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The terror that is dress shopping

I’m not going to beat around the bush, I do not like dresses.

I’m not sure exactly when this happened. As a kid, I inherited dozens of uber-fancy dresses from my two older cousins and was known for parading around in a different dress for a couple weeks on end. I had the matching ribbons for my hair, millions of pairs of tights, and my black & white and pink & white saddle shoes. In short, I had it going on in the child fashion world.

Fast forward 20+ years and… not so much. Occassionally I’ll buy a skirt (read: once every 5 years) thinking maybe I’ll give it a try but it invariably hangs in my closet with the tag still attached. Sometimes I’d rip the tags off just so it looked like I had worn it but I’ve long since stopped that ridiculous pretense. Who am I fooling anyway and why does it even matter?

I will readily admit I am an extremely self-conscious person. I don’t carry weight in one area that can be easily concealed with vertical stripes or a slimming black. Instead, I carry everything everywhere. This means I have super large legs, no real defined waist, and flabby arms. It’s been years – decades really – since I’ve worn shorts, a skirt shorter than ankle length, or a tank top in public. I have worn long pants to all-day events where it was 90 degrees simply because I couldn’t stomach the idea of someone seeing my legs.

So when you combine my distate for dresses with my inability to expose any part of my upper arm or shoulder and you have a recipe for wedding dress shopping failure. Still – I spent hours hunting through the online photos and selected a few dresses to try on during my first trip to the bridal store.

But I’d already decided it was going to be this dress:

Dress #2

(Photo: davidsbridal.com)

Simple yet elegant with a little sparkle and shimmer. Her waist looks cute and tiny and the sleeves cover up a lot of skin but still look “current”. I honestly was convinced this was going to be it – and told the lady to let me try this one first.

I should probably mention now that you don’t get a private room to view your dress. You squeeze into a small mirror-less box as the sales lady helps you put the dress on, and then you have to venture out into the main room – in full sight and to the stares and wordless judging of every single person in the store. Oh yeah, and sometimes the dress isn’t the right size and you have to prance out not even fully zipped or buttoned up. It’s good times.

I put the dress on and immediately thought, “this won’t be so bad”. It fit, thankfully, and I already knew what it would look like so figured I could walk out, get a thumbs up, and then talk ordering details.

Until I saw this:


Where did the cute neckline go? Where was my adorably thin waist? Why did I look astonishingly top-heavy? Why on earth was the darn thing so itchy!!!

And that, folks, is how the dress fitting drama began.

I tried on others that would probably work and despite everyone telling me that when I find the correct dress the angels will sing, birds will chirp, and a ray of light will pool down from the heavens on top of me… I’m thinking at this point I’ll settle for “OK”.

I went back online and the reality hit me again. Not that I didn’t know these facts ahead of time – but I’m not 100 pounds and 5’10” tall. I compared many of the styles between the regular and plus sized model. No wonder I had a hard time!

I’d always loved this dress in pictures – until I saw the plus sized girl modeling it. Her hips look tragically wide and she has no bust. In contrast, the regular-sized model looks stunning.

Dress #1

(Photos: davidsbridal.com)

I’m not actually a fan of this next one but again I think it illustrates the point:

Dress #4

(Photos: davidsbridal.com)

I only had a few ideas of things I knew I really didn’t like – strapless dresses, “cupcake” styled skirts, and super-form-fitting cuts. But I also had to eliminate anything with actual sleeves… because as much as Kate Middleton looked stunning with hers, the ones I’m seeing look oddly puritan and way too old-fashioned:

Dress #3

(Photos: davidsbridal.com)

So I’m feeling a bit dismayed and don’t have much interest in going back. I’m honestly thinking of pulling straws on the dresses I did try on and going from there. Plus, as much as I think I’m doing great on the weight-loss front, it still feels like too little, too late. I have a drop-dead date for ordering the dress by the end of Sept so it has enough time to get here and be altered and they don’t let you order a size smaller. So during the next months as I keep trekking along on the weight loss front, I’m nervous the actual dress will be too large and need to be sliced and diced.

