Elisabeth: Mollusks Don’t Have Nervous Systems, Let Alone Body Image


by Elisabeth Snell, Contributing Editor

Elisabeth: Mollusks Dont Have Nervous Systems, Let Alone Body Image | A Practical WeddingEarlier this week, we introduced you to our 2013 writing interns. (Pop over and say hello here if you haven’t yet! Let’s give these ladies a warm welcome.) And today I’m delighted to bring you the introductory first post from Elisabeth, a Brooklyn resident and APW’s first queer intern, who is planning a September wedding that might secretly be my dream wedding (CLAMBAKE WHAT). When we received Elisabeth’s application for our internship program, this was the piece that I read first. And it blew me away. You guys know I’m passionate about having healthy conversations about body image on this site, and Elisabeth just nails it on every level (plus humor!). And now, I’ll leave the rest to Elisabeth.

—Maddie

Elisabeth: Mollusks Dont Have Nervous Systems, Let Alone Body Image | A Practical Wedding

After a particularly sweaty workout the other day I trotted into work in my 5 College Pride t-shirt, only to realize I’d forgotten my clothes at home. Curses.

Thus began a series of panicked phone calls for sympathy to K (who was working on Hurricane Sandy relief efforts but graciously listened to me howl) followed by a subway ride, a taxi, and finally a sprint thru the Columbus Circle TJ Maxx that was worthy of Supermarket Sweep. Ultimately I ended up with a pretty decent outfit, although my boobs looked curiously like anteaters in my new Delta Burke bra. Still, I managed to slide into my 10:00am meeting with a jaunty ponytail and five minutes to spare. Total success, right?

This is funny now as I remember it, dashing through the Teej to find the praxis of cheap and acceptable sweater dresses, championed by a kind, slightly bemused employee cheering like it was overtime of an intramural hockey game. But at the time, I was near tears. “There’s a Gap right near my office,” K suggested, “Can you pop in there?” “I can’t,” I answered curtly. “They only sell plus-size clothing online.” At the time, when I opened my gym bag and saw only the dregs of a Luna bar wrapper, this didn’t seem funny or even manageable. My first thought was, “There are no clothing stores anywhere near here with anything that will remotely fit me. I’m doomed.”

I’m prone to exaggeration, yes, but this is mostly true. When you’re between an 18 and 22, you’re out of luck at most mainstream stores (not to mention many bridal salons). All the work I’ve done over the years to accept my body for its good work of showing up for me every day, of staying healthy and strong, evaporates in moments like these when I think, “If only I were thinner, this wouldn’t happen.” And then I hate myself for thinking it.

This logic model, of course, goes exactly nowhere. Conflating weight loss with happiness is a dangerous road of self-loathing, shame, unhealthy eating, and worse. Most days, I’m pretty damn good at acceptance. My friends and K confirm what I generally believe, that my body is banging. Just last night at dinner, even, my friend C appreciatively asked me to take an extra spin in the pencil skirt and secretary top I was sporting (seriously, my rear deserved its own talk show in that get up). Over the years, some folks have thanked me for being such a role model for larger women, which makes me feel a little like the Ani DiFranco line about “the thanks I get is to take all this shit for you” (incidentally, I solemnly swear to use Ani DiFranco lyrics in as many blog posts as possible).

But wedding planning has thrown a new bump in this long and, frankly, tiresome journey of self-acceptance. I’ve spent a lifetime believing, then questioning, then unlearning the messages mainstream media send flying at us. I’ve worked really hard to feel good about myself. So why am I preemptively sad at how I’ll look at my wedding? Isn’t that the exact opposite of how I should feel? Oh my god, I’m failing at being a bride. Rationally I know that it’s a myth that the perfect bride is waiflike and too excited to eat at her reception and holy hell, that’s not me. (For one thing, we’re having a clambake. Mollusks everywhere! I plan on being so excited that I slurp my share, and maybe K’s share, of those delicious bi-valves.)

So even though I’m already having a reasonably non-traditional wedding, made more non-traditional by the fact that I’m marrying a woman, my theoretical wedding outfit is giving me heartburn (truth: I’m looking at a roll of Tums in my desk drawer right now). I don’t want to wear a big ploofy white dress that could make me feel wider than I am and thus feel badly about myself. I don’t want to wear complicated underwear that makes me feel constrained and again, bad about myself. (Also, you know what you can’t do when you’re constrained? Eat clams.) I feel bad about myself enough without seven layers of tulle heaped on top.

I do want to be beautiful, radiant, the prettiest girl in the room, but I’m stuck on where to shop, what to look for, and how I’ll know what outfit is right—when the outfits aren’t even in my size. Several friends have said, “Just start shopping! Check out bridal stores, just for ideas!” I know they mean well, but it often feels like a reminder that most of those bridal salons don’t carry dresses I could wear. Even when I’m sitting right next to my future husbutch as she busily researches gender-non-conforming bespoke suits, this stuff is still around. And some small, shameful, unforgiving part of me keeps saying, “You want to be pretty? You know, you’d be so pretty if you only…”

Lo, all these years I’ve spent rejecting, abusing and ignoring this body, wishing it would change. What a waste! Those years aren’t coming back! One of my most fervent hopes for my wedding is to feel the way K sees me (on that day, and every other day, but I’m picking reasonable goals for now). I can see it now, even, how she’ll duck her head slightly and give me a little smile. And hot damn, is she going to look good in that custom-made suit. I can do this for her, so why can’t I easily do it for me? When Mary Oliver asks what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life, let my answer not be, “Wishing my body was different.”

Elisabeth Snell

Elisabeth is an MPH working in public health in New York City. Her old okcupid profile said she’s really good at: fixing socially awkward situations at parties, return trips to Ikea, whipping up excellent mac and cheese on camping trips, leaping into the ocean, being chronically late, and having Friday night adventures all over Brooklyn. In September 2013, she married her introverted, punctual K.

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  • Smitty

    GOD I love you. You know I do.

  • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

    The biologist in me is chiming in to say that mollusks do have nervous systems (if rudimentary): “…the nervous system of bivalvia consists of a nerve network and a series of paired ganglia. In all but the most primitive bivalves there are two cerebropleural ganglia on either side of the oesophagus. The cerebral ganglia control the sensory organs while the pleural ganglia supply nerves to the mantle cavity. The pedal ganglia, which control the foot, are at its base, and the visceral ganglia, which can be quite large in swimming bivalves, are under the posterior adductor muscle. These ganglia are both connected to the cerebropleural ganglia by nerve fibres. Bivalves with long siphons may also have siphonal ganglia to control them.”1, 2

    I don’t know if this will be useful, but my best friend is a plus size, and she has struggled with this (still does) in different forms throughout her life. She found her wedding dress at David Bridal’s (for something like 500 or 600 USD) and it looked beautiful on her. I saw photos of her fittings and one of the ones I liked the most (even though she did not choose it in the end) was a gauze, flowy, draped dress. I have no idea of your style / vision what you like, but, options are there. And you will look beautiful because : 1. beauty comes from within and 2. beauty is associated with the joy you feel inside, and on your wedding day, I can assure you you will feel that joy.

    1.Bivalvia
    2.Cofrancesco, Alfred F. (2002). “Nervous System and Sense Organs in Bivalves”. Zebra Mussel Research Program. Retrieved 2012-05-05.

    • http://landlockedlove.blogspot.com Kelly

      I love you for citing sources in the footnotes of your comment.

    • Maddie

      I love you.

    • Anya

      Awesome citations (proper form and all).

      So agreed on ALL the points. :)

      • Elisabeth

        Amanda, I LOVE your cited comment! Thanks for the correction — I’ll never look at a clam the same way. And thanks for the kind words.

    • MDBethann

      I don’t know anything about clams except that they are delicious but I just want to second what Amanda said about the dress.

      One of my BFFs and bridesmaids struggles with clothing issues sometimes too, but we managed to find a flattering dress for her at Alfred Angelo that worked with what the other ladies were wearing (and everyone in my bridal party had different body types). And when she got married a few years ago, she found her dress at David’s Bridal. And sometimes they even have dresses in the plus sizes to try on.

      I don’t know what your style is, but have you thought about a flowy A-line dress, especially if you’re having a clambake – it would be kind of beachy and loose and cool for a summer wedding. Maybe empire waist? Or even look at bridesmaid dresses for ideas – you can get them in white or any color you want; maybe even find something you can wear again.

