Fitting In: Musing About Wedding Dresses and Catwalks

Alright, so this post is likely going to come off more like a rant, but I spent last weekend at a bridal expo in a booth with a bird’s eye view of the catwalk and, though the dresses were absolutely stunning, I noticed something that, while unsurprising, disappointed me.

The dresses -and the absolutely gorgeous women in them- were all tiny. Not many looked as though their styles would be particularly flattering if they were larger or put on a more voluptuous frame. More disappointing still, at least one of the talented designers happened to be a slightly more curvaceous lady herself, but none of the designs she showcased seemed to reflect her understanding of the needs of larger women. I wanted to rush the stage, grab her by the shoulders and shake her while yelling “There’s a hole in the market here! You could make a mint! Big girls want to feel pretty too!” (But because I didn’t want to be thrown out of the expo, I refrained. Big of me, right?)

And, look, I understand that the fabrics used in these pieces are expensive (if I hear the words “imported from *Insert European Nation*” one more time…), so the smaller the dress, the cheaper they are to make, but there were a lot of women of varying sizes and shapes at that expo and if I was disappointed to find a lack of diversity in the fashion on parade, I’m almost certain that I wasn’t the only one.

It’s not to say that the fashion shows were disappointing -they were utterly breathtaking, and definitely fun to watch- but they were also a little bit soul crushing. “I’d never look good in any of those” was a thought that filtered through my brain, and I’m not even shopping for a wedding dress!

Now here comes the real rant.

It hit me, of course, that this really perpetuates one of the main things that keeps many businesses in the Bridal industry alive – insecurity of self. All these brides-to-be are constantly shown body standards that are nearly impossible to attain and maintain…but that’s okay, because there are gym memberships and diet plans and supplements and all sorts of businesses on hand to help make you feel like if you don’t shed the weight, you don’t deserve the pretty dresses. (I was using candy as a ruse to draw people to my booth, and the number of times I was told “I can’t, I need to lose weight to look good in my dress” was nearly heartbreaking. Ladies, you’re all beautiful! One Hershey’s Kiss won’t change that.)

What these businesses don’t understand, though, is that we’re living in the era of self-empowerment. The #LoveYourself, #LoveYourBody and #EffYourBeautyStandards movements are gaining more and more momentum everyday. Shopping on the internet means that no longer do brides have to settle for a small selection of dresses from local suppliers – they can source them from out of state, or even out of the country.

I feel like these dressmakers here are doing themselves a disservice by not catering to a market of brides willing to spend money on pretty things that make them feel good. But what would I know? I only had to suffer the same disappointment when I was searching for the perfect gown for myself a decade ago… How has everything else about the bridal industry changed so much in the last 10 years except for this? Or maybe it has -I didn’t get to go and look at their stalls as I was manning my own- but I didn’t get that impression from the catwalk shows. And that’s the crux of my little whinge here, I guess.

What I’d love to see at the next expo I attend is a bit more representation on the catwalk for ladies with more ample figures. Bring on the Tess Hollidays and Tess Munsters and the Ashley Grahams and the Liris Crosses and anyone and everyone in between. Bring on the dress designers that aren’t afraid to showcase their talent at making every bride of every size feel like a damn princess.

As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter what you look like, you deserve to feel perfect for you on your big day, and you should have the same opportunities to shop for it -and to feel represented and included- as everyone else.

End rant.