What Size Inclusivity Really Means in Wedding Fashion

We talk a lot about inclusive fashion, but where does the market actually stand when it comes to wedding-day attire? Designers are making strides towards offering wedding garments that fit everyone, with select brands now manufacturing womenswear styles in a complete range of sizes up to 34W. While this momentum is exciting, there’s still more change that needs to happen: After all, being able to find wedding dresses and other big-day looks in a full range of sizes should be the norm, not the exception.

When it comes to size inclusivity as it relates to wedding attire, Shakaila Forbes-Bell, a fashion psychologist and the author of the upcoming book titled Big Dress Energy, explains that garments designed and produced for all body types are just one important piece of the puzzle; the other is making sure that these options are widely available for people at a retail level so they can feel like they’re part of the narrative. “In the case of bridalwear, stores have to carry more sizes and styles of wedding and bridesmaids’ dresses in-store as samples,” Forbes-Bell says. “This is critical so anyone over a size 12 can try on purpose-designed pieces with their bodies and proportions in mind.”

To get a true sense of what size inclusivity means, we asked Forbes-Bell and eight other people—from real brides to bridalwear and accessory designers—to share their perspectives. Though everyone has unique thoughts on the subject, the one thing they all agree on is that great fashion should be available to all, no matter what size you wear.

Courtesy of Rita Colson / Design by Tiana Crispino

Rita Colson is a London-based bridal and eveningwear designer. Her designs have an old-world Hollywood flair, inspired by vintage fabrics and silhouettes. Sustainability is also a cornerstone of her brand.

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What does size inclusivity mean to you?

“Size inclusivity in my world means considering every bride and what makes them unique. Every gown, from any of my collections, is available from petite to curve size.” 

Why has size inclusivity always been important to you, and an integral part of how you think about fashion and your brand?

“We are style-driven and we believe style speaks of the individual. ‘Style knows no size’ is really a statement, and we want our brides to feel good about what they’re wearing and not worry about a number.”

How can we get to a place where inclusivity is not an exception, but rather the rule in fashion?

“We need to see more plus-size and petite models in more styled shoots, wedding fashion editorials, and bridal campaign imagery. Everyone needs to see themselves represented.”

What do you hope to see more of when it comes to size inclusivity in the bridal fashion world?

“I want to see garments designed in a way that is useful to anybody. A garment that has inclusivity built into it from the very beginning of the design process.”

Tamiko Slinger

Photo by Limelight Photography / Design by Tiana Crispino

In December 2021, Tamiko Slinger married her husband, David, in Miami wearing a Maggie Sottero wedding dress. A curve-hugging fit-and-flare lace style, the “Fiona” dress was the second wedding gown Slinger tried on, and she instantly fell in love with it.

What does size inclusivity mean to you? 

“Being inclusive means to honor and represent bodies of all shapes and sizes.”

Do you think fashion is moving toward a more size-inclusive model?

“Yes, absolutely. I have seen much more representation of the curve size body through editorial work and on fashion-based websites.”

How was your personal wedding dress shopping experience?

“I did plenty of research on gown designers who were size-inclusive. The bridal boutique I went to luckily carried the gowns I was interested in seeing, in curve sizes, so that made the try-on part so lovely! I did experience some issues when it came to fitting my dress. When my wedding gown arrived, it was too small for me, and the boutique did not have the time to send it back, so it was up to alterations to make the dress fit. Not only was it a cringe-worthy experience trying on a dress that was too small for me, [but] the comments from the boutique owner and the girls she had working there were hurtful, telling me to lose weight and basically starve myself. The seamstress was not proficient in expanding the dress and re-enforcing parts of the dress, which I later found out on my wedding day when my strap snapped (because breasts are heavy) and the expanded panels seams tore on the sides.”

What do you hope to see more of when it comes to size inclusivity in the bridal fashion world?

“More normalization of all body types. More knowledge and experience when working with different body types. And better educated, savvy professionals working with brides to help them feel confident and beautiful.”

