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Making plus size work

We interview Rebecca from Curvy Chic Bridal on how to do plus size right.

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Company Info

Full name: Rebecca Bryson
Shop name: Curvy Chic Bridal
Years in Business: 4.5
Location: 151 Holywood Road, Belfast, BT4 3BE

Can you please tell us about your boutique?

We are Northern Ireland’s only exclusively plus size bridal boutique catering to brides and mothers of the bride/groom from size 16 – 46 and bridesmaids from a size 4 – 46. To provide our brides with the best fit for their body type, we carry exclusively curve collections only. We started our business in the spare room in our house with £3000 of our savings and within 4 years had a ¼ million turnover and moved to a 2200 sq ft premises.


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Why do you focus on plus size bridal?

As a plus size woman myself I began to panic about what I was going to do for a dress. After calling around lots of stores in NI that said they did plus size dresses, not one had a sample dress to fit my size 24 body. This was the point I knew I had to do something. I popped up a Facebook page and within 20 minutes I had girls contacting me asking to try on dresses. Dresses that I didn’t have yet, and nowhere for them to try them on! Our boutique started in my spare room and has grown to a 2200sq ft premises with a converted bank vault as part of our private bridal suite. The main factors in focusing on plus size simply came down to demand, no one else was providing a modern selection of dresses in real plus sizes. I discovered a plethora of brides to be that are size 16+ and are just as willing to pay for their dream dress as their slim counter parts. It seemed obvious to us that someone needed to offer a first-class service to these brides who were being completely overlooked and give them the experience they deserved.

What steps can business owners take to make their store more inclusive in the following areas?

Product offering/designers
Marketing & messaging
In store experience

53% of the female population of the UK and Ireland are a size 16+, however the bridal industry has for a long time excluded these women from their boutiques. A major piece of feedback we get from our brides is how much they love seeing dresses on curvy women, not size 12 models, size 20’s, 22’s, 28’s etc.

If you choose to include plus size women in your sales demographic then you need to include them in your social media campaigns, your marketing resources, your styled shoots. Curvy women are crying out for representation and are far more likely to buy from a brand that represents them publicly, not just as a by line on their website. Imagery is far more impactful than words.

Be mindful with the dresses you purchase for your curvy brides, while some curvy people are very confident in their bodies, many aren’t so they won’t want a backless dress, skin-tight mermaid cuts or a hip high split (however some will, so do include sexy shapes and styles in your curve ranges). Many curvy brides are self-conscious about their tummy area, so keep that in mind when you’re buying. Be mindful that curvy people have different proportions so when you’re looking at your chosen designer’s size chart check to see what the difference in waist/hip and waist/bust measurements are, as often for curvy people this proportion isn’t as big as a straight sized person.

Opt for curve exclusive collections or designers that offer a specific curve fit for their dresses. For example Casablanca Bridal offer a ‘Classic’ fit for their curve dresses, this size chart is slightly different to accommodate different proportions and includes additional boning and support in the dress as well as the option to raise low backs etc. Just as a size 30 dress isn’t designed to fit a size 8, a size 8 dress upsized with no modifications will not be a good fit for your bride and will end up costing them a fortune in alterations leaving a bad taste in their mouth.

If you decide to introduce a curve collection into your boutique, do it right. Don’t do it as a side-line because you feel it’s politically correct or just to follow the trend to make a few quid. Do it because you passionately believe all women deserve to have an incredible dress buying experience. Buy samples right up to the largest size you can access, a size 18 as we all know in the bridal world is only a high street 14 most of the time. Buy 22’s, 24’s, 28’s and give all your brides the same equal experience. If I had a pound for every time a bride tells me they have been somewhere else that says they do up to a 32 and then find all their samples are 16/18/20 and they’re left being squeezed in to a dress that’s never going to fit I would be rich woman. Start with your social media, website and marketing, right through to your in-store collections, staff training, and body positive language.

Never use negative language to describe a curvy bride’s body (or any brides for that matter). We hear terrible stories from brides who have been told they ‘need sleeves’ for their ‘big arms’ or that a certain dress will highlight their ‘big tummy’. This is entirely inappropriate, and I guarantee you those brides are telling their friends about their experience and costing you future business.

How can shops educate their brides and let them know their shop caters for their needs?

I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to include plus size women in your social media marketing. I don’t mean one image every few months, it needs to be regular. If your designers aren’t providing you images of plus size models in their dresses, there are tonnes of amazing plus size influencers and models who are more than willing to work with bridal boutiques. Contact some and ask them to come in and try on your dresses. Take pics and post them to their social media and yours.

Include an exclusive CURVE section on your website that clearly states the sizes available and your instore sample sizes. Include images of all the dresses available in plus sizes on PLUS SIZE models, brides need to be able to envisage themselves in the dress.

IGTV’s and stories on Instagram + Facebook videos are a great way to chat to your brides about styles that are available to them in plus size. Again, I recommend talking about your sample sizes as this is something we find we are asked a lot! Regular posts about your curve offerings will help to make plus size brides feel more comfortable coming to your boutique.

If anyone would like assistance in developing this aspect of their boutique we do offer bespoke consultations and guidance.

Image credit to Roz La Kelin

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