Ultimate Guide to Plus Size Wedding Dress Shopping

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11 Best Wedding Dress Styles for Plus Sizes

Finding your dream wedding dress takes a bit of trial and error for brides of all sizes.
Need help finding "the one?" Here's a list of go-to silhouettes to help you find the best wedding dress style for plus size brides, with tips from bridal fashion experts.

Before we start, let’s have a chat about the models:

When you begin your search for wedding dress inspiration, you will not see any large models, not even in plus-sized styles. Because of this, it's hard to picture what these dresses will look like on your body. It also had the undesired side effect of making me hate my body.

The internet is a great place to start looking and get ideas, just try not to fall into the trap of comparing your body to the models. I shed quite a few tears because I became convinced that there was no way I was going to find a dress that looks good on me, and I would just look ridiculous, and why does fiancé even want to be seen with me? It was a horrible downward spiral.

When you start getting that tinge of fear that you are horribly ugly and you're just going to look like an ugly girl in a pretty dress, it's time to turn off the computer and walk away. Severely, don't torture yourself. Take a break from the internet and maybe all wedding porn for a while.

The shops:

The shop you go to, and the company you bring with you, is going to make or break the experience. I went to five separate shops, a couple of them more than once. Everyone was a different experience, with some better than others. This is one of the most important things to keep in mind. Just because you have a terrible experience in one place, doesn't mean every dress will make you look like crap. Likewise, if the shop isn't treating you well, don't be afraid to speak with a manager or end the appointment.

How to prepare:

Wear underwear that makes you feel good.

Bring some kind of strapless bra, if you have one. Some stores have bras you can wear while trying on stuff. Some gowns are structured enough that they don't require support garments.

If you have your wedding shoes already, bring those, too. If not, bring a pair of shoes around the same height that you intend to wear.

Also, if the store allows, bring a bottle of water. You'll be amazed how quickly dress shopping will dehydrate you.

Shapewear

I'm on the fence about shapewear. On the one hand, you want to look your best, and I admit to wearing Spanx occasionally. On the other hand, you want to be comfortable. I lean more to the being comfortable side. My thought is that you will want to find a dress that looks great without the shapewear. Then if you want a little extra help, you can add the shapewear later.

There's an episode of The Simpsons (Simpson and Delilah, it's the one where Homer gets hair) where Homer is shopping for a suit with his secretary. Karl sees homer sucking his gut in a while being measured. He stops Homer and says to him, "You. Let it out." Then turns to the tailor and says, "You. Disguise it." That's how I feel about wedding dresses. They should be cut in such a way as to make you look great, regardless of the presence of Spanx.

The clips

The first thing to know, is that dress shops only get samples in specific sizes. Don't be afraid, though.

So let’s look at some of the different styles and what might or might not work for you.

1. A-Line Wedding Dresses Look Great on Every Body

"Anything A-line, especially if it has an empire waist, can be very flattering, especially if you want more coverage," says Terry Hall, the director of Kleinfeld Bridal. "Because the waist starts right under the bust line and immediately goes out into an A-line, it's an ideal silhouette for brides who want to be more discreet."

2. Wedding Gowns with a Dropped Waist Hug Your Curves in All the Right Places

"For a plus-size bride who wants to accentuate her shape, a dropped waist corseted gown can be very sexy because it helps to create curves," says Hall. "A bride might think that she doesn't have a waist, but a bodice top can carve one out." A drop waist dress also lets you have some fullness at the bottom of the gown. This style can also accentuate the hips in a flattering way.

3. Ball Gowns Work Magic for Pear-Shaped Brides

Choose a timeless ball gown nips you in the right at the most spare area of your torso — your waist! Ball gowns are an excellent choice for pear-shaped brides — they show off your smaller upper half, and the luxurious fabric on the bottom leave everything else to the imagination. And, no matter your body type, a ball gown will make anyone feel like a princess.

If a full ball gown is what you're going after, then Oleg Cassini is your designer. "The line is known for their opulent, glamorous princess ball gowns (think Jackie Kennedy's wedding dress) and has many dresses specially cut to flatter fuller figures," says Lori Conley, Senior Merchant for David's Bridal.

4. Mermaid Wedding Gowns Give You Legs for Days

Work with a tailor to make sure the flair out begins just above the knees to give the illusion of longer legs. As far as designers to look for, Hall suggests Lazaro and Dennis Basso.

"Lazaro is a particularly good choice for brides who like beading and lace embellishments throughout, " says Hall. "Another designer that specializes in mermaid shapes for fuller figures is Dennis Basso. In addition to designing a great mermaid shape, Dennis Basso is also known for his rushing and use of dreamy organza fabric, which are both very flattering on plus-size brides. The dresses are fitted and accentuate the waist.".

5. Try Trumpet Wedding Gowns that Fit, Flare, and Flatter

A trumpet wedding gown is very similar to a mermaid dress — both feature a curve-hugging silhouette that flares out toward the bottom of the dress. On trumpet dresses, however, the flare begins at mid-thigh. If you're looking for a plus-size style of this dress,

Conley suggests looking to Zac Posen.

Plus-size brides who favor Zac Posen's curve-hugging trumpet cut gowns will find their ideal look at the designers Truly Zac Posen bridal line. What makes this line work for fuller figure brides is the specific attention that is paid to the waist and hip proportions, explains Conley. "This ensures that the dresses are not only flattering but also comfortable."