Alice Baker

Photo by Madison Olling / Design by Tiana Crispino

Real bride Alice Baker was married in August 2021 and wore the “Brooklyn” wedding gown by & For Love. Her dress was a timeless, bias-cut sheath gown that was the perfect fit for her athletic body type.

What do you hope to see more of when it comes to size inclusivity in the bridal fashion world?

“To me, size inclusivity means embracing a ‘come as you are’ approach to fashion.”

How was your wedding dress shopping experience? 

“Overall, it was positive. I started the process by doing a bunch of research looking up different wedding dresses online and browsing Instagram, but I found that seeing gowns in person was way more helpful rather than trying to find a brand or designer I liked first. I went to two different bridal shops and after trying on a lot of dresses, I had the feeling that ‘this was the one’ when I tried on my & For Love dress—I felt glamorous, special, and 100 percent like myself. The biggest challenge I had was fitting and tailoring my dress. I really had to speak up for what I wanted and how I wanted to feel in my dress, as I found that the seamstress was pushing for more changes that weren’t me.”

What do you hope to see more of when it comes to size inclusivity in the bridal fashion world? 

“More representation from bridalwear brands featuring real brides. In the case of & For Love, they feature real brides on Instagram all the time as part of their regular content mix. I found this helpful as I was figuring out how to style my dress leading up to the day. It made it easy for me to picture my wedding, and my dress, when I looked at brides wearing it in a real wedding setting, [and] not on professionally styled models.”

Courtesy of Jackson Wiederhoeft / Design by Tiana Crispino

Bridal and ready-to-wear designer Jackson Wiederhoeft launched the Wiederhoeft brand in 2020 with a theatrical and romantic wedding collection. He’s a Parson’s School of Design grad who won “Women’s Designer of the Year” in 2016 for his thesis collection.

What does size inclusivity mean to you? 

“It means many things. We can talk about plus-size people, who often have a difficult time finding clothing going up to their size or not fitting in a way that’s flattering for someone with more shape. We can talk about petite people, who can feel like they’re drowning in the fabric of a dress designed for someone nine inches taller than them. We can talk about trans and non-binary people, who have a difficult time finding garments that feel true to their gender identity but also fits in a way that is flattering to their body. Size inclusivity means finding ways to support all these experiences and more.”

Do you think fashion is moving toward a more size-inclusive model? 

“The progress we’ve seen is encouraging. Just as important as size inclusivity is body positivity—one cannot exist without the other. Much of the media we consume today is so much more body-positive because it’s more real than the types of advertisements and editorials I saw when I was growing up. It’s a beautiful feeling to see billboards in New York displaying images that are representative of stories and experiences that feel diverse and true, not just an old-world beauty standard.”

Why has size inclusivity always been important to you and an integral part of how you think about fashion and your brand? 

“Everybody is different. Two people with the exact same measurements can carry weight in totally different ways and have completely different body types. When a celebrant comes to the Wiederhoeft showroom, we aren’t fitting them into a predetermined size. We take measurements and create something right for them. If we’re working with a specific body type that requires extra attention to detail, we’ll often make a prototype garment at no additional charge, to make sure the final fit is going to be perfect. Especially for the wedding look, it needs to be immaculately made to perfectly fit and support you.”

What do you hope to see more of when it comes to size inclusivity in the bridal fashion world?

“I recently taught a course at Parsons working with senior thesis students on their final collections. There are a few students who are creating pieces for a curve-sized fit, and I’ve really enjoyed helping them fit the styles, point out details of proportion, even showing how to take measurements that are key in this circumstance. When I was in school, this wasn’t an opportunity I had so I’m happy to see fashion programs thinking inclusively and celebrating all bodies.”

