Here’s a fact that threatens the fairytale wedding: Of the multitude of brides who shop for a wedding dress, 50 percent will feel self-conscious doing so, as bridal shops often neglect to stock dresses above a size 8. That was the grim experience of CurvyCon co-founder Chastity Garner-Valentine, which she shared with attendees at this year’s annual gathering of plus-sized aficionados and experts, as two of the wedding industry’s leaders, The Knot magazine and Kleinfeld Bridal (made famous by TLC’s Say Yes to Dress), debuted a first-of-its-kind fashion show and partnership that aims to bring the joy of an in-store shopping experience to all brides, making gowns accessible up to a size 32.
Per a press release:
As two leaders in the wedding industry, The Knot and Kleinfeld are dedicated to supporting all those getting married, regardless of their size, shape ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, race, budget, style or background. The Knot and Kleinfeld have made it their mission to be more inclusive, not only in fashion but across the board.
The Knot’s Senior Fashion and Beauty Editor Shelley Brown, Kleinfeld Bridal Stylist Lisa Fuhrman, Mori Lee designer and creative director Madeline Gardner, and model, body positivity activist and newlywed Hunter McGrady (cover star of The Knot’s Fall 2019 issue) opened the show, discussing the multiple challenges facing fuller brides, including the obligation of both designers and bridal salons to accommodate a wider size range.
“We need to have sizes over 20 in the stores, and designers need to not be charging extra for plus sizes,” said Fuhrman, who works firsthand with brides hoping to “say yes to the dress.”
The quartet also touched on supposed “rules” about what and what not to wear for one of the biggest days of their lives; a list quickly proved pointless by the array of gorgeous gowns and bridesmaids’ dresses sent down the catwalk; all modeled by women sized 12 and up.
Of course, CurvyCon has plenty to offer to non-brides, as well. Now in its fifth year, the three-day weekend has become the “other Fashion Week,” specially created for the plus-size community. On-site this past weekend in New York City were big names like Target (who were pre-selling their capsule collection relaunch in exclusively plus sizes), Anthropologie, Macy’s, Torrid, JCPenney, Nike and sponsor Dia & Co., alongside indie and upstart brands created by women of color, like luxury workwear brand Henning, upscale nude shoe brand Kahmune and Zellie for She, where I happened to spontaneously cop my dress for this year’s Root 100 gala.
“I’ve been plus-size my whole life,” says Olisa. “I know what it was like to be 16, walking into the skinny-girl stores with my friends and feeling youthful and fun and light and free—and then walking into where they sold my jeans in a size 24 with my mom and feeling, for lack of a better term, weighted, heavy, serious. It wasn’t aspirational. It wasn’t inspirational. It didn’t make me feel like me. So for the Curvy Con, we wanted the feelings that we never got,” co-founder CeCe Olisa, who initially launched CurvyCon as a website in 2014, recently told Glamour.
“We both felt the plus-size girl was not getting an elevated luxury experience when she shopped,” added Garner Valentine. “[O]ur girls deserve excellence. They deserve to be treated a certain way when they shop. If this doesn’t feel elevated, then we can’t do it.”