There is a wedding gown for every bride, but if you're over size 14, it might be a challenge to find the perfect dress. Luckily, that's changing. Thanks to the TLC television show "Curvy Brides" and bridal shops that cater to plus-size brides, it's getting easier for brides of all sizes to find their dream dresses.
These days, the average woman in the U.S. wears a size 14, and yet bridal gowns traditionally are made for smaller sizes.
"Plus-size for us means anyone who has had trouble finding dresses to fit them elsewhere," say Yuneisia Harris and Yukia Walker, owners of full-figured bridal salon Curvaceous Couture and stars of "Curvy Brides."
Walker knows how frustrating it can be for plus-sized brides to find a gown. After getting engaged, she struggled to find sample gowns and ultimately didn't like the dress she chose. Out of that experience, she and her sister started their company.
The sisters explain that in eveningwear and in bridal, everything is cut smaller: "So while a person might have a smaller street size, like a 12 or a 14, in a wedding gown, they might have to order something as large as a 20."
That means when traditional bridal salons have sample dresses in sizes 8 to 12, "they're really only servicing brides whose street size is 4 to 10," say Harris and Walker.
The notion of plus-size bridal fashion carries many misconceptions. In some cases, brides aren't aware that plus-sizing exists in the wedding world, because it's typically underrepresented or not seen at all. Often, plus-size brides end up buying wedding gowns online -- one of the few places with larger sizes.
Still others assume dresses in larger sizes should be plain and not embellished, "that plus-size women don't desire the same beautiful dresses and fabrics as their straight-size counterparts," says Erena Shklovsky, creative director and head designer for plus-size designer IGIGI, noting that many plus-size brides want "delicate beading, luxe fabrics and innovative cuts just like other brides."
Another misconception? That being plus-sized means you need to cover up!
"I'd say that 60 percent of our brides initially ask us to add a sleeve or a shawl to a dress because they're afraid of showing their arms or back," say Harris and Walker, noting that adding a sleeve or a strap, for example, "is not the most flattering choice for a bride."
In other cases, gowns with straps, sleeves and extra fabric can make a bride look matronly.
"We just want our brides to be happy with their dresses, and sometimes that means helping them embrace their natural beauty," say Harris and Walker, who feel viewers like the show because it allows them to see brides they relate to try on and look great in gorgeous gowns.
Designing full-figured fashions involves more than simply adding extra fabric. Because every bride has a different size and body shape, gowns need specialized fits, including built-in support for large busts, for example.
More fashion lines and bridal lines are starting to embrace women of all sizes. Harris and Walker praise designers like Roz la Kelin and Enzoani for being some of the first designers to offer plus-size samples.
"I think the biggest and best addition to plus-size bridal collections is Christian Siriano's dress for Nicolette Mason," says Shklovsky. "It showed the rest of the fashion world that plus-sized women deserve more than to be covered with loads and loads of fabric."
Still, no wedding gown is truly ready-to-wear. All dresses need alterations, including changes to hemlines, bust lines, waistlines, sleeves and shoulder straps. No matter what the dress size, a perfect fit is flattering!