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The Vine: October 3, 2012

Submitted by on October 3, 2012 – 11:14 AM37 Comments

One of my very best friends is getting married in April (yay!) and she has asked me to be one of her bridesmaids (double yay!). She sent the link to buy the bridesmaids' dresses, and you're supposed to order them sooner rather than later (styles get discontinued, alterations take time, it takes 12 weeks to ship, etc.).

The problem is…I'm trying to get pregnant. My husband and I have been trying for a while, and I've undergone a few therapies that are making me hopeful that things will finally work out. Obviously, this makes buying a dress that I'm not going to wear for several months an issue…what size do I get? All of the retailers have a very strict "no returns or exchanges" policy, and I'd rather not have to buy two. The dress is empire waist and strapless, and a flowy material, so I'm not worried that the style won't work if I'm rocking a little bump. However, I've got a small frame, so I'm worried that buying a bigger size and then having it altered down won't really work (also, that seems like jinxing things…).

Am I missing an obvious solution? Am I just overthinking this because of (1) my excitement at the upcoming nups and (2) the fact that I'm getting kind of (quietly) obsessed with getting pregnant? Do you or the readers know of a bridal store that carries the popular (upscale) brands that offers exchanges or returns?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


Dear B2B,

No, you mentioned it yourself — and yes, you are.

I wouldn't say you're jinxing it; you're just counting a chicken that hasn't hatched yet. …Uh, weird turn of phrase under the circs; sorry. But you know what I mean. Anyway, you have two basic choices — order in your normal size; order a size up, and if it's too big when the time comes, punt — and I think you need to go with one, ASAP, and resolve not to stress about it. First of all, you can't control what's going to happen, and trying is only going to give you agita, which is not awesome generally and not indicated for trying to get pregnant specifically.

Second of all, good news: unless you're the bride, nobody cares. Got a couple pintucks in the bodice that you think everyone's going to notice? Nope! Not the bride, nobody cares. Unexpected pregnancy super-boobage fouling up the dress's line? Everyone's thrilled for you, because you're having a baby! Also, you're not the bride, so, "line"-wise, nobody cares. I overshot my diet for Mr. Stupidhead's wedding, and as a result I had a very minor fit issue on the day. Here's a list of who cared. Aaaaaand end of list.

You're excited for the wedding and you want to look perfect for the bride, and show that you took care with your appearance, and you don't want to make this purchase all about whether there will be a plus-one and be a jerk inadvertently. I totally get that, and it's sweet of you. But if you guess wrong and the bride is sawed off about it, then she's the jackwagon, not you — but she probably won't be, because she's your bestie, and nobody else cares.

I'd go ahead and buy the regular size, in the hopes that the irony fairy hit me with a "women plan, God laughs" blastocyst, like, the next day to teach me a lesson. Hee. And if that does happen, you really won't mind plunking down another couple hundo for a bigger dress, I'm guessing. On the other hand, what do I know; my youngest "child" is a nutbar feline who likes to play with her toys on top of the fridge. (…Right? "What is this colander doing on the stairs?" = a thing I said, aloud, yesterday. Fucking cats.) Let's hear from the readers who might have found themselves in a similar spot. And good luck!

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  • Erin says:

    A good dressmaker/tailor type person can alter it down from a bigger size, no problem, small frame or no small frame, so my advice on something unreturnable/unexchangeable/expensive/mail-order would be to order it slightly big regardless of the pregnancy issue. Go a size up from what you think you need, know you'll need some minor alterations anyway, and think about it not one more time till it arrives. And if you conceive today and are enormous by the wedding, a decent dressmaker can even add a panel of a tone-on-tone similar fabric to the skirt and make that dress into a tent if need be. But alterations are always easier when there's extra fabric to work with, so get the bigger size and start reading reviews of alteration places in your neighbourhood.

  • Mika says:

    I have helpful information on this one! One of my friends was 2 months pregnant when I asked her to be a bridesmaid. So I called the company that made the dresses for advice and they are totally set up for situations like this. The solution — tell them you need extra fabric from the same dye lot "just in case" and if you need it, you can bring it in to a dressmaker and she can work wonders. It does cost extra, of course…nothing in life is free I guess…

  • Elissa says:

    When I was trying to get pregnant I did this a lot. Well in x months time … It's hard not to. But after awhile it will drive you crazy. At first I thought, "Well if I got pregnant RIGHT NOW I might have to miss this conference that I might have to present at," blah. By the time the conference rolled around I purposefully missed it so I could stay home because I was ovulating — and made a baby! Don't mean to be TMI but Sars is right, these things take care of themselves, and you'll laugh and think, can't believe I tried to plan THAT. Life (and babies) have a way of happening, and if you're hugely pregnant at the wedding, people will be thrilled, rubbing your belly and asking you inappropriate questions, whether your dress is too short or non-matching or whatever. It will be awesome. Try not to think too much about it in the meantime.

