The Truth Behind Why Wedding Dress Sizes Run Small

Wedding dress shopping is an exciting moment that many dream of, oftentimes long before an engagement! Now that your appointment is on the horizon, you may be wondering how bridal sizing works.

Wedding Dress

Being a size 10, you may be shocked when a stylish hands you a size 14 wedding dress. So, what on earth is going on? We’re here to explain the history of wedding dress sizing, and why many wedding dress sizes run small.

Do Wedding Dresses Run Small?

Long answer short is YES, many wedding dresses DO run small.  This isn't to try to confuse you, or make you feel insecure about your size.  In fact, wedding dress sizing has a long history ~ one that hasn't really changed over time (while everything else has). 

The History of Wedding Dress Sizing

Although styles evolve, the wedding industry as a whole is somewhat stuck on past traditions. We talked with Lois Fritz, owner and operator of The Wedding Shoppe, one of the largest wedding retailers in the Midwest for over 40 years. Fritz shed some light on the European size tradition: “Most leaders in the wedding industry have always been, or at least have started off, in Europe, and their wedding dress size charts run smaller than American ones. Even with the companies that are based in America, many of the designers are European, so that’s the bridal sizing they still use.” So, they’re not just trying to make you feel larger than you are! 

Wedding Dress Sizing

This is your wedding day. Designers and retailers alike want you to feel beautiful! Unfortunately, based on European bridal sizing, many women are required to wear up to two sizes larger than their American size. So, don’t stress if your normal size seems snug in a wedding gown or bridesmaid dress.  It’s not that European women are so much smaller than American women. The problem is, these size guidelines are based on body types from decades ago. As women have evolved, the wedding dress size charts have not.

Bridal Sizes Vs. Street Sizes

For the previous reasons, your wedding dress size and street sizes can be very different. Street clothing sizes (or clothes you wear on a daily basis) have changed with the times, but bridal sizing has not.  This is why you will notice a discrepancy between the two. While you may wear a size 4 in jeans, you will likely be prompted to try on a size 6 or 8 wedding dress. Everyday clothing is also rarely altered, whereas wedding dresses are. Remember that when alterations are expected, a larger size is desired.


What Size Wedding Dress Am I?

Unfortunately, there is no universal size chart when it comes to wedding dresses.  Since size charts are dependent on the designer, you may not know your dress size until you choose your wedding dress.  However, if you have access to your designer’s bridal size chart online, you can measure yourself at home to have a better idea of your size in that certain brand.
Typically, you can expect to go up at least one size from your everyday clothing size.  However, it may be more depending on the style of the dress and your unique figure.

Kennedy Blue Wedding Dress Size Chart

At Kennedy Blue, our wedding dress sizing reflects that of American sizing. Meaning if you are a size 8 in regular clothing, you will likely measure into an 8 for a Kennedy Blue wedding dresses. Why? We want to make the shopping experience that much easier, including for brides who shop online.

bridal size chart

By carrying sizes that reflect street wear sizes, you can feel more confident in your decision. Note however that American sizes are not universal, so we recommend taking your measurements just to be safe. Currently, we offer sizes 0 to 24. With styles and designs to flatter women of every shape and size, you can trust that we have something for you! 

How to Measure for Wedding Dresses

At Kennedy Blue, and most bridal stores, your size is dictated by the measurements of your bust, waist, and hips. Once you have taken all of the following measurements, we recommend ordering your size based off the largest of the three.

Wedding Dress Measurements

  • Bust: Wearing the undergarments that you will wear with the dress, wrap the measuring tape around your back and under your arms at the fullest part of your bust.
  • Waist: Stand up straight and bend to the side, the crease created is your natural waist. Wrap tape around the narrowest part of your natural waist.
  • Hips: Stand with your feet together, wrap the tape around the fullest part of your hips and seat.

Wedding Dress Measuring Tips

When taking your measurements, we recommend that you have someone assist you and use a soft, flexible measuring tape. If possible, seek help from a professional, like stylist at a bridal store. Be careful to consider the dress length (hollow to hem). Always remember, it 's easier to make a dress smaller than it is larger! If you are in doubt, order a size up.

Wedding Dress Alterations: What to Expect

At Kennedy Blue, our size chart is standard! With the wide variety of body types, it is rare to find an exact fit when it comes to wedding dresses. Therefore, alterations are typically recommended to achieve a perfect fit! In fact, you should expect to need alterations on your wedding dress. Note that seamstresses are becoming harder to find, so make sure to book well in advance. This will ensure that you look and feel your very best come your big day!

How Much Do Wedding Dress Alterations Cost?

So if wedding dress alternations are a must, how much will they cost? Budget is a worry for many brides, so it's important to think ahead. Alteration costs will vary, depending on what exactly needs to be done, who is doing the work, and the skill level of the seamstress. If you need full alterations, expect to pay around $350-$600.  If you don’t need a hem (length) alteration, you can expect to pay around $150-$350

Wedding Dress Alterations

Before committing, make sure to get an estimate on your dress alterations. This way you can have an idea of what you’ll be spending. However, we do not recommend skimping on alterations - it’s better to pay more for a knowledgeable seamstress than to risk ruining your wedding dress with a cheap and less experienced alternative.

