You’re shopping for a dress for one of the most important days of your life. You want to feel beautiful and fabulous in it, right?
After working so hard to fit into that size 10 dress, you show up to your bridal appointment and they hand you a size 14. Your self-esteem is crushed and you’ve put in all that hard work for nothing. So, you’re wondering, what on earth is going on?
We’re here to explain to you why wedding dress sizes are SO off.
Photo by Sarah Chacos Photography
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, based in Europe and their size charts run smaller than American ones. Even the companies that are based in America, many of the designers are European, so that’s the sizing they still use.”
So, they’re not just trying to make you feel larger than you are!
This is your wedding day, designers and retailers, alike, want you to feel beautiful! Unfortunately, based on European 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 charts have not.
“In the past 20 years, girls have become more athletic and have more athletic figures. When I was younger, we didn’t play sports or exercise so it wasn’t uncommon for girls to have 25 inch waists,” Fritz says.
Ready-Wear vs. Wedding-Wear
Altering wedding apparel is almost an expectation
Designers create their gowns with a couture mindset—meaning alterations are a part of the package. From shortening a hem to taking in a side-seam, the expectation is that wedding apparel will likely be altered in some way.
When women go shopping at the mall, they don’t always expect to purchase clothing that will need to have alterations done. Although the wedding and ready-wear industries are very different, the same consumer mindset has carried over into wedding apparel.
Brides and bridesmaids either don’t want the hassle or extra cost of fitting and re-working a dress.
LaCresia King, who has participated as a bridesmaid in seven weddings, expresses why alterations cause so much frustration during the buying process.
“Bridesmaid dresses are so expensive and I’ve spent close to $600 in every wedding I’ve been in. I think all bridesmaids hope that their dress will fit without needing alterations since that’s usually another expense to add to something that you will most likely, despite all efforts, only wear once. I think this is one of the reasons why so many brides are choosing the ‘pick your own option’ — to make it easier for girls with different bodies and budgets.”
Designers, however, look at it from a different perspective.
Maybe most of us get by without a tailor in everyday life, but a wedding is a special celebration. Understand that most wedding-wear is made to be altered.
Yes, it’s old-fashioned. And yes, it may cost more money. But you’ll have a custom-fitted, perfect-for-you outfit you can feel confident in when the big day comes around.
Avoiding Wedding Dress Sizing Stress
Getting sized for your wedding dress can be nerve-wracking. Here are our top tips for avoiding the hassle and getting the dress that makes you look and feel your best:
Sizing is No Small Task
Have you had an experience with European sizing while dress shopping? Do you have any tips for getting the perfect dress size or finding a good seamstress? Please share in the comment section below!
Discussion: What was your sizing experience with wedding or bridesmaid dresses? Did you find it to be a complicated and frustrating experience or did you already know what to expect? Let us know in the comments below!
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Taking Your Measurements
For the most accurate measurements, do not measure over your clothing. Your measurements should be taken while wearing undergarments similar to the ones you will wear with your dress. The measuring tape shouldn’t be pulled too tight or have too much slack, and should always be parallel with the floor.
Wedding apparel is typically sized differently than retail clothing, so keep in mind that it’s not uncommon to find yourself requiring alterations.
Compare these three measurements to the Kennedy Blue size chart above. It is very important that you order the largest size that corresponds to your measurements. For example, if your bust measures 40.5” (size 12), your waist measures 31” (size 10) and your hips measure 41.5” (size 8), we advise that you order a size 12, and get your dress altered down to custom fit your body.
Wrap the tape around your back and under your arms at the fullest part of your bust (not underneath the bust).
While standing up straight, bend at the waist to one side. Take the measurement where the natural crease happens in your side. This should be a few inches above your belly button. Stand up straight and do not “suck in” when taking this measurment.
Standing with your feet together, wrap the tape around the fullest part of your hips and butt to get this measurement.
Depending on the fabric, a dress can be altered down up to 2 full sizes, but can be very difficult to let out as there is only about .5 inch of fabric to do so at the seams.
Ordering anything smaller than a size 12 would not fit in the bust area. Please note: Our bridal gown size chart is different than the bridesmaids sizing and is listed below.