I’m envious of all you brides who easily found your dresses, love them, and love the whole dress-finding experience. But for me this remains the single most horrifying experience of the entire wedding planning process.

And my fear is that it’s just begun…


16 Responses

  1. If you go to a place where they CARE about the bride they will help you find one that compliments your curves! You will find the right one, I promise you!!! Being a plus size lady myself I completly understand your frustrations!!! Good luck Ali!

  2. I think you look great in that picture! I would maybe go to a different shop with more privacy.

  3. I went to The Bridal Event in Appleton for my dress. The lady I had was SUPER helpful, in fact, she was the one who picked out my dress, after I looked at it and went, “Eh… I don’t really like that..” But after trying on a few dresses she was like, “I’m going to go back out there and grab a few okay..” And she came back in and she goes, “Okay, I know you didn’t like this, but let’s just try it on, okay?” So I did… knowing I already didn’t like it… but as soon as it was on me… Bam.. It was the dress! They really work with your curves and such.. .like, she knew it was going to look good on me!
    You also get a huge room to yourself – total privacy. I mean, the sales lady is there to help you get dressed – and whoever else you want there (I had a bridesmaid), but it’s so big, and you don’t have to go out prancing around in front of other people.

    One thing – do not just settle for a dress! You may have to try on 50, 100 dresses, before you find your perfect one… but you will find it! I was lucky that it was my 5th dress I tried on – but again, that was all thanks to the sales lady.. if I hadn’t trusted her, I would have been looking forever!

  4. The first time (so sad there was a “first time”), I went to a very small boutique wedding shop. They were AMAZING! I knew exactly what I wanted (out of a magazine), like you and showed the photo. The shop didn’t even carry the Elisa line but they went to extremes to get the exact dress in . I was lucky.
    The second time (sad, but fortunate that I found Mr. Perfect) I just knew what I wanted and went in and picked it from a rack.

    I think you’ll find the dress you want. There IS one waiting for you, with your name on it AND you’ll love the way it fits your body. Allison, you see things that the rest of us don’t see. That’s the way it is with all of us. We don’t see our beauty, we see our faults. What I see in that photo of you is one pretty lady that is going to be gorgeous on her wedding day. Don’t worry. You’ll find that dress. Just try to make it fun. It’s only suppose to come around one time so make it the best, most fun experience you can. Laugh when the dress doesn’t fit right and try on ALL the dresses in the store. Make it your day. 🙂

    • Aww your comment made me tear up a little bit. I do need to keep it fun. I think I’m trying to but finding it difficult and maybe also stressing because it’s going by and I’m not enjoying it… It will work out!! Thanks for the encouragement!

  5. Don’t just settle for ‘ok’! there is the right dress out there for you! mine is actually very similar to the first one you showed! And i don’t think it looks bad on you at all!!!

  6. Ali – I actually like the first dress. I think the angle might be what’s bothering you a little because the photo is shot angling up – which makes the neckline look higher.

    I shopped for dresses at 250 pounds. We were also broke grad students. I hated dress shopping. I really wanted to do a fringed short victorian style dress, but John wanted to wear his tails, so I had to find something more formal. It was frustrating shopping for plus size dresses, too. Like size 22. I actually found one that was from the previous year’s season and it was on sale for $200. I had to take that specific dress (sample) and it actually was a size too big. I had it altered to fit and was pretty happy with it. I actually still have it, but I have found I am actually not very attached to my dress at all. It’s not the dress that makes the day – it’s love that two people share.

  7. I knew there was a difference between plus sized models and regular models, but side by side the regular models look too sickly skinny. I think the plus sized look healthy and normal! I don’t know what I would pick for a wedding dress if I had to choose one now but I know you will find the perfect one! And I am excited for you to share it with us!

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