Offbeat dress advice for plus-sized brides

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twilight wedding dress by uptight clothing uk alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)
This is the Twilight dress, custom made by Uptight Clothing in the UK. Thanks toPlumage for the heads-up on this one!

Um. Yeah, so I have only one question.Ok — it's more a comment and plea for resources to be added than anything else.

There aren't a lot of resources out there for plus size brides, let alone plus size offbeat brides.


I haven't spent a lot of time talking about dresses for plus size brides because my advice to y'all is the same as my advice to everyone: HAVE YOUR DRESS CUSTOM MADE.

I don't care if you're a size 2 or a size 18, apple body, pear body, or cucumber body — a custom dress made to your exact measurements is going to fit you better than anything you could buy off the rack and will cost less than 90% of the dresses you'll find at any bridal salon.

Remember Angela's red wedding dress? Custom made.

What about Bree's stunning pin-up style dress? Custom made.

Honestly, I don't know why anyone even bothers with the demoralizing hell of bridal shops.

Regardless of your size or shape, you'll get the best fitting dress if you have it made for you.

My best advice? Start looking for a good local dressmaker. And if you're looking for plus-size inspiration, click here!

And if you're looking to buy a plus-size dress in-store, READ THIS POST ASAP!:

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Comments on Offbeat dress advice for plus-sized brides

  1. I read on indiebride (I think?) that Torrid just released a line of bridal wear.

  2. This isn’t the most budget-friendly bridal suggestion to ever be posted. How much does a custom dress even cost?

  3. Being off-beat doesn’t mean not spending gobs of money. I was under the impression that most people are here because of the non-traditional things they want at their wedding, not necessarily because of their budget.

    How does one find a good dressmaker? What should one look for?

    • Hey there!
      (As a seamstress who is currently in the middle of a wedding gown) a good dressmaker will work with you to find what works best for you as far as materials, style, and budget. They should have a good understanding of how fibers interact with heat/sweat/sunlight/water/other fibers, how to alter styles to flatter individual body types, and how to cut cost corners without compromising on quality.
      Example: The bride is on a budget, so we decided the underlayers for the dress are synthetic (poly satin and poly organza), whereas the visible layers are more luxurious (cotton chiffon and re-embroidered laces) , and has a detachable layer accenting the bodice instead of attached sleeves. The waistline was also raised to hit at the narrowest point and be the most flattering.

  4. Sien: I don’t know what your standards for “budget dress” are (it’s all relative), but compared to a bridal salon, having your wedding dress custom made is absolutely the budget route. My custom-made dress cost $400, in part because I ordered materials off of eBay.

    OBT members like Jada and Katelin have ordered custom dresses in the $200 range from offshore vendors. Compare this to the THOUSANDS that many bridal salons charge for dresses.

    I’m in the process of building a list of great custom dressmakers, going off of recommendations from forum members. You can follow along on the OBT over here.

  5. Ariel I hope it’s ok that I’m posting this, I posted it in the plus size bridez group on OBB:

    I’m getting my wedding dress custom-made and I’m so glad I went this route. As a size 16 and after watching my size 14 sister struggle to find places who even had things in her size to try on, and then settling for something at David’s Bridal, I knew I was going to get a custom dress. Things NEVER fit me off the rack anyway and I did not want to deal with the aggravation!

    Luckily, I have a lady who lives & works in my neighborhood who owns an alterations/custom gowns shop and she is making me the exact dress I want for $250 plus fabric! So cheap! I can’t believe more people don’t do this.

    My dress is mostly based on this design:

    I went and tried it on Saturday and it’s coming along perfect! I have a few more fittings to go but I’m so excited about this. Here are my tips:

    1. Know what styles work on your body. I’m extremely pear-shaped so I knew I wanted a low neckline, ruched waist and lots of structure up top to emphasize my small waist and bust and a more flowy bottom to de-emphasize my wider hips and butt and bring everything into proportion. Take a brutally honest friend and go to a store that has dresses in your size and try on different styles, don’t even think about wedding gowns. Find a garment construction that works for you and go with that style of dress. What looks good on me is going to look not as good on an apple-shaped girl and vice versa.

    2. Once you find a style you like, shop around for a seamstress. Lots of people make custom gowns, ask to see some samples, pay attention to quality, look at the seams, ask to see photographs, etc.

    3. Once you find the one you like, bring in as many photos as possible to show garment construction, color, style, fabric, etc. Your seamstress will probably have her own opinions on what will work fabric-wise (my dress would work in silk or satin but wouldnt have a chance of holding up in charmeuse). Settle on what you need and go fabric shopping or take her with you to do so.

