Can The Wedding Industry Really Do Right By Plus Size Women?

What it's been like having a custom wedding dress made as a size 18

I avoided participating in fashion until I was nearly thirty years old. It wasn’t that I didn’t like fashion; it’s just that in my experience cute clothes are designed for more petite bodies, and as a size eighteen, I have always been taller and larger than clothes off the rack. Lucky for me, mainstream fashion has been creeping slowly toward more inclusivity over that last fifteen years or so. And with the help of the internet and a handful of size inclusive brands, I have found myself loving my wardrobe for the first time in my adult life.

So imagine my disappointment when I plunged headfirst into the world of bridal gowns and discovered the wedding fashion industry is not nearly as enlightened (you can read about that struggle here).

But there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

Made With Me In Mind

Through my friends at APW, I was connected to Lace & Liberty, a brand that specializes in a different approach to dressing brides. Founder Danielle had a hard time choosing her own wedding gown because she always liked the skirt from one dress but the top from another. So, unsatisfied by typical bridal fashion, she started her own company. She found a great designer, Annie, and they combined their super powers to create beautiful pieces that could be mixed and matched for a custom look.

Plus size white lace wedding dress on mannequin in front of other plus size white lace wedding dresses hanging on brown wooden hangers

I was optimistic when Meg told me that APW and Lace & Liberty were working together on a plus size wedding dress line. She invited me to San Francisco to see if Lace & Liberty could solve my dress problem. I was skeptical though. Since I love to research my options, I took a look at their website and found only straight size dresses, which has been the problem this whole time: clothes designed for bodies not shaped like mine. Meg, however, assured me that Danielle and Annie had my back and were interested in creating something that I would love. I trust Meg, so I decided to give them a shot.

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My first meeting with Danielle and Annie was over the phone—we discussed the vision board I’d created with designs and elements from existing wedding dresses I liked. Then we got into the hard stuff: why I was so dissatisfied by what I had found so far. I told them about the less flattering designs I’d tried on before—things like restrictive arm holes and accentuated, bejeweled back fat that was simultaneously hilarious and truly upsetting. We also talked about the clothes that I wear in my everyday life and what works about the designs I own. I wear a lot of dresses. Like, a lot.

Plus size woman with short brunette hair getting her wedding dressed measure by a woman with long blonde hair in a black long sleeve shirt

A few follow-up emails later, I found myself traveling to San Francisco to meet with Danielle and Annie in person. Even though Meg, Maddie, and the APW team were there to support me, I was still very nervous. When I finally met Danielle and Annie, my first impression was that they are both lovely, petite, straight size women, which only heightened my concerns that this, too, would end in disappointment. However, it didn’t take long for them to put my mind at ease. Annie had prepared design sketches with my measurements in mind, and she explained to me how she intended to work around the fit and flatter issues I had struggled with up to this point. We talked a lot about lace—I mean, I can really go on about lace if you let me—and we settled on design elements for Annie to incorporate.

No More Bejeweled Back Fat

I waited for what seemed like ages (okay, it was a few weeks) and then returned to San Francisco to try on the designs. You guys, they were so good. Not yet perfect, but really good. Annie and Danielle created two very different designs that both fit what I described for my ideal wedding dress. The first gown they brought out was exactly what I described:

A plus size woman with short brunette hair touches her shoulders while trying on lace wedding dress with buttons down the middle

But somehow I liked the second design even more:

Plus size woman with short brunette hair smiles while twirling in wedding dress with lace sleeves, standing in front of a rack of plus size wedding dresses hanging on wooden hangers

It incorporated the essence of what I loved about the designs I had included in my vision board, but Annie and Danielle tailored the design to suit my “apple” shape. Each one came with a structural corset inside—not a new concept, but these corsets were actually made to fit my body, which made all the difference.

For once, the shape of each garment was made with me in mind, rather than just adding inches to designs created for a sample size two. I could move my arms, and when I looked at my back, I didn’t appear to be pouring out of the open spaces like dough from a tube. There would be no bejeweled back fat today!

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There were also definitely opportunities for improvement. Annie provided two different corset design options, and I was not a fan of the stretchy version that had been built into the design I’d chosen for my wedding dress. Additionally, I felt like the first design was a bit too modest. Annie and I discussed solutions, and after addressing these issues and swapping out some lace, I felt extremely confident that I had just met my wedding dress.

A long hair brunette woman in a striped blouse, a long hair blonde woman and a woman with long grey hair helping plus size woman with short grey hair fix her lace wedding dress in front of plus size woman in short jean skirt and lace blouse on the phone and wedding dresses hanging on wooden hangers

I’m Not Losing Sleep

Maybe you’re thinking, “Well that’s great for her, but how does that help me any?” I hear you, and I don’t blame you. I’d be thinking the same thing. But I got to try on some of the other designs from the APW and Lace and Liberty collection, and I can tell you there was time, love, and effort put into this collaboration. And while not every one of the dresses was ideal for me, as we all played dress up in the Lace & Liberty parlor, I witnessed every woman in the room find at least one dress that made them look stunning.

I can’t wait to meet my finished dress, but I can honestly say that just two months out, I’m not losing any sleep worrying about it.

Want to be the first to see the designs from our plus size wedding dress collaboration? Join us for a private sip-and-see on Saturday, October 6th in San Francisco at the lace and Liberty showroom at 973 Valencia Street. This is basically your chance to pretend to be Heidi Klum and give us your feedback in real time. RSVP here.

This post is part of our ongoing series chronicling the creation of our new plus size wedding dress collection with Lace & Liberty. As part of this project, we’ll be taking you through the creation of Gina’s wedding dress from start to finish. To read more about the upcoming dress line check out our announcement post right here. And if you’d like to sign up to learn more about the collection, including when you can try on dresses for yourself at one of our upcoming trunk shows, you can do that right here.

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