Blush and Bashful: How One Fat Femme Bought Her Dream Wedding Dress

I was not excited about buying a wedding dress.

Or I guess it’s more honest to say I was not excited about shopping for a wedding dress.

I’m a fat femme, and I love dressing up like a fairy princess. In fact, I’d say possibly the best representation of my gender may be exactly that: fairy princess. So perhaps you’d think that finding a wedding dress would feel exciting to me. But if you know anything about the bridal industry, you’d know better. The key part here is that I’m a fat fairy princess. And I’m immersed enough in our culture to know, even though I’d never really seriously considered being a bride, that it’s not easy for fat girls to find beautiful wedding gowns. Even thin people are encouraged to lose weight before their weddings. I felt overwhelmed and flustered before I’d even begun.

My best friends suggested that we go shopping together, but I was hesitant. I understood what “shopping for a wedding dress with your best friends” was supposed to feel like. I knew they were envisioning champagne, giggling, gushing, and a lot of white tulle. “I would die to go wedding dress shopping with you,” my one friend texted me, and I knew she was being supportive and loving and genuine. I wanted to crawl under a rock, never to emerge again.

Actually, what I wanted was to feel excited with them; the two friends in question are also fat femmes, and we live in Portland, so I know I’m lucky when it comes to being surrounded with emotional body positivity and also material options when it comes to fat girl fashion. And yet, I just couldn’t muster the enthusiasm. I wasn’t sure what I wanted my dress to look like, but I knew that trying on lots of options that were too small for me or getting weird energy from a sales assistant or maybe simply looking at my body and having other people perceive my body too was going to feel really bad. But I didn’t want to disappoint my friends, and as a chronic people pleaser, I was at a loss.

Luckily my future wife has no such qualms saying no when she doesn’t want to do something, and after I spent another afternoon stressing and complaining, she solved the problem simply. “Baby, just tell them you don’t want to go. They love you. They’ll understand.” I texted my friends immediately; of course they understood. I told them I was probably going to buy a dress online. There was a Selkie option I had my eye on. They were excited for me. I tried to relax. I window shopped on my phone. I felt dread.

The thing I learned about shopping for a dress as a fat bride while browsing plus size wedding dresses (I’m rolling my eyes at the designation “plus size” but I’m also here to tell you unfortunately it gets so much worse — the amount of “curvy collections” and “busty bridal” links I had to click through to find things that might cover my body successfully was disturbing) is that there actually is quite a large inventory out there — but it’s very expensive! I had hoped to spend no more than $1500 on a dress; most of the dresses I loved were more in the $3000-$3500 range. But I wouldn’t say that’s a fat tax — it seemed like that’s just the cost of a lot of traditional wedding dresses. I was genuinely shocked!

A lot of my friends who have had weddings have purchased off the rack dresses as opposed to “wedding gowns” from “bridal shops” so I just didn’t have an accurate price in mind for how much this item costs. There’s a passage in Michelle Tea’s book How To Grow Up where she writes about accepting that certain produce at Whole Foods just costs the amount it costs. Radical acceptance, I believe my therapist would call it. You don’t have to like it, but it is what it is. I’m not a couture expert and I won’t pretend to be, but I’ve read enough of Cora Harrington’s work to know that we should pay appropriately for the labor it takes to make custom clothing. She’s tweeted about how a wedding gown is the closest most people will ever get to a custom clothing experience, and I kept that in mind while browsing. What I mean here is I don’t want to simply roll my eyes about how much dresses cost and ignorantly say they should be more accessible, because while the industry is overwhelming, when it comes to a dress, someone has put a lot of labor into creating it. So I want to acknowledge that. Wedding dresses that are essentially custom pieces are expensive! I just didn’t really know that before my research, because I was more familiar with people purchasing ready to wear dresses online, at cheaper stores, or from vintage boutiques.

Once I had done a fair amount of online browsing, I got my heart set on this shop in North Carolina, near where my brother lives. They have an entire section for plus size gowns, and a lot of their designers seemed to make exactly what I wanted: a ballgown that would make me feel like a fairy princess. My mom and I made an appointment to go dress shopping when we were visiting my brother for the Thanksgiving long weekend, and I accepted that my dress would cost thousands more than what I anticipated.

