Why Wedding Dress Sizes Run So Small

So you’ve invested your 401(K) in every bridal magazine that ever existed, Pinterested yourself within an inch of your life and spent the last three months on a strict diet of raw veggies and, well, raw veggies. Now you’re at the bridal salon, focused only on reaching that “Say Yes To The Dress” moment every bride dreams of, and it happens. Your newly-svelte, size-8 body has–faster than you can say strapless-satin-mermaid–become a size 12. Or your size 14 has become an 18. Maybe. Um, what?

And thus, the bridal industry has turned your all-eyes-on-me moment into another insecurity-inducing try-on room trauma, and suddenly running off to Vegas in a club dress from Forever 21 seems oddly attractive.

So here’s the lowdown on the wedding dress sizing, and why, quite frankly, you shouldn’t care.

Why DO Wedding Dress Sizes Run So Small?

The problem arises, according to Kim Smith, Head of Alterations at David’s Bridal, when we in modern society–ONLY accustomed to, in most cases, ready-to-wear sizing–must suddenly deal with sizing specs that throw us out of our comfort zone, for the day on which we expect to feel the most beautiful, and, well, svelte.

“What I think people do not realize when it comes to trying on garments, everything’s off the rack now,” Smith says. “Fifty, maybe even 30 years ago, people would have their clothes tailored [regularly]. Now we buy off the rack- if it’s close, it’s close.” The bridal size specs, unfortunately for size-conscious brides, are still based on both the sensibilities and body types of years gone by, even as ready-to-wear size specs have evolved to address current body types–and current psyches–of consumers.

So Why Doesn’t The Wedding Dress Industry Just Change The Size Specs Already?

Some have–according to Smith, David’s Bridal has spent a boatload of time and money studying modern body types and changing sizing specs for their gowns to align with modern body shapes and expectations–but others haven’t followed suit.

Why? Um, the boatload of time and money issue, most likely. “It takes a large team of people and a lot of money to continually update sizing specs,” Smith notes. “In this day and age, number one cause in not seeing it done.”

How To NOT Let Wedding Dress Sizing Ruin Your “Say Yes To The Dress” Moment

First, remember that in addition to outdated sizing specs, wedding dresses often require us to wear a whole bunch of foundation garments–foam, long-line bras, voluminous slips– that add bulk and must be considered when selecting a size of gown that won’t actually cut off our breathing (that “something blue” should not be your face).

Second, understand that with wedding dresses–and all formalwear for that matter–alterations are part of the deal. Remember what we said about outdated sizing specs based on outdated body shapes and types? Yeah, that. And in a ready-to-wear society, brides need to remember that, even when purchased “off the rack,” a wedding gown is a custom garment. Don’t think of it as “I don’t fit in a size 10”, think of it as “I’m having this dress customized to fit ME.”

Finally–we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again–“size” does not equal “fit,” and fit is the only thing that counts. Said Smith, “When you get the right dress on and it makes you feel beautiful and fits well, that’s when the bride is the happiest. The size should be the base of their choice; it’s how it looks and how it fits.” When she’s sold gowns, Smith adds, if the bride asks the size, she tells them “don’t worry about it, look at yourself in the mirror.” If you love the way it looks, forget the number –as Smith said, nobody else will be looking inside your dress at the tag.