Mitch Syer

Photo by Joel and Justyna / Design by Tiana Crispino

Real groom Mitch Syer was married in December 2021, and he chose a made-to-measure tuxedo in a classic style for his wedding to perfectly fit his slim, 5’8” frame. Syer and his wife, Erin Leydon, are one of Toronto’s top wedding photography teams.

What does size inclusivity mean to you?“

“There are style options available and easily accessible for EVERYONE.”

Do you think fashion is moving toward a more size-inclusive model? 

“I do. With social media having more and more real people being vocal about size inclusivity and sharing their style, I think the way brands design clothes will continue to cater more and more towards that.”

What was your personal experience shopping for your wedding suiting? 

“Honestly, it wasn’t the best experience. I think I had the expectations [that] shopping for something bespoke, like a custom tuxedo, I would get to have an amazing, personalized experience. Instead, I was faced with alterations not being done on time, pieces missing, and questions not answered. When you take your business to one of the most popular tailors in your area, I think I was assuming it might be different. It all worked out and I was happy on the day, but it did not come without challenges.”

What do you hope to see more of when it comes to size inclusivity?

“For brands to provide pieces that anyone can imagine themselves wearing.”

Courtesy of Shakilia Forbes-Bell / Design by Tiana Crispino

Shakaila Forbes-Bell is a fashion psychologist, consultant, founder of the platform Fashion Is Psychology, and author of the upcoming book Big Dress Energy. She is also the current in-house fashion psychologist for Afterpay, helping brands and consumers understand the psychological significance of fashion and beauty trends.

What does size inclusivity mean to you?

“For a brand to be size-inclusive, it means that they have adopted ‘design thinking,’ which is a human-centered approach to fashion tackling problems like restrictive beauty standards geared towards size 12s and below. Size inclusivity in clothing options and in promotional images not only allows people to easily imagine themselves in a wedding gown, but it has also been proven to positively shape one’s self-perception”

Do you think fashion is moving toward a more size-inclusive model?

“We are seeing fashion move forward in the right direction. According to Afterpay data, in the US, the number of retailers carrying plus-size clothing increased by 59% between January 2021 and January 2022. There’s also been a 36% year-over-year increase in customers buying from retailers featured as plus-size.”

Why is size inclusivity important to you and how you think about fashion?

“Limited clothing size options might just seem like an inconvenience, but it can have a disastrous effect on body image. This kind of marginalization is easily internalized, causing people to consider their bodies unworthy—subsequently impacting their mental well-being and self-esteem. Growing up watching 90s and early 2000s runway shows made me feel othered as I certainly wasn’t seeing my body type reflected as the pinnacle of high fashion or beauty. This personal experience, plus my research as a fashion psychologist, has made me acutely aware of the positive psychological impact that media representation and size-inclusive offerings can bring.”

How can we get to a place where inclusivity is not an exception, but rather the rule in fashion?

“Tokenism isn’t representation. Fashion will be inclusive when it can say it is truly representative at all levels of the fashion industry. This requires systemic transformation, changing the practices of designers, editors, creatives, and fashion and retail business professionals. Brands also need to adopt the design thinking approach to creation. When approving a design, question if it’s capable of being worn by as many different types of people as possible—limit the limitations of your offerings.”

Jordan Stewart

Courtesy of Jordan Stewart / Design by Tiana Crispino

Jordan Stewart is the designer and founder of the luxury eveningwear brand RVNG, a favorite label of celebrities including Paris Hilton and Mikayla Bartholomew. The heart of her design philosophy is creating fashion that is glamorous, statement-making, and empowering.

What does size inclusivity mean to you? 

“Inclusivity is about creating a useful product and an adaptable garment for all people. It’s about being aware and creating the right mindset for younger generations. 

Do you think fashion is moving toward a more size-inclusive model?

“Embracing size-inclusive models is the future of fashion. As runway designers, we must represent a real body. We need to be leaders in body positivity and help outline beauty in all shapes and sizes.”

Why is size inclusivity important to you and how you think about fashion?

