I am very careful when I measure someone for a bridal gown. It’s important to me to get the most accurate measurements so that the bride has to do the fewest alterations possible. I have heard that there are unscrupulous bridal salons that measure large or small so that the bride has more work to do (thus, lining their coffers twice). I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I operated like that. My job is to get her the best size I can. As a result, my brides typically have dresses that really fit them well.
Unfortunately, I have had women who fight me on the sizing issue. Most often they want to go smaller than what the size chart suggests. I try to impress upon them that a larger dress can always be taken in. Not so much with a smaller one. If a bride orders a dress that is too small, it’s possible it will be unwearable. There is a finite amount of seam allowance. If the bride needs two inches and there is only an inch in the seams, she’s screwed. This is particularly the case with dresses that have overlays, such as lace or chiffon, as french seams are often used.
Ultimately, the choice of what size to go with rests with the customer. I can recommend a size 6 all day, but if she wants a 2 there’s little I can do (except refuse to order the gown, which I had to do once). Usually I defer to her judgment rather than argue about it. I have had brides tell me that they “know” they will have lost 30 pounds by the time the dress comes in. There is no way to really know that. What if she breaks her leg and can’t exercise? It’s happened before. In these situations I am just sure to document everything. I let the bride know that I am recommending a different size. I tell her that if it comes in and doesn’t fit, there is no recourse. These gowns are not returnable and she will not get a refund. The bigger size is typically the better bet, but some people cannot be reasoned with. They’d rather squeeze into a smaller size than admit a larger size is better. So, I order the dress, cross my fingers and hope that she has lost what she says she will by the time the wedding rolls around. If not, I have taken enough notes to be able to protect myself and the business.
Another size issue that irks me is the policy some manufacturers have of charging plus-size women extra for their gowns. I know, I know, it takes extra fabric to make a plus-size dress, but it takes less fabric to make a size 0. Are they giving slimmer women a discount because their gowns require less fabric? I don’t think so. Picture sitting with a woman who is making the most important clothing purchase of her life. She’s getting married, she’s happy, she’s signing on the dotted line. Except…you have to tell her that her dress costs more because of her size. It’s humiliating for me (just how the hell do you phrase that nicely?). It’s humiliating for her, because it seems that the designer is saying “You’re not a normal bride. You’re extra. There’s too much of you”. We as women are told that enough in this world. We certainly don’t need it during stressful wedding planning. Also, as I mentioned earlier, bridal sizing is so tiny. There are women who do not normally wear plus-sizes who have to pay extra because the designer cuts the gowns so small. In my opinion, it’s a really bad business practice. The amount charged is so minute in the grand scheme of things. The designer cannot possibly be making a huge profit using this system. So why even bother alienating customers?
As a woman, I understand that weight and size are touchy subjects. No woman wants to be in a bigger size than she anticipated. Add in the fact that bridal gowns run REALLY small, and the subject can get even touchier. But why are we so obsessed with numbers? I particularly see the issue with girls who are around a size 8. Bridal sizing may put her into a 10 or 12, which to her seems unacceptable. I have had women say “I am NOT ordering in the double digits!”. Well, sweetheart, you may be an 8 ordering a 10, but I promise that you’ll look far more unattractive if you stuff yourself into an ill-fitting dress like a sausage. These women really crack me up. No one will know what damn size you order! There is no neon sign on the dress saying “Attention: Charlene ate too many Ho-Hos!”. A dress that actually fits gives the slimmest, most flattering profile no matter the size.
I have personal experience in this arena. When I ordered my wedding gown, I had to go two sizes above my normal dress size. I am a hippy girl. The size that worked for my bust and waist would have been snug in my hips. Sure, it would have been nice to have ordered that smaller size, but the dress would have looked hideous. I would have looked way chunkier in a gown I was shoehorned into. It’s possible that I may not have been able to wear it at all. So, I sucked it up and ordered the larger size. On my wedding day the gown looked great because it actually fit.
It scares me when I think about our society’s fixation on size and weight. Of course it’s best to be healthy, but health comes in many forms. I have known some pretty unhealthy skinny girls and some larger women who run marathons. Only their doctors know for sure which is which.
When I run all of this through my head, I think of the future. I would like to have a daughter someday. If I’m blessed in that way, I would like for her to love herself for many reasons. I would like for her to be proud of her strength, both physical and mental. I would like for her to be honest, kind and a little bit tough. Most of all, I want her to love herself. ALL of herself, whether she is a size 2 or a 22.