For plus size women, shopping for a wedding gown can be right up there with shopping for a bathing suit.
A store in Saskatoon is hoping to change that, and make the process exciting again. Kimberley Camboia and her sister just opened W Bridals — Curvy Couture last month.
The subtitle Curvy Couture says it all. Stylish selection for curvy, hard-to-fit and plus size brides.
It’s something Camboia has dreamed of doing since she started working in bridal shops more than a decade ago.
“I was helping a full-figured bride and felt like I was helpless with her because I didn’t have anything that she was looking for, for her to try on,” Camboia said. “And that was beyond my control. I didn’t own the store, I didn’t control what came in and out of it.”
Runway style, in larger sizes
Camboia knew a market niche when she saw it. Now, well over a decade after she started in the bridal wear business she has finally opened her own store.
She is particular about what she stocks. There are companies that design specifically for full-figured women, but Camboia doesn’t always like the results.
“What usually happens with that is, you get the thick straps, you get sort of what we call ‘potato sacks with sparkles on them. They’re safe,” she said. “We took those dresses that you find in the catalogues, those couture gowns that you see on runways, and we analyzed those.”
‘It means a lot to me to have a woman actually say ‘you know what, this does look good on a larger, full-figured woman’– Chauna Welder, client
For Chauna Welder, W Bridal is a real find. This is her second trip down the aisle and she remembers the frustration of her first foray into bridal-gown shopping. In typical bridal shops, the larger sizes aren’t in stock.
“So when you try them on you usually have a wide open back and you have to try and visualize what the actual gown is going to look like on you,” Welder explained. “So you kind of take a chance by ordering in a bigger size when in fact you don’t know what it’s really going to look like.”
For Welder’s first wedding, she ended up picking something in the store that was her size instead of a dress she liked better.
This time she appreciates not only having a store with the right sizes, but staff with a sense of what might look good on a larger body type.
“It means a lot to me to have a woman actually say ‘you know what, this does look good on a larger, full-figured woman’,” Welder said.
Sizes with names, not numbers
Camboia chooses styles with the right cut and fit for women size 14 plus, and orders those sizes all the way up to 32. The backs are often lace-up rather than zippered for a more exact fit. Many of the strapless gowns can have straps to match added.
To add to the difficulty of shopping for a wedding gown, formal wear is often tagged two or three sizes smaller than streetwear. Someone who is normally a size 14 finds herself trying on a size 20. So to ease self-consciousness, dresses on the rack at W Bridals don’t have numbers denoting their size. They have names such as “ravishing” and “sassy”.
“It allows them to shop by what they like, rather than by what size they fit into, and so it opens up their mind to looking at the entire store,” Camboia explained.
Camboia is pleased with sales so far — nine gowns in the first two weeks since opening.