I'm getting married in November. Actually, to be precise, I am getting married in 104 days, which seems like both really long time from now and also way too soon.
A lot can happen in 104 days. I weirdly remember "The 100th Day of Class" always being a big celebration in elementary school and thinking in my little kid brain that that was a substantial milestone. We even judge president's by it: Kennedy established the Peace Corps, Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act, Ford pardoned Nixon, Truman dropped two atomic bombs and ended WWII, and Trump failed to pass an economic stimulus package all in the first 100 days of their respective presidencies. Yet 104 days still isn't enough time to get a wedding dress for a fat bride with a budget of $1500.
I should have bought my dress a year ago when I got engaged. It doesn't matter that I was pregnant at the time and had no clue what the hell my body was going to do or how it was going to look, I should have bought that dress and altered my body any which way I had to in order to fit in it. Or at least that's what I walked away with from the first (and only) bridal appointment that I arranged.
Honestly, I was on the fence about doing any bridal appointments at all. There is something about trying clothes on in front of people that really does not appeal to me. When I try stuff, I want to take it in solo and judge it worthy before I show it off, but if "Say Yes to the Dress" has taught us anything, that is just not how wedding dress shopping is done. Plus, I told myself, maybe, just maybe it will be fun.
I picked a very cute, Instagram-worthy shop on the west-side of Atlanta to be my jumping off point into this scary world of taffeta and tulle and I genuinely let myself get excited about it. The shop specializes in both vintage and designer gowns and they pride themselves on stocking dresses from indie designers, which I love. It's also a small shop and very intimate so I thought it took some of the scariness out of it. My maid of honor, who is also engaged, and I (unbeknownst to each other) picked the same day and had back-to-back appointments, which was kind of magical because we could try on dresses together.
It started out all roses. My friend, who is also plus-size, had her appointment first. She is getting married a year from now and had a bunch of stuff to choose from. In all honesty, the first dress she picked was so stunning on her it made me tear up a little bit. Yeah, I'm a sap. It was a Rebecca Schoneveld, who is featured on the wedding shop's website, and I was pretty excited to see one of her dresses in person. She is one of those rare wedding dress designers who actually features plus-size models on the FRONT page of her website and I AM HERE FOR THAT. It was an a-line gown with the most stunning embroidery, a perfect blend of whimsy and romantic. She rocked the hell out of it.
When it was my turn, I met with my bridal assistant and told her a little about my wedding and a bit about my style. I wanted a super boho, not too traditional dress, preferably with some lace. Then we went to the back and looked through the dresses. They were lovely. We pulled seven or eight and I couldn't wait to try them on. I had a baby five months ago and abdominal surgery two weeks ago so I'll admit I'm not feeling my physical best, however, I thought I was sort of getting back to myself. I was able to squeeze into my pre-baby jeans the day before and that was PROGRESS. "I can try on wedding dresses now," I thought to myself when I shimmied the old denim up my thighs. Apparently, I was wrong.
Not a single dress even came close to fitting. The first dress wouldn't fit on my arms so I was forced to walk out of the dressing room pushing them in front of me like I was holding an invisible platter. The second dress I barely squeezed into and was so tight the zipper wouldn't go up at all so the assistant shoved what looked like a pillowcase in the back of it so my entire butt wouldn't be exposed. The third one was a "very stretchy, forgiving fabric" according to my assistant, which is the only reason I was able to get it slightly into place and it was still so tight I felt (and looked) like I was jammed into a sausage casing. After that we tried two more, but they were both so small that it wasn't even worth showing them to anyone because it just looked, quite frankly, embarrassing.
I stood in the dressing room, wearing a pair of loose, high-waisted maternity underwear, and tried not to cry while my assistant held up dresses and said "this won't fit, but imagine what it would look like on." If I want to imagine what a dress looks like on, I'll stick with my fat girl forte and buy something online.
The dress that I was most excited about, a beautiful Houghton NYC number that was marked 50% off because the style had been discontinued, I was not even allowed to attempt to try on because there was no way that it would fit and the assistant seemed seriously concerned that I would rip it.
Okay, so I know what you might be thinking "well you just went to the wrong place, you can go to a bridal salon with plus sizes!"
First off, bite me.
Second off, I emailed the salon and let them know my size, my wedding date, and my budget well ahead of my appointment and even made it seem like it might be an issue. They told me to come on down and that they would definitely have something to accommodate me. In fact, when we got there one of the bridal assistants even bragged about how they "do all this research" on their clients before they come so that they can pull stuff that we'll love.
I did not make a bridal appointment to immediately fall in love and buy a dress (don't get me wrong, if that had happened I would have been thrilled), I made the appointment because I wanted to feel like a bride. I've had a rough year. I had a baby, I had all these medical issues that ultimately required surgery, my relationship with my partner has been under a decent amount of stress because of this turbulence, and I haven't really gotten to do the fun wedding stuff. Most of it has been getting quotes, signing contracts, and paying for stuff. This was the moment that I was hoping would make everything feel "real" and make the not-fun wedding stuff worth it. I wanted to wear a wedding dress and look at myself in a mirror, smile at my mom and my best friend, and feel a little bit pretty. Instead, I felt like an outsider intruding on this lovely world where of course nothing would fit me because I am not ideal nor am I welcome.
After our imagination exercise, my assistant walked off and disappeared so I put my clothes back on and headed out to where my mom was sitting. I quietly asked her to leave, gave my friend a hug, and walked out to my car. I made it to the driver's seat before I started crying.
Sometimes it is really hard to be body positive and it is even harder to be fat positive.
This year, the average size of an American woman was officially bumped up to a 16-18, brands and retailers are slowly, but surely starting to design more fashionable, affordable plus-size clothing, and indie brands are killing the game (shout out to plus-size bloggers Gabi Gregg and Nicolette Mason whose Premme line was popular that their website crashed almost immediately after launching), so why are we still marginalizing plus-size brides?
Part of me, believes that there is still this malicious, erroneous assumption in the bridal world that plus-size women are not desirable nor deserving of love and therefore will not be brides so there is no need to make plus-size wedding dresses. I can only hope that these designers enjoy watching fat dollars fly away from them.
After my appointment, my bridal assistant sent me an email and said that my timeline and price point were the problem and told me to check out Reformation or BHLDN. I'm familiar with both. Neither stock plus-sizes.
**Author's Note: I wear a US size 14-16 and I fully acknowledge my privilege of being a white, acceptable fat. My experience was extremely poor and I cannot imagine (but would love to hear about) the experiences of other fat and super fat brides**