A Love Letter To Weight Worried Brides

Last week I blogged a personal post, in which I  shared my thoughts on body weight and how I’d turned my back on the bathroom scales. The reader response to my post reminded me just how much the experience of shopping for a wedding dress is so intrinsically linked to body image and self-confidence.   My colleague Emma Meek, Managing Director of Miss Bush Bridal in Surrey  – who has been spent the past 20 years assisting thousands of brides in finding their perfect wedding dress – felt compelled to respond to my post.  I was so moved by her reply that I asked her to share her thoughts with you all today.

This is must-read. The fact that Emma is such a deeply honest, erudite and considered writer aside, I love the way she has used this opportunity to address both trade and consumer in such a heartfelt way.  This is a no bullshit kind of post, written from the heart – a love letter from Emma, if you will, to all brides who have weight and body confidence issues on their mind.  It is also a manifesto for our wedding industry to have more respect for brides who don’t fit the ‘standard’ dress size, because we believe style has no size.  Brides, boutiques and bystanders, please take note. Over to you Em…

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Image source: stylehasnosize.com

My Body

For two decades I have helped women to find ‘the dress’ that is to be the very definition of their femininity; I have become something of an armchair expert in the relationship between women and their body.

For you to understand the wedding industry, specifically bridal wear, it is critical to look at the changing relationship between designers, boutiques and the bride.  For you to understand my experience of my body, my self esteem and how I relate to brides and bridal wear it is necessary to give you some back history.

When I got married at the tender age of 26 I weighed in at 8 stone 10. I dieted for my wedding, went to a couple of exercise classes and stood on the scales every day. Weight dropped off me because I was in my twenties and I considered leaf tobacco to be one of my five a day.

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Emma on her wedding day in 1992

My Mum, already in command at Miss Bush, said I looked too thin. I entirely disagree; I looked a babe both in my wedding dress and my honeymoon bikini. I went sailing to Greece for my honeymoon, pigged out on Souvlaki, Feta and Metaxa, and swiftly gained half a stone. Three months later I was pregnant and I watched my body disfigure before my eyes. As the first of my peers to have a baby, and the least interesting NCT group on the planet as friends, I went alone through the transmogrification. Like a latter day Mary Shelley, I had the kind of gothic, blood-soaked birth experience that ruined parts of anatomy that I couldn’t have previously named. The wonderful Registrar sewed my episiotomy back incorrectly with the amusing excuse, “well it was a bit messy down there.”  One hopes that Field Hospital or A&E surgeons don’t struggle to identify basic body parts that they just cut in to. My generous DD bust swelled to an H cup, I discovered that nipples didn’t have one hole in them but a rose head like a watering can. I discovered automatic let down, wetting myself on a trampoline and waited 6 months to have sex until the comedy figure of eight vaginal opening was refashioned. I felt I went from perfect to paté within a year.

Another year and another baby was followed immediately by the black puppy of baby blues that grew to be a snarling, fanged-beast of a black dog that saw me plummet to a bone thin state, not for any specific eating disorder reasons but because I lived in a perpetual state of near fatal anxiety and was often too nauseous to swallow. My über thinness was accompanied by eyes as lively as a shark and agoraphobia so acute that the 200 yard walk to the school gates became too daunting to achieve. Of course I styled it out – friends now tell me that that they thought I was aloof; the cool clothes and massive sunglasses that hid my terror made me look frosty and unapproachable.

Wellness followed, another baby followed. My Mum and my husband looked on nervously to see if I would ‘go mad’ again. I didn’t. I stopped smoking, became enormous and very, very happy. My huge chubby, placid baby was born in a textbook manner requiring no intervention; a couple of pushes and I could walk out of the delivery suite. I had friends, I had a support group, I had good health and about 3 or 4 extra stone. I was ready to take my place back in the world as the Emma that you may meet at Miss Bush. The outgoing, confident person was back commissioning couture pieces to wear in starring roles at the village panto. I was enjoying life.

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Image source: stylehasnosize.com

I decided it was time to hit the gym, get back in shape. I worked pretty hard and concocted a vaguely alcoholic Atkins diet and dropped back to under 10 stone.  As the weight dissolved so did my marriage. My husband could not conceive that I wanted to look and feel good for myself and there was constant accusations that I was having an affair. As a renowned Lothario friend quipped – ‘well if you weren’t before you can now babe’.  The rogue was right. Mix up confidence and happiness with a figure you are comfortable with, a spot of sexual nouse and your mid 30s sassiness and, boy, do you get noticed. When it came to pass that it was in fact my husband having an affair (serial philanders and ex mistresses had assured me that was what was happening all along) I embarked on something of a sleazy, slutty and utterly fabulous reawakening that culminated in meeting The Lovely Marshy – my partner to this day. Having already turned 40 when we met, I foxed around in private in the kind of boudoir garb that would enrage me were it to appear on a wedding blog.

