Open Post: Shopping for Wedding Lingerie

While I haven’t personally run the gauntlet of wedding dress + lingerie shopping, I’ve accompanied women who have, and I have to say: not impressed. I talked about it a little bit here, but mostly I’ve been genuinely taken aback by the occasionally insensitive, uninformed, and even downright body-snarky comments I’ve heard from store associates in bridal salons and even, alas, in some lingerie boutiques.

My general understanding of wedding dress shopping was that the Average Jane will almost always need to alter her gown. So I thought that wedding dress shopping would be fairly stress-free, at least from a fit point of view: you’d buy one that was maybe a bit big in some places, and you’d get it tailored to suit your specific body later, and hurray: perfect dress. I was astonished, therefore, to watch as my friend’s (completely lovely and frankly fairly common, size-and-shape-wise) body was picked apart bit by bit. Store associates and “fitters” shamed her for not fitting into sample sizes, they gasped dramatically when she told them her bra size, and they told her in hushed voices with furrowed brows that the gown she was trying would only fit “a DD”.

I refer you gently, as always, to my rant about how you’re not a cup size, and also how there’s no such thing as “a D cup”.

Bridal Pinup Vaughan Bass illustration

Bride by Vaughan Bass

In response to experiences like the one above, I’m working on a few posts and reviews about bridal lingerie, and I’d love to hear from any of you who have had similar (or, hopefully, different) experiences. I put out a call on Facebook, but as Facebook is showing my posts to, like, seven of you, let’s bring it back to home base:

As a bride, attendant, parent, or friend: what was your experience of wedding dress and/or wedding lingerie shopping? Did you get the support and and find the style you wanted? How knowledgeable were the store associates when you bought your dress? What advice did your tailor or seamstress offer? Anything you wish you’d done differently, or that you’re struggling to find? I’d love to hear from those who had either positive and not-so-positive experiences, as well as what some of you who are still shopping might specifically be looking for. If you have questions about wedding lingerie, lay them on me!

27 Comments on Open Post: Shopping for Wedding Lingerie

  1. Cari
    March 26, 2014 at 8:30 am (4 years ago)

    I bought my dresses at the notorious David’s Bridal. My consultant was terrible. In the end a maid of mine got sick of waiting for him to show up (he kept disappearing) and pulled a dress herself. I ended up buying that one, but would have waited a day or two top think it over, except that the consultant told me it was discontinued and the sample was all they would be able to get, so I bought it. Turned out he was lying. It was available on the corporate website for at least six months after that. I got my alterations done elsewhere, and it was a woman who worked out of her home. She was wonderful. No other words for it.

    On a side note, several of my acquaintances have had even worse experiences with that particular consultant, and even employees at the affiliates tux shop seen to dislike him, but even after complaints filed, he seems to still have a job there. In one case, he insisted a girl I know was several sizes larger than she actually is and refused to bring her anything but huge plus size numbers.

    Reply
    • Sweets
      March 26, 2014 at 10:03 am (4 years ago)

      I’m so sorry to hear about your experience! What about lingerie though– did you get any advice at David’s Bridal, or did you look elsewhere? Did you have trouble finding the pieces you needed, or was it pretty straightforward (once you had the dress, of course)? Is there anything you wish you’d known at the time, or advice you’d give another bride?

      Reply
      • Cari
        March 26, 2014 at 9:56 pm (4 years ago)

        I did not get any feed back on that at David’s. As I said, my tailor was fabulous, and we talked about it a bit. Between her advice and that of a good friend who was planning her own wedding, I ended up getting cups and boning added to the dress. I’m a 34F, so just outside of being able to shop locally for bras and the like. I ended up wearing super comfy black and blue panties from Target. My original plan was nude or white, but my dress bottom was full, and in the end I wanted to wear comfortably, pretty underpants. I skipped shape wear and nylons, too, for sake of ease.

        I do wish I had worn some nice nylons, though, as my thighs rub and chafe – especially under a warm, full skirt! Thirty bucks on a wide waisted pair would have been worth it for the dancing!

        Reply
  2. Annie Cardi
    March 26, 2014 at 10:08 am (4 years ago)

    I bought my dress at an independent bridal shop in RI. When I went to do the first fitting, they asked if I had brought any kind of underwear I planned on wearing that day. I hadn’t even thought about it, and asked about the corset-y top I’d worn when I was trying on dresses (which I really liked). They were able to order the same kind for me, and I ended up wearing that under my dress. It worked perfectly, and now I wear it under other strapless dresses. (What I learned– for me, corsets >>>> strapless bras).