      Good luck!

  • Steph

    We are the same size (18-22 depending on the brand, time of month etc) I found something I felt beautiful in on my wedding day, something that let me see myself as my husband sees me everyday, and I promise you will too. I opted for the David’s Bridal route, boutiques make me want to gag. But yea. Sending positive vibes your way, LOVE your writing style, and your experience of having to find a work outfit on a moments notice is my own personal brand of terror. If you can do that successfully you can totally knock your wedding dress out of the park :)

    • http://www.stalkingsarah.com Stalking Sarah

      Word to the David’s Bridal route. I was so impressed by their range of sizes.

    • Kate

      Yeah, I’m like anywhere from 14 to 18 depending on the store/item of clothing, and I got mine at David’s Bridal. They didn’t have the dress I ended up with in my size on the floor, but they had another dress by the same designer in my correct size so that they could order the right thing. It was really helpful.

    • Marcie

      David’s Bridal worked for me too – they had my size (18-20) and I found a dress style that looked great. I ended up getting a very similar dress at a boutique in the burbs that had larger sizes but I feel like that was a complete fluke and would have bought the DB dress but for the one I ended up with. Bonus: the corset in the dress meant I didn’t have to wear 3 pairs of Spanx to feel curvy and assured that the girls were staying put!!

      p.s. Elisabeth – you rock!

    • Julia

      Another vote for DB. After feeling like an aged heifer in every other salon (yay for living in a redneck part of the world where the little blonde teenagers marry boys they met at Bible camp; SO not my demographic!), I found a dress that makes me feel my best self, even though I don’t currently look my best self.

      • Elisabeth

        Thanks, all! I wouldn’t even have thought of David’s Bridal (because I’m pretty sure I won’t end up in a white dress), but now I’m adding them to my list of places to peruse bridesmaids gowns that could double as a wedding dress. So helpful!

        • Amanda V.

          David’s Bridal also has a huge range of great bridesmaid dresses if you’re thinking of not going with the white dress route. The bonus here is that it’ll cost much less than a wedding dress if you do get a bridesmaid dress.

  • Julia

    AMAZING post! Welcome, Elizabeth! I already love you!!!

  • Elizabeth

    I’ve been excited to read your first post, Elisabeth. I’ve struggled with my size all my life, although in recent years, I’ve gotten into a better mindset about my body, and I tend to not think of it negatively so often. I’m 7 weeks out to the wedding, and I don’t have an insane workout or diet plan, which a couple years ago, would have been unthinkable to me. There are still times when I feel a twinge of doubt (“this is my wedding! I’m supposed to be my thinnest!) but I can shut those thoughts off and let them stay twinges. You reminded me that I’m proud of my progress. Don’t discount your own.

    On another notes, I love the dresses and the real reviews at igigi.com, and they don’t carry anything too puffy.

    • Autumn

      Another vote for igigi.com – I bought my (non-white) courthouse wedding dress there and I felt gorgeous at size 18. Good luck!

  • Pamela

    I’m a little larger than you, and I know exactly how you feel! I originally planned to have my dress custom made but the designer went on hiatus, so I was stuck getting a store bought dress.

    I ended up with a dress from a consignment shop, but I was able to try on samples at David’s Bridal and Alfred Angelo stores. There are a few plus size bridal shops around too – there’s one where I live now in Columbia, MD.

    There’s also online stores if you are comfortable shopping online – Kiyonna and Igigi both make beautiful bridal gowns, and so do Sydney’s Closet and SWAK Designs.

    • MDBethann

      I live in MD too and when I was looking for bridal stores, I did see a bunch of adds for a plus-size store in the Baltimore, though I can’t remember the name off the top of my head. They are definitely out there and I would imagine that a city as vibrant as NYC probably has one.

      Another idea – since your fiance is having a suit made for her, maybe you could have a dress made for you?

  • MTM

    I skipped the whole trying on dresses bit and just went to dollycouture.com…I wanted no part of my critical size 0 mom and going dress shopping. They can make a dress to your measurements (and you can wear a real bra with a lot of them!).

    • http://thedilettantista.com/ The Dilettantista

      This is my main fear when it comes to dress-hunting for my wedding: my boobs are ginormous compared to the rest of me and always give me trouble when I try on dresses. For this reason I hate strapless dresses because I feel like my boobs are going to my naval, and, alas strapless seems to be the thing to do for any sort of formal dress (see, Oscars, with very few exceptions). I also don’t really like low backs–I like *my* back, but how can I wear a bra if the backstrap is showing blergh. I only wear clothes with which I can wear actual bras–you know, with straps, and underwires, preferably with a bit of minimizing capability in them. This is a MUST for my wedding dress.

      Also white makes me look like I am malnourished and underslept but that’s a whole different story…Still very much having the internal “Should I wear white/cream/ivory because this is my one chance to really rock it since it isn’t a color I ever wear on the regular” or “Should I wear a color but I always wear colors but I like colors but I should seize the day and wear a white dress just not in a traditional wedding shape because princess dresses and strapless dresses aren’t my thing either” Mreh, decisions.

      • http://extragrunty.wordpress.com Extragrunty

        If you like color, wear color! I wore a red dress and loved it. (I also don’t look good in white or pale colors.) I did have the boob problem with my dress as it was strapless and didn’t have enough support . Could have spent more for the corset back.

      • V

        I just wanted to pop in to recommend going the custom route. I had some of the same concerns (exactly one brand/style of bra in the world fits me, the only dress I was going to wear was a dress that worked with that bra), and I absolutely loved the flexibility that ordering a dress online gave me.

        I picked out a basic dress style that was everything I dreamed of and then had super mega, bra covering straps added. Best of all, I was able to get it in a color with a white lace overlay solving my “but it’s my wedding, but I hate wearing white” argument.

        • http://www.thedilettantista.com The Dilettantista

          Great idea! Like I said I love color but I hate wearing white…but it is a wedding not only is it a wedding it is *my* wedding and it will hopefully be the only wedding I ever have, so while I know the white dress is a society/Queen Victoria/construct thing I feel like I should seize my “BE A BRIDE” opportunity while I can. I was thinking something like maybe doing a mixed color dress, but the lace overlay sounds like a neat compromise too. Also giant bra straps.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I’m a size 0 to 4, depending, and had a dress custom made because I wanted long sleeves that weren’t obviously added on to a strapless dress. But, I have a pretty good imagination for these things. I went to a local store recommended by friends, and my dress was manufactured in China. It cost $350, which included 1 round of alterations. There were some fit issues that couldn’t be fixed with alterations, namely that I could only raise my arms so high, but they didn’t hamper my wedding day.

      I totally recommend the custom route to anyone with anxiety about the usual way of finding a wedding dress.

      P.S. for people still budgeting: Getting the dress cleaned after the wedding cost $175.

      • Copper

        My mom’s making part of mine (I found the skirt at a vintage sale, but no top to go with), and the best part is she just says “send me measurements of x, y, and z” and there’s no comment. There’s no size to look at, and if it doesn’t fit it’s because the sewing went wrong, not because my body is wrong. And if anybody knows about being careful around poor body image, it’s my mother, because who on earth do you think I got it from?

      • Heather

        ugh! thanks for that budget note!!!

  • Liz

    Hurray Elisabeth!!! So excited for many many of your posts.

    - Liz (Scheier)

    • Elisabeth

      Thanks, neighbor!

  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

    As a rule I never wear shapewear, but I did on my wedding day. Well actually I wear shapewear shorts sometimes, but that’s to keep my thighs from rubbing together and I buy those a size too big so they’re not tight and that one doesn’t really count. But under my wedding dress I wore this bathing suit like contraption that had hooks at the crotch so I could open it to pee because I was so worried about looking poochy.

    Surprisingly it wasn’t uncomfortable during the day, and I ate like crazy at dinner without feeling constrained but what blew my mind was how crazy relieved I felt when I took it off. It was like my body saying “hey! I let you ignore how uncomfortable this was all day so you could enjoy yourself. but man this thing kind of sucks.”

    • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

      I also had one of those swimsuit like things under my dress, and it was comfortable. Mostly because it was made of a soft material I guess. But you are right, while I felt good the whole day I felt relieved to take it out (but I have the same feeling at night when I let the straps of my bra lose, ok TMI but we’re all girls right?)

