Size Doesn’t Matter: 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. Okay, at TBF, we try not to focus on the number (we all know that designers are notoriously inconsistent and occasionally sadistic), but we get it. 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 first step to getting over the “I’m-a-size-blank” hurdle in wedding dress shopping is to understand that wedding dresses–and other formalwear–aren’t sized the same as ready-to-wear, period. In fact, different garment categories–ready-to-wear, athletic wear, formalwear–are all based on different standard-sizing specs, and while how those sizing specs are applied varies slightly from designer to designer, the base specs are the same.

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.