“It’s always felt important to design in a way that complements all angles, sizes, and shapes. Creating garments that are loved is about working with your lines that already exist.”

What do you hope to see more of when it comes to size inclusivity in the fashion world?

“I would love to see the messages in our marketing send a more inclusive and positive message about what a real body looks like. I would like beauty to embrace a healthy more realistic mindset. We need more industries uniting to get this message communicated louder!”

Karine Idrissi

Photo by Joel and Justyna / Design by Tiana Crispino

For her summer 2021 wedding, real bride Karine Idrissi wanted a simple, minimalist dress to match her above-average height. She walked down the aisle in Savannah Miller’s “Fern” wedding dress, which embodied the barefoot elegance of her lakeside wedding vibe.

What does size inclusivity mean to you?

“No matter how you look (curvy, tall, short, plus size, etc.), you will not be discriminated against.”

Do you think fashion is moving toward a more size-inclusive model?

“I work in PR and our fashion clients have truly pivoted and changed the way they produce fashion to ensure there’s inclusivity. The only struggle they expressed is the importance of working with the right designers and suppliers that ensure pieces are created in a way that is flattering for all body types. As I get older, I am becoming more and more aware of body positivity and embracing the way my body has changed over the years and it’s exciting to see brands evolve as well.”

What was your personal experience shopping for your wedding dress?

“I wanted a minimalistic and effortless gown and was so lucky to have found my dress at an amazing bridal boutique. I loved that my dress was simple but also had a long train that made me feel like a bride. My biggest challenge was finding shoes as I am 5’10 and with heels, and not all dresses work with this. I was still limited with this dress and couldn’t get that ‘wow’ shoe moment most brides get. In the end, it was alright because I ran around barefoot since it was a lakeside wedding.”

What do you hope to see more of when it comes to size inclusivity? 

“Ensuring that everyone has access to a variety of beautiful wedding dresses and are not limited to certain designers or styles.”

Jessica and Emily Leung

Courtesy of Jessica And Emily Leung / Design by Tiana Crispino

Sisters Jessica and Emily Leung are the founders of Hey Lady Shoes. They launched their effortlessly stylish line of vintage-meets-modern-inspired wedding shoes in 2009, and they have been worn by women of all ages, from age 14 to 94.

What does size inclusivity mean to you?

“It means recognizing everyone is unique and deserving of being seen just as they are. We’ve had requests for shoes ranging in sizes from 3.5 to 14, and that covers so many different cultures and genders who we want to include. Being a size 3.5 doesn’t make you a child, and a size 14 doesn’t make you any less feminine. These are people of all ages and including our transgender customers. Our customers want to wear beautiful shoes!”

Why is size inclusivity important to you and how you think about fashion?

“We come from a large family of tiny little aunties, where it is not uncommon to shop in the children’s section. In terms of foot size, everybody’s left foot does not mirror the right in length or width, or circumference and this affects your comfort. Our business philosophy has always been ‘Love your body, love yourself, love your journey.’ We’ve been on a mission to just be so comfortable in our shoes you don’t even think about them until somebody says how cute they are on our feet.”

How can we get to a place where inclusivity is not an exception, but rather the rule in fashion?

“When people start rewarding empathy, integrity, and inclusivity over only profit-driven growth models. When it’s valuing individuals over the masses. Investors and businesses value economy of size too much right now and that is unsustainable, besides also wasteful, and detrimental to the planet.”

What do you hope to see more of when it comes to size inclusivity in the fashion world?

“We want to see TRUE inclusivity behind the scenes, not just hiding behind a multi-colored advertising campaign. When companies just follow a trend, it isn’t genuine or authentic, [and] conscious customers will eventually feel that in their product. We also hope to see more intentional buying, that’s one—way consumers can be mindful and have power in their long-term impact through short—term choices. We’ve designed from a perspective if one person only had one pair of versatile shoes, how many occasions can this one pair take them. Size inclusivity to us is just investing in people.”

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