    • http://landlockedlove.blogspot.com Kelly

      I didn’t wear shapewear on my wedding day, although I thought long and hard about it, as I wear shapewear on the regular in my day to day life. In the end, it was an outdoor wedding on the first of September (still summer in the Mid West for all intents and purposes) and my dress had an A-line skirt, so I said screw it for fear of being hot and sweaty and miserable.

      But I was majorly concerned about my thighs rubbing together (or “chub rub” as I’ve heard it called) which is PAINFUL after a while. A friend told me about Thigh Society and, oh man, choirs of angels! It’s basically shorts posing as underwear, but it’s NOT compressing in any way. Fabrics are either cotton or bamboo. Super, super, super comfortable. I wore them under my wedding dress and was SO happy I did.

      The link, if anyone is interested: http://www.thighsociety.ca/

      (Also, I swear I’m not shilling for the company or anything. Reading my comment over, I sound a little invested! But I am just seriously so in love with this solution, and wish I’d heard about it years ago. Just spreading the love!)

      • kyley

        I’m seriously going to buy myself two pairs today, and I’m sending this link to my bff. Brilliance! Much better than my standard go to–baby powder.

      • http://www.lulamaeevents.com Meigh McPants

        Another good solution for “chub rub” (ha, I’d never heard that before.) is the anti-chafing gel made by monistat, or some of the anti-chafing products made for serious runners. Seriously, that monistat stuff? Changed my life. I never have to court heatstroke wearing pants or shorts in a DC summer anymore, and as a bonus, it can double as a makeup primer.

        • http://writemeg.com Megan

          Definitely need to track that down. Chub rub is the worst . . . and I’ve been dealing with it since, oh, fifth grade!

          • Cleo

            I run marathons and half-marathons and have lovely, powerful thighs (i.e. they rub together all the time…also happens with my upper arms). The stuff I use to stop the chafe is called Body Glide. It’s in a package that makes it look like deodorant and you roll it on your thighs/arms/wherever in the same way.

            I’m pretty sure you can get it at a Sports Authority or Dick’s if you don’t have a specialty running store in your area.

            Unless you are caught in a torrential downpour, this stuff stays on through pretty much anything. I use it regularly when I wear skirts and dresses to work.

          • KTH

            I’m going to second the Body Glide rec below. Great stuff.

          • CJ

            I’m a scuba instructor, an avid bike commuter and rider, and a paddle sports enthusiast, and let me say that Body Glide is *heaven* itself come down to earth in stick form.

            It actually does a fantastic job of staying useful in hot, humid, wet, or downright submerged conditions, and it has saved me untold pain. (I actually have scars — *literal* *scars* — from the first week-long tropical dive trip we took, but the Body-Glide-protected *two*-week trip left nothing but pleasant memories.)

            I should note that it also works well to make things better after the fact, as I’ve learned on too many occasions. Apparently I’m supposed to wear “cyclist” clothing to bike, but I *so* do not have the psychological ability to accept how I’d look in spandex. Cargo shorts, a T-shirt, and Body Glide for me, thank you kindly.

        • http://www.thehousealwayswinsblog.com Rachel Wilkerson

          Fun fact: that Monistat gel also is basically the same formula as expensive makeup primers. So dab a little on your face before you apply makeup while you’re at it!

        • carrie

          I also got something some years back called Luvees. They’re lacy little shorts with satin on the inner thighs so you don’t rub together. I live in these over the spring/summer when I can’t bear to haul into my Spanx.

        • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

          For the non-serious runner, rubbing your normal antiperspirant/deodorant on your thighs works really, really well for anti-chafing.

      • http://medeamaterial.com jules

        I bought 2 different types of shapewear for my wedding. The bathing suit like contraption with the shorts included to avoid the chubrub. But on the wedding morning, after stuffing myself into it and then putting on my dress, I felt miserable. And I didn’t actually look “shapelier”, since it actually made me look wider because it was so big and bulky and boned and my waist looked like a snowman’s with a ball on a ball and I was spilling out the top and had to deal with hiding TWO sets of straps under my strappy dress. So I ditched the expensive thing, put on a pair of toeless nylons, put on my normal bra and felt so. much. happier. And yeah, my belly makes an appearance in my photographs, but the smile I’m wearing distracts from all of that.

      • http://www.emilywenzel.com Emily

        Also, cheap-o stick deodorant. Keeps your legs from sticking together too, on those hot summer days.

    • Maddie

      Ahhh the swimsuit. I wear skintight dresses a lot, and with a combination of that and HATING chub rub, but also hating when shorts roll down (as they inevitably do on me) I end up wearing something that looks a bit like a 1920′s swimming costume under my dresses a lot.

      You’re so right. I find them pretty comfortable, but man, at the end of the day it’s the BEST feeling to shed that thing.

      • http://thedilettantista.com/ The Dilettantista

        I wear Spanx or control top tights (depending on the weather) pretty much every day (I don’t really like wearing pants because they rub my hips and also if I gain or lose some weight there’s no waist-band on my dresses that will make me feel ick about it). I should note that I am 100% used to these things and I also find them comfortable–the control is more moderate than sausage casing (I have one pair of sausage casing Spanx that I wear when I’m going someplace really fancy and they are almost full body. That’s a commitment). Taking them, and my nice minimizer bra blergh, off at the end of the day is the besssstttttt. Freedom! The perfect days are the days I don’t have to leave my house and so don’t have to put on a bra!

    • Hannah

      A cautionary tale–I had bought a Spanx thing-a-ma-jig (bike shorts w/ the part that also goes up your torso) and at my last dress fitting, the dress would Not. Zip. Up. for the last inch or so. It just wasn’t going to happen. Finally the alterations lady said, “Maybe try without the Spanx.” And indeed, taking that damn thing off meant a zipper that finally would close all the way, both in the shop and on my wedding day.

  • Lauren

    You’re my favorite already. Until Rachel posts again and then you’ll be tied. ;) but this is so spot on.

    I’m anywhere from a 14-18 depending on whether the moon is in the fifth house or the runes have decreed it so or the fifth chapter of Habakkuk prophesied it or something equally esoteric. It took me a long, long time to be OK with my body, helped exponentially by the fact that Chris continuously ogles me with a drooly puppy dog face.

    On the dress front, mine is a Casablanca and I think they go up to size 26 (you know, crazy wedding dress meaningless size). I also had success at David’s Bridal, but none of the dresses were really *me*. And my cousin, who is around your size, is probably getting an Alfred Angelo. So +1 to all of those!

    And I’d also say not to rule out the poofy dresses. I ended up looking stunning in a tulle monstrosity against all odds. I still didn’t buy it, but it did make me feel bride-y and beautiful.

    If you’re curious, here’s my dress. It looks WAY better on a heavier girl than it does on the model, IMO. http://www.casablancabridal.com/collections/view/27/353#.US9i_KKWac0

    • Kate

      “I’m anywhere from a 14-18 depending on whether the moon is in the fifth house or the runes have decreed it so or the fifth chapter of Habakkuk prophesied it or something equally esoteric. It took me a long, long time to be OK with my body, helped exponentially by the fact that Chris continuously ogles me with a drooly puppy dog face.”

      THIS. I hear you.

      I also second the bit about not ruling out the poof. I went in thinking I wanted a-line tea length, and tried on a champagne colored ball gown at David’s Bridal and BAM. We all just got quiet and stared at it, and I love it.

      • Suzzie

        I went in to the shop I eventually found wanting to look at a simple bridesmaid style dress that draped longer on the sides and came up about mid calf length in the middle. What did I get in the end? The dress with the longest freaking train in the store – when I first saw it on the hanger I didn’t like it – (the store got a kick out of this as I went in telling them I hate trains), beaded, slightly off shoulder and ivory. I did have it altered and had the train removed (and added beautiful purple lace my MIL sent from India). But the dress showed off perfectly the hourglass figure that I do have and didn’t accentuate my ginormous arms (despite being anywhere between a 14-18 as well). Definitely learned not to rule out something because never know how it looks until on!

        My husband is the same way and boy does he make me feel sexy and beautiful!

  • http://byjacki.com Jacki

    Okay, I love the word “husbutch” so much. And also this: ‘When Mary Oliver asks what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life, let my answer not be, “Wishing my body was different.”’

    RIGHT?! I need to not let that be my answer, either. While I’m not yet planning a wedding, I’m already busily hating my body and how wedding clothes will look on it. My shape is very top-heavy and it has caused me far too much stress in the last 15 years since this rack made its appearance. And yet that’s not at all how my partner sees me … he sees beautiful, sexy, wonderful, etc. Why do we do this to ourselves? Looking forward to reading more of your work, Elisabeth!