Tips for Bridal Alterations

Here are just a few tips to keep in mind when it comes to wedding dress alterations:

  • Hire a seamstress that alters and presses the dress. Aim to pick your wedding dress up one week before the wedding. If you pick it up sooner, the pressing may not hold, and you’ll likely have a wrinkled dress.
  • Wedding dress seamstresses are extremely busy April through October.  If you need alterations during that time, book your appointment sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, alteration shops will slower in the winter months.
  • When should you get alterations? After you order your wedding dress and get a confirmed ship date, call your seamstress. Schedule your alterations to start 2 months before your wedding.  If you have an April wedding, schedule your wedding dress alterations for February.  If you have a May wedding, schedule your alterations to happen in March.

Buying Wedding Dresses Online

Looking for a more convenient way to find a wedding dress?  Searching for a wedding dress online isn’t as complicated as people make it out to be -especially if you know what to look out for!  Reputable websites, high-quality materials, and exceptional customer service are just a few things you should keep an eye out for. Check out our selection of online wedding dresses!

Online Kennedy Blue Wedding Dresses

In addition, it's important to know how to spot red flags when ordering wedding dresses online. Look out for poor customer reviews, unprofessional responses from the business, and poor order communication.

Online Wedding Dress Shopping Tips

When ordering online, always take extra time to make sure you’re measuring yourself accurately. Without a professional stylist on hand, it’s more difficult to achieve accurate measurements. Consider having someone at home help take your measurements, and be sure to use a flexible measuring tape. If you fall in between sizes, don't freak. It's more common than you think! If or when this happens, order the size that fits your largest measurement.

Let's Hear From You!

At Kennedy Blue, we want to make every bride feel secure in her choice of a wedding dress! With a wide variety of styles, designs and sizes, we have something for everyone. We hope that by explaining the history of wedding dress sizes, and why wedding dress sizes run small, you will be able to make a more confident buying decision.  Let us know if this information was helpful!

You can visit us at the store, located in St. Paul, Minnesota, or view our entire inventory online. Should you need assistance, one of our representative would be glad to assist you! Happy shopping!

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Need help finding the right maternity bridesmaid dress size? At Kennedy Blue, we design bridesmaid dresses for real women, including mamas-to-be! Learn how to style a baby bump when you visit our recent blog! Plus get the must-know info and answers to questions many pregnant bridesmaids ask.

pregnant bridesmaids

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Leave a comment

Jennifer Elizabeth Vargas
April 06, 2021 13:41

I was not skinny when I got married. I am 5’3 and I was a size 8. My wedding dress was size 16. I was so embarrassed. I have gone down to a size 4-6 since then. I’m curious to know what size dress I will wear when I have my 10 year wedding renewal. I know for a fact I will never be size 16 dress again!

Mariah Letourneau
May 11, 2020 10:34

Hmmm this is good to know

Gina Golden
September 30, 2019 14:30

I need to know my correct size can you help me Thank you

September 19, 2019 15:53

This article is a liar. The reason that wedding sizes are different from regular American sizes isn’t that we’re “more athletic” or any such nonsense. We’re as sedentary as we’ve always been, if not more. Also, that’s stupid, because if we were more athletic, we’d have smaller waists, not bigger. The real reason the sizes are different is because of vanity sizing. (look it up.) Marilyn Monroe used to wear a size 12 on average, but her measurements would correspond to a modern-day size 6 (size 4 if you shop at the gap and other “generous” sizers). You see, over time, clothing manufacturers have assigned smaller and smaller numbers to the same measurements to try and flatter their customers. I remember when I was a teen I wore a women’s size 5/6. Now, 20 years later, I’m 20 lbs heavier, but I still wear a women’s 5/6. I haven’t gotten any more “athletic”, believe me. And I try on my size 5/6 pants from the 90s and I can’t even get them over my thighs, much less zip or button them.

Wedding sizes, on the other hand, haven’t vanity-sized as much as regular clothes have.

January 29, 2019 09:42

I bought my wedding dress 9 months ago, they measured me and I payed 50% of the dress. I purchased my flower girls dress the same day they picked the size off her age they didn’t measure her it arrived 4 months after to big costing me allot to alter it as the shoulders fall down. This week my dress arrived I went to try it on and was shocked to see its to TIGHT and its a corset so yes It can get on but my whole back is the corset and my D boobs are smushed. I have 23 days till my wedding!!! The designer has my correct size and offered to swap out the 0 they ordered for the size 4 but the bridal store whould need to contact them. The Bridal store sent me a very rude email saying they wont do that and they ordered correctly. What should I do???? I payed for the dress in full plus 500 towards alterations.

October 30, 2018 20:43

Very informative. Was bridesmaid dress shopping today and was measured for a USA size 22 dress, was so ridiculous but at least we (the bridal party) all laughed as I am a uk size 14 which is USA 18. It’s so unreal that I wasn’t even offended!

Christie Copenharve
March 12, 2018 11:27

So interesting!

Hannah Carney
March 05, 2018 16:48

My coworkers and I were just talking about this!! I can’t wait to tell them that I figured this out :)

Jennifer Cuesta
February 23, 2018 15:54

I was just talking about this the other day! I hate bridal sizing. But just have to remember numbers don’t matter!

February 06, 2018 15:29

Awesome article! Love reading the Kennedy Blue blog! :)

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