Home Tv & Show Being asked to be a bridesmaid brought fear because I’m plus-size

Being asked to be a bridesmaid brought fear because I’m plus-size

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SWEAT dripping down my back, I contorted my arms behind me to make myself smaller.

While I struggled to squeeze into the size-16 pink bridesmaid dress, outside the dressing room I could hear my future sister-in-law, bride-to-be Cheryl, shout: “Let me see! Do you love it?”

Kelly Allen

Writer Kelly Allen, 36, says the idea of being ‘the plus-size bridesmaid’ left her feeling in ‘disgust’[/caption]

But the truth was: no, I did not. As I glanced over my shoulder, I felt disgust at the reflection of my back fat gaping through the lacing of the dress.

Letting it fall to the floor – there was no way I was getting the zip up – I felt like crying. I really wanted to be excited, but all I felt was dread because I was “the plus-size bridesmaid”.

I’ve always been a bigger girl, with curves, hips and boobs, and though I hated my shape during my teens, I’ve embraced it and learned to dress to accentuate it. However, while the high street has cottoned on to the plus-size revolution, most wedding dress shops haven’t.

I first realised this when my friend Mona asked me to be her bridesmaid in 2012. I was so excited to choose dresses, but after a day of shopping I realised it wasn’t going to be much fun for a girl who at the time was a size 18. I quickly discovered there is no dignity in bridal changing rooms.

Kelly Allen

Kelly was determined not to stand out for the wrong reasons[/caption]

One assistant whipped the curtain back while I was standing there partially dressed and yelled to her colleague: “This size-18 dress is too tight, does it go any bigger?” She then looked me up and down and declared: “A few pounds off and this will be fine. You are losing weight?” It wasn’t a question, but an order.

Looking at my fellow bridesmaids in their size-10 dresses, I was determined not to stand out for the wrong reasons, so I signed up for a week-long boot camp in Ibiza as soon as I got home that evening. Ironically, it did the job a little too well: I dropped 10lb and had to be sewn into my dress to stop it falling down.

When I was asked again two years later to be bridesmaid at my brother Noel’s wedding, my initial reaction wasn’t joy. I’d gone back up to a size 18 and knew all the other bridesmaids were size 8, as well as being 10 years younger than me, so the thought of us wearing matching dresses left me feeling frumpy.

That’s why, in a stupid moment of vanity, I told the bride to be I was a dress size smaller than I actually was, so that I had to slim down to at least a size 16.

‘I HATED MY BODY’

Three months before the wedding I paid for an expensive personal trainer, but while I lost the weight, the night before we flew to Cyprus where the ceremony was being held, I still couldn’t zip the dress right up.

I was so scared of it not fitting that I ate one boiled egg for breakfast and no carbs for the rest of the day to keep the pounds off, while everyone else stuffed their faces at the hotel breakfast buffet. Luckily it worked, but while I knew we all looked lovely, I couldn’t help but think surely it shouldn’t be as hard as this.

Last year, when my other brother Curtis asked me to be bridesmaid at his wedding to Cheryl, I’d been exercising and maintained my size-16 shape. I felt good about my body.

I didn’t think twice about shopping for dresses as I presumed it wouldn’t be so difficult this time around – especially as 16 had become the UK’s average dress size.

Kelly Allen

The writer says her ‘initial reaction wasn’t joy’ after her brother asked her to be a bridesmaid at his wedding[/caption]

However, standing in that hot, sweaty dressing room in March 2018, I hated my body for the first time in years. This was the dress Cheryl wanted me to wear – it fitted her colour scheme and budget. However, by not being slim enough to look good in it, I felt I was letting her down.

As I studied Cheryl’s disappointed face, I vowed to find a dress that worked for me and the other bridesmaids, who were size 6-8. I spent the next four months pacing Oxford Street or traipsing to Westfield shopping centre to try dresses.

If there was a pink bridesmaid dress, I would find it. But with less than six weeks to go until the big day, I’d tried on more than 30 dresses and none of them looked nice.

There was a figure-hugging off-the-shoulder blush gown that made me look like a sausage, a strapless one that cut off my circulation and a laced corset that made me look like a side of beef ready for the oven.

Kelly Allen

Shop assistants began to recognise Kelly had the scoured the railings for pink bridesmaids dresses[/caption]

Kelly Allen

Kelly tried on over 30 bridesmaid dresses to find the right one[/caption]

The shop assistants started to recognise me and took pictures so I could bombard Cheryl, hoping one would make her say yes to the dress. However, although she was supportive, there’s only so many nice ways you can tell someone it’s a no.

I felt awful – I was letting Cheryl down and my self-esteem was low because everyone was working around my “failure” to fit.

When my brother told me that his fiancée was fretting more about finding the bridesmaid dresses than her own dress fittings, I considered stepping down, but deep down I knew that would upset them even more.

Luck finally went our way and we found a dress just a month before the wedding – although I don’t think it was exactly what the bride imagined. It was the right shade of pink but the high-neck style with diamantés was nothing like what she’d originally picked out.

Kelly Allen

Kelly went on a search to find the right bridesmaid dress after the bride’s initial pick was unflattering on her figure[/caption]

I was relieved our search was over, but I still felt guilty that Cheryl compromised. Even when I tried it on, everyone’s reaction was more about the fact that it zipped up than how it looked or made me feel, which wasn’t great to be honest.

Thankfully, for the big day on July 7, 2018, I had a beauty squad transform me and I felt truly beautiful in my dress. As the four of us stepped out behind the bride, friends and family questioned what the fuss had been about because in our different shapes and sizes, we looked lovely.

Since then I’ve been a bridesmaid once more and am about to do it again this summer for my best friend. Both times I was asked I felt anxious, but thanks to trying on more than 30 dresses I now have a clear idea of what doesn’t work for me, so I’ve regained confidence in my curves.

I hope this time we don’t have to waste time trying on lots of dresses I know won’t fit.

Kelly Allen

Kelly had a beauty squad transform her on the big day and felt ‘truly beautiful’  in her dress[/caption]


And this year, for the first time I’m not the biggest girl in the bridal party. I would like to think that my previous experience means we’ll all be more considerate in finding a dress that will keep us all happy – because ultimately that’s what it’s all about.

I’m currently dating and I’d love to get married. Having been through the ordeal myself I would want my bridesmaids to be comfortable, so I wouldn’t mind if they wanted to wear their own dresses or different things.

Being in the wedding party shouldn’t be about outfits or colour schemes – it’s about knowing you’re so important to someone that they want you by their side on the most special day of their life. And that’s worth more than stressing about being able to pull up a zip…

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