A final and successful attempt to quit my Marlboro Light habit added 2 stone. A chance meeting with a personal trainer at Miss Bush got me whipped into the best shape of my life. Hard training, running, boxing and weights and the wine and vegetable diet paid dividends. My third Grim (an ice riddled, mud splattered hill race) was days away when my ex husband just upped and died. From that point to this very day a dark path of bereavement, financial insecurity  (get life cover, get your income insured and make a Will people), and life changing stress has lead to self medication with alcohol, prescribed medication for anxiety and, of course, middle age has lead to weight gain. Believe me, not even serious stress touches your metabolism in your late 40s like it does in your 20s.

I am, currently, not brilliantly enamoured with my figure, the boobs have reached matronly on the size chart, I am a Hobbs 18 which is generous. I very much love my boyfriend, my kids have settled, but not recovered, from their various grief reactions, we are a blended family. At some point I will probably get married again, at some point I will be the one walking into my own bridal appointment or fitting bringing this history with me.

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Image source: stylehasnosize.com

My Work

When Miss Bush Bridal Wear started 26 years ago the 20 something bride was the only demographic that the bridal industry was concerned with. The shop opened only 7 years after the marriage of Charles and Diana when society thought it was still perfectly reasonable to marry a 19 year old virgin to the future Head of State. My own Step Mother married my Dad in a very apologetic suit befitting an aged Mother of the Bride when she was a girl of 40. Older brides and second marriages didn’t register; didn’t matter. Berkertex, for that was where the suit came from, clearly had enough commercial acumen to cater to this bride but not enough respect to design anything worth wearing.

Back in 1988, at the inception of Miss Bush, brides were young, straight and, whilst not virginal, they didn’t usually have kids. If they did they didn’t then do the ‘proper’ wedding. Having now worked in the industry for 21 years I always imagined at some point I would be older than all my clients. This year I have helped brides from their early 20s to their late 50s without an apology in sight for their age, sexual orientation or number of children. There has been a very elegant revolution, a mighty social shift in the way we marry and yet Annabel’s post about weight and weddings saw dozens of women answer on Facebook and on the blog in deeply personal ways about their relationship with weight, self esteem, body confidence and the resulting experience of wedding dress shopping and wedding dresses.

I read the post, read the feedback and, like an actor reading a review, focused on the parts that talked about me. Not me specifically, not even my ego is that well developed, but the ‘wedding shop’ and ‘wedding shop bitch’ experience.

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Image source: stylehasnosize.com

The one thing that comes across loud and clear is that the experience of wedding dress shopping is a highly charged and emotionally loaded transaction. Brides need some pre visit preparation and shop staff need to possess the skill set of Gok Wan, a trained psychotherapist, celebrity stylist, life coach and wedding planner. Whilst I have no accreditations or paper qualifications I have been mad, fat and fabulous so that counts right?

What I hope from my over share is that I know, acutely, how our bodies changes with time, with health, with childbirth. Unless it is within our earnings capacity to turn back time, live in the gym and put ourselves at the centre of our own universes it is hard to tick off another decade without reflecting on ageing and weight gain.

The bride of 2014 has so much choice beyond the 1980s virginal dress and a divorcee’s bad suit. Yet how do all these articulate women writing to Annabel feel that the wedding industry is not catering for them? Not understanding or empathising with them? As Annabel’s piece focused on weight, I will focus on weight.

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Image source: stylehasnosize.com

 I want brides to know that there isn’t an industry wide conspiracy to make you feel bad if you are plus size, any more than if you are older, been married before, disabled or LGBT. However from an outsider’s point of view I can see how this seems to be the case. I have yet to see one ‘plus size’ gown that was worthy of me spending money on. I was recently asked to be a judge for a prestigious industry awards and I was depressed and revolted by the cynical, generic cheap dresses that were designed to be ‘plus size’.

I am plus size and here is my comment on the category I had to judge;  ‘Plus Size Collections – there is not enough gin in the world! Again I have voted for the only company that have not marketed 5 year old polyester monsters to a customer they see as fat, poor and unfashionable. As a fat woman I am outraged. All companies should make plus size dresses – I move that you include any manufacturer or designer that offers sizes above 18. Just ghastly.’

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Jane, who wore a super beautiful size 24 couture gown by  Suzanne Neville via Miss Bush Bridal Wear 
See the full, knock-out glamorous wedding here on Love my Dress.
Photography by Paul Kelly

 

