Imagine looking at your wedding photos after the ceremony is over, reminiscing about the special day—and hating your dress. Many women experience wedding dress regret, wishing they’d chosen a different dress.
In many cases, though, the dress itself isn’t the problem, but the fit or lack of alterations is. Some women say they wish they’d had a dress that was a little snugger, some say they would’ve been happier with a looser dress, and others regret not investing more time into proper fittings.
Because wedding dress sizes can be so confusing, it’s common to experience some regret if your dress doesn’t fit well. But with the right information and planning, you can be sure to choose a wedding dress that’s just your size.
Read on to learn how to pick the perfect wedding dress size and style.
What to Know About Wedding Dress Sizes
If you thought finding your wedding dress size would be as simple as choosing the right size of t-shirt, you’d be wrong. Wedding dress sizes can be much more complicated and unpredictable compared to casual and ready-to-wear clothes.
Part of this is because wedding dresses should fit as well as possible. Many wedding dress designs are made to hug the body, such as dresses with bodices or delicate fabrics that don’t stretch. Compare this to a loose t-shirt or stretchy jeans and it’s easy to understand why more thought must be put into wedding dress sizes.
There are a few things to keep in mind when searching for your perfect wedding dress size:
Wedding Dresses Are Meant to Be Altered
Because wedding dresses must fit perfectly, most are made to be altered, allowing extra room that a seamstress can fix later.
Keep this in mind, and don’t expect your dress to fit right off the rack.
Sizes Vary Depending on the Designer
When going wedding dress shopping, you may discover that one brand or designer fits just right, while that same size from another brand fits your body completely differently.
This can be a frustrating but common part of choosing a wedding dress. Each designer has its own sizing system, so it’s important to try on dresses from a variety of brands.
Wedding Dresses Run Small
Many brides-to-be might be shocked to find that their wedding dress size is one, two, or even three sizes larger than their streetwear size. That’s because wedding garments are sized based on measurements and body types from decades ago. While our bodies have changed, wedding dress sizing hasn’t.
You may find, however, that wedding dresses wholesale and off-the-rack dresses are sized closer to ready-to-wear clothing sizes.
Comfort Is Key
Comfort is more important on your big day than the number size on your dress’s tag.
Even if you have a goal of reaching a specific size or body measurements, it’s better to choose a garment that is comfortable for you to wear at your current size.
Dresses Don’t Come in Split Sizes
As you measure yourself (more on that in the next section), you may find that one part of your body is sized differently than another. For example, your bust may be similar to a size 4, but your hips are similar to a size 6.
When this happens, it’s best to order a size 6 dress, since wedding dresses don’t typically come in split sizes. Then, you can alter the oversized section to make it better fit your proportions.
How to Measure Yourself for Your Wedding Gown
Knowing your measurements can help you find the proper wedding dress size for your body.
When measuring yourself, wear the undergarments you intend to wear for your wedding, and remove any thick clothing. Use a soft, flexible measuring tape, ideally having someone help you.
Then, measure and record three primary measurements: bust, waist, and hips.
- Bust: place the measuring tape under your arms and across the largest part of your bust
- Waist: find the smallest part of your waist, typically located slightly above the belly button
- Hips: measure at the widest part of your hips, often where the top of your underwear sits
It’s also common to measure your height, leg and arm lengths, and the distance between your collarbone and your feet (called the hollow to floor).
After recording your measurements, bring them to a wedding dress house or search a favorite wedding dress brand online, looking at the dress size chart to determine your approximate size.
What if Your Size Changes Before Your Wedding Date?
Many recommend buying a wedding dress between six and nine months before your wedding to have time for special order dresses and alterations. But this means your body might change sizes in the meantime.
Thankfully, alterations can help you achieve the best fit just in time for your big day. Alterations are usually scheduled two months before the wedding day, and you may continue to have fittings until around two weeks before your wedding. This gives you ample opportunity to adjust your dress size.
For those who plan to lose weight before they say “I do,” most wedding dresses can be altered up to four sizes down without sacrificing the style and look of the dress.
If you gain weight and find your dress is now too tight, there are unfortunately fewer options available. Some seamstresses may be able to adjust buttons or zippers, but in many cases the best way to squeeze into your dress is to use shapewear to slim your figure underneath.
How to Know if a Wedding Dress Fits
Just because you know your measurements doesn’t mean you’ll immediately find a dress that fits. Even after the first round of alterations, your dress may still need additional adjustments to fit perfectly.
Here are signs your dress fits properly:
- you can sit down, stand up, bend over, dance, and lift your arms without the dress becoming uncomfortable
- straps stay in place
- there is ample bust support
- you like the way it makes you look in the mirror
- there’s a little wiggle room but no visible gaps
- the fabric and seams are smooth, not puckering, bulging, or slouching
- undergarments, especially at the bust, are completely hidden, even when bending forward
- you can take a deep breath in and out without the fabric becoming too tight or slouching
Dressing for Your Body Type
Aside from finding the right wedding dress size, it’s also important to choose a dress that fits and flatters your body.
There are a variety of types of wedding dresses, and some will fit certain body types better than others. Here are a few pointers for each body type:
Hourglass body types have a curvy bust and hips with a smaller, defined waist.
When choosing wedding dresses, make sure to choose a style that nips in at the waist to show off your balanced silhouette. You may need to choose a larger size to accommodate your curves, making sure to alter the waist as needed.
Apple body types have larger hips and a smaller upper body.
Make sure to choose a size large enough to fit your bottom half, altering the top half to show off your figure. Many apple bodies look great in A-line dresses with a bodice top.
Inverted triangle bodies are heavier on top with smaller hips.
To balance muscular arms and a bigger bust, choose wedding dresses that have a plunging neckline and short or long sleeves (as opposed to straps). You can also choose a dress with an A-line or ball gown bottom to create an hourglass effect.
Rectangular body types are straight, where the bust, waist, and hips are around the same size. This is perhaps the easiest body type to find the right wedding dress size for, often requiring fewer alterations than the other body types.
To best flatter a rectangular body, choose a dress that creates curves. This can be achieved with ball gown silhouettes, dresses that define the waist with a belt, and curved necklines.
Plus and Petite Sizes
While plus sizes and petite sizes aren’t exactly body types, it’s worth noting that not all designers will offer dresses for these measurements.
Women who fit into plus sizes may want to find brands that offer extended sizes, since altering a small dress to make it bigger can be challenging and sometimes impossible. Searching best plus sized wedding dresses online or calling wedding dress shops can help you determine which brands offer the best selection
Petite sizes may also not be available at every brand. However, it can often be easy to alter a dress to make it shorter to accommodate a smaller frame. Still, seeking out brands that offer petite sizes off the rack can help you get the most flattering fit.
Finding Wedding Dress Sizes for Your Body
Understanding wedding dress sizes can help you find a wedding dress you’ll never regret. Remember, the perfect size has less to do with the number on the tag and more to do with how comfortable you feel on your big day.
For more tips to help you prepare for your wedding day, check out our latest blog posts!