Wedding Ideas’ own Rachel Southwood talks to Bridal Buyer about Plus size wedding dresses and how the wedding industry’s attitude is changing…
Change is coming… Traditionally, big brides have been neglected, or even ostracised – labelled as ‘plus sized’, ‘large’ or even ‘fat’ and lumped together in one big bundle of inferiority. Only in very recent times have we seen a decent selection of plus size wedding dresses for these brides to choose from. Only now are designers celebrating not apologising for curves. Every bride wants that magical experience of wedding dress shopping – the fittings carrying the dream of looking like a princess. But all too often larger women have left retailers feeling tearful and desperate. Then along came the knights in shining armour who understood the needs of every bride, no matter what their shape or size.
Thin has been the aspirational body type for as long as I can remember. Looking good and being fashionable didn’t work with chunky thighs, big tummies or – dare I say it – saggy boobs. But without the blessing of extraordinary genetics or a blinking good plastic surgeon, clothes that are styled on a size 8 model are simply not going to fit your average bride, let alone your bigger-than-average one. And all we asked for was choice for these girls – does carrying more weight, big hips or batwings make you less worthy of a magical day, looking your absolute most radiant and having photographs that you can cherish forever? It was surely time for the industry to wake up to a proper womanly shape. And we’re thrilled to announce that they are doing just that.
So where does that leave our retailers? There’s no harm in choosing not to stock larger ranges or even sizes, but there is an undoubted harm in treating larger ladies who enter your shop as second-class citizens. Let’s not forget that brides talk to each other – the Wedding Ideas forum is buzzing, for starters – so apart from common courtesy, we could be doing ourselves a dis-service by being unkind to the larger bride. And, even if you don’t think you can make a go of it yourself, recommending somewhere where there will be dresses for that bride to try on is good practice and you will reap what you sow: “We don’t stock many plus size wedding dresses because the specialist retailers do it so much better, so here are the details of the nearest one to us” is helpful and gets your business noticed for the right reasons. The bridal industry should know that it’s cash in the bank, great PR and, above anything else, it makes business sense to cater for brides of all shapes and sizes.
Now, on to the people who really matter… Your customer, a real bride. We spoke to Sarah who is marrying Tom next year in Cardiff. She’s a size 20, with “huge thighs, a big bottom, batwings and big boobs.” Her words, not ours. Sarah said that she became increasingly demoralised by walking the gauntlet of bridal shops in London and south Wales. She was increasingly fed up with being told that dresses in the ranges she liked the look of went up to a size 30, but she couldn’t try anything on. Then she came across Benjamin Roberts’ ‘Gorgeous with Curves’, located her nearest stockist and suddenly the styles she had been salivating over were now available for her to try on. Better still, she suddenly had a choice! She found a style with an A-line skirt that skimmed her hips and bottom, her waist (“it’s in there somewhere”) was enhanced by the built-in corset, and her ample bosom was held in place by foundational support underwear. And to top it off, the batwings which she hates with a vegeance are to be cunningly disguised with a pretty little tulle-embellished shrug jacket to give her confidence with what she feels are her worst features.