    4. Turn it over to her. Be brutally honest at the fitting, if you don’t like the way something’s fitting, make sure she does it your way. You have to live with the dress!

    5. Have fun! Designing your own wedding dress is awesome.

  6. Ohhh! Resources! Ariel, you are a dream come true. I’m starting to work on this angle myself, and I’m finding that the problem is that people who say they do “custom wedding dresses” mark up their prices to double what they should be. Sadly, since I want a white lace dress, not a sassy red dress, I can’t really pretend it’s just for a “party.” GAH! Tips??

    Also: I think custom can be budget, in many ways. What if you have a friend or loved one make it? What if you make it yourself? What if you find a seamstress on etsy? Honestly, I’d rather know that whatever I spend is going into the pocket of a crafty go-getter, rather then bride-salon-o-rama that paid a overseas seamstress $0.50 a day.

    Annnddd… because I can’t quite resist… some of us feel, I think, that *not* spending gobs of money on our wedding is our offbeat statement, as much or more then wearing a red dress.

  7. If you’ve never tried to get something custom-made before, the idea can sound daunting. But it won’t be that hard, and it shouldn’t be that expensive. Expect to pay for the fabric and for the skills/time of the dressmaker. The cost of the fabric is within your control, and if you don’t have much money to pay a dressmaker, choose a simple dress style without lots of intricate details.

    Some tips on finding someone to make your dress/wedding outfit:

    * If you already go to a tailor for alterations — which I do, and no, I’m not rich, just shaped differently than the “average” size 20-22 — ask the tailor if he/she does custom work or knows someone who does.

    * Is there a university in your area that has a fashion major or a theater costuming major? If so, see if you can find a student who has experience with dresses/skirts/whatever it is that you want. I went to college with someone who was an engineering major but had lots of sewing experience and worked in the college costume shop; she made her own Renaissance garb and later made me my first Goth outfit. I’m actually having my wedding “outfit” — a corset and skirt — made by a friend of mine who is studying fashion at the local university. She chose her major after spending a few years designing and making corsets for a burlesque group, so I know that she’s qualified.

    * If you don’t know a tailor (or know someone who does) and there aren’t any students nearby, poke around online to find a message board where these questions have been asked for your area. I am mostly annoyed by, but it’s had the best information about venues in my city that I’ve been able to find.

    * If not of the above work for you, try the Internet. My partner and I are planning a Goth-ish wedding, and I’ve found several Web sites with custom Goth clothing that will work with our look — and I believe I found them through the Offbeat Bride discussion boards. I’ve also gotten some good information from LiveJournal’s Wedding Planning community.

    The bride who asked the question sounded frustrated, and I agree that it’s frustrating. Someone else commented here that you need to know what shapes look good on you, and that’s absolutely true — I look best in a corset and skirt if I’m not wearing pants; hence I stopped trying on big dresses that made me look bigger and realized that I need to play to my already known strengths. I think it will come to you if you look at a LOT of photos online and do a lot of thinking about what you’re wearing when you feel like a million bucks.

  8. Sien, lots of custom-made wedding dresses are way less expensive than even the least expensive of the dresses you can get in bridal salons. A friend of mine is designing mine and her current estimate is $300 plus fabric (and I’m making her charge me full price!). Of course, more complicated dresses in more expensive fabrics will be more, but still nowhere near what you’d pay for something similar in a salon.

  9. I found my dress shopping experience to be rather pleasant. I went to David’s Bridal on a Wednesday afternoon during a snowstorm and was one of three brides in the place. I explained to the lady that I didn’t have a date, venue, or style in mind. I just wanted to look. She left me alone and I ended up finding a dress for $350 that fits me perfectly.

    • lucky you; when I went, they wouldnt’ let me look at anything until I had filled out more paperwork than it took to apply to college. I finally got rid fo all the extra emails I got from them, after 3 months! (Although I must say, everyone at the store was super sweet and very very helpful)

  10. Just chiming in to agree with Ariel…custom often means CHEAPER. Which just blows my mind. My tea length 50s style dress that made me was around $600. The same kind of dresses at Stephanie James Couture were in the $2,000 range. And the WT fabrics were very high quality and a friend of mine who used to have her own clothing line said the worksmanship was impeccable. By the way, Whirling Turban dresses start at $200 if you use one her standard patterns.

