Something cool happened to me this past August. My partner Devin and I were swimming in a big lake. I was wearing a gorgeous pair of 6 dollar tourist trap flipper crocks and a skirted bathing suit. We were chasing a school of sunfish who kept gathering to stare at our toes, when he popped out of the water with a handful of dirt and a ring. A two thousand mile drive and four years of awesome leading up to this moment. Snot poured from my nose romantically as the lake muck in his palm melted away to reveal the next chapter of our awesomeness.
There was a time that this sort of love and attention would have humbled me, but not now. Of course he does shit like that. I rule. Why wouldn’t he?
It was that same time in my life…that isolation and self-loathing that fat women are often victims of… that occasionally comes back to haunt me during the now daunting process of selecting something to get hitched in.
Marriage wasn’t my number one priority. I still don’t like the concept of losing myself to my man in order to form some weird mutated combo beast that goes to Ikea together on weekends and quietly argues about whether or not the Floopshnort or the Snikt would look better in the bedroom.
I mean…we’ve totally done that but you get my point.
Anyway my Reverend feels the same way so we’re golden.
Getting the logistics together has proven pretty simple because my Mom has kindly dived in head-first and started handling shit. We’ve got a nice Firehall, some great people showing up, some music…
Now I just need a dress. For a fat person, needing clothing is pretty much the worst.
I can already hear the eyeballs rolling.
“But LAAAUUUREEEEN….Finding the right dress is hard for everyone!! Blar blaaaar!”
Well, when you’re a fat woman, you have to call stores and find out which ones have dresses in stock that you can actually try on. That kind of blows, right?
“But LAAAAUUUREEEEEEN! You can get a dress made in any size!!!”
Many well-meaning and awesome people have pointed this out to me in desperate moments. I don’t have the luxury of trying on a dress before getting it made to my figure and hoping it looks alright? Well that sucks. Those are both true facts, but the third true fact is that there is very little love or leeway for fat women who decide they want to get married. You have less choices, less places to shop.
Think about it this way. When I go to the mall I get to go to one, maybe two clothing stores. Everyone else gets the whole damn mall.
Anyone who thinks “Well, just lose weight!” will fail at getting anything out of this article so go away.
Every now and then I take to the internet. Googling “Plus size wedding dress” and hoping I’ll find something different. In an effort to not feel like spent shit, I usually just wind up posting dresses I think are gross and calling it a day. My friends and family have been awesome, sending me suggestions and not once questioning my decision to avoid a white gown. There are some really good resources out there for “different” looking dresses, but even in those cases I find myself sifting for plus options.
One time I wanted to see how women who looked like me looked in wedding dresses. I googled “real fat brides” and was confronted with about two pages of hate imagery. This was going to be fun, I could tell.
I decided to go to at least one wedding dress store place thing and try some of these suckers on. I’d take two of my pals and my mom. I don’t think any of them knew how I really felt that day.
There’s a place not far from me that boasts 3000 dresses in stock, as well as the most ample plus size stock I was able to find after calling. Here’s the print on their page.
Plus Size Bridals
Every Bride is a Beautiful Bride at Bridaltown
If you’re a plus size 18-32,
That looked…OK I guess. I gave them a call, and it turns out they only have one size 32 in stock. But they had a decent amount in a 24/26. They at least looked like they were attempting to be inclusive. Making fat phobes uncomfortable is the least of my concerns, (public school gym class lvl up) but not every woman feels that way. I get it.
However, I started right away on defense scenarios in my head. Asking for something in a “Miss Yvonne”. Picking out an ivory gown and asking how it takes to tie-dye or cigarette lighter burns. Planning on how obnoxious I’d be willing to let myself get before getting down to business. I felt myself gearing up for battles with embarrassment.
No. Fuck that. Not this time.
I told myself I’d walk in the door, and let her put whatever fluffy weird thing she felt like putting on me. Complete openness. I’ve never done this before, I don’t know these people. Let’s take down all my defenses and have a fun day with my friends. I had already decided this was not going to be a purchase day, so why not just do this thing.