  • Sarah says:

    My wedding is coming up this weekend and 2 of my bridesmaids were in a very similar situation. When I asked them to be in the wedding they both mentioned they were trying to get pregnant but that was about 10 months prior to the wedding date. A few months into planning the both announced they had gotten pregnant. They both ended up going to a bridal shop to be measured for their dresses (they chose their own dress style) and then ordered rush shipping (which cuts it down from 12 to 7 weeks) but they still had to have the dress altered to a smaller size (by a lot in one case). It's always easier to alter something that's too big than it is to make something larger. Oh also, I'm not sure how bridezilla like your bride is but what I told my two ladies was that if all else fails they could just get black maternity formal dresses (that seems to be the most commonly available formal dress color for preggos). The black would have still fit into the color scheme and when it came down to it I wanted them there regardless of what they were wearing. Good luck!

  • emandink says:

    Mika's suggestion is awesome. Also remember that most women don't show as fast or as much as they think they will. This is sort of a turn on Sars' nobody cares, but unless you get pregnant in the next two months, there's an excellent chance that you and maybe your husband will be the only ones with any clue come April.

  • Nanc in Ashland says:

    It's been many, many years since I was a bridesmaid but I do recall the sizing being effed up. As in I normally wore a 6 or 8 (shit, I was tiny for my height back then, why did I thing I was fat?!) and had to get bridesmaid dresses in size 12 or 14. So read the sizing charts and have someone who knows how measure you. Oh, and have a ton of fun at the wedding!

  • Anne says:

    I am definitely of the superstitious school where you definitely have to buy your usual size as that will improve the likelihood that you will get pregnant!

  • Kona says:

    I agree with Mika. This is actually a super-common situation. Just give the folks a heads-up when you're ordering, and they'll give you your options. Don't worry about it!

  • Jamie says:

    First of all, good luck with trying – I know that it can be really stressful and emotional, and best wishes to you guys on that front.

    Second, depending on the timing of the pregnancy, most women really don't start to show all that much until the end of the first trimester, so you might still be able to get away with your regular size for the wedding. It might be just a tad uncomfortable, but for one day, it could be totally fine. I was still able to wear my normal pants and dresses for about 12 weeks after I found out I was pregnant, so it may be a bit of a non-issue. It's kind of a misconception that you immediately go up a size – you won't even really need maternity clothes until about halfway through, probably!

    So, good luck on the conception front, and you will be so excited if you do get pregnant that this will seem like a minor issue later on, I promise :)

  • SarahS says:

    Order your regular size, and ask if they also sell extra fabric if you end up having to have the dress let out.

    If you "plan" to be pregnant by then it's like guaranteeing you won't be. I know, because I'm a maid of honor in my sister's wedding next month, and when she got engaged almost a year ago we had just started trying to get pregnant. I joked at the time "oh I hope I'm not all huge and pregnant for your wedding, haha" secretly thinking I absolutely WOULD be.

    Almost a year later, a dress ordered 2 sizes too big out of paranoia (I'm fat to begin with and maid dresses always have fit me awkwardly, so I wanted to be extra safe in the event of bump) and guess what? I'm not pregnant. And it's all extra excruciating because for the first few months of her engagement the "oh I will be pregnant at your wedding!" thing was a topic of conversation between us and between me and my mom. Now they just kind of avoid the subject, though my mom does still throw out an occasional "so…any news?" to me.

    It's hell. Order your regular size and keep mum about it, and if you are blessed with a bump by the big day, you can just use extra fabric to have your dress altered. Easy peasy.

  • Lauren says:

    This might not help if the bride is already dead-set on a dress, but for my wedding we used this dress:

    It's a wrap dress that can be worn in a bunch of different styles and fits a wide range of sizes. At the time we were picking a bridesmaids dress my sister-in-law was pregnant (but the baby would be a few months old at the wedding), my sister lived in Korea and didn't really know her North American size, and my cousin lived 2 hours away from me. There was no way all three girls could try on any one dress and know it would work months in advance, and we were really stuck until someone recommended the wrap dress. We ordered them online, they arrived within 2 weeks, done and done! The fabric is flowy and really forgiving, everyone looked beautiful, and most importantly they all told me they were really happy with the dress.