Meanwhile, my friends had taken my refusal to dress shop with them in stride and had asked my fiancée, who they’re also friends with, if she wanted to receive the bridal shopping treatment. She was insistent that she’d buy a dress online “for like $100″ but didn’t want to deprive my pals of their fun (and is never one to turn down a day to be a diva and get drunk on champagne) so the three of them went off bright and early one Saturday morning to three different bridal stores. And guess what? My sweet frugal babe found a dress she loved for $400 at the last store they visited and she bought it on the spot! It was a sample so she could take it home with her immediately, and it didn’t need a single alteration. I was like “wow babe, check out your size privilege!” — just kidding. I mean, I did say that, but we have a very healthy ongoing dialogue about fat liberation and living in different sized bodies, and I was joking — mostly.

So here’s the twist. My fiancée had her dress. My friends had experienced their fun day of bridal dress shopping. My mom and I were ready to spend an exorbitant amount of money in North Carolina. And then — my friend texted me. She’s the one who is helping me plan the whole wedding, and as such, her phone’s algorithm decided months ago that she’s getting married and treats her like a bride. Instagram had advertised a sample sale at a local bridal shop in downtown Portland for the following weekend, and she wanted to know if I wanted to go. “It’s very lowkey. No champagne. We can go, just the two of us. You don’t have to buy anything. It just might be good to try some things on in person. I called and they have a lot of dresses in your size.” I knew that I wanted to buy my dress in North Carolina — I already had my heart set on one in particular, in fact — and maybe relieving the pressure of actually looking for something is what made me change my mind. Or maybe it was that I could tell she had so heard my concerns and was trying to cater to them. Or maybe I was just feeling spontaneous that day. I said yes.

You know how this story goes. I bought the very first dress I tried on. I mean, okay, I tried on several more afterwards just to make sure I really loved it, but I did, I loved it, and so I bought it. It’s a ballgown. It has layers of sparkly tulle. It has iridescent beading. And my tits look incredible. I’m a fat fairy princess when I put it on, and it’s going to look fantastic with my bedazzled white Tevas (listen, I’m getting married in rural Southern Oregon — she’s a fat fairy princess but she’s also a land dyke, ya know?) And best of all? Because it was a sample sale, I could take the dress home right away, and the final cost was $1000.

The reason I wanted to write about this experience is explicitly to say to other fat brides that buying a dress does not have to be a negative experience. Here are the things that were most helpful to me: I did a lot of browsing before I ever went into a shop so I knew what I liked and I also knew what I did not like, I stayed true to myself and didn’t let myself get swept up in someone else’s idea of what I “should” do when it came to the shopping experience, I took one trusted friend with me and we agreed if the sales assistant had bad vibes we would leave (our sales assistant had amazing vibes), I went to a store that stocked gowns that would actually fit on my body, and I decided to shop a sample sale to get a gown that would have been much more expensive for a much cheaper price point. If any of these options are available to you, I would strongly recommend taking them (if, of course, you want a more traditional gown — there are plenty of options outside of a bridal shop wedding gown, and plenty of reasons to go that route if you’d prefer).

One other thing I would recommend, if possible — ignore the actual sizing in the dresses. I’d heard that for some reason the wedding dress industry sizes up a lot, so if you’re typically a size 20 or 22 you might be a 24 or a 26 in a wedding dress. That can make it frustrating when asking for sizes and can also mess with your head. Even though we all know there’s nothing inherently wrong about being a larger size, we live in a world that tells us there is, and when you’re feeling vulnerable and (literally) naked in a dressing room, things that we could usually be logical about sometimes have the power to ruin our whole day. The sales assistant helping me never mentioned sizes, she simply brought me dresses she thought would fit me. To this day, as it hangs in my closet waiting to go to the seamstress who will make all the necessary alterations next month, I have no idea what size my wedding dress is. “Who cares,” said my best friend when I told her that. “It’s your size, and that’s all that matters.”

So! I’m not saying buying a dress when you’re a fat bride is easy or completely stress free — I’m just saying it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. It can even be pleasant! I had only heard really awful horror stories about the experience of shopping for a wedding dress as a fat bride, so I wanted to put something hopeful and encouraging out into the world of wedding editorial!

When my fiancée and I both reflected on how adamant we’d been about buying our dresses online, and how funny it was that we’d both ended up purchasing options we found in person instead, she concluded with this very sound lesson: “It turns out, when you go shopping for a wedding dress, it’s very hard not to buy one!”