    • http://thedilettantista.com/ The Dilettantista

      Big rack committee solidarity forever.

  • SarahToo

    A word from the other side of the fence (eg. from a skinny, boob-less, butt-less gal who would have possibly been in style during the Twiggy era)….body image can be terrible even if you’re thin (myself being a case in point). I have a number of friends whose lovely bodies range from size “curvy” to “voluptuous” to size “Rubanesque” and HOT-DAMN do they look fabulous on the dance floor! At my own wedding, I didn’t feel like the “most beautiful woman in the room” partly because I don’t have much experience with getting dolled up, was on a tight budget, and ended up prioritizing other things (like making sure the guests were well fed at our self-stage-managed wedding) rather than maximizing my appearance. Which was ok. Except for that insecure little voice inside that pipes up when I look at our (crowd-sourced) wedding photos and says “you know, you don’t look particularly fabulous”. Which is interesting, considering how many people have told me how radiant and beautiful–or, at least happy–I looked on that day. Just goes to show…doesn’t matter how you look to other people, until you do the work to get over your demons, you won’t believe them. I sincerely hope for all of us, big, skinny, curvaceous or flat, sticky-outie-teeth, kinky hair, and all our rainbow of skin colours, that we can let go of the beauty myth cr*ap that society steeps us in and start feeling as beautiful as we really are.

    • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

      ” I sincerely hope for all of us, big, skinny, curvaceous or flat, sticky-outie-teeth, kinky hair, and all our rainbow of skin colours, that we can let go of the beauty myth cr*ap that society steeps us in and start feeling as beautiful as we really are. -”

      Can we get t-shirts with this printed?

    • http://becomingbrown.wordpress.com Jennifer Lyn

      love this. also, the small girls have equal trouble shopping. I was a 0 at my wedding and there was NOTHING in stores to actually fit me. They had to take everything in with those hideous dress clip things to try them on.

    • Steph

      I definitely agree with this as well. The smallest I’ve ever been in my adult life is a 10. Far from super skinny but definitely in the “normal” size range and no trouble finding clothes that fit me. Everyone told me I looked beautiful but he’ll if I could see it at the time! I think most American women have a warped body image. Though I think there are also specific challenges for women at either extreme end of the sizing chart…
      And I love your last line!!!

    • Maddie

      Amen. There is a very small window of acceptable body size/shape in this culture. And just as much shame for the ladies who aren’t voluptuous *enough.* (One of the reasons I hate the “real women have…” trope. Um…we’re all real women?)

      • Elisabeth

        So glad you all brought this perspective up, too. I’m tempted to host a Brooklyn-based APW viewing of Jean Kilbourne’s Killing Us Softly. Not even kidding!

  • http://landlockedlove.blogspot.com Kelly

    Having done the frantic run through a department store (mine was Filene’s basement) in New York on the hunt for office-appropriate clothes in under and hour, oh honey, I feel your pain. I’m a plus-sized gal, as well.

    New York, in general, seemed reluctant to clothe anyone over a size 8 (at least, for the years I lived there). Oh sure, there was a lone 10 or 12 languishing in the back of the racks if you searched long enough, but always dredged in shame, and they never stayed on the racks for long…

    • sandyliz

      This is SO TRUE.

      When I was living Brooklyn, every single shopping trip ended with tears of shame, and included something that looked like a whale beaching itself in a dressing room one foot too small. I’ve been in Boston for a year now, and my wardrobe is significantly better because the stores carry things that fit me. Marshall’s is my new best friend – their dress rack here always has a few great things in the 12+ section.

      And I am so glad to hear I’m not the only one who’s had a panicked moment of “OMG I have no appropriate clothes and home is an hour away” shopping. Its an odd, and I think NYcentric, thing, and I’m glad you have the perspective to laugh at it now.

      • Steph

        OMG yes!! NYC can be killer on your body image. Living there was probably the biggest I’ve ever felt regardless of actual body size :/ (still would move back in a NY minute though if I could afford it lol)

  • Granola

    In case you need backing up, I hereby heartily endorse your recommendation to stay away from any store that you think might make you feel more bad about yourself than excited for your wedding. Denial and intentional blinders are vastly underrated in many parts of life.

    For what it’s worth, I’m meh on how I think I looked on my wedding day (everyone else complimented me, so it’s definitely mostly my issue) in regards to my outfit. But how I did look, and how I’m positive you will look, is glowingly earth-shatteringly happy. That’s what I notice when I take a moment to see my photos without being critical of my appearance. Best of luck and can’t wait to read more from you. (Also, if you need someone to go shopping with, I live in Queens and would be happy to.)

  • Samantha

    Fist bump from another Brooklyn resident with a September wedding!

  • Sara W

    Another store for dresses is weddingdressfantasy.com. If I didn’t have any luck at David’s, they were my back up. They have TONS of dresses and they can be made in any size (and color) you want. You can also add sleeves, a corset back, etc. to make it fit just right. The store itself is located in northern New Jersey, but they do orders online.
    I was lucky to find a dress at David’s that was a trumpet-style dress but got it big enough so that it accentuated my curves without making me look like a sausage. Good luck on your dress search!

    • V

      I ordered from them and loved it (f*ck yeah not trying on dresses in front of people), but be forewarned that you will most likely need to have alterations done on the dress because they work from a limited set of measurements. Depending on how you feel about standing in front of a seamstress/the quality of seamstresses in your area, that may be a downside to that company.

      Pluses to working with weddingdressfantasy? Tova is amazing to work with, she doesn’t bat an eyelash at sizing issues or special requests, the dresses are gorgeous, the prices are good, and her range of colors is mindblowing.

  • http://weddingvictorytour.com Mica

    Thank you so much for posting this, Elisabeth! While I don’t wish body image distress (or desperate last-minute, post-gym shopping runs) on anyone, I was relieved to hear that I’m not the only person who feels the needling whispers to “look my best” on my wedding day and who is subsequently fraught with inner strife about it. I was worried that I was failing at being a strong, modern woman (whatever that means! still working it out!) by even considering my size as it relates to dresses and weight loss.

  • kyley

    As if I could not love this post more you go and end it with a Mary Oliver reference!

    There is so much goodness here. I’m going to have come back and respond after my meeting, but I just want to say, heartily, welcome to APW! I’m thrilled you’re here.

  • efletch

    I love this post! I have so felt you pain when someone suggests shopping at a certain store and you know they have nothing in your size….the worst.
    I went to two places to try on dresses the first one was David’s Bridal and they did have a lot of dresses in my size to try on and I’m also sized 18-22. I tried on a puffy dress, a tea length, a lacy long sexy number, and a simple a line dress. They had a lot of options. The second place I went was a boutique and I checked ahead that they had plus sized samples (and not just size 12 masquerading as plus sized). They did and they were fabulous to me. I ended up getting my dress there and let me tell you it is the bomb and my hiney looks amazballs! I was so afraid that I would never feel pretty in a wedding dress because of my size but I found it. I also live in Maine which is not a mecca for plus sized shopping so if it is possible here it should be anywhere. Good lord this is a long comment….I’m looking forward to more posts!

  • http://thedilettantista.com/ The Dilettantista

    Husbutch is my new favorite word.

  • Beth

    Gotta give a plug for luvees.com. It’s not shapewear, not constricting, and I wore it under my wedding, and still under dresses. Makes the world of difference. Totally recommend.

  • http://writemeg.com Megan

    Lovely and inspirational read. Before even getting engaged, I’d started a weight loss journey — not to look good in a poofy white dress, but because I’d battled a few health scares to make me realize I was way too young to feel so old. I’ve lost eight pounds in the last month and am feeling pretty good, but I’ve known wedding dress shopping was going to be a struggle from the get-go.

    Like you, I strive every day to love and accept myself . . . regardless of what the tag on my dress says. I’ve done a damn good job, I’d say, and refuse to let people make me feel bad because I’m not the “ideal” size — as a woman, a bride, an employee. Whatever. After finding a gorgeous gown I absolutely loved online, I began searching boutiques to locate said gown and try it on. Though everyone was polite about it, I was informed at every salon that the sample size — a 6 — was all they could offer me. As I’m easily double that, I had to calmly decline and go about my day.

