Plus Size Wedding Dresses - Are Bridal Shops Doing It All Wrong?
My shop has been open for almost a year now, and I've appreciated everything it's taught me so far! Originally, I thought I was going to do plus size women a favor by opening a shop that only carries plus size wedding dresses in sizes 14 - 32 or larger, custom sizes. If you've read my about us page, you'll see a glimpse of what I'm talking about. I was super excited that I would be doing something different, unlike the majority of the bridal industry, as they've been pretty slow to catch on.
As I did more research, I remembered back to when I was in my 20's (only 6 years ago!) and recalled that I was not as "okay" with being plus size as I am now. I hadn't come to terms with it yet, and instead it seemed as though I was constantly made to feel less than. In fact, most of the time I loathed going clothes shopping, especially with my two thin sisters, or my mom. It seemed every store we went in had a huge selection of clothes for them to browse through, while I walked quickly to a small section that mainly carried clothing geared toward middle-aged and older women. I was done looking in about five minutes, and would go back to where my sisters were still shopping, feeling frustrated and upset at the designers of "regular" size clothes. I would constantly find cute clothes that just didn't come in my size. Why couldn't designers just use more fabric and make more items in additional sizes? Why was this so difficult?
I remember being completely resistant to shopping in exclusively plus size stores. Ducking into Torrid hoping no one saw me go in because I was ashamed to have to shop there. But they were one of the very few stores who carried clothing that didn't look like I should be wearing grandma shoes and a visor with it. I won't even share the awful things I said in my head about places like Lane Bryant or the Avenue. Each time I needed clothing, it seemed like I had to show the world that I had failed at life. That people were probably looking at me going in there and think that I'm lazy, unhealthy, and just sit around and overeat all the time, so now I have to shop here. *It wasn't until years later that I've become more comfortable with just being me, and not worrying what about what people think! Most of this was just my own insecurities getting the best of me.
When it came time to go wedding dress shopping, my experience was not any different. I went to several boutiques looking for plus size wedding dresses, as well as David's Bridal, before I gave in, settling for something that worked.
The point is, NO ONE wants to go into a separate clothing store for overweight people to shop. No one wants to go to a separate section for overweight people to browse through a very small, limited selection of clothes, and feel judged while you're there. It's like constantly being told, you're not good enough to shop here. The solution most people will say? Just lose weight. Then you'll fit into "regular" size clothes. Great!! Thank you for pointing out what I am so painfully aware of every single day I wake up and look at myself in the mirror! I often find myself just resorting to shopping online because I might have better luck finding a bit more of a selection. However, even when shopping online, most stores still have a "Women's" section, and a separate "Plus Size" section. WHHHYYYYY????
68% of American women wear a size 14 or above. We don't want to be labeled as plus size and have to shop only in the 'other' part of the store if you're above a size 20. Plus, there aren't really any industry standards, so sizes can vastly differ between brands. Everyone knows that bridal shops are known for dresses running small because of "couture sizing," which puts plus size brides at an even greater shopping disadvantage. Not only are you told that there's a limited selection of gowns to be able to try on, or that only a limited selection of the gowns in the boutique are available in larger sizes, but now that size 20 that you may or may not have felt so great about in the first place actually needs to be a size 24 to fit you.
I realized I was doing it all wrong! Just like all of the other bridal stores I've seen. I thought I was doing plus size ladies like myself a favor by creating a shop where larger sizes only would be found, but I quickly realized that I was only perpetuating the problem. No bride size 14-20 is going to shop here when they can find gowns in stores that carry 'regular' sizes. And while a bride that wears a larger size might be lucky enough to stumble across my site, I'm certainly not doing them any favors by keeping them separate! Unfortunately I still have to put "plus size" in my product listings because I won't show up in searches otherwise!
I decided to start following in the footsteps of other industry leaders like ModCloth. There are no separate sections for plus size and regular size. There's no feeling banished to a small section of the store with a limited selection, or needing to filter selections in the store to find the items that come in plus size - they all do! And they're just listed as sizes. No "W" after the number to indicate that it's larger. If we want to start changing the industry, this is the shift that needs to start happening toward inclusivity. So, while my focus may remain more toward creating a shop where an abundance of plus size gowns are available, they can be purchased in any size. No one is excluded.
In the slight defense of the bridal industry, I completely understand how difficult and expensive it is for shop owners to purchase sample gowns in larger sizes when there are already minimum purchases to keep up with. I understand that it's a risk to invest in this area, and, I understand that it can be difficult for salespeople who are not overweight to understand the needs of a plus size bride. But we really need to figure it out! I believe it's a risk worth taking.