How I found the perfect wedding dress as a plus-size queer woman
According to just about every television show, movie or word of mouth, finding the perfect wedding dress for your big day is supposed to be like falling in love all over again. Some shows are based on this experience alone and if the waterworks don’t come, the viewer is left feeling let down. Aside from marrying the love of your life, what you are going to wear is viewed as the most important thing about the wedding. As a plus-size bride, I wasn’t exactly excited about this task. I am all too aware of the limited fashion options available for plus-size bodies and I’d heard that the wedding industry was even worse.
When I started the search in early January, I was always careful to check each boutique’s websites for the plus-size section. I was honestly expecting a handful of potato sack style dresses at best but was pleasantly surprised at the varieties many stores had. It looked like I might actually get to try something from this century. The wedding industry has a long way to go when it comes to representing diverse couples, and often, the wedding images they showcase are thin, white and heteronormative couples on their big day. It is a beautiful sight, but it certainly isn’t the only type of person getting married. As a plus-size LGBTQ+ woman, I found myself having to come out to every dress consultant I met with when they asked the inevitable question, “So what’s he wearing?” It was added stress when I was already self-conscious about finding a dress that fit my larger hips and stomach.
My first trip was to a traditional bridal boutique with thin mannequins parading in the windows, and the mermaid and trumpet skirts accenting nearly every dress in sight. My consultant took one look at me and said that she would pick dresses from the stack for me rather than have me and my party look through the racks as I saw so many other slender brides doing. I handed her the stack of gown photos I’d brought with me and that was it. Needless to say, I didn’t feel the waterworks that day. While the dresses had lace and sweetheart necklines like I’d circled in the photos, none of them made me feel like a bride, merely a plus-size girl playing one. The salesperson wrote down the dress I’d disliked the least and told me to think quickly because added time was needed to order this dress in a plus-size.
My second trek was much more pleasant as me and my admittedly large group of friends and family stepped into a boutique that boasted to be one of the largest plus-size stores in the area. I remember thinking nervously as we descended the stairs to the fitting room section that if I didn’t find something here, I wouldn’t find anything anywhere. The room they led me into was huge with racks along every wall, all plus-size. The consultant took my photos again but also encouraged me to paw through the racks and pull anything that caught my eye.
I felt just like any other bride pulling bags draped in beading and tulle. I pulled ball gowns, A-lines and one trumpet skirt that I decided to risk despite writing off the hip-hugging style as bad for my body type. My mom brought little scorecards that people could use as I trotted to the podium in poofy dresses. I felt like a bride for once, one sharing the same struggle as all the others: Finding the perfect dress.
In the end, I had it narrowed down to two choices. One was the rebellious trumpet skirt dress that I had pulled earlier adorned with black lace flowers, the other was a beautiful ball gown that nipped in at the waist and covered the hips in layers of skirt. One was the dress I wished I could pull off and the other was the one I had been told would look great for my body. Honestly, I felt frustrated that the answer wouldn’t appear to me magically like it so often does in the television shows. There was no revelation. Only me staring at myself in the mirror and wishing I had the silhouette to do the trumpet skirt justice. The consultant pointed out that while I had specifically told her I couldn’t pull off the tight dresses, a majority of the pictures I brought had the same look to them.
There were no tears, no magical fairy godmother telling me this dress was made for me. It came down to me deciding that I would choose the dress I wished I could pull off, and choosing to pull it off anyway. The dress was nothing I had imagined myself in, and I think maybe that was the point.
Plus-size marriers deserve to take up space, especially on our wedding day. Despite every warning from magazine articles or television shows or well-meaning relatives, weddings are meant to be built around the happy couple. No matter what outfit you decide to get married, just make sure it is one you wish you could wear—and wear it anyway.
Macey Lavoie is a Boston-based writer. She has been featured in Ravishly, HelloGiggles, Bustle and more. She is owned by two cats and works at a place where people take their robots for walks. When she is not jotting down writing ideas in her notebook, she is eating sushi and catching up on her never-ending TBR pile.
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