a niche post I suppose. But it’s something I’ve wanted to post since I started shopping for a wedding dress.
I was very concerned about shopping for a dress. I didn’t think there would be anything to fit me, I didn’t think anyone would understand the needs of a plus size bride, I didn’t want to be humiliated in public shopping for the most important dress I would ever buy.
It took a long time for me to make an appointment anywhere. I don’t want to name (and shame) some shops. Just because they weren’t right for me doesn’t mean they aren’t the right place for someone else. But on the whole it wasn’t as terrifying as I thought.
Once you’ve got over the initial horror of stripping down to your underwear in front of a stranger. Once you’ve got over the horror of parading around a shop in a dress that doesn’t fasten up in front of a complete stranger, your mam and whoever else happens to be shopping there. Once you’ve got over the simple fact that you don’t have to like everything that is shown to you. It’s ok.
I tried on so many dresses in front of so many strangers that eventually I didn’t care who saw my pants or who forced my boobs flat so I could fit in a dress that absolutely did not fit. I had fairly ‘meh’ experiences at most places. I met some lovely, helpful, caring people and I met some incredibly unhelpful people.
Highs and lows?
High. They DO have stuff that fits, it IS possible to sort of fit in dresses that don’t fit.
High. They have met people of all shapes and sizes, they have seen more mismatched undies than you’ve had hot dinners and they don’t care.
High. This might be your only chance to flounce around in a selection of dresses you would never normally wear. Embrace it.
Low. Not finding anything. For weeks. You might find it first time out. I found it hard going.
Low. Realising that your ‘vision’ doesn’t quite match up to reality. For me, this was realising that the dress I had in my head did not suit me at all and left me feeling very flat at my appointments.
Low. Not being able to try a dress on because it was so very tiny. You can’t make a decision on a dress by holding it up against you. Well, maybe you can. I found it depressing and impossible.
The lowest low point?
Oh my. It came at a very popular, small boutique in Newcastle that came recommended by a friend. As we entered a girl was being railroaded into buying a dress. Absolutely railroaded. I was horrified. I couldn’t believe the pushy manner of the manager and I had my fingers crossed that she wouldn’t be my consultant. Phew! She wasn’t. My consultant was lovely, fortunately. However, this was the only place I was asked to remove my bra. Now, I have a sizeable bust, most places had accepted that it would be best to leave the bra and adjust later. I was seriously uncomfortable being asked to strip off so much, asked if it was completely necessary and was told yes. I wish I’d held my ground.
There’s a top tip. Don’t do anything you aren’t comfortable with. You don’t have to take your underwear off. You don’t have to try on a dress you don’t want and you absolutely don’t have to buy it! This might sound like common sense, but after weeks of dress failures, your judgement can become clouded.
Then it got worse. You know that public humiliation thing I mentioned. Yeah. That. My worst nightmare. I knew the dress wasn’t going to fit by looking at it. I knew. She insisted that it was just the thing for a girl with curves. I knew when she put it over my head. I knew when I couldn’t get it down over my boobs. “No, no, it’ll be fine, nothing to worry about!” I knew then that it wasn’t going to come off without a fight…
And of course it got stuck. It wouldn’t go down, it wouldn’t come up over my head. I was mortified. I was panicking. It most definitely made ripping sounds. It needed a third person to help me out of it. I was hot, blushing, mostly naked with a stupid dress covering my face and all I wanted to do was bawl my eyes out. I did the right thing of course. Got dressed quickly, left and burst into tears on the street instead. I felt completely ashamed, and I don’t think you should feel that way when you’re shopping for your wedding dress. I replied politely to their follow up email a week later but I made it quite clear that I wouldn’t be back. Ok, my own fault for being a fatty pants, but still. Why force a dress on a person that it clearly doesn’t fit? Why cause that sort of embarrassment?
A few weeks later my mother coaxed me out of the house and into the welcoming arms of Mia Sposa, Newcastle. A calm, quiet, beautiful oasis of lovely. With tea in nice cups, a kindly assistant who was honest in the nicest possible way and never made me feel like I needed to change anything about myself to look good in a dress.
I feel like I have apologised for my size and shape a hundred times while dress shopping. I think I explained about being on a diet and how much weight I hoped to lose to everyone I encountered. My consultant at Mia Sposa listened and nodded and then pulled out a dress I wouldn’t have chosen in a million years. “This is from a plus size collection. It will be too big for you, but…” “oh, I can’t wear that, that’s for people with flat stomachs and tiny waists…holy shit, look how tiny my waist looks! Look at my flat stomach!”
And there it was. The dress. My consultant had listened. Really listened to everything I was worried about. My arms, my huge ass, my not so flat stomach, how big girls can’t wear this and can’t wear that and how it would be nice but it could never be me. She listened and then carefully picked apart my every concern and presented me with a me I hadn’t seen before.
To the point where the mother of another customer cried. I didn’t really recognise the girl in the mirror. She seemed taller. Had a flatter stomach, had a tiny little waist, her arms were just arms and wow she looked really good.
People said to me that when you find the dress you just know. And you do. I felt like the best version of me. It wasn’t fireworks and excited giggling and crying tears of joy. It was a sense of complete comfort with who I was and what I looked like. Quietly confident. In a dress I wouldn’t have picked in a million years.
My dress has just arrived from the dressmaker. I’m trying it on again in April, I’ll be fitted for it in May and July. I can’t wait to see it again. I hope it’s everything I remember it to be.
This is a message of hope to those despairing of wedding dress shopping, or those too frightened to start. Don’t apologise for yourself. You are you. A good consultant won’t care what you look like and will be able to offer good advice to all body shapes. Do not settle for something because it fits. Do not do things that make you uncomfortable. Do not get hung up on what another bride in the same shop is doing/looking at, you’re very different people. Don’t take an army of people with you. They will all have your best interests at heart but you are the one wearing the dress, not them. Take a trusted advisor or two. Only you will know when you’ve got The Dress.
This may seem like common sense, and it is. But when you’ve spent a long time looking at dresses, trying on dresses, examining every lump and bump in a massive mirror and have yet to see anything you might like to wear on your wedding day it’s easy to lose perspective.
Karen at Mia Sposa was my perspective. So thank you, Karen. You didn’t put any pressure on me. You made me feel good and you humoured me in my Scarlett O’Hara moment.
FYI, you will try on at least one dress that makes you want to run dramatically down flights of stairs and do your best Southern Belle accent. This is fine and most enjoyable if you have a consultant who is happy to let you live the dream. High fives.
Give yourself enough time. You’ve got to find it, order it, have it fitted…obviously this doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t need the added pressure of leaving it late to find a frock.
Be kind to yourself. It’s easy to beat yourself up. It’s a whole lot harder to be nice. When I started looking for a dress my problem areas were magnified and I became very critical of myself. Consequently, I felt sad, not worthy of a nice dress and generally a bit miserable. Not a great frame of mind for dress shopping!
Go forth and have fun with it!