    Good luck with everything B2B, and just know whatever you end up doing, Sars is right, pretty much no one will notice or care on the day :)

  • KirstenB says:

    Just another voice chiming in to say get your measurements, find the size that fits you best now, and go with that. The dress sounds like a good style for pregnancy, you aren't likely to be hugely pregnant in April, and you won't have a larger dress taunting you from the closet, adding to the stress of trying to get pregnant.

  • slices says:

    I'm torn between the 'order your regular size' (superstitious) and the 'order a size up' camps. Whatever you do, make up your mind ahead of time and do not be swayed by any of the employees (I know it's mail-order, but if you are trying on in person in a showroom or something). I had to be fitted for my bmaid dress for my brother's wedding just a few months after having my son, when the actual wedding was not until almost 11 months after I had him. Obviously my size was changing rapidly during this span of time, and they advised me to order two sizes up at the time of my fitting. Well, the dress came in and pratically fell to the ground around me, even all zipped up (and I assure you, I am/was not exactly lean and mean – it was just way, way too big).I spent more on the alterations than I did on the dress itself. And the dress was not cheap, I will just say that. It all worked out fine in the end, but be sure to budget for the alterations if you go a size up. It's a lot more involved than just taking up a hem and taking in some straps.

  • slices says:

    I also neglected to say, best of luck with everything. I have been there and I know how maddening it can be. Hang in, something good is coming your way.

  • Pam says:

    I had kind of the opposite thing happen to me. I was newly pregnant when ordering a bridesmaid's dress for a wedding. When I ordered my dress, I signed up for a larger size than normal to be fitted just before the actual wedding (I was going to be about 6 months pregnant). I ended up having a miscarriage and had to have the dress altered in a different way than anticipated. Like Sars said, since I wasn't the one in the center wearing white, no one cared.

  • Jamie says:

    It took a year for us to conceive our first baby and we're heading into cycle 7 of trying to conceive our second, and although it's really, really, REALLY difficult, try not to live your life several months in advance. It isn't healthy to put your life on hold like that-it makes all the heartache and stress of infertility worse. Do whatever you would normally do and adjust from there. Hardly anything is so important that you can't make changes. Order your regular size and if you do get pregnant, or fertility treatments make you gain weight or whatever, deal with it then. Stuff like this happens all the time. My best friend had her husband's thirteen year old sister in her wedding party. They bought her dress two months before the wedding and the girl grew two inches and a cup size in between, so they ended up choosing a different dress entirely for her. As Sars said, this is your best friend, hopefully it is more important that you are there and not that you look like everyone else. And just to repeat what others have said, even if you do get pregnant (and I hope you do!), who knows how you will look? I only gained 11 pounds during my pregnancy and it was all in my belly-which didn't "pop" until I was about six months along. I couldn't wear maternity clothes even when I was on my way to the hospital to deliver!

  • Tempest says:

    I echo the voices above – I think Mika offered it first – to order extra fabric from the same dye lot. Many, many years ago I made bridal and bridesmaids dresses as a side business. This situation always came up. I always advised to order one size larger and then the extra fabric. I've altered a LOT of happily pregnant bridesmaids' dresses. It's very easy to alter down, but a lot harder to alter up – even with the extra fabric. (These companies use their own size charts – your usual size 8 will be a 12 – you just have to deal with it.) Order the surplus size and fabric and then don't give it another thought. *…now sending good thoughts and crossing fingers that you will be larger at wedding time…*

  • B says:

    I have friends who this JUST happened to over the summer. Bridesmaid dresses were black, empire-waist, flowy. Pregnant bridesmaid had bought hers, it no longer fit, so she ended up going with a black, formal maternity dress that was fairly similar. It all worked out just fine. The only point of stress was that the bride and bridesmaid didn't really discuss until shortly before the wedding, so that was a little fraught.

    So my advice:
    1. Buy up a size or two.
    2. Talk to the bride sooner rather than later, so you can get a sense of how flexible she is.

  • Meg says:

    First of all, GOOD LUCK! I so totally know where you're coming from re: "how much can I plan ahead for, really, ANYTHING, because I could get pregnant ANYTIME!!" (Quick backstory: got pregnant easily the first time, lost the baby at nine weeks, then…cycle after cycle went by with no baby luck. We didn't conceive again until after a procedure and also, perhaps not coincidentally, after I went on summer break from my high-stress prep school teaching job.)

    I'm sorta in the tempting fate club here: buy your normal size, let the dress company/store know the situation and purchase whatever extra material you might need, and be glad that an empire-waist dress is absolutely the most pregnancy-friendly style. You'll be fine.