    I’m going dress shopping for the first time this Friday at a bridal chain, and I figure I’ll start there and work my way up. My sister chose her dress in an afternoon, barely batting an eyelash, but I have been so anxious — really, really anxious — about choosing this dress . . . because I’m so fearful of being ugly to myself when I get that thing on.

    I’m scared. This is a really, really rambling comment, and I’m sorry! I guess what I’m trying to say is: I feel you. We’re all in this together.

    • http://bigweddingsmallbudget.wordpress.com Barbra

      Just wanted to offer you some encouragement…
      I was also so very anxious about dress shopping. so sure I was not going to find anything, and I bought my dress in the first store, after an hour and a half of shopping. So. It might all work out great, no matter how nervous you are. :)

      • http://writemeg.com Megan

        Thank you, Barbra — I hope I have the success you did! :) I’m trying really hard to stay open-minded and just go with the flow. No matter what, I know it’s going to be a beautiful day.

  • LaLa

    Words cannot express how happy I am to have someone on APW actually discussing what it’s like to be plus sized and getting married. Granted I’m now on the other side but it’s wonderfully refreshing to be able to nod along with a post while I read it. If I’ve counted correctly, this is the third article on APW that really talks about being plus sized. Thank you for sharing your experiences and congratulations on becoming my favourite new intern!

  • Martha

    This is such a great post – huzza to the APW crew for plucking Elisabeth from what I am sure was an amazing pool of applicants.

    I love this post – not just for the body-image stuff – but for the overall nervousness of how one will look on the big day. I’m not super concerned about the dress part myself, but more the photos and my face! Looking in the mirror I certainly feel I look alright and I am generally content with my appearance overall – but damn if I am not photogenic. I always have a squnity trying-to-hard look on my face. I keep trying to tell myself it won’t matter because I’ll just be so naturally happy that day, but eeeeek.

    HOW DO WE MAKE IT STOP? By being like Elisabeth . . . :-)

  • http://www.rationalcreature.com sweet starling

    Elisabeth. You are amazing, and I’m so glad you’re writing for APW.

  • http://www.lulamaeevents.com Meigh McPants

    Elisabeth, I love your face off. As someone who has trod the plus-sized, lady-marrying road before you, here’s what I learned on the dress front:

    1. There is totally nothing wrong with David’s Bridal or Alfred Angelo, but don’t be scared off of boutiques if that’s what you want. The important part is to find the *right* boutique. I was probably an 18-20 when I was shopping for dresses, but the best experience I had was in a place with no samples that got anywhere close to zipping up on me. (Meanwhile, Kleinfeld, of Say Yes to the Dress fame, was *awful* despite having some samples in my size, and made me feel like the hugest woman ever to exist.) It’s all in who you’re working with. If you get a fun consultant who understands how to dress a lady of bodacious curvature, you’re all set. Ask friends, call around and ask stores about their experience with plus sized brides, and you’ll definitely find somewhere to make you feel as fabulous as you should. (Oh, and when you’re calling, make sure they have some experience with homo brides. I’ve never been asked so many ignorant questions as when I was dress shopping.)

    2. I had never seriously dieted in my life (I’m more about general healthy eating) but I had been making myself crazy (and so so hungry) on a super strict diet because I felt like I was being held up to some bridal standard.T he best body-image related moment of my wedding journey was realizing that my friends and family weren’t expecting me to suddenly be magically transformed into some bridal model. They know what I look like, they see me every day and clearly think I look great, and they’re the only people who matter anyway. Boom. I felt fabulous at my wedding, and like the second-prettiest girl in the room (obvs, my wife was the most gorgeous, since I couldn’t take my eyes off her.)

    I wish you the very best of luck and can’t wait to read more from you!

  • Aly

    OMG I love this post. Your writing is awesome — and hilarious! I feel like we were having a conversation over lunch. And honestly, a lot of your humorous asides sound exactly like something I would say, so maybe I’m a bit biased…haha. I can’t wait to read more from you, and best wishes on the wedding! :)

  • Frances

    Welcome Elisabeth! What an opener :)

    I regularly swim before work and usually put my swimsuit on as I get dressed and so on a couple of occasions I’ve forgotten underwear and needed to panic buy so I feel your pain!!

    I am plus-size and had (and still have) all sorts of wedding attire dilemmas. In the end me and my mum drove to the only(?) plus size wedding dress shop in the UK where I knew they would have samples in my size. I didn’t know quite what I wanted or if I really wanted a “proper” wedding dress but the experience of being able to actually try stuff was really helpful.

    I think clothes in general – and wedding dresses especially – do NOT look the same on the hanger.

    In the end I let my mum talk me into a really big dress that my husband, my bridesmaids and she loved which I have a love/hate relationship with. It was incredible and “special” and did make me look pretty good but mostly because all my lumps and bumps were held in/hidden under many layers of skirt.

    I wasn’t able to eat much dinner but that could have been nerves as well as boning.

    The conclusion of this ramble is that trying stuff on is a good idea and I would even recommend trying stuff you don’t think you’ll like. Then once you do know what you think you like take a while to be sure before you sign the dotted line. Failing all that it really is just one day and just one outfit and really it’s not worth months of agonising and it’s definitely not worth being unable to eat your yummy food.

    As Kate Moss said no fancy dress feels as good as clams taste – or something like that.

    • http://bigweddingsmallbudget.wordpress.com Barbra

      Love what you did with that Kate Moss quote.

      • Elisabeth

        I am putting this Kate Moss quote on a post-it note stuck to my bathroom mirror.

  • Catherine

    wooohooo ani difranco references! :) :) :)

  • Meghan

    “When Mary Oliver asks what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life, let my answer not be, “Wishing my body was different.””

    Wow. Just wow! Way to help put it all in perspective. Seriously printing this and taping it on my mirror at home. Bravo, girl!

  • http://www.anawerks.etsy.com Alvi the Small

    AMEN, sister!

    As a size 18 – 20 curvy, short, round – shaped lady, I have to say that my best wedding choice was to decide NOT to lose weight for the wedding. Yes, my arms look fat in some of my photos. But everyone at the wedding (people I love and care about) had met me before – they know that I’m fat in real life. Everyone who sees my wedding photos (people I love and care about) have seen me in photos before – they know that I’m fat in real life. Who knew? You can be honest about what your body actually looks like, and you can still look beautiful, and the world doesn’t come to a screeching halt. Did the 12 year old self inside me wish I was a size 14 on the wedding day? Sort of. But the crazy compulsiveness that would have been required to get there just isn’t worth it for me.

    Going to boutiques/bridal stores, your best bet is to call ahead, be honest about what size you are, and ask them if they can accomodate you. Cool places will not hesitate, and will tell you about trying on gowns in a slightly smaller size, and use clips. Or will be polite, but will say that they can’t. Stupid places will be unsure about it, say that the biggest size they have is a 12, but they think it’s okay. Don’t go there. If you get there, and you can’t put on the trial gowns, burst into tears, demand to speak to a manager, explain why you’re leaving, and then leave a grouchy review on Yelp. Us big women (or tiny women, etc) need to support each other by giving strong, clear, feedback to businesses who don’t support us as we are.

    But ultimately, I got my gown at a Brides Against Breast Cancer sale (www.bridesabc.org) and it needed very little alteration. Who knew? Big ladies donate their gowns too! Win! And I found the experience to be very woman – positive, supportive, and as soon as I get it cleaned, I’m donating mine back so another curvy lady can enjoy it.

    • Elisabeth

      “You can be honest about what your body actually looks like.” Alvi — this is great. This feels like a big part of the conversation about body image. All the secrets and shame and comparison and measuring against ourselves and others…I spent a long time NOT talking about my body and my feelings about my body and it feels refreshing (albeit still a bit nerve-wracking) to speak frankly with each other!

  • Alison

    I love this post. You are an awesome writer and I can’t wait to read more!

    I had (and continue to have, to some extent) such horrible body image issues surrounding my wedding. I ended up being diagnosed with an illness that turned out to be the cause of my out of control weight gain that made 4’11″ me feel even less attractive. Being 4’11″ and the constant butt of the short jokes, being suddenly 40 pounds heavier than I had been a few months prior was seriously disturbing to me. I ended up finding my dress (my second dress, because the first one I purchased was too small after I gained all that weight) from David’s Bridal, and I ended up loving it. I hope that you have a similar experience and no matter where you go or what you wear that you feel beautiful on your wedding day, and always.

