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6 practical tips on shopping for a plus-size wedding dress

Shopping for plus-sized wedding dress
This is a body shaming-free zone.
When we asked you guys what articles you wanted to see on, there was one overwhelming request: tips on shopping for a plus-size wedding gown. And while we've never been that keen on terms like 'plus size' (plus what?!) when people use them in a judgey way, we are keen on sharing tips and advice that will make every bride's dress shopping experience as fun as possible - no matter what size they are. So to do that, we've pulled together six smart, useful thoughts about plus-size wedding dress shopping. 

It's about shape, not size

It's time to change the way you think. We know that's easier said than done, but thinking in terms of shape and silhouette rather than size will go a long way in the hunt for a wedding dress. Boutiques can't possibly carry every size of every dress, so it's likely that the sample they do stock is the 'average' size of their clientele. Alternatively, the boutique might carry two sizes - one smaller, one larger - but where does that leave brides who fall somewhere in the middle? "Plus-size brides might think they'll have trouble finding the right dress for them, but let me say it's not about size," explains Jo from Silk & Style Bridal in Melbourne. "It's about finding what you like and what suits you, no matter what size or body shape you are." Another reason to stop thinking in sizes is, much like other clothing, there really is no such thing as universal sizing. The sizes of wedding dresses will change depending on the designer and the brand. Some high-end designers might size up from a zero, while overseas brands could use a scale that doesn't quite match up with Australian sizes. In short, focus on the fit and try to forget the number on the tag. 
Focus on the fit and try to forget the number on the tag.

You'll still have the 'experience'

Because why wouldn't you? There's no reason to think you won't feel the nerves, excitement or anticipation that come hand-in-hand with the dress hunt. There will still be cheers and hugs and (happy) tears from your entourage when you find 'The One'. Heck, there might even be a bottle of bubbly thrown into the mix. However, while the experience of actually shopping for a wedding dress doesn't change, the experience of trying on dresses might. Jo admits that sample dresses aren't always made in plus sizes, and there can be a smaller pool of style choices. "We may have to hold the gown up to you rather than put you into the gown," she says. A consultant might also use clips, ties or an expander to create a more comfortable and natural looking fit. 

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Groundwork is important

It pays to do your homework before diving into your shopping excursions, and some quick research will help make sure your experience is a positive one. First up, know what you're in for. Call up the salons or boutiques on your hit list, tell them your size and ask how they'll be able to work with you. Ask about their range of plus-size samples - including if they have a decent range or the styles you're after - and if they offer in-house alterations. If a store carries a small selection of plus-size dresses, or doesn't have the styles you'd like to try on, it might be worth crossing it off your list. That way you'll avoid the disappointment of showing up for an appointment at a boutique that can't cater to your shape. Likewise, if you're planning on wearing shapewear on the big day, try to make that call in advance and wear it to your appointments. It will give you an idea of how a dress sits and feels, plus you'll be able to see what the final silhouette looks like. 

In the consultant we trust

Pinterest and Instagram are treasure troves of #weddinginspo, but when it's time to knuckle down and find your dress, neither can hold a candle to a seasoned bridal consultant. A consultant is any bride's best resource for dress shopping. What they don't know about silhouettes, fits, fabrics and shapes probably isn't worth knowing. Jo agrees, "You have to put some trust into an expert consultant, who can say whether your shape and curves will suit a certain style. Find a good wedding dress consultant, not just a salesperson, who will take the time to talk to you about what will suit your body shape and what you want." Your consultant should be supportive and constructive, and offer solutions to any issues you might raise. However, if your consultant (or anyone else in your entourage for that matter) suggests slimming down to fit into a certain style of dress, you need to get in quick and Shut. That. Down.

Consider custom

A wedding dress is made to fit a bride, not the other way around. So if you're finding it hard to find the frock that makes you giddy, think about having one made to measure. This style of dress will fit you in all the right places and give you support where you need it. Another option is to have a couture dress made. You'll be involved in the design process - often working closely with the couturier - and create a one-off dress for your walk down the aisle. It can be just as you imagined it, and you'll be free from the constraints of pre-determined designs. There are different costs associated with these options though, and the final invoice will change depending on your design, fabrics and alterations.
A wedding dress is made to fit a bride, not the other way around.

Needing alterations isn't a negative

Almost every bride, no matter what their shape, has some kind of alteration or change done to their wedding dress. In fact, alterations are an essential step in guaranteeing your dress fits perfectly. Jo also points out that if a wedding dress goes up a size, the length of the dress may also change. "If you're not tall, the bodice may end up being too long for you, even though the style is right. It will become disproportionate to your body and not sit right on your hips." The same can be said for tweaking the fit around your bust (Janet Jackson-style wardrobe malfunctions must be avoided at all costs), changing necklines, or adding straps or sleeves. The world of alterations also covers the addition of any embellishments or detailing, including beading and lace. 

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