In order for bridal boutiques to provide an inclusive and authentic experience, body neutrality needs to be the standard both online and in their daily interactions with customers. Unlike body-love, a state of complete body confidence, “body neutrality” instead emphasizes acceptance over loving one’s body. In other words, it’s the chill pill of the self-image revolution.
One of the most difficult aspects about my job as a bridal consultant was listening to brides criticize their bodies the moment before I asked them to step into a wedding dress. Every woman is different. Some inspect themselves in the mirror like art critics at an exhibition and point out all the ways their thighs, their breasts, their stomachs, their necks, their arms, their backs, their ass could be smoother, thinner, lighter. In the moment, I was tempted to reply with an empowering message to remind them that their body is worth loving.
However, the road towards body-love is personal and fraught with obstacles, and I didn’t want to belittle that journey by interrupting them with a trite slogan. I used to struggle with this concept when I first began as a bridal consultant, because I believed it was my feminist responsibility to shift the negative perception women had about their bodies to one of positivity. A noble cause, but naive, and difficult to accomplish within an hour.
Furthermore, these love-your-body messages don’t account for the very real possibility that the woman standing in the fitting room may not love her body just yet, and that’s okay. Body-neutrality, in contrast, accounts for these possibilities without making one feel rushed to publicly declare it.
However, the road towards body-love is personal and fraught with obstacles, and I didn’t want to belittle that journey by interrupting them with a trite slogan.
To ensure this is implemented, bridal boutiques need to do more in the name of body-neutrality by talking about it openly, and transparently, with their customers. Innumerable bridal boutiques portray themselves, most notably on Instagram, as bubbly effervescent champagne havens best experienced through rose-colored Instagram filters. However, I can tell you from experience that bridal appointments at cool-girl bridal boutiques are not the quasi-brunch spectacles they’re made out to be.
Because of our daily interactions with women, bridal boutique business owners and consultants best know the reality of body image issues and their many nuances. However, sustained support of body-neutrality needs to be established, not just inside the walls of a bridal boutique, but online as well. Business owners are responsible for setting the tone of their boutique through online marketing, and there’s so much more that could be done in support of inclusivity. For example, most bridal boutiques self-promote their own products, post real-bride images, and wedding inspiration. Rather than continuing with this formula, bridal boutique owners claiming to be in support of inclusivity need to update the rhetoric and imagery used to promote their businesses. Activism within bridal boutiques is possible, and it’ll require diligent participation by all those who strive to see a difference in the bridal industry as a whole. In time, by publicly advocating for body-neutrality, bridal boutiques will succeed in promoting inclusive spaces for all brides.
Michelle Avitia worked in Los Angeles as a bridal stylist at both The Blushing Bird in Toluca Lake, and Bride Boutique LA in Echo Park. Besides styling, Michelle is a freelance writer who writes about the wedding industry from the perspective of an intersectional feminist. She also may, or may not run an anonymous twitter account that critiques the bridal industry.