Gowns Fit For All Brides
Story by Nola Sarkisian-Miller
Everyone needs clothing whether she is big or small. Likewise, every bride needs a bridal gown no matter her size, plus-size or not.
It's a point - and once overlooked customer - that upmarket retailers have embraced in the last decade, giving confidence to bridal designers who are providing more plus-size options, typically 14W and up. (The W stands for women since plus sizes are often referred to as "women's sizes.")
Kleinfeld Bridal in New York has a dedicated offering on its website and offers store samples in size 18 up to 26. Alfred Angelo designs up to 30W.
Belle Bridal Boutique, a new shop in Bellevue, Ky., specializes in bridal gowns size 12-32W, according to co-owner Stacey Sparks. San Francisco-based bridal designer Amy Kuschel offers gowns up to size 22. Customers just need to bear in mind that some plus-size gowns are subject to a surcharge, like at David's Bridal, for the extra construction and fabric that's involved.
"There is a strong market out there for it," says Hanna Bowler, a stylist at La Belle Reve, bridal boutique in Washington, which carries plus-size samples from Casablanca, Essense of Australia and Eddy K in sizes 14-22. "It represents about 10 to 15 percent of our business."
Sparks, whose new store carries Justin Alexander Bridal, Allure Women and Kathy Ireland Weddings by 2be, thinks every bride should have a dress of her dreams.
"I always thought it was unfair that some brides couldn't try on gowns and had to envision the dress before they ordered it," she says.
Some companies choose to highlight the plus-size offering on their web site, like Alfred Angelo and David's Bridal, and others don't. J. Crew subtly references it on its site under a "special sizes" category, offering 13 gowns in size 16 and four gowns in size 18 and 20, priced for up to $2,200. Kuschel chooses not to mention it specifically online since she doesn't believe there are "right or wrong gowns for an entire size range of brides," she says.
"The 'plus-size' bride has the same varied sense of style that our other brides have, so we don't promote it or offer general suggestions of specific styles," Kuschel says.
What the designer does offer in her San Francisco showroom are sample gowns in size 18 and made-to-measure gowns for each bride's specific measurements. For her retail partners, she offers special size patterns when needed.
At David's Bridal stores, whose lines include Oleg Cassini and White by Vera Wang, customers can try on gowns sized 14W to 26W, with some in 28W or 30W. On the retailer's Web site, four of the White by Vera Wang gowns are offered in women's sizes, including the sassy, blush-colored organza fit-and-flare gown with a hand-cut bias flange skirt for $1,200. A-line gowns are best-sellers, and business is brisk in ball gowns, according to Catalina Maddox, bridal fashion director for David's Bridal.