Shopping for a wedding dress is a very different experience from shopping for literally any other item of clothing. Instead of thumbing through the racks looking for your usual size, bridalwear requires you to try on a sample size of the gown you potentially want to buy. This can mean that the looks you try on are either way too big or way too small, and even if a dress does seem to fit your measurements, it will still need to be tailored to perfection.
So, for most brides-to-be, it can truly feel confusing when attempting to find a wedding dress in your size. Even if you wear, say, a 10 in other clothes, you may be a 12 or 14 when it comes to bridalwear. What’s more, sizing can vary from brand to brand, which can further contribute to you feeling a bit overwhelmed. But since finding the right size is obviously pretty important, you’ll, of course, want to do it correctly.
Ahead, we spoke to an expert to find out exactly how to determine your wedding dress size when searching for “the one.” These tips will help you ensure that your shopping experience is at once effective and stress-free.
How to Figure Out Your Wedding Dress Size
The best way to figure out your wedding dress size is to get measured multiple times, allowing the bridal attendant to measure you at each salon you visit. “I always recommend my brides get measured by their bridal stylist,” says Madeline Gardner, the designer and creative director of Morilee. “Getting properly measured makes all the difference in ensuring the best fit!”
While you can attempt to shop for your gown using your standard dress size (like asking to try on an eight), ultimately, your best bet is to figure out your exact measurements. That’s because wedding dresses are typically two to four sizes larger than ready-to-wear clothing, as they’re created to fit the largest part of your body with the understanding that they’ll get altered to fit the rest of your silhouette.
And even if you’re buying a wedding dress off the rack, you should still consider alterations in order for it to fit properly. “No matter how close the fit, you should always expect some minor alterations to give you the perfect shape, tailored specifically to your body,” Gardner advises.
The Difference Between Bridal and Ready-to-Wear Sizes
In general, wedding dresses run small. “This is actually based on a little known tradition that most bridal sizing dates back to original European size charts from the 1940s,” explains Gardner. “For this reason, most brides will find they have to size up two to three sizes from their typical ready-to-wear size.”
Before you get stressed out by the numbers, though, it’s important to remember that shopping for your gown is more than just the size: it’s about how you feel when wearing your look. “My advice: don’t get caught up in the sizing aspect of your dress shopping,” Gardner says. “Find a gown you love and, most importantly, a gown you feel your best in.”
The Difference in Sizing Based on Style and Designer
To make things even more confusing, bridal dress sizes can also vary by brand, with some designers opting to create their own sizing charts. So, don’t be surprised if you wear a different size across several brands.
Additionally, the style of the gown can also change the way it fits. “Different silhouettes or back styles, like for corsets, for instance, can also impact the sizing of your gown,” Gardner notes.
How to Get Measured for a Wedding Dress
Gardner recommends going to a professional, like a bridal attendant, to get measured for your wedding dress. Measuring is part of their job, so it’s something they’re good at and a skill every bride should use to their advantage.
That said, you can try measuring yourself if you’d like. To do this, be sure to only measure yourself without any clothes on, aside from underwear. When using a measuring tape, keep it parallel to the floor, and don’t hold it too tight or too loose. Next, measure your length (from your collarbone to the hem), bust (around the fullest part of your chest), natural waist (the most narrow part of your waist), and hips (the fullest part of your hips). Lastly, write down your numbers, and don’t forget to bring them to your bridal appointment.
What to Expect With Wedding Dress Alterations
While custom or made-to-order wedding dresses should, ideally, fit perfectly, you should expect that almost every wedding dress out there will need to be altered in some way. Many bridal shops offer in-house alterations, but you don’t need to feel obligated to use their services. Instead, you can take your gown to a tailor you trust or a less expensive option if that’s what you prefer.
The dress alteration process can also take some time, especially if your gown is made of delicate material or has a lot of beading. More high-maintenance ensembles generally take longer to alter, and some may even take months to complete. Therefore, this means that you should strive to go for a first round of alterations three to four months before the wedding. Once alterations are complete, you’ll then go in, try on the gown, and see if you need any further changes. If you’ve lost or gained weight, especially a significant amount, you may want to go in sooner to ensure nothing has changed and that your dress fits perfectly.