For Those About To Shop For A Wedding Dress

10 Top Tips For The Weight Worried

  1. Virtually no one has a flat stomach. The only people I see that have flat stomachs are women that run Ultra Marathons and they are few and far between. Everyone has a hang up about the letterbox part of their body from their navel out to their hip bones down to the top of their bikini line. I am not expecting to see a flat stomach. Don’t apologise for not owning one.
  2. Don’t wait to lose weight before talking to boutiques or designers. There are so many different options open to you – if you wait for a phantom target weight, you may have denied yourself some ranges of dresses that are time sensitive to order.
  3. If you have severe body confidence issues talk to us. Make an appointment to come in and discuss what you want first before taking your clothes off. If you get on, gel or click with someone then you can establish faith and trust before moving to taking your clothes off and trying on dresses
  4. Acknowledge and tell us what your hang ups are. One person’s body art is another’s tramp stamps; I envy a flat chest while others crave more boob! If you love your generous curves let us know. More often than not we are given a list of despised body parts as part of a bride’s opening remarks  so sometimes if an assistant assumes you might want a generous thigh concealed by an A Line skirt rather than highlighted by a Fishtail it is because she has heard this preference a million times.
  5. Don’t always expect ‘the moment’. I did a bridesmaids appointment recently where a woman was getting increasingly frustrated that she couldn’t she what dresses looked like properly fitting. The woman was petite and a plus size, immensely difficult to cater to off the peg. I asked ‘what shape dress do you normally wear?’ The answer? ‘I don’t, nothing ever fits’. If there isn’t a dress made for regular shops that stock a range of sizes it is no more likely that I can offer this. However, unlike regular shops bridal shops offer solutions through  brilliant fitting and bespoke options.
  6. Expect ‘the moment’. This is not always a Hollywood style Pretty Woman moment. As a sensible grown up you will have to acknowledge there is sometimes delayed gratification if you do not fit the samples. Don’t just buy whatever fits in the store, make sure at a fundamental level you love the shop, the designer label and your stylist
  7. If you have the budget go bespoke, made to measure or couture. A brilliant pattern cutter will be able to cut ‘you’ a pattern not adapt an existing one or alter a standard size. If I were to be heading aisle-wards I would rather feed my guests cheese and pineapple on sticks rather than have a frumpy frock. Remember I am terribly shallow though…
  8. Underwear, underwear, underwear. Get your bust measured in a proper lingerie shop or department store and wear said correct bra with two proper straps to an appointment or fitting. Have absolutely no faith in strapless bras. Also, people, the increasing trend for feature backless dresses, keyholes or plunge especially in very soft fabrics means there will be NO bust support. If you’re not happy bra-less move on! Don’t build disappointment into your wish list and Pinterest board. However a boutique will usually surprise you with dresses you didn’t think would work. How much more positive is that? Also if a dress requires Spanx to make it work it isn’t you it’s the wrong size or a badly cut dress.
  9. Don’t blame the shop. If you look ghastly in a dress in Topshop do you blame the changing room lighting? Acknowledge that you may be over their target demographic?  Do you blame Phillip Green?  Generally one doesn’t go rushing to the Chief Exec complaining ‘I felt bloody awful in my pants today and it is all your fault.’ I have tearful moments in front of my own wardrobe where I vow to get skinny. Shop bashing upsets me. There are some dire wedding dress shops around but there isn’t an industry wide conspiracy to be body fascists. There are no classes in haute snobbery or couture crassness. In bridal retail virtually every store is independent. From the artisan/designer owned boutique, to the city centre label shrine; the purveyors of meringues to the restrained county set shops all bridal retailer have their own philosophy, taste and style. If you walk in feeling fragile we don’t smell blood. Similarly if you walk in with your defences up we have to spend a long time gaining your trust.
  10. Look at what makes you lovely. You are not a series of body parts and measurements, this is not an autopsy. You are not defined by your size. Technically your designer and fitter has to know these things to perfect a dress, but a bride radiating gorgeousness comes from confidence,  wide smiles, and being loved.

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For The Industry

10 Suggestions For The Trade

  1. Respect your plus size customer. I have heard from a particularly well known ‘horse’s mouth’ (or should that be horse’s arse) that the big bridal brands consider all plus size customers to be in a lower socio-economic class. Even if this ill-informed world view was the case why would they not view success stories like ASOS. ASOS has a budget Curve range that sits happily alongside the rest of their collections at the same price points and changes as frequently as the rest of the collection. They do not simply offer a pair of old leggings from 2009 as their only offering.
  2. Designers, manufacturers and the media need to be aware that the increasing demand for a wider range of sizes from zero to plus has more to do with a changing society than it does with tabloid hysteria. Brides marrying after having kids and carrying a spot of baby weight are not the ‘4x4s’ that the ‘horse’s mouth’ referenced. These are educated, middle class consumers that the bridal designers ignore at their peril. Size zeros are likely to be small framed Asian women not victims of an eating disorder. Similarly plus sized brides may often just have a more mature figure like me, not a fast food addiction.
  3. Look at your labelling. One of my much loved labels who I hold in high esteem have size 12 samples that are closer to an 8. They charge a hefty premium for plus sizes but it is not difficult to be one when the sample sizes are so outrageously small. Labelling across the brands varies wildly and it is impossible to judge one make’s size charts against another. With brides and bridesmaids so sensitive you can often get a bride choosing on the label size rather than the love!
  4. Manufacturers should consider dropping all plus size labels and look at re-cutting the patterns of their best selling dresses in the standard collections to fit and flatter a curvier figure. They should do it properly not simply increase the size.
  5. All designers should follow Jenny Packham’s lead and create some of their new season dresses in a plus size, engage plus size models for their catwalk shows and make the sample available for loans for designer days and trunk shows.
  6. All designers and manufacturers should work with stockists and their in house fitting teams to understand the concerns of the bride, and create a two way dialogue about style and fit
  7. The bridal media, both blogs and magazines should go behind the scenes in ateliers regularly and see how fabulous bespoke pieces are made to understand the cost implications of a perfectly fitting dress regardless of size.
  8. Drop the plus size premium price. There is usually a 10 to 20% surcharge for plus sizes. I understand when you reach the higher reaches of plus sizing there is more fabric used but there is no discount for tiny sizes.
  9. Boutique staff and owners: Engage in social media; start to tell your stories. Brides to be need to know that we are not a bunch of skinny ass judgemental bitches waiting to roll our eyes at the first sight of a muffin top. I see a lot of generic text on websites saying ‘we are waiting to offer you excellent customer service for your special day’.  It says nothing about you except that you are the same as the next shop. We are all subject to the same body confidence issues as our customers, it is critical to engage like a normal human being. Woman to woman.
  10. Boutiques owners: Invest in the best products your demographic allows. Train your staff – it is not enough for them to think weddings are lovely and dresses are pretty (I am referencing CVs I have actually been sent). Empathy and expertise are fundamental principles for all your staff.  There are no excuses for badly fitting dresses if you buy from decent labels.  Having a sound understanding of garment construction can professionally guide a bride to the right dress choices.  And finally, make sure you have seriously talented in-house fitters.

