The Thing About Bridal Sizing

There’s one aspect of shopping for a wedding gown and bridesmaid’s dresses that horrifies an awful lot of women: the size tags in the dresses.

So let’s talk about that.

I’m guessing every woman reading this blog has at some time or another taken a piece of clothing in her usual size into a dressing room only to discover that it doesn’t fit correctly. Depending on the general cut and the vagaries of non-standardized size charts, you may find yourself unable to pull those pants over your thighs, let alone any higher! Or you may slip on that dress only to discover you could slip two of you into it.

Well, for some reason unexplained to the world, the sizing in bridal runs smaller than average… a lot smaller. As in two to three sizes smaller than the same size in an average line of clothing.

And since the gown you purchase will be altered to fit your specific body, the usual (and smartest) practice is for the salon to order the gown to fit your largest measurement and then alter everything to fit your slightly smaller body. After all, the seam allowances aren’t generous in bridal, either, and it’s always easier to take something in than to let it out.

What does this mean for you and your bridesmaids? Well, it means that you might normally wear a size twelve walking down the street… but have to order a size eighteen wedding gown. This causes panic in many hearts.

All too often, salons find that somebody in the bridal party balks at ordering a gown in a double-digit size and insists on ordering the size they usually wear. Since the dress is so much smaller than the usual size six that woman wears, well, it’s just courting disaster. The woman crash diets to fit into a dress, or bursts the seams at the fitting. Sometimes she does both. An extra fifteen layers of panic and distress get added to an already potentially stressful situation and nobody wins.

But you know what? It’s better to let the salon employees do their jobs and order the size that’s going to fit your body best. Always remember: it’s the job of the dress to fit your body, not the job of your body to fit the dress. Besides, nobody is going to see the size tag on your gown unless you show it to them… and even then any person with their priorities in a rational order isn’t going to care.

All the same, if someone in the party really and truly can’t cope with buying a larger than usual size, you might do well to consider alternative sourcing for the wedding party clothes. You seriously don’t want to put your recently-recovered-from-an-eating-disorder bestie through bridal sizing. It’s just the sort of thing that could cause a relapse. A good department store or custom seamstress might be a great way of handling things to the benefit of your friend’s well-being, and even the unique quality of your wedding.

4 Responses to “The Thing About Bridal Sizing”

  1. MayDarling says:

    I found that the reverse was true – I ended up buying the exact same size in my wedding dress as my street size. And lo and behold, it was still a little big in the bust. I just think bridal sizing is odd, in general.

  2. katie says:

    I always thought it was so they could charge a “plus size surcharge” on more people. I think every size 16 and up is higher cost?

    Although the bridal stores sometimes DO mess up with their size recommendations – case in point – I was a size 14/16 and was made order a size 24 in one bridesmaids dress – I kid you not! Turns out the 24 wasn’t the right size, it was way too big even at my biggest measurement. Even with alterations it looked terrible and way too big. So had I gone with my gut and ordered the 20 it would’ve prob been perfect. But yea, I guess 2 sizes up is a good rule of thumb…

  3. When I worked in the bridal industry, I was a RTW size 10. People would ask what size to get, and I’d just say “I usually wear a 10, but I’m anywhere from a 6 to a 12, sometimes even a 14, in bridal. Let’s try several on and if you fall in love with one, we’ll order it according to your measurements.” That usually did the trick. I guess they figured if the tall size 10 didn’t wear her usual size, it was ok for them to dry on something bigger. Then again, we had the Sensitive Bridesmaids who FREAKED OUT when we measured them and told them we’d order a size 10 instead of a size 6. We KNEW a 6 in that bridal brand wouldn’t actually fit them, but they were so vehement (almost violent) in their insistence we order the “right” size! After they left, we ordered the correct size; when the dresses were delivered, we labeled each one and cut out the size tag. Silly girls. Just as silly as the brides who wanted their dresses skin tight and then complained that they couldn’t move…

  4. Kris says:

    I think the main reason for this is that bridal sizing hasn’t drifted along with vanity sizing. If you make clothing from older patterns, you’ll notice that you usually need to aim for at least 2 sizes larger than your modern street size.