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For Plus-Size To-Be-Weds, Bridal Gown Shopping Still Disappoints

For plus-size brides-to-be, the experience of shopping for a wedding dress can be fraught with emotions other than the requisite joy and excitement.

Many to-be-weds experience raw nerves before the big day. But when it comes to shopping for a wedding gown, plus-size shoppers feel a disproportionate amount of stress.

According to survey findings released Monday by The Knot, half of shoppers wearing sizes 12-32 reported feeling anxious before shopping for their wedding dresses, compared with 46 percent of shoppers between size 0-10. Women size 12 and larger reported feeling self-conscious before dress shopping at nearly twice the rate of women wearing smaller sizes.

Though the majority of all brides surveyed (80 percent) said that they ultimately enjoyed the experience of shopping for a wedding gown, it’s undeniable that those experiences varied depending on size.

A quarter (25 percent) of brides above a size 12 said that they brought slimming shapewear with them to their bridal salon appointments, while only 10 percent of women between size 0-10 reported the same. Forty percent of plus-sized brides said they spent extra money on these garments—nearly double the number of brides size 0-10.

Brides who wear sizes 12-36 were also twice as likely to check in with bridal salons ahead of time to ask whether sample dresses would be available in their size. While nearly half of brides size 0-10 (46 percent) said they bought their dress at a local salon, only 30 percent of brides over size 12 said the same.

A strong majority (60 percent) of plus-sized brides-to-be said they felt they would have benefited from having a larger selection of gowns to try on in their size, and a quarter (25 percent) said they ended up buying a dress online instead of at a brick-and-mortar boutique. That’s a full 10 percent more than brides size 0-10, for whom the biggest concern (44 percent) was finding a dress within their price range.

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According to The Knot’s data, less than half of brides (41 percent) think that wedding-related media and magazines are doing a good job of representing women of different shapes and sizes.

“At The Knot, we believe love and weddings are for everyone. But, if as an industry we’re not being inclusive and representing all people in our dress designs, inventory, stories, photos, advertising and marketing, then we have more work to do,” said Kristen Maxwell Cooper, editor in chief of The Knot. “We’re holding ourselves accountable on our mission of inclusivity and hoping that by leading conversations and initiatives around this topic, that we can help bring about industry-wide change.”

The Knot Magazine’s Fall 2019 Fashion issue will feature plus-sized model Hunter McGrady, who will also guest edit the magazine’s coverage.

While the bridal industry has been notoriously slow to catch up with overall retail trends toward size inclusivity, digitally native brands like Reformation have expanded their wedding-day offerings to include a much greater range of sizes. As of April, Nordstrom had expanded its selection of plus-size bridal gowns to three times what it carried a year ago.

But with even world-famous bridal boutiques like Kleinfeld in New York itching to line their racks with more plus-size gowns, the onus ultimately falls to designers to offer up more options. According to Kleinfeld’s director of marketing and PR, Jennette Kruszka, couture designers are the most likely to limit their size range to a maximum of 18, and while the store carries 200 gowns in a sample size 16 or higher, that number still represents only 20 percent of the dresses it has in stock.

With the average American woman wearing somewhere between a size 14-16, it’s up to the bridal industry to adjust its selection accordingly.