Both Annabel and I welcome your thoughts, questions, concerns and all and any kind of feedback.

Emma x

 

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Emma Marshall

Emma Marshall View all Emma's articles

Emma Marshall is MD of one of the UKs oldest and most respected British bridal boutiques, Miss Bush. Emma has supported and championed independent design, ethical sourcing and has lead the way in revolutionising experiential bridal shopping. Married in her late 40s, advocate for fit over size, Emma is a passionate campaigner and writer, bringing strong opinions to both the bridal trade and consumer.

46 thoughts on “A Love Letter To Weight Worried Brides

  1. This article has made my day, wonderfully written, it made me smile, giggle and nod ferociously like Churchill. I am getting married next August and have fought with my weight since I was in my early 20’s, I have finally (after many horrendous relationships) found my one and can’t wait to walk down that aisle and become a Mrs. I love organising and planning, so have so far found the whole wedding planning process great fun. But the one thing that has been hanging over my head was dress shopping. I consider myself plus size, I am a size 18 with boobs, hips and a bum. I have also suffered with anxiety and depression and am still suffering, so I managed to work myself up into a frenzy about it. A friend recommended a local dress designer, House of Mooshki, my friend is also plus size and getting married next August. So with frayed nerves I went with my sister to meet the owner, Vicki. And oh, it was WONDERFUL. Vicki was down to earth, understanding and most importantly real. She has boobs and a figure! She was refreshingly honest about my expectations and encouraging about what I wanted. I am lucky as I have the budget to be able to go bespoke and the wonderful designers at House of Mooshki are making me a dress, which I cannot wait to wear. All in all the whole experience reminded me that I am loved, for who I am and how I look by my other half. He has never once looked at me and wished for anything else, he loves ME for ME. Thank you for this wondeful, inspiring and funny article, which was so spot on. This is why I love this blog so much.

    1. Hi Emma – I am so delighted that you have had such a brilliant experience. It’s kind of what I wanted – to draw out of everyone the positive experience that wedding shopping can be. Vicki sounds fantastic – can’t wait to see the photos on here! Emma xxx

  2. This really was a fabulous article. Very glad that I had the time to read this before I start my work as it really cheered me up. Emma is hilarious and wonderfully honest. Oh I wish I could make an appointment to see her at Miss Bush (unfortunately I live in Scotland). I have also had ups and downs with my weight due to anxiety issues so found this just a breath of fresh air. I really lose my appetite when down (the weight just seems to fall off me) and everybody comments on this which makes me more stressed. When visiting bridal shops I have felt a bit like the girls are looking at me thinking I am too thin which is probably simply me projecting my own fears onto the staff who are thinking nothing of it. Luckily my fiance has never pressured me to look a certain way (even telling me he looks forward to me being pregnant as he thinks this would be beautiful). It was nice to know that I am not the only one who loses my appetite when stressed 🙂 At the end of the day I don’t care how I look in my dress or what anyone is thinking as long as I am carefree and happy on my wedding day xxx

    1. Thank you for reading, thank you for the praise! I think there is a lot of projection of what ‘we’ must be thinking in a bridal appointment. There is body appraisal, certainly, but I hope it is never judgemental. I hope that most brides don’t notice we are doing it!!! It is simply an element of the job in making you look and feel fabulous in the same way a hairdresser would consider face shape when advising on style. I am sure you will look amazing, put yourself in the hand of the right stylist in the right shop and you shouldn’t have to over think it either! Emma xxx

  3. A truly wonderful landmark piece. This should be printed off, laminated and put on the walls of every bridal boutique in the country. Searingly honest and up-to-date in an often non-representational, rose-tinted industry, we are crying out for more open and honest voices like Emma’s. A true delight in every sense of the word. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting Karen I quite like the idea of bing a Health and Safety posterI hope we get to meet soon, I want to throw a bit of a bloggers party at The Chapel – will keep you posted Emma xxx