    PS: “incidentally, I solemnly swear to use Ani DiFranco lyrics in as many blog posts as possible” – You win all the points :)

    • Liz

      I feel you on the short jokes/body image stuff around being short. Why do people think it’s acceptable to tease us?!

      • SJ

        Standing at a whopping 5’0, I like to call myself “pocket-sized.” For me, I know that any clothing purchased outside of the petites section will need altering — and that’s totally okay!

    • http://www.emilywenzel.com Emily

      Yup. I had to just deal with the fact that I felt like a little kid wearing my mother’s clothing while dress shopping. I love being short, but it sucks. On the other hand, my sister-in-law is 5’11″ and ALL legs. She really stresses out as well, because she can never find pants. Clothing companies only design for one body and everyone else is out of luck (bridal & not-bridal).

  • Sarah

    Yuppers. I am not (and have never been) “thin” and I could not properly identify to people why the idea of going bridal dress shopping filled me with anxiety. (Part of this has to do with my own lovely commitment issues, but hey staying on topic)
    And you know what?
    It was fine.
    Bridal store owners (the ones I ran into) are super friendly (partially because it’s their job) and we’re in point of fact refreshed when I ordered a dress in my size saying “I’m not going to kill myself to look like someone I don’t.” They said Good for you and nothing else. I also was shopping in smaller non snotty boutiques, which I’m sure helped.
    Also: Steel yourself for “bridal size” The size of dress I ordered is in no way my size, and was in fact 6 sizes larger then I normally wear. And while I know this, as sensitive about my weight girl….it still stung a bit.

    Arm yourself with good friends (the loving, but honest kind) who will tell you when “the dress is wearing you”. Be true to your own style (I.e. if you shop at thrift stores, David’s Bridal ain’t going to do it for you) and look for what I call the “Glow”. Where you can’t stop grinning and twirling and feel ridiculously pretty. That’s when you’ve found the dress.
    Also? You’re getting married. You’re going to be the prettiest, happiest person there. (With the possible exception of your fiance.) Trust me.*hug*

  • Christine

    Elisabeth, what a rockin’ first post!

    I found a beautiful size 20-something dress at Macy’s for my 2011 wedding, then proceeded to cry for 3 days about it. I had some kind of “plus-size / body image / WTF am I doing in a traditional wedding dress if I’m so darn non-traditional” melt down. To the point where my fiance said “You found a dress! I thought that was supposed to be a good thing.” I wept until I found an essay called “Hypocrite in a Poufy White Dress” which completely turned my head around and gave me the kick in the ass that I needed, to own how beautiful I looked, and somehow made me feel OK to be a plus size 40 year old bride in a traditional gown. And made me pee with laughter. My reaction to my wedding dress took me completely by storm, but it did make me also realize that the journey of acceptance continues. And just this morning my husband remarked how beautiful I looked in that dress. Someday I will unequivocally realize it too.

  • shanon

    Wedding dress sizes are so phony. I’m usually an 8-10 depending on where my hips are gravitating that day…but of course, I had no idea that the WIC has a ridiculous habit of putting your size tags in dresses that are, oh…..4 SIZES TOO SMALL! So I put on an 8 that didn’t go past my neck, a 10 that sort of made it past my shoulders and in a fit of something between uncomfortable and mad, pulled a 14 in defiance and said I don’t care what this looks like, I adore the (old ivory) color.

    It turned out to be an italian satin ballgown with a 4 foot train. I laughed, welled up, and laughed again. Wedding sizes be damned, I bought that sucker immediately and went home.

  • http://www.undercurrentcoaching.com Rachel O'h-Uiginn

    Giiirl! This post really hits home, because like you, I’ve spent a healthy-dose of my life & time working on my own self-love & body image. Then comes wedding planning and all of a sudden it unravels. But I’m also an optimist — because the tide is (finally) turning to incorporate plus-size into mainstream. I even work with plus-size women on their body-image and confidence, but time and time again it just hurts to feel like the world AND your own mind doesn’t support how you look.

    In March, I’m off to Dolly Couture to find a wedding dress that fits my personality AND figure. As a curvy woman, it’s frustrating to have to go to special length to find clothing, but it also allows us to show-case that we aren’t manufactured, run of the mill — and I think that’s awesome if you let it be awesome.

    But it’s women like you who are willing to share so thanks, from one curvy girl to another : )
    -Rachel

  • Molly

    omg, can I get some kind of bat signal or something as soon as one of your posts goes up? You’re so brilliant.

  • Katrina

    When I was planning my wedding, the first thing I announced to everyone was that I wasn’t going to go on a diet to fit into a dress. I’m a solid size 20, and also have a booty that could host a talk show (I smell a sit-com!), and on top of that, wanted a dress that showed off all of my curves. On one end of the spectrum, my mother was rooting for an A-line dress that would hide my tummy, while everyone else was waiting for some dramatic number with lots of bling.

    Both times I went with friends and family to look at dresses at DB, I left disgruntled and upset, so I finally went looking on my own, and decided to keep my dress a secret until the big day. I came out in a fitted all lace dress with a split front flare at the bottom, added with a lace up back and intricate beading along the bust and back. It was a huge hit! Not only did my rear look immaculate, my entire shape looked curvaceous and glamorous.

    I refused to settle with something that would make me “look skinny,” because the truth is that I’m not, and I never want to be. I have been the same size and shape for as long as I can remember, and I love every imperfection I see in the mirror. We are all beautiful, no matter what size or shape we are, and it’s about time we hold our middle finger up for all the world, and WIC, to see! As one of my favorite plus size models, Tess Munster, would say, “Eff your beauty standards!”

  • Adi

    This brought back so much of the pain I felt dress shopping. I am incredibly self-conscious about my arms but was ALL ABOUT trying on mermaids and fit-and-flares. (My dress is a size 26, I’m about a 22 street.) I had shop owners scold me for wearing a cardigan and “kindly” tell me I “couldn’t” wear certain styles. I bought a dress I thought would hide me. At my first fitting the dress was wrong and I cried. At the second fitting the dress was still wrong and I cried again. At the third fitting the dress was unwearable and I told them through my tears that I no longer wanted it and (less than two weeks before the wedding) I went to a David’s Bridal and bought a dress then and there. I wore a jacket I didn’t like, undergarments that didn’t fit, and still regret that I bowed to their shaming and didn’t originally order the dress I wanted. My husband, most amazing partner in the world, has told me I have his full support to buy another dress (on the cheap, online) for our first anniversary this year, and we can have a private party where I wear the dress of my dreams and he wears his wedding suit.

    I’m sorry this is so negative. I just mean to say that I hope everyone else out there makes up their own minds.

    • Alejandra

      so sorry you had a crappy dress experience, but damn, you’re husband is down for a secret party with you in a wedding dress?! AWESOME.

      • Adi

        He is the most amazing person I’ve ever met :)

  • Kate

    I posted some replies above, but I wanted to say something else too.

    First, welcome Elisabeth!! I love this post so much. My size varies a lot, and I knew going in to wedding dress shopping that this would be crazy, and it was. (I was so happy that David’s Bridal carried so many sizes on the floor.)

    I’m pretty active as far as exercise. I dance twice a week, go to Barre classes, and I’m going to run my third half marathon in March. None of this has made me lose a significant amount of weight (I’m a 16/18, and have been forever), even though I’ve been this active for about a year and a half. I posted on Facebook a while ago saying I had gone for a run that day (a new distance for me) and someone actually asked me if I was getting in shape for the wedding and I think my brain exploded. No, I’m not. I enjoy running (well, most of the time), and that’s the only reason that I do it. This whole “shedding for the wedding” craze could not be more infuriating to me.

    Over Christmas break this year I found myself looking in the mirror at my profile and examining my waist. I remember thinking something like “oh, I can’t wear this shirt because it’s unflattering for my stomach” and suddenly I had like a lightbulb moment. I realized that the only reason I thought I looked bad in that outfit was because I had some sort of crazy idea of what I should look like. I even realized I had been putting off buying my wedding dress (subconsciously) just in case I lost some weight. How much of my life have I been putting things off just in case I lose some weight? This is crazy!

    Not to say I’ve got perfect body image, because I don’t. I’ve been in therapy once a week on this and other related subjects for over a year. But that moment is one I like to think about when I’m being critical of how I look, because sometimes I have to force myself to remember that the standards I’m measuring myself against are crazy and not realistic for my body type and genetic make up.

