, at what Google produces when you key in plus size wedding dress, which determines them to be size 18 – 32, then clearly I have no choice; there is no possibility of getting any larger size samples in Plus Size for a bride to borrow as the various designers and manufacturers only hold small size press samples. There are a number of mass market brands who have made cynical attempts to capitalise on plus size women by producing gigantic A line polyester monstrosities that I would recommend to no one – size zero or size 28. They are working on the assumption that anyone that is this size is…

  1. on a budget – they are all very cheap
  2. only wants a typical mass market look
  3. has no individuality or style
  4. the pattern cutting in this type of dress is very rudimentary and unsympathetic.

The position of Miss Bush Bridal and their stocking policies appears to be echoed by many other retail bridal outlets across the UK.  So what for the the Bride who is size 18+ {1 in 4 of you, remember} and wants a good choice of designs to pick and try from?

curvy bride, curvaceous bride, plus size bride

Photography Copyright (c) 2011, Annamarie Stepney
See the full wedding on Love My Dress® here

Emma Meek continues…

We find ourselves having to remake the skirts in wedding dresses of a size 16 and up, so to give a slimmer, more streamlined and flattering silhouette that compliments the Brides figure and enhances all her best bits.  We are also constantly re-adapting necklines with portrait or boat necks – even on strapless dresses.

Jo Bromley of The Couture Company supports this view..

As with fashion stores, (basically we get to shop at Evans, AND WE SHOULD BE THANKFUL!), the full potential of the plus sized fashion and bridal market is not being realised.

Savvy business people, please take note!

So curvaceous Brides can either purchase a wedding dress from a relatively limited and uninspiring, mass manufactured supply (most of which will be the classic strapless A-line style – no offence), and then pay a variable fee in alterations, to have it adapted to a more flattering fit?

Doesn’t that kind of take some of the magic out of the whole experience?

curvy bride, curvaceous bride, plus size bride

Photography Copyright (c) 2011, Annamarie Stepney
See the full wedding on Love My Dress® here

What do the experts advise?

Whilst I think I know the answer to this already, let’s see what two top indpendent bridal wear designers have to say:-  

“Although I would not describe myself as ‘plus size’, I do have a very large bust – it would easily measure an 18/20 in most designers size chart. Personally speaking I find all the dresses on offer for me in specific plus size ranges incredibly bland and mainstream so I would opt for a made to measure bespoke dress or couture dress from one of our designers like Suzanne Neville or Stephanie Allin. I would have to acknowledge that because of my bust there would be no samples to try on that would give me a ‘found the one’ moment in the mirror. However the collaborative design process, intermediate toile fittings and excellent cut and fit would give far more wow factor in the long term.

A bride with a £2000+ budget and a non-standard figure, be that plus size, busty, petite, or very tall – should, I believe, look to find a British based designer label or independent dressmaker/couturier and have an incredible individual, one off flattering dress made just for them”, says Emma Meek of Miss Bush Bridal.”

A toile, by the way, mentioned above my Emma, is a first attempt at making a dress based on a bespoke cut and fit – usually created in cheap fabric like calico, it is an opportunity for a dressmaker to perfect the bespoke fit on you before going on to create the actual dress itself.

Jo Bromley of The Couture Company, independent dress designers based in Birmingham, told me…

We welcome working with curvier girls, often we design corsets that are integrated or go under the wedding dresses we design. These corsets are empowering and confidence boosting for the girls,  help redefine the silhouette and in particular gives support to the bust and a lovely cynch on the waistline. I know what I am talking about and can totally empathise with their dress/fit/shape/silhouette concerns because I have also been blessed with an ample figure.

curvy bride, curvaceous bride, plus size bride

Jo of ‘The Couture Company’ on her wedding day

So ‘going bespoke’ is a safe and sensible option that all curvy Brides would be wise considering…

“We are trying to offer a service where a bride can walk into our boutique and walk out with a big smile on her face because we understand her body concerns and have designed a gown for her that is going to make her feel like the “bees knees” (that’s my mum talking there) on her wedding day…”

But don’t be put off designer bridal wear completely, there is hope, as Emma Meek from Miss Bush Bridal…

Maggie Sottero  – a very popular label at Miss Bush – offers dresses up to size 32. Because they generally have a lace up back corset closure it is very easy for a size 20 – 24 bride to get a really amazing look from trying on a size 18 sample.