  4. What a wonderful piece! As a bride to be living in Switzerland, I came across to London to go dress shopping on a tight time scale. I knew the designers & dress styles I wanted and I planned my attack! I emailed all the salons I was interested in going to-checked that they had my preferred designers and, as I would be buying off the rack, checked that they had samples in my size. One salon assured me they had size 14 samples then proceeded to stuff me into size 10 dresses, raving how I looked great! My dream dress (and dress experience) came from Carina Baverstock Couture who were just brilliant! They had all the size 14 samples from the designers I was interested in out and ready to go when I arrived. An hour later I walked out with THE dress (and yes, I was one of those women who had a little cry when I found my dress!!)
    Countdown to the wedding is on!!
    Thanks again for a great article 🙂

    1. Hi Juanita. I love Lucy & Carina from Carina Baverstock, a beautiful shop with amazing designers so I KNOW you are going to look fabulous. All the best for a fab wedidng Emma xxx

  5. Hi Emma,

    What a wonderful post I posted last week to Annabel’s original post and noted about my weight loss but what I didn’t add was the story of the amazing tiny lass who served me at Anne Pricilla in Glasgow. The petite girl with the most amazing fiery ginger hair listened as I told her what I was looking for (being the 5th shop I was in as a curvy 14/16 not only was I was still a bit nervy but I had also lost hope of my dream dress) she said go have a look and let me know what you want to try on but I know there’s one dress in here you’re going to love. Sure enough I got to ‘the’ dress I pulled it out and I was in love. Her passion for helping me into the dress never once judging and constantly just treating me with respect made the
    experience delightful. I would like to add this store is up 6 stairs as it’s in a listed building. I needed my wonderful mother’s approval (she is a wheelchair user) and I called ready for a fight only to be met with the manager telling me they would bring the dress to me and mum wherever that would be.

    Emma’s boutique is definitely not the only shop offering real service in this industry and I think she is spot on in terms of going in open minded and not full of self-loathing cause if we can’t love ourselves in any clothes how will we ever find a perfect wedding dress?

    That said the industry must move on I couldn’t agree more about the ‘plus size’ dresses they are a joke and more needs to be done to allow people to try on all styles – with my large hips I knew a fishtail was never going to be a style I would like but I wouldn’t have minded trying one on just to see but inevitably as they were all small sizes I didn’t get the chance.

    We all need to embrace who we are and not bate ourselves for not being perfect I was about to say cause no one is perfect but that’s wrong we can be perfect but that perfection only comes when we only line ourselves up with trying to be our own person and live our lives in our own happy unique ways. Thanks again LMD for a fantastic post!

    1. HI Lorraine – yay for the redhead at Anne Priscilla! I am so bloody chuffed to see some really positive feedback about shops. Thank you for reading and I hope we get to see some photos! Emma xxx

  6. I have been enraptured reading this post and it’s now 10am and I haven’t blinking started anything! So honest, achingly open and Emma’s words cut through me. Now whilst I’m not considered a plus size in the fashion label world, it doesn’t mean that I’m 100% happy within my own skin. I had an amazing experience at my Bridal boutique and they are a fabulous team, but I do have dress regrets. I also should have worn a bloody bra so great advice in this post! I sometimes look at my wedding photos and instead of seeing the love of such a perfect day, I see me and all my insecurities about my appearance… Maybe it’s time I gave myself a kick up the ol’ you know what. Because feeling fabulous is a state of mind, rather than a state of size… Thank you Emma and Annabel x

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read, I was worried it was a tad long. You are so right about fabulous being a state of mind! And a girl can go along way in a proper bra 😉

  7. What a genuine and honestly written piece. I’m a florist, not a bridal shop owner or even a bride to be, but this post is so relevant to any woman of any size who experiences a lack of confidence when it come’s to their body image. However hard it can be to accept the wobbly bits, it should be health and happiness which takes precedence in our minds, not a focus on size. Thank you for sharing xx

  8. This is a lovely post, I wish my sister and I had read it before our shopping began. I hate my stomach, and she has acne on her back which she is very embarrassed and sensitive about. We did have good experiences, but I know we were both very nervous before walking into that first shop. I will send it on to my sister as she hasn’t found her dress yet – next trip scheduled soon though.

    1. Hi Hannah Do reasssure your sister that there is no need to worry although this season there are so many ‘perfect’ backs in plunging back necklines wedding dresses it is probably increasing anxiety and not that helpful. Could I recommend you look for you nearest Jesus Peiro stockist as their collections are always cut with some really brilliant covered backs every season so a level of concern will just vanish. Emma xxx