I think it would be fun to use the comment section as a place where anyone can talk about their wedding outfit shopping experience — tell us about your bridal gowns, tell us about your tuxedo, tell us about your thrifted outfit, tell us about your themed costume wedding — but I’d like to explicitly state that this is a space for fat people to talk about their experiences, share tips, and also vent or share fears if we want to, without being policed or concern trolled or body shamed. This is always true for Autostraddle’s comment policy. That said — okay y’all, tell me all about your experience of shopping for your wedding outfits! Let’s goooooooo!

Blush and Bashful is a biweekly queer wedding planning column.

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Vanessa is a writer, a teacher, and the community editor at Autostraddle. Very hot, very fun, very weird. Find her on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 404 articles for us.


  1. My straight sized gorgeous wife is extremely frugal, has a history of anorexia, and a complicated relationship with her family so she was super concerned about the dress shopping experience. What we did was have a date just the two of us at a fancy dress shop near us for her to see what it was like to try on dresses with a purely enthusiastic crowd (she looked so cute!) and the sales associate knew we weren’t purchasing that day so she put her in a few dresses that were outside her style just so she could experience it. It was a helpful narrowing down trip and got some of the anxiety out.
    For the actual purchasing day, both our moms came to town and she had two very specific dresses on her mind. They couldn’t have been more different. She took the night to think about the two and confided in me that one of them was more what she thought she wanted because of her research and the ability to buy second hand whereas the second one was more expensive, tighter on her body, but she preferred. She ended up buying the second one and it was really special to see her have the experience of having an outfit tailored to her body, have support around the ways regular clothes don’t fit her properly, and feel really great the day of. We ended up thrifting a blazer to go with it which she also had tailored and it was just really lovely seeing her have positive experiences with clothes.

    I am less straight sized than she is and very butch. We all joke that half the reason I agreed to a wedding was to get a Bindle and Keep suit. While the suit itself is gorgeous (and I ended up having a friend’s Texan rancher dad make me a custom bolo tie!), the basic white shirt fitting my body and chest? Revolutionary. I wish I had the income to buy all my shirts from them, but alas I do not. I did convince my dad to get a suit with me and it was a really special time seeing my super lowkey 62 year old dad get his first (and likely only) custom suit and have that experience together. My dad and I got the same lining for our suits so we have a super cute picture of us holding the lining out. I’m not a wedding person – my wife is why we did it – but honestly, lots of special vibes all around. And I looked really hot in my suit and had so many friends who had known me before I figured my gender presentation out at the wedding getting emotional about how great it was to see me like that.

    • this entire comment made me SO happy to read. i’m so glad you and your wife were both able to have such wonderful experiences around the clothes you wore on your wedding day. thank you for sharing with us! <3

  2. As a fat femme getting married next year this is the post I needed! I’m still committed to buying online but misstated because I don’t want a traditional dress. The group chat I need is-can a busty fat person wear a strapless wedding dress and where am I buying a wedding bra?? I haven’t worn a strapless bra since high school? I have no fat friends!! It’s lonely over here!

    • okay i will say one of the reasons i went with a traditional gown versus the selkie i had my eye on was because of the BUILT IN CORSET/SUPPORT! i didn’t post photos of myself in my dress because i don’t want to reveal my wedding dress before my wedding, but i can promise that however amazing you think built in support will be, IT IS EVEN MORE AMAZING. i felt soooo stressed about buying undergarments for my wedding dress and now it is simply a non issue because the dress itself supports my boobs.

      that said, the tiktok girlies loooove misses kisses bras, which absolutely look like ear muffs for your boobs but also seem to genuinely work and be strapless, so! wishing you the best of luck no matter what you decide to do!

  3. Oh my gosh this is so cute! Congratulations to both you and your fiancée on having beautiful gowns you both love!

    When my wife and I were planning our wedding this was the thing I was most stressed about. I have some gender anxiety- like I’m a woman but like I’m a woman in the way captain kirk is a woman, you know? How do find a dress for that??? Without going full star trek?!? To further trouble me, my job is creating actual custom wedding dress like garments- I worked for a ballet company and spent my days making tutus and ball gowns. So I KNEW TOO MUCH. I would see a wedding gown and be like is that POLYESTER BOBBINET? Take it away! And then people would be like oh why don’t you just make your own? And I was like you mean do WORK?!? For MY WEDDING?!?
    Anyway then the pandemic struck so we had to cancel and it was awful. And then Justice Ginsberg died so my wife and I were like, I guess we have to get married after all. Because it was the height of covid and we really didn’t want to go shopping, we both just wore suits we already had. Here’s the thing though- our suits ended up matching. We both had light blue suits and we both did bold accessories and we looked so cute together?!? Shopping your closet! And even though it was only our parents and a few besties and not the huge party we were planning it was perfect.