    • Hi!! I am thinking of having a custom made dress based on stephanie james “bianca.” Which one did you wear? Should I go with whirling turban?? What about trying on? Thanks for any input, I’m new to all this!! Please email your reply to [email protected]


  11. A good tip for finding a seamstress is calling the costume department of your local theatre. Costume ladies are kickass stichers and love creative challenges. Also, be wary of buying really cheap fabric. Most of the time, cheap fabric makes a dress look cheap. Remember, the quality of your dress is in the details.

  12. I found next to nothing when I went looking for a simple wedding dress for my size 18 body. I lucked out and found a bridemaid designer, Jenny Yoo, who will make any of her dress styles in white or off-white (if you even require that tradition) up to a size 22. I was okay with not trying too much on – you’d have the same issue with a custom dress. Just plan on have it altered a bit. I could not be happier with the dress I ended up with.

    FYI: the word simple translates to sheath dress for the majority of bridal shops I visited. My body is not a sheath body. Lesson for all.

  13. “I was under the impression that most people are here because of the non-traditional things they want at their wedding, not necessarily because of their budget.”

    True. But many people are on a budget nonetheless, and I know I’m not the only person whose first thought on hearing “custom-made” is “out of my reach”. Being offbeat may have more to do with your sensibilities than your cash flow, but to some people, it means not bankrupting yourself for one day of your life.

  14. Annabel, thankyouthankyouthankyou!!! I’m almost certain I’m going through whirlingturban. I was being haunted by the idea of having to make my own dress because I felt custom made would equal even more expense, but after seeing the figures on that site, I’m confident they can make my dress and keep me from going overbudget. I’m so thankful for this post, I never would’ve even had the confidence to think about a custom gown without it. Now, it’s such a load off to know that I can get someone to do what I want without breaking the bank!

  15. Hi Im a plus size bride myself and had so much problems finding a dress. I went to Davids bridal and did find a few dresses I liked but they were too much white(and pretty costly might I add)which I wasnt looking for all white gown I wanted something more untraditional by adding color to a white gown. Sadly I still cant find anything close to what I had in mind and dont want to spend alot of money on something that I will wear one time. So I guess since I am a good sewer I might have to make my own gown dispite the old saying that if you make your own gown its bad luck. I am also thankful for finding this website and a great place to get creative ideas too. Keep up the great work Ariel!!

  16. As a plus size bride about to get married the second time, I can relate to the frustration. The first time I went to a bridal shop, not knowing any better and the nice woman took a size 8 and stretched it across my ample bosoms and instructed me to picture it on me. I was appalled. That wedding I wound up a David’s bridal and was thrilled to have something to try on. I wound up buying one there, in ivory and did the big long train and 20 pounds of it gathered on my ass at the reception. I felt like a princes.
    THIS time, I am having my dress custom made and going more offbeat. But I’ve got an ‘in’, my mom is an incredible seamstress and she is making my dress. It’s royal blue and really a fancy-ish sundress. Still, it’s taken her many hours to adjust the pattern to just what I want and my own unique body. Even on my very tight budget this time, I know that it would still be less expensive if I was paying someone and not getting it as a great fift!

  17. For ready-made gowns and dresses in plus sizes, Zaftique is worth a look. Lots of styles in lots of colors, moderate prices, very plus-size friendly. I needed a New Year’s Eve gown (for the first & only time) and was quite pleased with the fit & feel of the one I selected.

  18. Thanks for the info guys! I always thought that custom made=$$$$. I’m going to look into some of these links…oh and the Torrid dresses are garbage. You can tell from the pictures that they have cheap fabric and not much detail, like a lot of their regular clothes.

  19. try checking out darius cordell designs. i have ordered my dress for my november 2008 wedding from them and although i havn’t received it yet, i do know that they will make any of thier dresses in any color and you can even mix up thier designs (different top and different bottoms etc.)

  20. Well, no. I must gainsay you. My wedding dress was custom made by a regional famous professional dressmaker. It was made of silk and chiffon and cost over 2000 Dollars. It didn’t fit very well and wasn’t very flattering. Besides, it got broken during the photoshooting so I had to change and put on my “safteydress” from zaftique (about 300 Dollars). EVERYONE said, this one looks so much better on me and would be the prettiest dress they’ve ever seen. So…from my point of view custom made dresses are a waste of money and time.

  21. Fair enough, Sophie. Obviously, no custom dress experience is going to be the same. That said, I still think your chances of having a dress that fits is improved by the dress being made for you — although then the key is finding a dressmaker who’s skilled.

