Trigger Warning: Mention of disordered eating and body image.
I won’t lie to you. As a young girl I DREAMED of the day I’d be getting married. I spent hours with my cousin and sisters playing ‘fashion designer’ and sketching out our bespoke dream gowns. From classic sweetheart necklines, to the colour of the braces that would adorn our teeth (don’t ask, the 90s & 2000s were a weird time for us all). Still to this day, Princess Diaries is my favourite films of all time, because somewhere inside me there’s a Little Danica awaiting her transformation moment, that would somehow coincide with this new identity and princess fairytale bridal mashup.
I remember taking bridal style photos for an advertorial in VOGUE years ago, and being desperate to ‘smise’ and appear unengaged and aloof. Two things I couldn’t be further from in reality! But somehow feeling that would be as close to being an ‘actual bride’ that I would ever get.
But when I got engaged, no one had broken the news to me that I – as in foodie and ‘web dev’ Danica with the gap in her front teeth – would be walking down the aisle. Okay, maybe there’ll be some hair, make-up, and flowers involved. But none of that could mask the fact that I was still very much myself.
Now I know to some of you this all sounds a bit odd, and I’m also not here to start telling you about all the lumpy and bumpy bits of myself. However, I do think that I cannot possibly be the only one who has found it hard to shape myself into this vision of a bride!
Growing up I was always a little bit on the heavier side. I LOVE food, and I love that about me. In fact, cooking has been one of the great ways that I’ve been able to reclaim my relationship with food. But particularly in my late teens I struggled with disordered eating habits, and a distorted self-image.
I remember visiting a charity shop for some clothes for a fancy dress night. I spotted a pleated blue skirt that’d be perfect for my Wonder Woman costume. I picked it up, held it to my waist and skipped to the register to pay. The sweet middle-aged lady behind the till had been smiling in my direction and struck up a conversation to ask me what the skirt was for. I laughingly explained my costume idea, and told her how I planned to vamp the skirt for the ordeal. Wistfully she asked if I wanted to try the skirt on before I bought it. I brushed her off and said I would be fine, but she kindly persisted.
Curious and a bit confused I popped into the bare bones changing room and stepped into the skirt with my jeans and shoes still on. I glanced down at the void of space between the skirt and my waist, catching sight of my boots beneath. The skirt dropped to the floor, I gathered it up and sheepishly emerged from behind the curtain.
Knowingly the cashier asked me with a smile, ‘Did it fit then?’. Checking the label, I understatedly replied that somehow the skirt had been too big. She kindly told me that she thought that would be the case and suggested that I find something cheap in Primark to give a go. The size on the label suggested that the skirt was at least 6 sizes bigger than that of my jeans, but when I held it up, it had seemed fine to me?
I guess you could class that as the beginning of the struggle with myself to develop an understanding of my body and my image. It’s a journey I’m still very much on today, with little triumphs along the way. But before it got better, it got worse. I went from a ‘scantily-clad’ party girl wearing underwear as outerwear on nights out (sorry Mum!), to utterly distraught over imagined weight gain from selfies and pictures from the night before.
As much as I’ve come a long way from where I was, I don’t think i’d be human if I didn’t wrestle with those thoughts as a bride – especially when buying my dress!
As a 34L cup bust babe, there’s just something about standing there with two modesty panels draped over your tits and a clamp to hold the dress together at the back, that can really bring the worst thoughts about yourself to the surface. In fact, it was the very last dress that I tried on before I had resigned to giving up, that turned out to be the dress for me.
And who knows! Maybe when the big day draws nearer in a year or so from now, it may not be the best fit for my ever changing body. Maybe I’ll find myself surrounded by lace, tulle and beading once again.
But what I do know is that I – baking, web dev and party loving Danica – will be walking down the aisle and true to myself. The brides of past, present and future all bring their own unique flavour to their day. It would be a shame to gussy ourselves up as anything else, or wish to be someone else. Each and every one of us as we are, are worthy of love and celebration. And trust me, there’s all the fabric in the world to help you embrace whatever vision of a bride you may be.
Lots of love,
Danica is a member of our community of real brides who are documenting their 2021/2022 weddings through Love My Dress. You can meet the other brides here.