  9. Emma, thanks so much for this amazing post, including a searingly honest account of your own ups and downs with your weight and body image. I’m getting married later this year and being in my 50’s and not too in love with my body, am very much not the stereotype that some bridal shops expect to walk through the door. It’s also my second time (first was many years ago) and whilst not experiencing the worst of the horror stories that we hear about, I have felt at times that I haven’t been taken seriously when expressing my wish (and concerns) that I very much want to be a bride but do want to wear an outfit that acknowledges but celebrates me NOW, and not what I might have been 30 years ago.
    I totally agree that there are designers out there that need to get real, size their garments in line with the mainstream clothing industry, and take the trouble to correctly tailor patterns for the larger or smaller sizes. Emma is also right is stating the importance of having the right staff in bridal shops – empathy with people, and an understanding of garment design are probably the most important factors in selecting staff. Probably the worst comment I had came from a renowned & award-winning designer who, even after I talked to her about our plans for the day and my body/age hangups, stated that I should totally ignore the fact we are having an intimate civil ceremony in a lovely country hotel and that I should go for the big strapless meringue (which having just tried one on in her studio was so not me!). Luckily I have found a great boutique with a wonderful owner and staff who are helping me every step of the way to be the bride I want to be.
    Thank you once again Emma, and Annabel for your amazing articles. x

    1. Hi Judy!

      Huge thanks for taking time to leave a reply today, we’re so grateful – it’s always so lovely to hear back from our readers.

      SUCH an important comment about empathy too – I was reading something only this weekend about how how every successful business person and leader is highly empathetic – says a lot and as you say is an exceptionally important skill to possess when dealing with people who are making such an emotional investment.

      I am so happy to hear you have found such a supportive boutique and I hope you have a truly wonderful day and that you feel amazing throughout it all.

      Love Annabel xXx

    2. Hi Judy. The way my lovely boyfriend is dragging his feet at producing some kind of rock for me to wear I will probably be in my 50s myself by the time I get married ( I am nearly 48 now!) Whilst I am quite happy at flouting the expectations of what a woman of my age ‘ought’ to wear and with celebs of our age still feted as stylish & fabulous there still is a dismal selection generally. In my experience I love a Jenny Packham wedding dress on my contemporaries – so much easier to wear than they look and they do require some grown up sassiness to wear them! Brilliant that you found a fab boutique, there really are some great ones to chose from
      Emma xxx

  10. Buying a wedding dress was a super scary experience for me!
    I’m currently not a plus size bride but my weight has fluctuated backwards and forwards from eating disorder thin to very nicely plump and anywhere in between over the years. I am an outwardly super confident person with a gregarious personality but standing in a shop of amazingly pretty dresses that look fab on a hanger and trying to be bold enough to try one on in front of a stranger can be 100% scary! I felt that every time i tried on a beautiful wedding dress that i was making some kind of statement to the shop owner and my friends that i thought i could look good in that beautiful dress and for some reason in my head i felt that everyone was scrutinising me and thinking how ridiculous i looked? My dad has at times humorously described me as a ‘boy in a dress’ and this resonated each time i tried anything on! (I know nowadays i’m far from a boy in a dress but feeling vulnerable in a bridal shop that old chestnut came out to haunt me!!) This task was getting stressful to the point of me arriving home and crying as i felt like i was going to let my lovely fiance down if i didnt nail this dress situation!

    I started to believe that the dress for me must be crazily plain, possibly baggy or ill fitted and as ordinary as can be as how could i wear something gorgeous and girly when im fairly tomboyish in everyday life? I apologised frequently in bridal shops, not so much for my figure but for just being a rubbish girl, for having no predetermined vision and generally being a lack lustre bride.

    I eventually found the most gorgeous bridal shop in Altrincham near Manchester (Love Bridal) where i chose a suitably ill-fitted lightweight plain-jane dress. I brought my mom to see ‘The one’ and she just said NO. I cried wuth frustration and the bridal shop owner hugged me behind the dressing room curtain and told me it would all be alright.

    I gave the shop owner and my mom free reign and they picked out dresses for me that i would never have chosen!! Their choices married up who i am as a person (no bling!) plus what i look like in real life. The first dress they made me try on just suited my shape like NONE of the others had – i looked like a girl!! And the second lacy silk fishtail dress by Stewart Parvin combined my desire to feel comfortable but also to look like a bride whom my better half would be proud to say ‘i do’ with.

    Now the dress is in the bag i almost feel like i want to go back and try the whole shop on as the pressure to look fabulous has now gone and i feel so much more at ease. I wish i could have enjoyed my wedding dress hunt with greater confidence and panache but my hangups and self perception of what i think i look like in my head prevented that.

    My advice to any bride, plus size or not, is to find a bridal shop where you can be honest about what is going on for you. If youre in a shop and are not made to feel like you deserve to feel beautiful then youre in the wrong shop!! Emma at my bridal shop made me feel less loopy and foolish about my hang ups than anywhere else i’d been – and she made me feel deserved of that gorg dress. I have grown to trust her judgement better than my own as if i had gotten my way i’d be walking down the aisle in a dress that looked like a sack and not like a sexy siren!!

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that buying a dress was such a scary experience for you Betsy, until you discovered the wonderful Love Bridal. I do know this boutique and I know the owner Emma too and this is wonderful feedback for her – I’ve alerted her to the fact you have left it here today, thank you so much.

      I’d love to see some photos of you in your dress in due course!

