- When Samantha Nietz had a hard time finding a wedding dress, she decided to make one.
- She then went one step further and started designing wedding outfits for people of all sizes.
- This is her story, as told to PollyAnna Brown.
Something is loading.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Samantha Nietz, 28-year-old wedding outfit designer and the owner of Lost in the Lace from Coaldale, Pennsylvania. It has been edited for length and clarity.
With my body type, shopping can be difficult. I’m six foot three and naturally very thin; it can be hard to find clothes that fit my frame the way I want them to and are still long enough for me. This proved to be a problem when I was looking for a wedding dress.
However, I know that it’s not just people with bodies like mine that have this issue. People of all shapes and sizes have a hard time finding gowns, and fatphobia in particular is especially rampant in the industry.
My experience trying on gowns and being completely unable to find one that fit off-the-rack is what pushed me to open Lost in the Lace. Now, I make custom wedding gowns and outfits for people of all sizes, including jumpsuits, three-piece-suits, and anything else that will make someone’s vision come to life.
The wedding dress shopping trip that launched a business
Even though I was planning to make my own dress, I went to try on bridal gowns to get a sense of what I liked. I tried on a couple gowns at a bridal boutique and I ended up loving one so much that I decided I wanted to buy it.
It was a great moment, but one that was instantly over when my consultant pointed out that the dress was too short for me. Further, she told me it wasn’t available in a longer length. I have a background in technical design — I know what’s possible and what’s not possible. Designers and stores purposely not including certain body types is not acceptable to me.
Credit: Alexandra Seba
After this disappointment, not only did I stick with my original decision to make my own dress, I went further than that — I decided I didn’t want others to feel the way I felt, and wanted to make wedding outfits for other people, too.
I want people to have positive experiences looking for their wedding outfits
My experience looking for a dress wasn’t my only shocking experience at a bridal store. I’d previously worked for a bridal boutique, and during that time, I saw a lot of fatphobic things.
For example, the average bridal styles and samples were a size 6, but the average American woman is between a size 16 and 18. The options for plus-size gowns were limited. If they couldn’t find what they were looking for, customers were told they were out of luck, and that they’d have to find a seamstress to make something custom for them.
Credit: Dave Zerbe Photography, photo by Wayne Becker Jr.
A shop may have hundreds of options for customers who wore anything a size 12 and under, but for plus-size customers, it was like, “Here are your 22 options. And if you also don’t want to show your arms, here are your four options.” The lack of choices alone could make a person feel like they weren’t worth being considered by a designer.
The dialogue between bridal consultants and clients was even more jaw-dropping. Consultants would often comment bluntly on the bodies of brides and compare them to other people who were currently in the room.
People come to bridal stores to shop for something to wear on a momentous day in their lives, something to wear while making special memories. While many of us have complicated relationships with our bodies, we shouldn’t be subjected to the opinions or comments of others while shopping, especially for such an important event. It is my hope that everyone looking for their wedding outfit will have an experience that becomes a good memory, rather than a negative one for them.
Upcharging for larger sizes is wrong, plain and simple
Throughout my college experience and internships, I was able to work in technical design exclusively with plus-size designers and brands — Lane Bryant and Catherine’s. I learned that it’s the same process to make clothes for someone with a 32-inch bust or someone with a 56-inch bust, someone who is a size 2 or someone who is a size 22.
Knowing the process of making garments made the idea of someone walking into a store and receiving the message that their body type can’t be served there infuriating to me, whether that’s because they’re short, tall, petite, plus-sized, or whatever.
When I was thinking about opening my business, I wanted to create a place for everyone to feel safe, seen, and accepted. I am committed to my mission, which is that no matter what someone’s shape or measurements are, they can get the perfect outfit for them without paying more.
However, the reason people try to justify up-charging for larger sizes is because it takes more fabric to clothe a size 12 than a size 2. But the idea of up-charging for more fabric is a flawed argument. In fact, some designers have found that extending their size offerings — without increasing the prices for larger sizes — have actually increased their sales.
The cost of clothing isn’t primarily in the fabric — it’s in the labor. It’s not going to be any more work for me to make the same dress in a size four than it would be for a size 14 or 24 or 34. The cost of a garment should be able to pay for any size fabric, any size pattern that I’m making, as well as making sure that I can put food on my table because I’m able to earn a living wage.
If someone comes to me as a size 10 and they bring two friends with them, one who’s a size 2 and another who’s a size 22 — all wanting the same outfit — it should be the same price.
It’s all the same fabric. It’s all the same pattern. It takes me the same amount of time to make each garment. The only difference is their sizes, so they’re going to pay the exact same amount because the cost difference in materials is minimal.
The only reason to upcharge would be for an increase in labor — and there isn’t any. Between figuring out my cost of goods for the business and my time, the cost of goods difference between each size is so negligible that it’s not even necessary to account for.
I believe in radical expression and inclusion
I received an email from a potential client who was looking for a custom wedding outfit, and they happened to be plus-size. Their vision was beautiful and I was all in; I loved it. At the end of the email, they gave me their measurements and then it said, “But I am plus-sized. I understand if you’re not comfortable working with me or would not like me as a client.”
This broke my heart because somewhere along the line, this person was told that because of their size, something is harder, or impossible, or it’s going to cost more. And the truth is, it’s the same as everything else.
Every single person deserves to feel confident and beautiful just as they are on their wedding day — no matter their race, their interests, their gender, their sexual preferences, or their size.