The wedding day should be perfect for every girl in the world, however for those women who are at size 20 and up, the experience of wedding planning can be more frustrated than usual, so how do those plus-size girls save their special days?
It’s July 2020, 6 weeks before Krissi Anthea’s wedding, she still couldn’t find a perfect wedding dress for the most crucial day in her life.
Bridal gown shopping is supposed to be a joyful scene: families and the best friends all sip champagne at a bridal boutique and dab away tears when the bride finally finds her fated gown.
It’s what happens if you are at average sizes.
But for Krissi Anthea, a Cambridge 28-year-old bride-to-be at a size 22, wedding dress shopping can be a nightmare.
“The thought of going into a shop to try them on fills me with dread, so I’d ordered one from eBay which shocked didn’t fit. It seems to be required for a couple of sizes bigger for a wedding dress than the ordinary one,” says Krissi.
What makes Krissi more stressed is the invisible demands of the wedding industry for brides’ body type. She says, “The whole bridal dress shopping process seems to imply that brides should go on a diet for her perfect wedding dress and to be a ‘better version’ of herself, but what if I’m already the best version of myself?”
Therefore, Krissi is not going to compromise this time. Her bride war started. She says, “I might have to put off my wedding day to look for the perfect dress as long as I can.”
Krissi is not the only big girl in the bride war field. Over 5600 women in a private Facebook group chat called “Plus Size Brides UK” and new posts looking for advice to find the most basic bridal necessities can be found in the chat group every day.
The chat group’s admin Joanne Cooke says, “It’s not always easy to find even basic plus-size bridal kits, plus-size brides will routinely encounter stuff they like, but that usually isn’t available in their size.”
Joanne is also a co-founder of a curvy bride boutique. She explained the dilemma of these plus-sized brides-to-be, “Some bridal brands never produce plus-size wedding dresses. Even if some labels make larger sizes dresses, they will charge higher prices for it or only provide customized service, which may exceed the average wedding budget, and those dresses are always non-refundable.”
According to the data on the WED2B website, the UK’s largest bridal retailer, there are currently 221 off-the-rack wedding dresses available in size 8; almost 100 in size 14; and for most bridal brands dresses, a size 16 is considered the biggest size. However, according to the date by the Office for National Statistics in 2020, the average woman in England weighed 11 stone (70.2kg) wearing size 16 clothes, which means wedding dress shopping as a plus-size bride has the potential to be not just difficult, but miserable.
Bride Lisa Neave, who will get married in April next year, says her experience to snap up suitable dresses online, “You have to continually pay attention to the dress in the size you need, and it will be out of stock any minutes when you refresh the page. It’s no exaggeration to say that I had to check the dresses every hour for the past week to buy all the dresses I needed for my wedding.”
Besides the low stocks of the plus-sized bridal gown online, the online wedding dress’s quality can’t be ensured as well. On the WED2B website customers’ review page, some reviews mentioned itchy fabric, a poor fit, or uneven detailing of the specific dress. But for most costumers, the wrong size is still the biggest issue.
However, the inappropriate size problem is the well-known drawback of online shopping, so why they still take a risk to buy an online wedding dress rather than try the gown in person at high street bridal stores?
For Krissi Anthea, trying a wedding gown in person at the store could amplify the uncomfortable feeling about her body and weight. “I can’t stand the eyesight of those body-shaming salespeople and the undelightful feeling when I saw things that I want wasn’t available in my size.”
Jes M. Baker, an activist of the body-positive movement, reveals the reason behind Krissi’s fatphobic experience. She said to Market Watch, “Companies, I think, are really in this interesting place where they’re trying to capitalize on body-positive movement, but our entire culture is incredibly fatphobic still.”
Besides the whole obese-phobic culture of the society, the wedding, or even the entire fashion industry, still demands the traditional beauty and standardized body types from its customers. Sarah MacDonald, a fashion and culture editor, says, “plus-size is a fashion mainstay, not a trend. Those inclusive sizing clothes were neither trendy nor pretty. They just fit the person. Those garments guaranteed that plus-sized bodies remained minimized, and they were often tucked away in stores, so if any woman beyond a size 14 needed something, they’d have to dig for it. With this comes a side of shame toward a person’s body.”
Instead of waiting around for traditional fashion brands to catch up, some body-positive promoters and fashion designers in the wedding field started to launch their own brands and garments to redefine beauty.
The Welsh wedding dress designer, Samm Buca, was such colourful promoters in the body positive. Her wedding dress shop, which stars in new BBC episodes, is called Pink Butterfly Brides. This sweet bridal gown shop provides all kinds of gorgeous wedding dresses for women in all sizes, height, and bodies.
Samm has the power to make everyone feel at home at her Nolton Street wedding dress shop at Bridgend, Wales. She operated this wedding shop with her mum and sister. They are the dream makers for all brides-to-be in different sizes and body types.
Samm has her “magic talent” to detective details of brides’ lives before designing and choosing the perfect dress for the biggest day of their lives. Her rule is whether you’re tall, short, plus size or petite, every girl deserves to look and feel amazing. “I don’t care what size or shape you are, you will look beautiful on your wedding dress,” Samm told Wales Online.
She opened the store in 2007 because many of her friends were getting married, and she found that most of them didn’t feel comfortable in bridal shopping. “The Bridal dress shops just weren’t catering for the average person,” she said to Wales Online. “So, I wanted to change that. For a lot of women, it’s the most important day of their lives. They shouldn’t be looking at dresses and immediately thinking, ‘oh, I need to lose three pounds now’.”
Racheal Davies, a size 20 girl, who brought her perfect wedding dress at Pink Butterfly Brides in 2019, felt appreciated to Samm Buca. When her husband proposed to her, the wedding plan already formed in her head. She says, “At that time, I just read a news about a bride who lost six stone from size 20 to size 8 for her wedding day. I don’t want to that because not having a perfect body for a perfect wedding dress isn’t my fault.”
Through the recommunication of Racheal’s aunt, Racheal knew such a lovable bridal store. With an in-depth communication and description, Samm finally helped Racheal design a perfect wedding dress. “Love your body no matter what size you are,” says Racheal.
Besides the wedding dress designers who promote body positive by realizing others’ dreams, the writer and the founder of “I Believe You” and “It’s Not Your Fault” Blog, Lindy West, also uses her own wedding story to inspire plus-size brides.
Before Lindy got married, her designer friends and wedding planners all told her the wedding dress’s essence is flattering. It seems that the whole plus-size wedding dress is to hide your unperfect prat of body, which lacks inspiration, thought, and talent than producing a straight-sized wedding dress.
But Lindy chose not to hide her body anymore and definitely wasn’t going to conceal her body at her wedding. So, she decided to wear a skin-tight mermaid gown exploding with silk flowers. The slinky dress highlighted her stomach instead of hiding it. Her arms looked like what they initially are – strong and big. “But I knew I was beautiful,” says Lindy.
Lindy wrote her whole wedding planning process story in The Guardian. She says to her readers, “As a fat woman, you are told to disguise, shrink or flatter your body. But I wasn’t going to hide at my wedding – the older I get, the harder it is to depoliticize simple acts.”
Still worried about the perfect wedding dress for their special day, Krissi Anthea and many other brides-to-be continued their war with the ideal gown, online retailers, and their own mental blocks. This time they will take the initiative and win this war.