Finding the perfect wedding dress can be a joyful hunt and a frustrating process, depending on the day (or shop). And when you’re in the process of losing weight, the whole experience can be a lot more confusing. What size should you get? How long should you wait before buying one? How do you handle alterations?
The good news is that it’s easier than you think to look and feel your best in your dress—no matter what size you are when you walk down the aisle. Just use these stress-free shopping and alterations secrets.
Start shopping now
One of the most important things to know is that you shouldn’t wait until you hit your goal weight to go dress shopping. “It can take six months or longer for a wedding dress to come in, so you’ll need to start looking while you’re in the process of losing weight,” says Rachel Swayne, owner of Alter My Heart in Nashville, TN.
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Avoid dressing-room drama
Let’s say you’re in a boutique, trying on some impossibly tiny sample dress and staring at yourself in the mirror. You might start out focusing on your hips or belly and wishing it looked different. Use it as a good opportunity to practice breaking that unhelpful self-talk cycle. “Notice negative things you say to yourself, then correct them,” says Theresa DiDonato, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Loyola University. “Come up with alternative thoughts that are kinder and more accepting.”
So when you catch yourself getting critical, look at your reflection and say something to yourself about how gorgeous your skin tone looks with the color of the dress or how putting on the dress or veil makes you excited about your partner and the life you’re going to have together, says DiDonato. Focus on the big picture—this a day that celebrates a great partnership. Channel the joy, not the criticism. (Helpful after the wedding, too, by the way.)
Make alterations easier
“I always recommend you order the dress based on your current measurements. It’s a lot easier to take a dress in than let one out if you don’t lose as much weight as you think you will,” says Swayne. How much can a dress be taken in? You’d be surprised. “You can go down two sizes, no problem,” she says. “And I’ve done a lot more than that, it just gets more complicated the more you do.” If you’re on a roll and think you might lose more weight, choose a dress style that’s easily altered (and less expensive to change). “Strapless styles or ones with spaghetti straps are a lot simpler to take in than something with sleeves,” says Swayne. “And silhouettes like ball gowns, which don’t hug your body, are a lot more adaptable than something that needs to fit every curve.” It’s also pricier to alter a dress with lots of lace and beading. “Those details actually hide a lot of the alterations, so the final product will look better, but it will cost more to do,” says Swayne.
Whatever you do, don’t wait until right before the wedding to start the alterations. “I’m so busy that if you reached out right before your wedding, I wouldn’t be able to fit you in,” says Swayne. “Call and explain you’re in the process of losing weight so the appointments can get scheduled with that in mind. Things like the hem can get adjusted earlier and the rest of the alterations can get done closer to the wedding.”
Don’t worry if the dress needs to be let out
Don’t despair. “Most seamstresses leave some extra fabric when they take a dress in, so they’ll be able to let it out again to fit your body,” says Swayne. “The only exception is if there’s a see-through layer. In that case, you can’t leave any extra fabric showing.”
And if you’re a couple of pounds higher than you dreamed of being on your big day? Not the big deal you might think it is. “Brides-to-be are put under a lot of pressure from family, friends, culture, and themselves to lose weight and look perfect,” says DiDonato. “Brides tend to compare themselves to other people and come up with a made-up standard in their head of what they’re supposed to look like.” Meanwhile, everyone else thinks you look great.
“There’s research that shows people who care about you see you as more beautiful when you’re happy,” says DiDonato. So let the celebration, not your body size, be the focus of your day.