    Also, like others have been saying, you likely are NOT going to show much at all for a long time with your first pregnancy. I have a small frame (and, full disclosure, work out a fuckload as a way of managing aforementioned stress and therefore have a pretty solid core), am currently 15 weeks pregnant, and I can still (easily) get into all my work pants. I have a wee almost-bump, but if I wear anything on top that doesn't cling, not even my family can tell the difference b/w my preg and non-preg self.

    So: fingers crossed that you and your partner get lucky before the wedding, but even if you do, the dress should work itself out with a minimum of drama. AGAIN, GOOD LUCK!!

  • Maria says:

    You could take your small frame and a picture of the dress to a dressmaker and ask her opinion on whether you should get your size or a size up, and make sure the bride knows it has to a dress in which it's possible to buy some extra fabric. The dressmaker can tell you what your options would be for alteration, whether it's easy to cut that one down or whether it would be better to insert a corset back in a small one. I would want her opinion because a strapless dress mixed with the immediately larger boobage of early pregnancy is an alteration only a pro should touch.

  • courtney says:

    this happened to my sister-in-law! she was my maid of honor, & got pregnant about five months before the wedding. I think she ended up ordering one size up (but maybe not…?); her dress was tight, but not obscenely/unflatteringly so, & now I have the joy of knowing my nephew is "in" my wedding pictures. I was a pretty laid-back bride as far as bridesmaid-appearance went, but I doubt I would've minded even if I'd been more uptight.

    also, her dress was not empire waist; it was a fairly form-fitting silk dupioni (i.e., not stretchy at all) & therefore probably the worst style/fabric combo for someone in the midst of gestation. but it worked! & there you have it.

    (PS., good luck with pregnancy & parenthood!)

  • Leigh says:

    I completely agree with @KirstenB: Tempt fate, get your normal size–the likelihood of it being a huge problem whether you are pregnant or not (considering the dress style and the timing) is minimal, and dealing with that slim chance should it arise will be on the fun side. Whereas feeling sad/depressed/pressured by having to stare at and potentially alter down a larger dress later is just stress you don't need while trying to deal with the already-plenty-stressful conception game.

    And good luck to you!!!

  • Carrie Ann says:

    In my wedding dress, I was a 2 in the bust, 6 in the waist, 10 in the hips. Only the 2 and 6 really mattered because I had an A-line skirt and the dress tied up the back so any widening at the hips really wouldn't have mattered. It sounds like this dress would only be fitted in the rib cage and bust area, so my suggestion would be to get measured and find out what size they'd typically recommend for you. Then ask whether, if you gained 1-3 inches in the bust, they would recommend a different size. Because as others mentioned, it's most likely that that is the only place your body would have grown enough to matter by April. Yes, altering is expensive, but it's better than not being able to zip up the dress.

    However! There are tons of people out there looking for a little bit of a deal on bridesmaid dresses. If you did buy in your current size and really can't fit in it by April, you can put it on a resale site (eBay, obviously, but there are sites specifically for wedding stuff).

  • Kristen says:

    I'll tell you my stories, since this has happened twice to me this year! One of my bridesmaids was about 16 weeks pregnant for my wedding, and we ordered the dresses before she would have known. This was her second child, so you could tell she was pregnant sooner than later. It was an empire waist, and she had her grandmother let it out a bit. She looked just fine. Then I got married and pregnant, and I was 19 weeks at my sister's wedding. I had noooo idea what shape I'd be in (first pregnancy, almost halfway there, but I have a larger frame). I got an empire waist, non-maternity (not really a bridesmaid_ dress from Macy's one size up from usual. I ordered it about 2 weeks before the wedding, and WOOO, IT FIT. My sister let us pick out any dress we wanted, so that helped me procrastinate.

  • B2B says:

    Hi, everyone!

    Letter writer here.

    First, Sars, thanks for the advice. You're totally right that nobody is going to care–or even notice–one way or the other. You're also totally right that I just need to stop thinking about it!

    And, thanks to the Nation for your ideas, and for your well wishes! As many of you said (Elissa, Jamie, Meg, etc.), it's so easy to get caught up in the "what ifs" and imagine what state I will be in at various upcoming events. It's exhausting, especially because I have been doing it for over a year and a half now.

    I actually saw my friend this weekend (we're a country apart) and talked to her about it. She's totally great about everything, and even said that the dresses run a little big.

    And Sars, to prove how spot-on you are with the "woman plans, God laughs" comment, I actually ordered the dress yesterday. Seriously, yesterday. I ordered according to my measurements, erring on the side of larger (I would normally go smaller), knowing that I'd end up getting it tailored anyway–I went to the seamstress who did my wedding dress, who is awesome. Now, to put everyone's advice into action, I'm not going to give it another thought, just sit back and hope for the best. Or, have a little extra leeway for a champagne and cake belly :)

    Thanks, y'all.