    • omg this story had so many twists and turns! i’m so happy it all worked out in the end, even though it wasn’t what you were expecting. i keep telling myself this: the reason i want a wedding is because i want to marry my future wife! so no matter what happens, it will be perfect, because the end result is the same: being married to my wife! i love that shopping your closet worked so well though, that is magical and way more affordable than the route i chose to take, lol.

    • I so feel you on the ‘is this POLYESTER BOBBINET take it away’ wedding dress phenomenon.

      I couldn’t do it, so I did make my own and got married in duchess silk for £300 in cash for the materials (my main fabric was £45 a metre – more than I’ve ever spent before or since) – the theoretical cost of my own labour, which would have run to around about £1,600 more had I payed myself a fair wage, would bring the cost to £1,900 so approx $3,000 in all at the then exchange rate. It’s really true that you’re paying for the labour in a wedding dress, not the materials, and I appreciate that being pointed out, Vanessa!

      • oh my gosh your dress sounds absolutely STUNNING and also wow, what a lot of work you put into it! i’m glad you appreciated that note — cora’s work has been so influential on the way i think about fashion and labor, and it’s important to me to reflect that in my writing about it.

  4. I wanted to have a very affordable wedding, and the outfits were not something I wanted to put a lot of the money into. I also didn’t like the idea of getting an outfit that I would only wear once. So I decided to make mine! I was open to getting one from a thrift store,but didn’t find any I was interested in. I made a “practice dress” and made plans to make a more complex one for the real dress, but was much too busy with all the other wedding prep so I ended up wearing the practice dress which was absolutely perfect! I used a pattern for a full length simple dress, with just one layer and lining in the bodice, and used white flannel with a pattern of watercolored bugs on it, and it was perfectly white but also colorful. My spouse wore a skirt imade them and a fancy white shirt.

  5. Vanessa I love your dress journey!! 💖 I got my dress from ModCloth, and then took it to a seamstress friend of a friend for some alterations. I wanted something that looked fancy/cute but was chill enough that I could wear it again. (Reader, I loved the dress but regretfully I have not worn it since our wedding 7 years ago. 😂)

    Also, Lindy West’s 2015 essay “My Wedding Was Perfect and I was Fat As Hell the Whole Time” was a rock for me during the whole dress process. I can look back now and honestly say it was a turning point for me in how I think of and love my fat body.

  6. I was a border land of straight and plus size when I was shopping for my wedding dress and thus was able to buy a dress at a formal dress shop that was having a sale (picture those dress shops for both wedding/school formal dresses that are way over the top for a school event). I happened to be in the mall for photos with my future in-laws and so tried on dresses with my future MIL and two SIL. It was a more low-key experience because I didn’t expect things to fit so when I found a dress and it was $100 I decided to go with it. I had originally planned on an online custom dress that would have been more expensive (not begrudging it, like the post said these things take a lot of effort).

    The downside to this purchase was that I purchased it 7 months ahead of my wedding and I therefore put the expectation on myself that I had to stay the same size so that alterations weren’t required (I hemmed the dress myself) as we were trying to keep the wedding very adorable. I managed to keep my mental health during that stretch but it took a lot of work so I would say to folks that you should plan for an alterations budget for your attire and a lot of compassion for yourself around the whole process.

    My wife went for on an off the rack suit from J. crew as she is a straight size but as she is petite that presented it’s own challenges.

    If I were to go back in time, I think I would have traveled to find a shop with more of my sizes and allowed that room for alterations. Or perhaps just get a fancy dress for our 12.5 year anniversary like the dutch do!

    • this is such a good point — i actually asked the person doing my alteration what people do about their bodies changing over the course of time between “alterations” and “the actual wedding” and i was pleased to hear that they will make additional changes for no cost within in a certain time frame, which eased my mind, but it’s still sort of stressful overall. i think compassion to self is very important always, and i appreciate you bringing up your experience and reflections in retrospect.

      also i’d never heard of that dutch tradition but I LOVE IT. always a fan of getting a fancy dress for an occasion (any occasion!!) lol.