We got together on a Saturday and headed to the wedding dress store in question. My consultant was sitting in a chair waiting for my arrival. She smiled, introduced herself. This was gonna be ok.
We started on the long trek through the prom section, occasionally stopping to comment on whatever. Then, to my surprise, she led us out to the back door and we wound up outside. Down an old stone pathway was a small building. As we approached it, I saw the little wooden sign sticking out of the side of the building.
“Plus Size Barn.”
Are you kidding me?
“This is ok, it’ll be nice and private” My nice mom said who could instantly feel she needed to say something so I wouldn’t turn tail and walk back to the car.
We entered the fat barn. It had no heat, and we were totally alone. I’m pretty sure I betrayed every instinct I had to convince myself this scenario was okay. The fat barn had a decent selection of dresses. Maybe a hundred out of three thousand. I don’t want to dog out the consultant because she was really nice, and I was treated well. However, being lead out into the fresh air and into the plus sized barn was probably more embarrassing for me than trying on these dresses in front of “normal sized” clientele.
Who were they trying not to embarrass?
I sucked it up and tried on maybe eight or nine gowns. One of them looked ok on me, but it was almost more fun trying on the ugly ones and parading around. Defenses back up, smile, joke, and pretend this is cool man. My awesome friends and awesome mom cheering me on. I made it okay, because I know this was a moment I wanted with them.
I’m pretty sure they didn’t know how I felt that day, but now they probably do. They also need to know how fun they help make everything in my life, even weird moments like that where my guts crunch up into my throat.
I don’t think finding a wedding dress is a major life decision. I get that its “hard for everyone to find THAT dress.” But it’s hard for me to find A dress. A bra. A pair of work pants. Again, if you think “just lose weight” is something to say here, you should have stopped reading at the beginning of the article.
My mom knows a professional seamstress. She did the alterations on a bridesmaid dress I wore at a wedding once and she got my body down perfectly. I’ve made the decision to get a dress made by her.
In this process, I’m again reminded by society that my body is something to hide. Something to be ashamed of. I have been fat since I was very, very young. It took me years to get to the point I am with myself, and seconds in the fat barn to feel the walls come tumbling right back down.
All in all my experience…after some late night forethought over Guild Wars 2 with my future legally recognized partner…has taught me that it’s still your problem. Not mine. You try and help me by telling me things about my body I already know. You try and save me the embarrassment of ruining someone’s day with my belly instead of just stocking your dresses together and maybe taking a miniscule step towards making a fat woman feeling like a normal bride. Your intentions may be good, but it’s not helping. You’re not helping me. In fact, STOP TRYING TO FUCKING HELP ME.
This isn’t about finding a man who will love you for who you are either. Oh no. It’s about loving yourself for who you are and being able to shop for a damn wedding dress like everyone else. Devin gets more excited when we raid together then he’d probably ever get seeing my pristine figure cascading down a white carpet of purity sparkles, so the perfect dress is going to be for me.
It’s also going to be about 2 grand cheaper. (Seriously)
This is me being a witness to my own experience here, and it was a pretty rotten one. I know there are fat women out there still struggling with their feelings about their bodies, and this private space may have made them feel more comfortable undressing in front of a total stranger who pulls corseted gowns over their heads for a living. I am not one of them, and I urge you to love yourself. Try not to let other people’s perceptions of you change the fact that you deserve to walk amongst the living.
As strong as I’ve become, shopping at one store hurts. Trying on dresses in a designated fat area hurts. Reminding myself that straying too far into the “Other Side” of dress barn…hurts.
This is me witnessing my experience, and how I changed it to work to my advantage. This is not going to be the right move for everyone and if you’re getting married and found a dress, I’m beyond stoked for you. Those of you out there that had easier tales give me hope that things will eventually get a little bit better.
Good luck out there, people. Much love.