summer weddings 2018

The Best Places for Wedding Gown Shopping When You’re Not a Sample Size

Hannah Howard in a Rebecca Schoneveld design, at Schone Bride. Photo: Kyle Dorosz

There’s a whole new bridal-scape catering to non-model shapes. Engaged writer Hannah Howard ranks her top-six experiences, both in-store and online.

1. Schone Bride
530 Third Ave., nr. 12th St., Gowanus; 718-788-3849

In addition to her handmade creations, which can be customized for any body type, owner Rebecca Schoneveld stocks a range of independent designers, in sizes that go as far up as 22 (from $1,600). That includes the new plus-size collaboration between Stone Fox and Eloquii — the silky gowns have a high-end-bathrobe feel — and the London-based brand Charlie Brear, recommended by my British, and very stylish, future sister-in-law: Its mix-and-match pieces (from $1,500), like hand-beaded bodices and lace overdresses, are great for those who don’t have one-size-fits-all proportions. But the dress I think will be the dress was strapless chiffon with a rose-gold sequined skirt by the Vancouver brand Truvelle ($1,955) — the sweetheart neckline hugged my size-G bust with plenty of supportive boning, and the low back wasn’t so low that I couldn’t wear a bra.

2. Shareen
13 W. 17th St., nr. Fifth Ave.; 212-206-1644

Although this vintage-inspired shop doesn’t carry any designated plus-size lines, that turned out not to be necessary for me — designer Shareen Mitchell has all her garments hand-cut and -sewn to fit by her team in Los Angeles (prices from $1,500). And the level of personal attention here far exceeded that of any other bridal store I visited: Mitchell was the only person to notice my scoliosis, and she knew just what small adjustments would need to be made in a dress to accommodate my asymmetry. She also had immediate suggestions for which cuts would work best for my curves — silhouettes like the flowy-with-a-cinched-waist Michael and the plunging-neckline Karine. And she even offered to take me bra shopping.

3. ASOS Curve

This size-12-to-28 bridal collection was launched, in 2016, by ASOS — which means cool-looking, incredibly well-priced gowns (I ordered a drapey plunging-back number for just $150) that you can try on in the privacy of your own apartment. If it’s a no-go, you have 28 days to send it back, with a prepaid label. My maid of honor did notice some uneven stitching in back, but for $150, I’m keeping this in my closet as an option.

4. ModCloth

With prices starting at an equally affordable $149, a section of this e-tailer’s site is dedicated to gowns that go up to size 4X. The selection tends toward the more casual, including a few tea-length dresses, which works for me since I’m getting married in my parents’ backyard. Considering the bargain, the dress I tried was surprisingly well made — it had a beautiful lace illusion neckline. Alas, it squished my chest into a uni-boob, but returns are easy.

5. Kleinfeld
110 W. 20th St., nr. Sixth Ave.; 646-633-4300

Kleinfeld has stocked plus sizes since the store moved from Bay Ridge to Chelsea in 2005. The selection has been growing ever since and now includes 200 sample dresses in sizes 18 to 28, such as the latest from American designers like Hayley Paige and Anne Barge, plus international brands Kleinfeld carries exclusively, like the Israeli Pnina Tornai. I felt zero Say Yes to the Dress–style pressure from the multiple associates (plus an intern) who scoured the racks for me and made great suggestions, like having the in-house tailor remove the crinoline from an off-the-shoulder Madison James ball gown ($1,350) to make it less voluminous.

6. Lovely Bride
182 Duane St., nr. Greenwich St.; 212-924-2050

The décor is a soothing pink, the vibe is nonjudgmental, and the sample gowns to try on run in sizes up to 24. Plus, Lovely just collaborated with the couture label Theia on a capsule collection of six new dresses, in sizes 20 to 24, that are curve-accentuating and romantic. My favorite, from a brand out of Dallas called Watters, was flowy and strapless and very flattering.

*This article appears in the summer 2018 issue of New York Weddings.

Where to Buy a Wedding Gown When You’re Not a Sample Size