For many a bride, after the engagement party and champagne toasts, the very first thing on her mind is the wedding dress. And, more specifically, how she wants to look in said dress. Perusing the fashion magazines is helpful only up to a point, and that point is when you realize, standing in a salon in front of a three-way mirror, that you are not a size 0 runway model.

It’s at this point, that so many women run to the gym. They spend precious budget dollars on trainers, try their hardest to follow diets…anything that promises to help them look their best for their wedding.

Now, I’m not saying weight loss is a bad goal to have. But a lot of us are just plain curvy; we have hips, thighs, bellies and boobs, and no amount of exercise is going to change our basic shape. So, with that in mind, and taking into consideration the extreme sensitivity of this topic, I’ve put together a little primer on gown shopping for curvy brides and bridesmaids. I promise, you’ll finish the article feeling much better than when you started it!


Determine Your Basic Shape

I don’t care what size you are: you still have a basic shape. Pear, apple, straight, hourglass, diamond or oval, you’ve got one. Knowing what it is will help you figure out what the most flattering dress shape is for you. Remember, even a smaller woman won’t look her best if she wears a gown that doesn’t flatter her natural shape.

Pear: The pear shape is the classical female shape, with hips that measure wider in circumference than either the waist or the bust. If you’re a pear, you’re in luck. Any gown with a fitted bodice and fuller skirt will balance out those hips. Look for seaming that points in at your waist, or a any kind of detailing that makes your waist look smaller. A strapless gown will open up your shoulders, as will off-the-shoulder styles.

Apple: The apple shape is also known as the Barbie: the woman with an ample bust, smaller waist and hips slimmer than her bust. The biggest challenge for this shape is corralling that bust, making sure it’s attractively (and securely) displayed. Despite first glance, strapless dresses actually work better for this than those with straps or sleeves. This is because the strapless dress often has some corseting or extra support that may be lacking in sleeved or strappy gowns.

Try a ballgown to balance out the bust, or a mermaid style can also create the illusion of rounder hips.

Rectange: This gamine figure just needs a little help with waist definition. Try an A-line or ballgown, or fit – and – flare for some dimension. If you prefer the look of a sheath, try to find one with some waist -slimming details: a sash or belt could be just the trick.

Hourglass: This shape, the most balanced and often called the “ideal” female body shape, needs very little in terms of help. This figure can wear just about any style, but will look particularly well in those that show off the smaller waist. Avoid the empire (or high-waisted) style, and you should be fine. Just try not to unlock too many jaws with your voluptuousness!

Diamond and Oval
The most challenging of these shapes to dress is the diamond and oval. Frankly, this surprises me, as these shapes are really quite common. I expect wedding gown designers to figure this out, sooner or later. In the meantime, you’ll need hold your ground when if anyone suggests the equivalent of a muu-muu.

For the Diamond shape, optical illusion is key. Look for a wider, more open neckline – v-neck or boatneck or sweetheart styles work well – to bring attention to your face and broaden your shoulders a little. Any detailing on the bodice should be wider around your bust and narrower at your waist. A skirt with some movement – from ruffles, layers of tulle, or applique – will also help.

Oval shaped ladies, first of all, don’t start shopping by already feeling defeated. Don’t be afraid of something that fits close to your body. Try on a corsetted gown – just try one on – and see what it does for you. Odds are, it will transform your oval into more of an hourglass! Who knew, right? If you want something a little looser, try a grecian goddess look – something artfully drapped, with movement. It’s amazing what carefully placed folds and drapes of cloth will do for you.

Find the Right Bridal Salon

While more and more designers (and therefore, bridal salons) are offering plus sizes, do your research ahead of time. Find out which designers offer plus sizes and see which local salons carry those lines. When you call to make your appointment, let them know what street size you wear. Remember that bridal fashion runs very small, so don’t freak out when they put you in something a few sizes higher than you normally wear. It will minimize any awkwardness or embarrassment when you arrive for your appointment, and will make the whole experience much less stressful.

Ruching Is Your Friend

Truly. It will disguise lumps or bumps, add fullness where you need it and add lots of visual movement to your gown.

All these rules apply to dressing your curvy bridesmaids too.

Most of all: don’t be afraid if the first dress doesn’t work. Start looking early, try on gowns you might not normally try, and remember that this is your wedding! No matter what…that’s what is happening at the end of the day. And your fiance loves you exactly as you are. He’ll certainly love you in your wedding gown.