    Anyway, all of that to say that I love this post, and I love this conversation. Learning to love our bodies can be so difficult. No one (at any size) has perfect body image, I think, and it’s so important to be grateful for what our bodies can do for us. It’s a huge, ongoing struggle for me, and the way our culture discusses weddings only exacerbates the issue.

  • http://doux-style.blogspot.com Hannah

    I didn’t lose weight for my wedding (I GAINED weight because, damn, stress) and it was hard to not be able to try on a dress in my size. I fought hard to be happy with how I looked in my pictures and I didn’t really succeed. To a certain extent, my experience was about being angry with my body, not just for it’s size but for it’s very failure to “show up for me” and be strong and healthy. I have a chronic pain disease that comes with exhaustion and depression and I feel like battling with loving my big weird body while constantly feeling betrayed by my body’s inability to know that it shouldn’t feel burning while we’re hanging out in our perfectly comfortable bed is an impossibility. Reading these comments is theraputic, others may not feel the anger at their bodies that I feel but others in this community have tried and succeeded and sometimes failed to love their imperfect bodies.

    • Adi

      My MOH became seriously ill a few months before my wedding, fully paralyzed for weeks. She finally was able to walk with a cane (or the support of the best man) for my wedding and all she could say was that she was sorry she couldn’t stand more and felt horrible about the way she looked (all her muscle tone was gone and she had gained tons of weight from the medication and being bed bound) and all I could think was how grateful I was to still have her, and to have her there with me. She felt her body had betrayed her in the worst way, but her body was fighting, and it was strong enough to keep her alive.

      Your body is fighting for you and I hope you know that the way I felt about my MOH is how your people feel about you.

  • http://www.ruthvincent.com Ruth

    I feel like the wedding industry’s body-shaming of brides goes way beyond even the dress shopping (though there’s certainly a lot of it there!) I was at a bridal show recently, and about a third of all the vendors there were hawking products that involved in changing the bride’s body – seriously, it was endless: teeth whitening, bridal ‘boot camp’ weight loss classes, lip waxing, Brazilian waxing – there were even booths for plastic surgery and weight loss surgery! What?!
    I feel very lucky that for the most part, I’ve always had a very positive body image, always felt attractive and good about myself (for the record, I’m a size 8 – I’m not plus size, but I’m not the fashion industry’s size 0 ideal either. And btw – what is up with ALL wedding dress sample sizes being a size 0?! Or being effectively a size ’0′,’ even though they call it a size ’8.’ Thanks for your comment on that Shannon!)
    So, having been lucky to have escaped much of our culture’s body shaming growing up, I was stunned when it hit me like a wall during wedding planning. I suddenly felt like I needed to wear makeup, get my eyebrows waxed, get a Brazilian, etc… – and I was not the kind of girl who ever did any of that before.
    Then I had an epiphany: the wedding industry is designed to make you feel bad about yourself – because people who feel bad about themselves buy more sh*t.
    This has become my litmus test, every time I’ve felt bad about myself during a meeting with a wedding vendor – is this shaming designed to make me buy more sh*t? If the answer is yes, it helps quell the nasty voices in my head a bit – and makes me think twice about buying the sh*t too.
    There’s also this idea in weddings that ‘all eyes are on the bride,’ and as an introvert, that really stresses me out. That’s why I think it’s so important, during this engagement time, to spend lots of quality time with your fiancee / partner / husbutch :) etc… because, really, on the wedding day – there’s only one pair of eyes looking at you who matters: theirs. And they already think you’re hot.

    Thanks for coming onboard APW Elizabeth! I look forward to reading more of your posts – and I totally heart the Ani DiFranco and Mary Oliver references!

    • ElisabethJoanne

      There shouldn’t be any shaming from wedding vendors. I don’t care if a customer is making unreasonable demands or something. The professional response is not to shame the customer, but perhaps to redirect her energies. They can decline her business if they can’t treat her respectfully and professionally.

      • KC

        There shouldn’t be… but it is a frequent tactic to gain more money/business.

        “You only want 2 appetizers? Well, all our *best* weddings have at least 4, but I suppose if you’re okay with your guests being somewhat disappointed…”

        “Oh, the people who are really *excited* about their wedding buy *all* the photo album options and mail everyone photos of their engagement session – it’s so cute to see *some* couples just be so happy in their relationship!”

        And then all the you-are-not-pretty-enough your-normal-makeup-is-not-good-enough you-need-to-diet you-need-our-products people-who-are-really-in-love-would-be-spending-more junk.

        I don’t think anyone should be marketing their product or service by making other people feel badly about themselves or by making them feel that their product will fix X about themselves (unless it’s actually a felt need and the product will actually fix it, which is rare). But it’s frankly not at all uncommon either inside or outside the wedding industry.

  • SD

    So here’s the thing – when I was a size 20 I dreamt of being a size 14 because then I could shop in the “normal people” stores. Then when I was a size 14 I was really proud of myself for a while but (and here’s the part to remember) *it wears off*. And suddenly you notice that you still have a belly or are not as skinny as Jennifer Aniston or whatever. Now I’m a size 8-10ish and I felt way sexier for the first month after reaching my weight loss goal than I did after maintaining that same weight for a year. Feeling beautiful/confident/sexy is a moving target, that is entirely independent of your weight and is completely subjective. Wrapping my head around that has been (and continues to be) hard work. I’m fortunate to have a very supportive fiance, family and friends who remind me constantly that I am beautiful. Period. The weight simply doesn’t enter in for them. I’m trying to make it not enter in for me either.
    Also- Mary Oliver Is. The. Bomb.

  • Hintzy

    Yaaaay promises of Ani DiFranco lyrics!!!! I just did a little dance in my desk chair upon reading that. Thank you.

    As for the dress stuff… I usually wear a 14 and attempt to gracefully walk that line between plus and non plus sizes, it’s fun… While I’m going shopping at David’s Bridal and may end up with a dress off the rack – I’m also heavily considering having a dress made to order via Etsy (or maybe, possibly, with the help of friends, make my own, because I do sew and I’m not entirely sure that I’m sane, oh and I *hate* wearing polyester – so I can buy real fabric not made of plastic.. but I digress)

  • Claire

    Hip hip hooray for Elizabeth! I so enjoyed your first post and am very much looking forward to your future writing. I especially appreciated your humor and how you write about your own very specific experience in a way that we can all relate to and learn from.

  • Heather

    One of my most fervent hopes for my wedding is to feel the way K sees me (on that day, and every other day, but I’m picking reasonable goals for now). – See more at: http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/02/body-image-and-weddings/#sthash.fgct8Zne.dpuf

    I love this statement. Its a good goal.

  • Kerstin

    Here’s to the 5 Colleges, Ani DiFranco, and Mary Oliver! I’m so excited to read the rest of your journey, in all its life complexities!

  • Kristen

    When I was 18, I weighed 117 lbs. 12 months later I weighed in at 235 (thanks birth control!) I remained this size for almost 13 years and I had many the same panicked moments during those years, trying to find something in my size when out of town and in need of something for whatever the occasion. Its tough, its real tough, so please know that I have been there and I understand.

    I wish I had ever been able to achieve good self body image or even just some damn self esteem at some point but I never did and even now, at 165 lbs, I still struggle with body image issues, admittedly way less though. In fact on my wedding day I was the thinnest I’d been since highschool – down to 150 lbs thanks to stress, however in both my wedding dresses, I look 6 months pregnant. I chose high waisted and poofy styles because I was worried about having to suck in my stomach – never thinking about how I wear skin tight dresses all the damn time. I can totally laugh about it and wonder if our child someday will look at our pictures and ask where their older sibling is.

    I also think it is wonderful that this place exists for support and compassion, for sharing stories and for finding empathy. But… (you knew there was a but coming, right?) in all this talk of loving oneself, I wish I had seen just one comment like the one I’m going to make – to me, loving myself includes being healthy. Note I do not say thin – I say healthy. To some, healthy is a size 16 and to some, healthy is a size 0. But its not an endless spectrum and just as its unhealthy to be too thin, its unhealthy to be too heavy. We all know this, its not news. I completely realize folks got all kinds of reasons for weight problems – diet, exercise, health or diasbility issues, medications (see above re: MY weight gain). Yes, I gained a HUGE amount of weight in a short period of time. In part due to medication and I’m sure in part due to lifestyle choices. The fact I remained overweight for so long, was due 100% to my own bad choices. Owning that, taking the necessary steps to correct it (and it took me a LONG time) is what I needed to do to love myself.