6. Corset Wedding Gowns Cinch You In and Boost Your Bust

When a gown comes with a built-in corset, it automatically shapes your body and gives you the appearance of a smaller waist and a bigger bust. Designer Pnina Tornai creates a lot of dresses with these built-in corsets, and the dresses are favorites among plus-size brides, according to Hall. "Her designs are known for their built-in corsets, which give a lot of support, emphasize the waist, and carve out a gorgeous figure for full-figured brides."

7. Sheath Gowns Lengthen and Lean You Out

Create the illusion of height and length with a sheath gown. The uninterrupted line of the dress never fails to flatter, and, as a bonus, it's a breeze to hem. Sheath gowns feature ample structure and support, as well.

8. Wedding Dresses with a High-Low Hem Show Off Your Legs

Like a sheath gown, a wedding dress silhouette featuring a high-low hem tends to elongate the leg and stretch out the body overall. Plus, it's a somewhat unexpected wedding silhouette and perfect for the avant-garde bride. It adds a touch of drama and gives you modest coverage in the back while showing off your legs in the front.

9. Wedding Gowns with a High Neck Give You a Long Lines

Of course, you want to look amazing, but be mindful of a secretly high maintenance dress. Even a simple silhouette that’s impeccably tailored may need to be hoisted up throughout the night if it’s not right for your body. And who wants that?!

For any woman in search of fuss-free and flattering (especially those with cleavage keen to avoid a wardrobe malfunction on the dance floor), a high neck silhouette is a stylish choice.

To soften the look, consider an illusion neckline like those seen at Berta and Halfpenny. The overall effect is layered and feminine with just the right amount of cleavage, not to mention ultra flattering thanks to the long, lean line the high neck creates.

10. Bridal Jumpsuits Lend Structure and Support

You don't have to sacrifice comfort for style on your wedding day — and designers like Gemy Maalouf and Naeem Khan have picked up on the modern woman’s desire to have the best of both worlds and have sent some bridal jumpsuits down the runway.

Not only does a jumpsuit up the comfort factor, but it can also be a really flattering choice. It provides shape and structure in ways that a dress can’t, accentuating your waist and highlighting your legs. If you don’t want your curves to get lost under an abundance of fabric, this could be the silhouette for you!

11. Wedding Gowns with an Exposed Shoulder Draw the Eye Upward

As evidenced by styles seen at Theia and Reem Acra, the combination of an exposed shoulder and a wispy sleeve is genuinely flattering on all body types. Not only is a cold shoulder undeniably chic, but it also provides just enough upper arm coverage for women who don’t want to bare it all.

And for brides who want to experiment with volume without adding bulk, a delicately ruffled drop-sleeve is a perfect, on-trend way to add interest (not to mention romance!).

More Dos and Don'ts for Plus-Size Wedding Dress Shopping

Now that you're familiar with the most flattering wedding dresses for plus-size brides, you're totally ahead of the game when you go dress shopping. Here are a few more do's and don'ts to help you find the perfect gown!

Do Opt for a Size that's Too Big Rather than Too Small

If you're top is more significant than your bottom (or vice versa), strategically choose the size that fits the more substantial part of your body and then has the other area tailored to meet the smaller portion (this advice applies to everyone). It's more straightforward (and less costly) for the tailor to alter the dress to be lower where it needs to be that it is to change it to be bigger.

Don't Be Discouraged If Your Dream Gown Isn't In Your Size

If you're shopping off the rack and it doesn't appear that the designer dress you've fallen in love with comes in your size, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Often times, designers offer their dresses in sizes up to size 24 even if the store you're in doesn't carry them — you'll just have to contact the label itself. Note: some designers have an extra charge for making the dress in a bigger size, which ranges from $100 to $200. But, if it's your dream dress, this just might be a price you're willing to pay.

Do Look for Ruching

"Anything with ruching can be very forgiving, regardless of your shape or height," advises Hall. "It also helps to add support and gives the dress more structure." In particular, look for dresses that are ruched in an asymmetrical pattern — for instance, gathered on one side of the dress. "That pattern brings the eyes up to the face and creates a vertical shape to the gown," says Hall.

Don't Go for a Piece-Meal Gown

"Avoid gowns that look pieced together. For example, the bodice is one style, and then the hip or skirt is a completely different fabric or texture. Different shapes or fabrics that don't transition smoothly can visually cut the body in unflattering ways," explains Hall. "It doesn't mean the whole town has to be the same fabric, but make sure each section segues fluidly and flows together."

Do Look for Asymmetrical Details

Hall recommends looking for dresses that have asymmetrical detailing, which is not only more flattering but artistic and unique. The asymmetrical hem will draw the eye downward and create fullness at the bottom of the gown, which will balance out fullness on the upper or mid portion of the body. For this reason, an asymmetrical gown is (perhaps surprisingly) one of the best wedding dress shapes for plus size brides.

Don't Choose Flimsy Fabrics

Avoid thin fabrics such as silk charmeuse or chiffon, which just skim the body and can magnify every little detail, says Hall. But other than that, feel free to go for anything: "Taffeta, organza, lace, and duchess satin are all very flattering for plus-size brides."

Do Choose Something that Reflects Your Personality

"If there's ever a time that a bride has to wear something that she loves when it comes to fashion, it should be on her wedding day," encourages Hall. "Every shape, embellishment, and detail comes in plus size, so if you want to have ruffles, bows, flowers, or beading — go for it!"

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