So you see ladies, there are people out there who really do care.  From wedding dress boutique owners, to amazingly talented independent dressmakers {see the list at the end of this page}.  It is a case of seeking these people out – but be warned – this is a tastk that is more than likely not going to be easy for you.  But however difficult a challenge, it should never ever bring you tears, shame or any fall in confidence.

A bespoke wedding dress, by the way, does not have to cost a fortune.  Too many people assume that it will and that really is not the case.  A reputable seamstress will be able to keep within your budget by using different kinds of fabric and embellishment – it doesn’t have to be most expensive royal wedding worthy lace or silk.  Also consider reading this feature on ‘How to find your ideal dressmaker’, which was written by a dressmaker herself for Love My Dress.


Top Ten Tips for Curvy Brides

One reader who shared her story with me sent in a list of tips that she wanted to share with other Love My Dress readers {thank you}. I have taken this list and enhanced it with some advice of my own…

  1. Know what you want and stand your ground
  2. Don’t allow yourself to be put into a frilly dress to ‘hide your bulk’, if that’s not what you want!
  3. Be prepared that most shops only carry samples in a size 12/14.  Some will do larger samples but they are very limited in style
  4. Ask other Brides about their experiences – join the wedding forums, use Twitter, read/contribute/watch out for discussions on the Love My Dress Facebook page, where many boutiques who do stock larger sizes have made themselves known.
  5. Seek out the shops with larger samples – they’re few and far between but they do exist.
  6. See if the shop can order a larger sample
  7. Go armed with pictures
  8. Stick to your budget
  9. Consider bespoke and be prepared to travel to find a reputable/recommended seamstress/dressmaker
  10. If you have a dreadful experience with a boutique or dressmaker who was insensitive, perhaps print them a copy of this feature off and pop them a copy in the post 🙂

curvy brides - 2

Dress by Dana Bolton


Here are some amazing independent dress designers that I know {in no particular order}.  Please don’t be put off by the geographical distance between you and them. A good seamstress is worth putting some of your wedding day budget aside for to travel to – trust me:-

As always I’ve tried to keep this discussion post relatively brief, so to encourage you to contribute to the conversation in the comments box below and get some community discussion going on 🙂

Readers, if you have had a bad – or good experience, please share it. If you have some great advice for the more curvy Birde about to tackle the wedding dress hunt experience, please share that too. All and any feedback is welcome on this feature – but please note that any negative feedback referencing a brand by name will be immediately removed. Postive feedback on the other hand is fabulous 🙂

I hope you have found this feature helpful.  And wedding dress designers/stockists – pleeeeeeease pay this matter some serious consideration. This is an untapped market that is desperate for your love and attention.  There needs to be significant changes in how you are currently operating as a whole because too many of your potential customers {ie, people prepared to part with hard earned cash to cover your mortgage fees} are being left disappointed, offended and with memories of one of life’s experiences that should be wonderful, NO MATTER WHAT size they may be.  And that simply isn’t acceptable.

Love Annabel x



NB: The images featured in this blog post are reader supplied and represent beautiful curvaceous women in their wedding dresses.   Thank you very much to all the wonderful readers who sent in these images and allowed me to share.


Annabel View all Annabel's articles

Founder of Love My Dress. Passionate Podcaster and Editor. Annabel lives in rural North Yorkshire with her husband and business partner Philip, their two daughters and menagerie of furry hounds. She loves photography, meditation, walking, being outdoors and star gazing. She is fierce when it comes to championing talent within the wedding industry and when she's not working on Love My Dress, she supports her husband Philip in the running of the family's sustainable flower farm and floral design business, Moonwind Flowers. In 2013, she became a published author.