    Reply
    • Sweets
      March 26, 2014 at 10:18 am (4 years ago)

      I definitely agree! Strapless bras are tricky dudes :)

      Reply
  3. Leah H
    March 26, 2014 at 10:23 am (4 years ago)

    I have a bunch of dress and lingerie posts on this very topic, seeing as I’m getting married in October:

    http://hourglassy.com/2013/09/off-the-rack-big-bust-wedding-dress-shopping-part-ii-davids-bridal/
    http://hourglassy.com/2013/09/off-the-rack-wedding-lingerie-shopping-masquerade-hestia-basque/
    http://hourglassy.com/2013/12/off-the-rack-hestia-bustier-revisited-and-wedding-dresses/
    http://hourglassy.com/2013/12/off-the-rack-le-mystere-soiree-low-back-bustier-reviewed/

    I had a great experience at David’s Bridal. Maybe the male consultants are the ones to avoid :

    The dress I ultimately chose (from Lovely Bride in NYC—best store EVER) had the option to pay extra for an expanded cup and raised neckline, and I think getting that right off the bat is probably cheaper than having a tailor take apart a big bodice and put it back together to maintain the boobs but make a smaller waist. Unfortunately, only certain designers are willing to do this. Why wouldn’t they ALL offer it?? It’s more money for them!

    Soon I’ll be bringing my dress to the tailor to get my bustier bra attached to the inside of the bodice so it doesn’t peak out and also get the back of the dress bustled. But I don’t think it needs any other alterations.

    Reply
    • Sweets
      March 26, 2014 at 10:25 am (4 years ago)

      Wow, that sounds like an amazing service! I’ll have to check out Lovely Bride– great recommendation!

      Reply
    • Cari
      March 26, 2014 at 9:59 pm (4 years ago)

      I had an independent tailor completely redo the top of my dress from an asymmetrical one shoulder with ruching and a fold over to Straight strapless. It was actually only like $75 for that part, though I had other alterations done as well. Tailors are magicians!

      Reply
      • Sweets
        April 3, 2014 at 4:23 pm (4 years ago)

        They really are! I had a costumer-friend completely rebuild the top of a J. Crew bridesmaid’s dress once– it was one of the best sartorial decisions I’ve ever made.

        Reply
  4. Jessica
    March 26, 2014 at 10:41 am (4 years ago)

    The wedding boutique I went to made it very easy to shop there. It was a nice relaxed atmosphere. They sat down with me and showed me the styles in an oversized catalog with very high quality images and then everything I picked out was brought to me to try on. There was no snarkiness. All the women were very kind and full of smiles. They suggested a local lingerie store for my bra which turned out to be no small feat. All the alterations were included which was great because I lost an insane amount of weight and I ended up needing my bra cut and sewn into my dress.

    Now as a lingerie retailer I am always surprised by the lack of options on the full bust market. For the H+ cups it is really hard. There just aren’t enough choices.

    Reply
    • Sweets
      March 26, 2014 at 11:03 am (4 years ago)

      That sounds like such a great experience! I feel like wedding dress/lingerie shopping should be like that– a fun and happy experience, not this weird “you have to be PERFECT for your big day” thing. And I hear you re: full-bust options. I’m so, so happy there’s an increasingly great selection of D-G chocies, but full-figure and H+ demongraphics definitely need a little bit of love.

      Reply
  5. Savannah
    March 26, 2014 at 10:54 am (4 years ago)

    Currently I am making my wedding dress for my big day. :) I plan on getting married in June next summer!
    But I have a question: where can I find reasonably priced bridal lingerie for sub-32 bands? I am a 28E and all the corset-like bras and such that I’ve seen are either the typical 32-38 A-DD and they’re all close to $200 which I find ridiculous (then again I am a budget bride), or they seem to not be produced any more if they do have 28E.
    I’ve never found a strapless bra that works because I’m full-on-top and they always curve back too fast and cut into my breast tissue, which goes up quite a ways on my chest. The top of my dress is an actual steel boned corset and will have a modesty panel in the back, and I’d like something to protect my skin from the bones and waist tape while holding my breasts front and center. (I made the corset while wearing a bra and without one, my breasts slip into my armpits. Oops!)
    Thank you for your advice and help. :)

    Reply
    • Sweets
      March 26, 2014 at 10:59 am (4 years ago)

      Hi Savannah! For a 28E basque in the sub-$100 range, I’d give the Panache Evie a try. Masquerade will release “Serenity” any day now, which is available in 28-38 D-H, but the price tag will be a little more luxe. Does that help? I found it to run a little small in the cups when I tried it (I’m full all around), but maybe sizing up will help with the full-on-top curve?