      Love Annabel xXx

    2. Yay for Emma! This is what great boutiques with great staff are all about! This is what all shopping should be like. I am so chuffed to hear your dress story and I susupect you will blow everyone away on the day! Emma xxx

  11. Sadly I think only once 10 Suggestions For The Trade is addressed will brides feel more confident walking into a shop, undressing and trying on dresses.
    I’m a size 12-14 and I often find myself looking at overweight teens with their muffin tops in full view and short shorts showing premature cellulite with envy. If only I had that body confidence when I was a teenager and now. But where does it go? Do we all get into our late 20’s and start poking and prodding our bodies, wondering if we should start having botox and thus begins the slippery slope of body dysmorphia?
    I had a good experince buying my dress (with Emma at Miss Bush) despite my body hang ups, but more shops should speak up. I went into every shop thinking I was being judged and I blame the wedding media for that.

    1. It’s all about making a connection and getting women to see what the rest of us see ! Which is a bloody beautiful bride in your case Mrs T. now I must get round to emailing you! Emma xxx

  12. An incredibly significant, honest and open account of the experience of not only being a bride but being a woman. I feel this is a must read for anyone, not only someone on the hunt for their wedding dress but with everyday life and pressures. Fantastic piece, great reading and inspiring. Thanks so much for sharing Annabel and Emma, I wish there were more of this around! xx

    1. Really grateful for your feedback Kiki-Sunshine – this kind of post has always by far and away been the most popular kind of content we share on Love My Dress, which, I think, says a lot about pent up frustrations shared by a community of brides who are still relying on traditional media to inspire them. But hopefully, if we keep working on this positive message for women, we can help make a difference and bring reassurance to brides up and down the land and indeed, all over the world.

      Huge thanks again xx

  13. Thank you! I kept going “yes!” all the way through reading this. I have just had the huge pleasure of watching my beautiful daughter marry last Saturday – wearing a stunning Ian Stuart ‘mermaid’ style dress that truly celebrated her curves. We were incredibly lucky to find a wonderful shop in Cambridge where they took the most enormous care – just the best experience as detailed in Emma’s moving letter. So, I wish everyone great happiness in choosing a dress for their “best day ever” and hope that designers will recognise the need to produce clothes for women of all shapes – not just stick-thin model types. xx

  14. Just the most amazing piece of writing about an issue that never really gets addressed. About time it was pulled out into view and a light shone right on it. So desperately unacceptable to make assumptions about why anyone is any size, whether that’s an eating disorder for those lower in kilos, or lazy and cake-guzzling for those further up the scale. Especially when the latter encounters such poor offerings for one of the best days of their life. Totally dispiriting. You’re so right that it’s not an industry conspiracy to make people feel bad in boutiques. One shop I went to to pick my dress had snooty mares there who made me feel awful, but they would have been snooty mares anywhere! They clocked that my youthful, good living curves weren’t going to be shoehorned into their particular styles, and then just ignored me! Totally their problem, and I had the confidence to just chuckle at that. I love your even-handed advice for brides-to-be to suss what they want and take responsibility for their end of things like a good bra, what styles suit them in everday attire, and a word in the ear of designers to make something for everyone. I’m sharing this on every social media platform I have. This must be spread!! xx

    1. Hi Erin – thank you for reading & I would be chuffed to bits if you want to share links to it. I am fairly sure I am going to be lynched at my next trade show when I come face to face with the owners of the the ‘poor offerings’ labels! 😉

  15. This is such a lovely and honest piece of writing, with genuinely useful advise. I’m not a ‘plus size’ bride but as a size 12 i felt fat in plenty of samples. I think your advice is brilliant for all women. Thanks for sharing.

    1. HI Stacey – thank you for reading, it’s great to be able to share some of the wisdom form my years on the bridal coalface!!! Emma x

  16. I want Emma to be my friend! I love open people, unafraid to say things exactly how things are, I’m not good at fake and glossy, small talk but I love getting real and I’ve often been accused of sharing too much Info! This has made me look back now at my recent bridal shop experiences (which were 3/4 great experiences) and I think I made a lot of slightly embarrassed, jokey comments about being a second time bride at 40! Glad I finally found time to read this piece properly. Fabulous! xx

  17. I’ve been meaning to read this article all week and only finding the time to do so now and boy was it worth the wait! A bloody brilliant piece or writing that resonated with me in every way. I didn’t even venture into any bridal shops when I was looking for my wedding dress last year, I had absolutely zero body confidence, was dreading the whole experience just couldn’t face it. I rather reluctantly searched for someone to make a bespoke dress for me and came across the quite brilliant Wendy from Flossy and Dossy, who managed to turn the experience into quite the opposite of what I expected; its now one of my favourite reflections of the run up to the wedding. Thanks so much for such an inspiring article! x

