When Ben got down on one knee and asked me to marry him on June 25th last year, I knew what true happiness was (and, being such an eloquent woman, I displayed this happiness perfectly by crying and shouting, SERIOUSLY?!).
Once I’d calmed down and made all the necessary phone calls, my mind instantly turned to wedding planning and the part I’d been anticipating and dreading in equal measure: the dress. Most friends of mine who have recently married are slim, so bridal shops for them were the grown-up version of a dressing up box. But I always had the suspicion that, with my size 16 frame, my experience would likely be a bit different. Being a 16 is weird, you sit right on the cusp of plus sizes, but you’re deemed too big for straight sizes. I thought I’d be more limited for choice than my friends, but I’d find a couple of things I could shimmy in to, surely?
Flanked by my mum and bridesmaids, my first day dress shopping left a lot to be desired. The first shop we went to had nothing above a size 12, and in a world of lace, silk and satin there’s not a huge amount of give in the fabrics! Despite the fact that I expressly said I didn’t want a strapless dress, that was all I could try on, because, as the saleswoman sneered, 'you won’t be able to get your arms in the others'. The saleswoman suggested I could squeeze into them, even if the back didn’t do up, to 'give the idea'. So that’s what I did. Now, I’m no longer in the habit of talking down about myself, so I say this with nothing but love for my body — seeing myself in those dresses looked like what I imagine fitting 5lbs of Play-Doh into a 1lb bag would look like. But, ever the trooper, with the saleswoman holding up the back of the dress, I plastered a smile on my face and paraded out to my adoring fans.
I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as out of place as I did in that bridal shop. Watching the girl in the fitting room next to me, twirling out in a range of beautifully fitted dresses brought back all of the negative feelings I had towards my body - I don’t belong here, I’m too fat to be beautiful - and as much as I hate to admit it, a teeny tiny voice started to say, if you just lost… I looked ridiculous in all of the dresses, I knew that, my mum knew that, my bridesmaids knew that, the saleswoman knew that, but we all pretended we were seriously considering ordering one of these dresses.
We put one dress we’d found in the first shop on the maybe pile, and moved on to another shop. This shop was better, with dresses organised by size and going up to a 30, I thought I’d find the one in there. And I found a couple of maybes, but again, nothing that gave me the butterflies that every other bride describes. I started to resign myself to the fact that the princessy feeling a wedding dress gives you was reserved for a size 12 and below, and anyone bigger just has to make do.
Sensing my uncertainty, one of my friends recommend we try one more place, where her friend had found her dress. I figured I couldn’t be more disheartened than I was, what did I have to lose? So I made an appointment.
A week later, the troops reassembled we stepped into David’s Bridal at Westfield Stratford. Initially I thought it would be much the same as the first place, and I braced myself for another afternoon of stuffing myself into dresses made for someone half my size. But, as we were waiting for my appointment, I started poking around the racks of dresses and I saw that each dress had several different sizes on display - already such a far cry from the first shop!
The princess feeling was what I was after and the woman who helped me, Lucia, was nothing short of my Fairy Godmother. When we were in the fitting room I confided in her that I was scared I’d have a repeat of the first shop, and that perhaps I was too big to get the feeling about my dress. Lucia told me I deserved the perfect dress and it was her mission to find it, she listened to everything I wanted and ran around the shop finding gorgeous gowns, all different styles and all big enough for me to get in.
This time the parade felt different, with one of my bridesmaids instantly commenting 'you look so much happier!'. And sure enough, I found the one. I felt like a princess, actually scrap that I LOOKED like a princess. My Fairy Godmother had more than delivered.
Being fat and shopping for clothes to lounge around in is difficult enough, being fat and shopping for your wedding dress can easily be worse. My advice? Find a shop that you know stocks your sizes, you’re allowed to be choosy. You’re allowed to walk out if you stumble across a saleswoman who clearly doesn’t want to make you comfortable. You deserve that princess feeling. You didn’t settle for your partner, so don’t settle for the dress.