Model Hunter McGrady Says Wedding Dress Shopping Was "An Awful Experience"

As fashion becomes more inclusive, she's calling on the bridal industry to keep up.

Hunter McGrady Wedding Dress
Photo: Jenny Quicksall

Shopping for a wedding gown can be fraught, no matter your size. But it's particularly frustrating when you’re plus size, which model and body-positive activist Hunter McGrady knows firsthand: When she got married in June, she struggled to find a dress for the big day that fit both her size and her aesthetic.

“The first few times I went into bridal stores was an awful experience because A, nothing fit me. They did not have any sizes. And B, anything that was my size was just not my style,” she told InStyle backstage at theCurvyCon powered by Dia&Co, a multi-day event of shopping and panels in New York celebrating body positivity and size-inclusive fashion.

Not one to simply accept the status quo, McGrady had two dresses custom made by the size-inclusive brand, Watters Bridal – a curve-hugging gown in a mermaid style accented with shimmery lace for the ceremony, and a high-neck gown inspired by Meghan Markle’s Stella McCartney wedding dress for the reception.

Hunter McGrady Wedding Dress
Jenny Quicksall

In recent years, there’s been incremental progress in the fashion industry, with a growing number of designers and mass fashion companies committing to creating clothes for all body types. But the bridal sector has been slow to catch on. In The Knot’s 2019 Fashion Study for Size Inclusivity, 61 percent of brides above a size 16 said their dress shopping experience would’ve been better if they had a larger selection of dresses in their size to pick from.

But the problem doesn’t end there. Plus-size women are excluded from various aspects of the bridal industry, from the editorials in bridal magazines to our collective cultural idea of what a bride is supposed to look like. In fact, only 41 percent of brides-to-be in the aforementioned study believed wedding-related platforms are doing a good job of representing women of all shapes and sizes.

McGrady is on a mission to help shift that narrative. She recently graced the cover of The Knot’s fall fashion issue as their first curvy model, though her size wasn’t mentioned on the cover at all. “That was the first thing I noticed about the cover. I literally saw the cover and I was like, 'It doesn't say plus on here. Oh my God, it doesn't say plus on here.' That was such a pivotal moment for me,” she recalled.

On the cover, the 26-year-old wore one of her figure-hugging wedding gowns to showcase the beauty in having curves. "I said, 'I want this dress on the cover because I'm a curvy woman and it's okay to wear something like that.' It's okay to be sexy and love my body and love my rolls because, by the way, my husband loves that's too. That's who's walking down [to him] at the end of the aisle.”

While she was searching for her dream gown (or two), McGrady said, “Everyone told me for the longest time, ‘Don't wear anything too sexy. Don't wear anything too tight and curve hugging. But that's me.”

Hunter McGrady The Knot Cover
The Knot

But naysayers be damned: “What did I do? I wore something very sexy and very curve-hugging. That's what's on the cover of The Knot.

The supermodel has devoted her career to championing self-love and raising awareness around the lack of size inclusivity in fashion – while giving plus-size women the representation they deserve, one high-profile modeling gig at a time. She also created the hashtag #AllWorthy on Instagram to foster a community where people of all sizes can find and support each other.

McGrady strongly believes everyone should be free to wear what they want on their big day, and that starts with designers expanding their size ranges to cater to all body shapes. Though some have yet to get on board, she urged the fashion community to remember: “Only good can come from change.”

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