  • Stephanie says:

    Order the dress in your current size.

    Having gone down the infertility road before… don't order a dress too big. Think of it this way – if you order your current size and you ARE pregnant, you can use the above suggestions to mitigate it, and hey, you've got a baby coming, so that should help keep you smiling while you deal with that.

    But if you order a bigger size and you're NOT pregnant, you will now have this ill-fitting dress that will be a constant reminder of how you've failed until (and possibly after) you get it altered. And that will be way more depressing.

    (Unless, of course, you don't react to things the way I do. But if you're, as you say, obsessing about it already, I think you might…)

  • Jeanne says:

    Seriously, the bride will not care about the fit of your dress. I bought my bridesmaid dress in the middle of losing 30 pounds, so I wound up having to order a new one, and then I had to have that one altered. And then I lost even more weight mere days before the wedding thanks to a lovely stomach bug. I'm fairly certain my mom is the only other person at the wedding who was aware that my dress was too big for me. My new sister-in-law certainly didn't.

    To be more on-topic, in the same wedding there was a pregnant bridesmaid. She was in the very early stages of pregnancy when the dresses were being ordered and she was about 6-7 months along on the actual day. She just wore a different dress that was the same color as the rest of the dresses. And the rest of the bridemaids (save the maid of honor) were all jealous because those dresses? Were awful. It only looked good on the maid of honor, which seeing as she picked it out with no input from anyone else is not all that surprising. Aaaanyways, maybe see if you can wear a different dress in the same color, that way you could hold off buying a dress until you knew for sure what the sizing situation would be.

  • I wore a shawl says:

    I got knocked up after ordering the bridesmaid dress for my sister's wedding. It would not zip. No way. So it was chained together with safety pins in the back so it wouldn't fall off and I wore a shawl. No one cared and I changed out of it right after the ceremony. Don't worry about it!

  • Annie G. says:

    My MOH was ~5 months pregnant on my wedding day, which may have made the fit of her dress a little bit wonkus…but nobody cared. I was the bride, and I cared so little that I don't even remember if it was an issue.

    What I'm saying is: do what Mika says and get some extra yards of fabric from the same dye lot for alterations if necessary. Alternatively, order a size up, as its easier to take dresses in than let them out. Go to a competent tailor or seamstress to get the dress altered and nobody will notice or care. And good luck!!

  • DMC says:

    My size 0 daughter found a brand new size 6 Calvin Klein dress at a resale shop for fifteen bucks – $40 in alterations later, it looks great on her. A good tailor can work wonders.

  • Anne-Cara says:

    My matron of honor was pregnant (but didn't know it) when we bought the dresses for my wedding – also empire waist and flowy – and was 6 months pregnant by the time the wedding rolled around. I forget exactly the sequence of events, but she definitely made a panicked trip to David's Bridal when she couldn't get the dress zipped anymore…and they were able to exchange her a size up without a fuss. So. They do make exceptions, if you look distraught enough.

  • […] posed a question on The Vine asking what to do about an upcoming wedding.  You see, she is a bridesmaid in a wedding and she […]

  • B2B says:

    So…I bought the dress, and it happened! I just found out that I'm pregnant! It's still very early, obviously, so we're not telling anyone, but I'm just too excited, and I figured I could (anonymously) tell the Nation. After all, I have been reading & commenting on this site for (more than?) 10 years.

    Anyway, thanks again for all of your suggestions, and your warm wishes :)

  • B says:


  • Jacq says:

    That is absolutely brilliant! Many congratulations!

  • Laura says:

    Congratulations, B2B! Just to underline Sars's point re. no one caring if the fit isn't perfect – I was a bridesmaid last year, and we had gorgeous strapless dresses tailormade to fit us, but never got a final try-on session: the first time we got to try them was the wedding day. Mine was super uncomfortable and I could barely squeeze my chest in – i figured I must have gained a few pounds since we had our measurements taken, and just sucked everything in and tried not to breathe too deeply. It wasn't til about eight hours into the ceremony that I was chatting to another bridesmaid and noticed the slit in the skirt part of her dress was on the other side to mine. You guessed it – I had my dress on back-to-front. Percent of guests and bridal party members who had noticed? 0%. Percent of people I then to who have mocked me relentlessly ever since? 100%.
    Enjoy your pregnancy, enjoy the wedding, and let us all know how the dress sitch resolves!

  • Laura says:

    Oops – "people I then *told*, not "people I then to".

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