  22. I’m a plus sized bride and was horrified when I went in to the stores to try dresses on. Sure most of them looked great on me, but every last dress was sleeveless or had those annoying little straps. My arms looked huge!
    So, being a graphic designer/ artys/ crafty person I called up the woman who gave me all her talents, Mom. Together we searched the internet for pictures of dresses we thought would work out. A lot came from here! lol She’s making my dress for me and it has everything I want in a dress. It’s sorta renaissance style dress that fits ME, not some perfectly shaped super model.
    Trust me, this is the way to go. It will fit YOU. It can look how YOU want it. Granted I’m getting it for free as my wedding present, but if you know of anyone who enjoys making their own clothes or is just good with a sewing machine it works out really well. And looking at dresses is so much more fun when you know it’ll be made just for you! Good luck!!


    This site came recommended to me by a friend of my fiance’s, actually, who ordered her dress from there and loved loved loved it! Her models are skinny on the webpage, but if you friend her on facebook (Dolly Thicke) and see all of the brides in her photo albums, you’ve got every shape and size.

    I almost wish I was going to go shopping for – I had the greatest shop do my alterations for a bridesmaids dress last fall – but I am set on a dress from this site/designer, which you can order custom made or pre-sized, no additional charge. And gorgeous dresses start at $395 + tax + S&H.

    I know I sound like a commercial but I cannot believe I found such an amazing resource myself! I will post pictures when I get it in the mail, this fall likely!

  24. In answer to your plea for plus size wedding gowns….check out
    I am not posting to promote my business. I am posting it because there is a true need for a website and salon like mine. It has become a calling for me…not just a business. Every bride deserves to feel beautiful – no matter her size! Custom gowns are an excellent idea…but they take a huge amount of time…from idea to finished product? Kind of like building a new home – good idea at the time, but somewhere in the process you start to question your sanity – you experience a “why did I do this moment!!”

    It is a challange to find a salon that carries instock plus size gowns to try on…but once you do – NIRVANA! There is nothing like actually being able to try on a gown that is too big!

  25. I am making my dress because I am both plus-sized and very fussy pants about fabrics. I could never afford the dress of my dreams even if I could find it already made. Finding fabric has definitely been the hardest part of the process. I ended up taking the bus to New York for a day and buying off Ebay and I have found a few other small stores online but I feel like I’m missing something. High quality fabrics seem to be very difficult to find (at least for a reasonable price) and that can seriously hinder the custom process… Sad.

  26. I just had to leave a quick comment….because yes, custom made is definitely the way to go. Any gown on our website is custom made. Any gown can be made in any color, and any size…this is the only way to get the exact gown you want. I have never had a problem with anything fitting, I usually hear- thank you the gown fit perfectly.

    Our fancy gowns do cost more, but we do have mid range priced gowns as well… can find us in the vendor listings under Romantic Threads. We also live near the los angeles fabric district, so the possibilities are endless.


  27. I just had to leave a quick comment….because yes, custom made is definitely the way to go. Any gown on our website is custom made. Any gown can be made in any color, and any size…this is the only way to get the exact gown you want. I have never had a problem with anything fitting anyone, I usually hear- thank you the gown fit perfectly.

    Our fancy gowns do cost more, but we do have mid range priced gowns as well… can find us in the vendor listings.


  28. I’m a plus size bride that didn’t want the dress to be a big deal. I just wanted something simple and elegant and not a lot of fuss. My wedding was more about the ceremony and the party. I didn’t want to spend more than $500 either (but being plus size doesn’t help that!) After a horrific hour and a half at David’s Bridal picking through what seemed like the bottom of the barrel and dresses that would all need to be altered… I left in tears and set up an appointment at Alfred Angelo. They carry 0-30 and had tons of size 22-24 dresses for me to choose from! It was such a turn of events. Every dress fit and the lady helping me found me a discontinued dress that fit perfect and I got to take it home the same day for $397! I say don’t give up on the bridal stores, just call ahead of time to make sure they carry your size so you don’t waste any time.

  29. I know this is an old post, but I’m curious. I would LOVE to have a dress custom made for my wedding. However, I have NO IDEA what kind of dress I like! I’ve even had trouble finding dresses to try on in my size to find out what I like. Can any of you give me any suggestions on where to go from here?

  30. Maybe it’s just me, but this post is kind of useless. Custom-made is great if you live in an area where there are tailors and seamstresses. But I live in an incredibly rural area in an already rural state. There are two seamstresses an hour from me that do custom dresses and both are out of my price-range (+$1000) and far from my style. My options are to go to French-speaking Canada and deal with Border Patrol every time (not pleasant when you’re brown) or drive 3-5 hours each way to Albany/Boston/NYC. Not financially feasible at all compared to the $400 dress from David’s Bridal that’s an hour away and on my way to work.

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