  18. I can’t understate how important this piece is. Not just from a bridal persepctive, but women and their weight in general. Why is it that we think our happiness directly correlates to being the weight we think we should be… I spend my life thinking ‘Oh, I’ll be better/happier etc… if I just drop this last 7lbs…’. After children I got into good shape, mostly I think it was because I CEASED TO SIT DOWN and breast fed. And basically spend four years pregnant/breast feeding. Seems it *may* be true what they say about alcohol contributing to weight gain… but I LOVE it…
    Now my youngest is 5… I’m well into my thirties, and it’s a WHOLE lot harder to drop the weight. I eat well. I do Yoga three times a week, so underneath my wobble layer is PURE muscle (!) (more importantly I’ve not had any back problems in three years, which is actually why I started), and I am happy. Yet still I think I would be happier if I were slimmer.
    Women are inseparable from their weight – I’m one who puts on in stress, my mum loses her appetite altogether. Since I was 10 and first got boobs, I have been horrendously self-aware. Of my flaws. I never look to the good bits. If a man looks me up and down I assume he must think ‘oh she must have looked alright once’. This is a great article because it reminds us we’re not alone. I’ll not start up on photoshop, but I will say that as the mother of two girls I want them to know they are what they are, and to be happy whatever their weight (though healthy). A hair colour can’t make you happier (though a good blow dry can clearly make you walk taller!), so why our weight? We are so preoccupied with the ideal that we waste and miss so much.
    Now, the only challenge is to live by it and not convince myself that happiness lies in a weight starting with a 10 rather than an 11 (just).
    THANK YOU.

    1. I never replied to you Anon but I want to do so today to say THANK YOU so much for sharing your views and experience. Everything you say completely captures the essence of this post and I’m so pleased it resonated with you.
      With all my love,
      Annabel

  19. Thank you so much, Emma, for this honest and wonderful piece, and to Annabel for opening this discussion up. I think most women really cannot hear it enough that we are not alone in our own little worlds, struggling with emotions over our bodies – that no matter our shapes or sizes, or ages or backgrounds – or how others may perceive us, we ALL have the same struggles. I truly wish for more pieces like this, so that women can begin to love and support each other rather than being envious and critical of one another, and maybe eventually to focus more on how much we love rather than what dress size we wear 🙂

  20. This article brought smile but also a tear to my eye. Thank you Emma for writing such a brilliant article and thank you to Annabel for sharing it. I’m a bride to be (again) at 43 marrying a man 8 years my junior. I’ve had 2 children, I’m not in the best shape of late and feel that I’m an ‘old’ bride. I’ve had comments from people at work and also friends that I need to be careful that I don’t wear anything inappropriate but I have ignored them and gone for a dress that I love which is going to be made to fit. This article has made me realise that we may not have the best body which shows a history (that I’m proud of actually) but I have to go forward and make the most of this experience because after all, it’s my day xxx

  21. I LOVE this! I so hope that other retailers read this thoroughly and take note and your fabulous advise.
    I am getting married for the second time, after 2 children, in July/August this year.
    I am delaying going wedding gown shopping as, although eventually I ended up with a fabulous dress, the whole experience was horrific.
    I had every intention of steering clear of a typical ‘wedding dress’ this time round, as I got the impression from a few close friends/relatives, that the opinion is that it’s inappropriate, in my situation, my size, and my age(44).
    My fiancé is however adamant that I should have ‘the dress’ even though we intend for the rest of the wedding to be quite low key.
    The thought of going in to your typical high street bridal shop fills me with dread. The way you are looked up and down because of your size(a good 14/16 in a good week!) or you’ve just walked in off the street because somethings caught your eye, and you’re only wearing your school run clobber and the make up you half heartedly applied at 7am that morning has blown off in the whirlwind that’s been your day, but if you don’t go in there and then you won’t get the chance for another week.
    I love the idea that you want to hear the positives women like about their bodies. I’m big, but I know where my good bits are. I love that I’m probably not the largest woman you’ve ever seen , or are ever going to see, and that you feel part of your job is to help build confidence, allowing women to explore the possibility of actually being able to wear the dress of their dreams.
    I think I know what I like but I want someone to tell me I’m right or wrong, or offer me an alternative, not just tell me to forget it or dismiss my ideas altogether.
    This post has given me the confidence to at least consider ‘going for it’…. I think I may book an appointment!

    1. Hi Jay, I’m so pleased to hear that the article had a positive affect on you. That’s brilliant news. I married in my 40s in 2014 and apologised in every shop that I was an old bride! At first I thought I wanted an evening gown style dress as that would be ‘appropriate’ for my age and circumstances. However I soon discovered that I wanted to wear a ‘princess’ dress with a swishy skirt. I wanted to feel a bride and so I did. I really hope that you can keep the confidence to find the dress that you really want, not the dress that you feel you *should* want! Enjoy! xx

  22. Hello from the United States! Thank you for writing this article. I’m 52 years old and my husband and I will be celebrating 30 years of marriage next year. I’ve been dreaming of a vow renewal and party to follow, and looking at all sorts of dresses.

    Thanks for pointing out the “flat stomach myth.” I’m always a bit embarrassed by my tummy, and can’t imagine wearing 99% of the dresses out there. As I really lean toward Edwardian and 1920s dresses, I’m hoping I can find something that I will feel comfortable yet pretty in. When we married, I had a dress made from a pattern, in a ’20s style, very much like the dress my grandmother wore in 1929. But I don’t think I’d wear the same sort of dress now. I want something much more floaty and feminine.

    For the record, I’m a US 16, more or less!

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