      Reply
    • Leah H
      March 26, 2014 at 11:08 am (4 years ago)

      I have to recommend the Le Mystere Soiree Low-Back Bustier. The sizing is a little funny because they go by European cups (no double letters) and the band is crazy tight. I normally wear UK 28G and went with a 32G and then ended up changing my mind and switching to 34F to be more comfortable even though I know it won’t stay up as well. If you normally wear UK 28E, I’d suggest trying 32D in this piece.

      The gore on this bustier also does not lay flat at all, so it’s pretty flexible in terms of full-on-top or full-on-bottom requirements.

      Reply
  6. Beth
    March 26, 2014 at 10:59 am (4 years ago)

    I’ve been an attendant twice. We fortunately didn’t run into terrible salespeople on the shopping trips I went on. However, I was made uncomfortable by the fact that most of the sample sizes on the floor were 4-6-8 and my bust won’t fit nicely into dresses in that size range. So there were several dresses that I was handed that I had to pass off to a smaller bridesmaid, or attempt to put on but not be able to zip all the way. It wasn’t a big deal, but it made me feel huge. And I normally consider myself a fairly average size person (aside from height).

    Reply
    • Sweets
      March 26, 2014 at 11:01 am (4 years ago)

      I understand why bridal/bridesmaids salons have to use sample sizes, but YES to the discomfort for anyone who doesn’t, in fact, wear a sample size. It can really make it a frustrating experience, even if I understand why they have to do it.

      Reply
      • Beth
        March 26, 2014 at 11:15 am (4 years ago)

        Yes, and these were mostly small boutiques, so I completely understand the don’t-have-space-for-all-sizes thing! I was just surprised that all the sizes were relatively small compared to the average American woman.

        And to answer your lingerie question, bride #2 (annoyingly) picked a strapless dress, so I got a deco strapless. I get along with the regular deco, but the strapless is not the best for me. But it did strap me down enough to take an inch and a half off my bustline and enable me to get into a size 8! I couldn’t breathe very well, but that’s overrated, right?

        Reply
        • Sweets
          March 26, 2014 at 11:19 am (4 years ago)

          Breathing, shmeathing ;)

          Reply
  7. Angela Friedman
    March 26, 2014 at 5:55 pm (4 years ago)

    This may be irrelevant… But for any brides who are in fact a sample size (and I have one friend who is – dead on – bridal sample bodied), this must be such a fun experience! From all the stories I’ve heard, it’s pretty miserable for anyone who isn’t. (Whether lingerie or dresses or anything else.) Because doesn’t everyone have that fantasy of how they’ll look when the try on “the dress” – and what a downer if it just doesn’t look the same because of a poor range of sizes or undergarment problems and so on. Anyway, just ranting! :)

    Reply
    • Sweets
      March 26, 2014 at 6:24 pm (4 years ago)

      I know why they can’t do it, but it would be lovely if shops kept 3-4 “sample” sizes, rather than just 1. That way whether you wear a size 2, 12, or 22, there would be something at least approximating your size. When I go dress shopping and the sample is a size 4, there’s just no way ON EARTH I can get a sense of how it will fit me in my proper size.

      Reply
  8. Tamara S. (properlyfitted)
    March 26, 2014 at 8:01 pm (4 years ago)

    I am a May bride and I honestly heard no snarky/rude/out of line comments from any sales associates. I went to 5 stores in two different states; all were local boutiques except for one which is a large chain, and the other was the bridal department of a large department store. I went to one store here in Chicago and 4 ones on SC. The associates in the stores in SC were more modest…ie “put the dress on and I’ll come lace/zip you up”, whereas in Chicago my associate was in the room with me the whole time.
    I am full busted, but have narrow hips and so I often feel like my parts don’t match each other. I often have to have dresses altered. I was really pleased that my associates pulled dresses that made me look hourglass-y. I tried on many different styles and when it was clear that something wasn’t working (looking at you cap sleeved a-line dress) the associate would explain why I wasn’t getting the look I wanted from the dress. That was really appreciated.