  7. I am fat and had a very small budget, so I did a lot of ordering online, trying stuff on at home, and then returning it. It was kind of a frustrating process, but there wasn’t really anywhere local I could go that would have stuff in my size and price range. I eventually got my wedding dress from Kiyonna. It was pretty cute! My wife got a Wildfang suit on sale and looked very hot in it. :D

    • i have quite a few friends who have shopped wedding dresses this way, and my fiancée and i both really thought we would, too. thanks for highlighting that it’s a totally doable task, though i’m sorry it was a frustrating process. also omg, wildfang suits… i’m not really a suit girl but i do hope to own one of those before i die, every single one is so cute!

  8. Love this content! I am not getting married at this time, but I have been thinking today that (for UK-based people or people who can handle shipping from the UK) it would be awesome to get a wedding dress/other wedding outfit made by Emperor’s Old Clothes. I’ve gotten a couple things from them and it’s an investment but I love the whole process. You choose a vintage or deadstock fabric from their instagram gallery, then choose a garment type and have lots of options to customise it. They then make it to your exact measurements (and can tweak after you try it on). So far I’ve only justified the expense for things I could wear very frequently, which means I haven’t been able to go for more ‘special occasion’ fabrics or styles, but a wedding would be a great excuse :D.
    And, while I recognise that they’re not 100% size-inclusive (they list sizes up to around UK30, and since things are made to measure I imagine they could go a little higher depending on the piece of fabric, but I don’t know the ins and outs), I really appreciate their ethics in general and in particular their attitude to fat, disabled and queer people’s wardrobe needs. I felt comfortable explaining that I needed a skirt that was longer at the back to accommodate the size of my ass, for instance :P

      • comments are open to everyone to talk about all fancy and/or not fancy wedding and/or not wedding outfit related things! ;) i’m glad you’re here!

        also this company sounds marvelous, and i’m hopeful you’ll get to use them for the future for more “special occasion” style stuff — i’m hopping over to their IG now just to look at fabrics and dream!!

  9. Omg yes to the sizing up thing! I couldn’t try on my wedding jumpsuit in a size that actually fit and my regular size (26) was the biggest they carried; I was devastated when it was too small when it came! I was able to find another outfit in a size 30 last min thankfully but this is good info to know!

    • it is such a bizarre choice! i haven’t dug into the reasoning behind it and like, if there’s a legit reason i’d love to know about it, but afaik it’s just designed to cause frustration and confusion and an extra layer of “wtf” to the experience! i’m really glad you found something last minute but i’m sorry it had to be so unexpectedly chaotic due to sizing!

  10. I’m a fat masc person and I am not at the outfit buying stage of wedding planning, so I’m just going to use this space to talk about my ideal outfit and maybe someone else will have seen something like it and have a link or something! I want to wear a suit, and I waver between a solid colour suit with a bright or floral lining on the jacket, and a floral jacket with a solid shirt… I’m not sure how I feel about ties? Honestly the ties I own are almost exclusively used for Restraint Purposes, so I’m not sure how I feel about wearing a tie in general- something to check out! Ideal wedding outfit vibes: gentle, foresty, and I feel hot in it!

  11. so not a wedding outfit in terms of ‘i got married’ but! my sibling got married and i knew from the time that they got engaged that it was going to be my reason to live my fat butch dreams and get a bespoke suit. finding a tailor that i felt i could trust to not be all weird and heteronormative was tricky but with dedicated combing of google reviews i did it and then scheduled my fitting for when my mom was visiting so she could come along and weigh in on fabric choices and cuts and such so it was a nice experience

    the suit took fully six-eight weeks and it absolutely fucks. finding something that is not only made to fit my body but that i had input on for every minor detail is just so affirming.

    it was about $1800 which is not only the most i’ve ever spent on an outfit but possibly greater than the value of the rest of my wardrobe combined, but i love it so much that i’m just gonna have to become a wealthy suit butch

  12. My wife (not super femme) and I (femmey femme) are both small-fat, and had an amazing experience buying our dresses from Azazie. Their size range is 0-30, and because they make to order, they also offer custom fitting. They are mainly online (and have a try-at-home thing where they send you dresses to try), but a friend of mine worked there so organised for us to come into their storeroom in the Bay Area to try things on. The whole experience was so wonderful and made me feel like a magical princess, and made my wife feel super comfortable in herself too.

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