Q: Dear Amy,
My cousin just got engaged and I could not be happier for her. She’s my best friend, and within a few days of being engaged, has already asked me to be her maid of honor.
I want to preface the rest of this by saying that despite our friendship, we couldn’t be more different. She’s tall and thin and her parents have a lot of money, while I’m plus sized and broke and trying to save enough money for the four weddings I’m in next year (including hers). Her wedding isn’t for another eighteen months, but she’s diving into wedding planning like it’s happening tomorrow. Recently she found a bridesmaid dress designer that she loves and told me she has her heart set on. She invited me to come to the salon to try on the designs, and I went into things expecting that she just wanted my help picking out the final selection (which I was excited for!). Except, when I got there, it became clear very quickly that the reason I had been invited was that the designer does not make plus-size dresses, and my cousin was trying to find out if they would fit me without actually having to say it out loud.
I have worked really hard to get more comfortable with my body over the recent years, but I can’t tell you how humiliated I felt in that store, trying on dresses I knew weren’t even going to go up over my ass. Worse, I feel low-key gaslit by my cousin. The whole salon experience felt like a setup, but she’s acting like it was perfectly normal behavior, which in turn is making me feel like a drama queen. I feel like she’s become so absorbed with wedding planning that she’s forgetting how to treat people, and the whole thing is giving me major confidence issues.
So what the hell do I do? Do I bring up the dress thing? I also feel like my size is now the elephant in the room (the rest of the bridesmaids are her friends from college who are similarly tall, leggy blondes). So if a dress isn’t going to fit, it’s my fault.
I’m having major mixed feelings about how she’s treating me right now. But I also don’t want to be that bridesmaid who can’t just roll with the punches. What do I do?
A: Dear Sad,
I am not having mixed feelings about how MeanCousin is treating you right now. My feelings are unified, and none of them are fans of hers. I am so sad for you. Let’s count the ways in which she has misbehaved.
Bridesmaid dresses present a lot of opportunities to treat people well. You can pick a color and let people choose their own dresses, pick a designer and color and let people pick their own style, provide multiple options, or even just pick one dress and tell all the bridesmaids to wear it (you’ve asked them for their budgets first right?). If I had to present one overarching rule for this it would be “People First, Then Dresses.”
Yes, it can absolutely be a challenge to find plus-size bridesmaid dresses. You won’t, for example, find them at most fancy wedding salons, which often top out at 18, if they go above a 12 at all. You’ll struggle to find them in a regular department store, where most dresses come in either 2 to 16 or plus sizes, not both (ridiculously). Think you’re going to use one of those services that promises to send out dresses in a variety of sizes so you can have a trying on party with all your girls at home? Not if you want to use it as advertised. Even if they carry dresses up to size 24, they don’t have those sizes available to try on. David’s Bridal makes most of their dresses up to size 24 or 30, as do a lot of traditional bridal salon bridesmaid dressmakers. But even if a dress can be ordered in size 28, it’s going to be pretty impossible to find a sample in even close to that size to try on in store, and they won’t hesitate to charge an extra fee for larger sizes. I wish I could say Here Is The Solution Ta-Da, but I haven’t found it yet. (Have you? Do share!)
So yes, in theory you might need to cut the bride some slack in this process because she too is trying to work in a space that just sucks. But I think it is a bare minimum requirement of human decency to choose a dress that comes in the sizes your people come in. Never, ever, ever, force someone to try on a dress in front of you to see if she can possibly squeeze into it. Not sure what size a bridesmaid needs? If you’re uncomfortable asking, err on the side of picking a dress that comes in a wide range, email your bridesmaids a couple ideas with the size ranges listed, and ask for people’s thoughts.
Absolutely, say something to your cousin about this. She’s your best friend! She has deeply hurt you, and it’s okay to tell her so. “Hey, can we talk about that trip to the dress store? It was pretty humiliating for me. As you can tell, I’m plus sized, and that designer obviously does not make plus sized dresses. It felt like the pretty dress was more important to you than how I felt. For future reference, I wear size XYZ, and I’d appreciate it if you could pick a dress that comes in my size.”
You are not being a drama queen. MeanCousin did not do something perfectly normal; she did something particularly cruel. And she did it for a particularly terrible reason. I hope that when you tell her how you feel, she will do the right thing and apologize. There are beautiful dresses for every size and shape. Putting pretty before people is an ugly look.