    Re: Sample sizes. Sample sizes differ! My dress is a one-of a kind sample and the label on it is a 14. I wear a size 10-12 and my dress fits perfectly. If I had bought a dress directly from the manufacturer, I would have had to gone with my largest measurement (bust) and have it taken in a bit. I do know that some designers will deepen the cups/bust area of a dress. The bust area of my gown is very shallow. My seamstress said that the bust of most dresses is made for a “B” cup.

    On another note, I am not wearing a bra the day of my wedding. My dress is boned through the bodice :)

    Reply
    • Sweets
      April 3, 2014 at 4:22 pm (4 years ago)

      I’ve been surprised how often I’ve heard from full-bust brides lately who feel good about going braless on their wedding day! My preconception was that everyone would want a basque or strapless bra, but apparently the dresses out there right now are making everyone feel really, really good. Yay boning!

      Reply
  9. Another Mary
    March 27, 2014 at 10:16 pm (4 years ago)

    Gah, sorry, I meant to reply to this on FB! On the other hand, you know my experience already :)

    I went with a low-end J.Crew wedding dress, because it was easy and I loved it. I was lucky enough to have worn the same style as a bridesmaid a year or two before, so I knew that the dress would basically fit my bust pretty well. Easy, fine, great!

    Shopping for wedding lingerie was a whole nother experience. Julia Lambert and I went to a fancy-pants Chicago lingerie boutique that we’d been to before and loved, and people were just really rude. We had to tug on people’s arms to get their attention, weren’t pointed to anything in my size, and left feeling really down and sad. (Except for the AMAZING floofy robe, which I definitely swan around in on a regular basis.) I ended up not being able to find a bra that wouldn’t show under my dress but that would also fit in any way, so I wore a really ill-fitting old one because it was the best I had.

    I guess my perspective is of someone who’s definitely full-bust, not precisely sized out of “standard” options like J. Crew, but not perfect for them. But I just wanted things to be easy and inexpensive, because I was poor and stressed-out, and that meant sacrificing on fit and options. (I mean, I love love loved my dress, don’t get me wrong. I just wish I had had a reasonably pretty bra to wear under it.)

    Reply
    • Sweets
      April 3, 2014 at 4:19 pm (4 years ago)

      I forgot about your floofy robe! Man, I’m so glad you have that. Floofy robes for everyone. I’ve definitely made the “it-doesn’t-fit-perfectly-but-it’s-in-my-budget-and-doesn’t-show-under-the-dress” decision before. You do what you have to do, but I’m always so, so irritated to hear about bad service in a boutique, especially re: wedding lingerie, when a bride may be feeling harried and vulnerable already. Booo.

      Reply
  10. Phoenix
    April 3, 2014 at 4:14 pm (4 years ago)

    I had a pretty good experience at both stores I went to. I eventually bought my dress at David’s Bridal and the associate I worked with was helpful, if not overly friendly. Luckily, I am pretty close to a sample size because I needed to buy a dress off the rack because the wedding was planned very fast. (Not a shotgun – my husband and I eloped and then my parents insisted on a real wedding 3 months later. They were a little irritated about the elopement). I was able to try on many dresses and almost all of them fit, though every single one was at least a foot too long. This is the curse of being short.

    The tailoring staff was okay, though I probably should have gone somewhere independent because I think David’s Bridal really is a racket in that department. Aside from shortening the overall length of dress considerably and adjusting the halter top length, I really didn’t need anthing fancy. No one was snarky to me about my body or large breasts, though I was meeting with alterations at the same time as another bride with a perfect model shape and the staff kept commenting about how beautiful she was while (mostly) ignoring me. I had to wait a while until they were done with her 2 dresses. I did not get comments about how beautiful I was. Though, really, that’s a very minor complaint.

    As for lingerie, I didn’t wear a bra with my dress and I NEVER don’t wear a bra. The fabric was thick enough, there was boning, and it was a halter, so it actually worked out okay. I did wear off-brand spanx at the last minute, mostly because I was feeling bloated that day (of course, why wouldn’t that happen on my wedding day?) and wearing the spanx helped slim me down a bit.

    Reply
    • Sweets
      April 3, 2014 at 4:25 pm (4 years ago)

      I’m discovering lately that lots of wedding dresses are real powerhouses, especially some of the strapless ones. I’d assumed that everyone would want a strapless bra or basque for shape and security, but it seems like the dresses themselves are able to provide that all alone!

      Reply

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