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How Do I Keep my Dream Dress From Becoming A Body-Shaming Prison?

We postponed our wedding

Q: Hey Team,

Another pandemic bride here. Our wedding was supposed to be May 23rd of this year, but we’ve made the difficult decision to postpone until May 23rd, 2021. We’ve invested a significant amount of money into our wedding, otherwise, I think we would cancel our original plans and just have a small ceremony in a few months. Thankfully our vendors are all letting us move our date without any sort of fee, and my fiancee and I have been in agreement throughout the entire process. We feel very lucky to have each other, despite having to wait another year to marry, and that everything is going smoothly (so far!).

Something kind of personal dawned on me today regarding my wedding dress. It is absolutely the dress of my dreams, and I can’t wait to wear it. It fits me like a glove right now, but I remember the last time I tried it on, I thought, “I need to be careful over these last two months, otherwise it might be too tight by my wedding day.” Now I’m staring down the barrel of not two, but fourteen months of “being careful”.

Like most womxn, I struggle with some level of body-shaming, but I’ve never tortured myself over food or exercise. My weight fluctuates very easily, and I stopped checking my weight regularly a few years ago because the number was upsetting to me, even though I love how my body looks and what it can do. I’m a curvy lady with cellulite, and I like how soft and supple and strong I am. I refuse to give up my dream dress… not only is it a huge emotional investment, but it’s also a decent financial one. Can you give me some advice on maintaining a body-positive mindset over the next fourteen months? I’m not expecting a huge change in my body, but even if I gain a few inches, it could make the dress very uncomfortable, if not unwearable. How can I maintain my current body shape so that I still fit into my dress, AND my sanity and (mostly) healthy relationship with my body? Thank you so much for any advice you can offer!

—Anon

A: Dear Anon,

I have to start this letter, like most things I write these days, with a big ol’ ‘I’m sorry!’ I’m so sorry you’re in this position, but it sure is nice to hear about a couple who’s supporting each other and finding success with the horror of having to move your date. May 23, 2021, is going to be an amazing day for you, I’ve got a good feeling.

Now onto your question. I need to start by sharing my truth. I’ve been anxious to answer your question, because it seems like anything body related can be super polarizing and uncomfortable for people to read. And the last thing I want to do is say the wrong thing here that makes me come out the ‘bad guy.’ So, I will let you know right off the bat, I too am a ‘curvy lady with cellulite who likes how supple and strong she is.’ I have struggled with body shame my entire life, but also I think I am (mostly) at a point where I am comfortable with my body the majority of the time. I don’t always love the way clothes fit, I don’t wake up every day pleased with how I look—but overall, I feel healthy, strong, and safe in the body I have. This doesn’t mean I’m some sort of body positivity warrior… not at all. Just a normal as hell womxn, in a normal as hell body, handling daily often unfortunate, but normal as hell feelings about that body.

As I read your question, I felt anxious with you. With everything going on with weddings, I hadn’t given a split second of thought to what it would be like to want your most expensive piece of clothing ever to still fit you a year later than planned. This is a huge ask, of any body—to be the same over extended periods of time. Most bodies fluctuate in any number of ways over any period of time. Shoot, my clothes fit different depending on the week of the month and where I’m at in my menstrual cycle, or if I’ve eaten cheese recently, and I haven’t had the same wardrobe fit one summer to the next ever. But here you are, certainly not alone, facing this conundrum.

Here is what I think… you’re going to have to decide (and it sounds like you already have) what your priority is when it comes to your wedding dress. Your letter says that fitting into the dress of your dreams, which you’ve already paid for, is your priority. If that’s the case, then being somewhat vigilant and aware of your body for the next year will be a priority—or at least a back of the ‘mental shelf’ necessity. I’m most certainly not suggesting that you dive deep into an unhealthy obsession with diet and exercise, or pull out your scale again (don’t, if it doesn’t work for you!). In fact, one of my good friends got into a healthy workout routine months before her wedding, unrelated to her dress or body image, and ended up paying over $800 in final alterations to fit her surprisingly smaller body into her dream dress. And while she felt great in the end, that was a bummer price tag.

Rather, I think you should probably keep doing what you’re doing. If your normal clothes keep fitting, or you try on your dress occasionally and feel good in it, then all is well. I personally would take a page from the ladies on FRIENDS, and hangout in my dress once in a while. Or maybe you let yourself off the hook until January, then reevaluate by trying on the dress and then you’ll know your status a few months out from the wedding and be able to make changes if needed.

This isn’t me pushing a diet on you or anyone (because I would never). This is just me suggesting that if you decide your priority is to fit in your dress, you may need to spend some emotional energy on keeping your weight stable. And you need to decide if that’s a trade-off you are ok with making… and frankly, if it’s even one that’s healthy for you to make. (Wedding dresses can be sold, after all.)

But, if you do decide that wearing this beautiful outfit next year is your priority, I think you just have to give yourself a break. Give yourself permission to care about your body fitting into your dream dress. Give yourself grace for the moments of worry and concern that you’ll send to these thoughts. Also, give yourself a big ol’ pass on the tasty treats you’ll eat over the next year, or the extra workout you won’t get to as you live life in the coming year. Keep being proud of your strong beautiful body. Write yourself a letter to remind yourself of how proud you are, and read it anytime you start to feel uncomfortable with the process. Start this season of life with patience and understanding for yourself. In the midst of chaos, the last thing we all need to do is beat ourselves up for beating ourselves up, worry about worrying, or be anxious about being anxious. Sometimes we can’t control this stuff, but adding an extra layer to our problems by thinking our worry or anxiety is itself a problem, is not… helpful. So, dig deep, find grace—the same grace you’d offer your BFF. Know that some days you’re going to be worried about the dress fitting and feel like you should change everything for that, and other days you’re going to enjoy the hell out of a double scoop ice cream cone and not have a care in the world… and it’s all okay.

And remember. You can always change your mind and decide to sell the dress and wear something else. Give yourself grace on that too.

—Alyssa

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