    I hope that we can start recognizing that being truthful is not being judgemental. In discussions of loving oneself and appreciating oneself, its just very important to me that health be a part of the talk. I still need to lose more weight. I certainly wasn’t too thin at 117 lbs(though I was 18, so there’s that) and while I don’t want to be that thin again, I do want to be a little healthier. There’s no specific weight I need to be and if I had less weight around the mid-section (danger zone for future health problems) I’d be happy.

    I sincerely hope that I am not upsetting anyone by speaking my mind on this. By gawd, if you love yourself and you feel beautiful and you’re a size 72 – more power to you sister! Seriously. I’m sure everyone commenting here about weight struggles has tried at least one thing if not a hundred to lose weight so please know I’m NOT judging. It can be a struggle – one that is a strain on you, I understand. I’ve been there. But having been there and understnding and not wanting to judge – it can’t prevent me from speaking the truth. Maybe its because I work in a hospital and I happen to work in the department that deals with diabetes and maybe its because after so many years I was able to with work and life changes, make myself healthier but I just wanted to take this opportunity to say my piece. Live your life how you want to, just don’t do so in ignorance and that includes ignoring real problems. Because I think all the ladies here are wonderful and bring so much to the internet at large, and to my own life and I want you guys to live forever.

  • http://www.thedaviesdealings.blogspot.com Kara

    I’m not a tiny woman either by any stretch of the imagination. (Now that I’ve had two kids, both of which died very unexpectedly, I’m larger.) I’m very much big on top and bottom and not much of a waist.

    I made no effort to lose weight so I could be a “smaller gown size”. I saw no reason to starve my self and torture myself just so I could be a smaller number. Planning a wedding in the US and planning a new life in Australia was stressful enough, why would I tack on a diet and excercise craziness when I had so much already on my plate? Why stress myself out trying to get to a certain size and maintain it just so my dress fits!? Especially when the WIC has no set standard on sizes. Each designer and each fashion house has their OWN standards for sizes, it is rediculous!

    Part of my wedding gown search was made easier by my hubby’s wish for my gown to be piratey. That meant a corset like top and a lace up back.
    Turns out that was THE.MOST.COMFORTABLE.OPTION in any of the gowns I tried on. I finally found my dream gown that didn’t make me look too poofy from head to toe, and the lace up corset bodice meant I had a waist(!). While trying on gowns and finding my dream one, I tried on all manner of veils and the 12′ long one looked best. It really helped to streamline my overall look and I felt like a bride. How many brides can say they had their dream gown and handmade their veil, finishing up the gluing on of rhinestones until 3-4am the day of their bridal portrait shoot?

    https://fbcdn-sphotos-g-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-snc6/221682_5664044749_5125_n.jpg

    https://fbcdn-sphotos-d-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-snc6/217579_4948679749_6783_n.jpg

    https://fbcdn-sphotos-b-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-snc6/224062_5480634749_1887_n.jpg

  • http://www.alisabenay.com Alisa Benay

    Husbutch. I die. Best word ever. Welcome Elizabeth, I love your writing style! I spent many years designing custom wedding gowns & the bulk of my customers came to me b/c they had a body style that just didn’t work with retail gowns. My biggest advice is to look to your own wardrobe. We’re big girls (size 18, holla), we know what works with our body type from trial by fire with every day clothing. For example, I love tops that have a band under my boobs and then flair out slightly (not maternity moomoo flair) to accommodate my bigass mama hips. So if I were going to look for a wedding dress, I’d start there with that shape in mind because #1) I know it works & #2) I feel comfortable in it. Comfort level is the 2nd thing I would have a bride with lots to love take in mind. I’ve had brides with humongous boobs who loved showing them off & wanted a wedding dress to do the same, and girls with the same size boobs who just couldn’t face the light of day with one tiny little bit of, you know, your boob line…showing over the top of the dress. Do what works for you. You want to be comfortable on your wedding day. Which means wearing something that’s not drastically different that what you normally wear.

    And for the bride in the comments above that said that a store clerk tried to discourage you from wearing a shrug…um, no. I make boleros all the time & there’s 10,000 different reason why brides want them. Religious restrictions, jiggly arms, hell no mama ain’t wearing strapless, chicken rash (I kid you not…it’s a rash that looks like chicken pox on the back of your arms that people with Scandanavian heritage are prone to). Again, wear what makes you comfortable. I promise you’ll have a better wedding day for it.

  • Molly

    “My rear deserved its own talk show in that get up.”

    This sentence alone was enough to make me love you. It’s amazing that ever since That Social Network found out that I am engaged, the internet has decided that I am too fat to get married.

    According to the internet I need to purchase home gym equipment, go on a sixth-month home-delivery juice fast, buy undies that change the fundamental architecture of my body, or find a crooked doctor willing to install a feeding tube in my nose (this is NYC. It’s possible). I’m also on a mission to excise the phrase “do you plan to lose weight for the wedding???” from the human vocabulary. I already had a poor body image. Then I had emergency spinal surgery in December, so yes, I’ve put on quite a few pounds since then.

    Nonetheless, I had a great experience with an unflappable consultant at a small boutique in the Village, and I picked out a dress that rocks my curves and makes me feel great. I look like me. Not a corseted, trussed up version of me — just me in a dress, which is what I wanted.

    Elisabeth, I think we will all be disappointed if we don’t eventually get to see pictures of you rocking whatever dress or outfit you choose, preferably slurping a mollusk.

  • http://ladybrettashley.wordpress.com lady brett

    i can’t help myself – am i the only one who thought of nofx’s “clams have feelings too” in reading the title of this post?

    otherwise, best of luck (and thank you). this sizism stuff makes me want to kick people in the teeth. i promise i’m not a violent sort, but i simply don’t deal well with the way our society treats weight.

  • Suzzie

    This really struck a cord with me! Unlike many that posted here, I hated David’s Bridal and after shopping there I didn’t want to go shopping anywhere else. Thankfully months passed and I went to visit my parents. While there my mom and I decided to check out a dress shop that had reviews online about how many different sizes they stocked (reviews on various different websites that raved about the place and the larger sizes they carried). So in we went. That was the best experience by far and I actually found a dress! The staff made me feel like I was the most gorgeous bride ever (unlike another shop where she looked like she wanted to shove me out the door because I didn’t like the dresses she gave me or the “plus size” mold she was trying to put me in) and spent so much time letting me try on many different styles and so forth, not once did I feel like the awkward bigger girl trying to fit in.

    For my wedding, I never was the size I thought a blushing bride should be (I did lose weight before but who doesn’t when they no longer have a car!). But who cares. I look at the pictures and all I see is happiness, love and laughter. And…. I did eat at the wedding! I enjoyed every mouthful! But that was how we planned our wedding. Both of us wanted to have good food and be able to enjoy it. While the dress felt a little tighter after eating, it was fantastic! My lesson learned was don’t give a hoot about what mainstream wedding industry throws at you, plan a party you’d love to be at, wear something you would want to wear and be comfortable in (I nixxed the shapewear, twenty million underclothes, etc), and rock on! Not to say I didn’t feel like I wished I was smaller, but those thoughts didn’t last very long when the wonderful feelings of the day took over.

  • Hannah

    “One of my most fervent hopes for my wedding is to feel the way K sees me.”

    That line brought tears to my eyes.

    Perfectly written! I have definitely have given into the WIC hype and am frantically dieting for my wedding and worrying about stupid things like “I don’t want to try on wedding dresses yet cause I’m too fat.” On one hand, I am happy that I’m using this as an opportunity to start eating healthier (and hey, saving money by not eating out 5x a week is pretty awesome) but it makes me sad when I realize how much of my time/energy is spent worrying about my body. Especially when my fiance thinks I’m beautiful. Why can’t I see that?

    I can’t wait to see what else Elisabeth writes! Plus 9000 bonus points for Ani DiFranco lyrics!

  • Sharon

    I tried on both Alfred Angelo’s 1516 and 1612W at a salon. I think they were in size 20 or 22 – both laced up and pretty much fit like a glove without any alterations. It’s my ARMS I hate – I would need to find some sort of modesty piece that would go with the 1516 (which I would get with the red trim.)

    I’m going to David’s Bridal next week to see if I can’t find something a bit less expensive than $1000.

  • MEI

    Elisabeth, you are 32 flavors and then some. Thanks for this.