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Looking for a size 36 wedding dress? You'll find one at the British bridal shop that ONLY caters for plus-size women

 When you're a size 30, finding a beautiful wedding dress isn't always easy. But now two best friends from Essex have come to the rescue with a bridal boutique that only stocks plus size gowns.

At Curves & Couture, sizes range from a size 20 to a size 36 - and bigger brides from all over the UK are flocking to Jo Cooke and Alison Law's door.

'Why should you endure the humiliation of having a dress hung around your neck or pinned against your body or being paraded around in front of a group of size 10 skinnies in a dress that quite obviously doesn't fit you?' says Cooke. 'I think until recently, that's been the only option.'

'Now there are all these beautiful gowns and I feel like I want to try them on when they come in,' says Law, sadly.

'Because I couldn't have that and it was quite upsetting at the time. If I could do it [getting married] again, I would. And I will one day.'

For the customers, Law and Cooke's shop is a haven or, as Cooke pithily puts it, 'a little slice of plus size heaven'.

Women in charge: Alison Law (left) and Jo Cooke (right) are the owners of a plus size only bridal boutique

picture: bridesmaid dresses

One such client is Jenna Merritt, a 29-year-old from Essex who turned to Curves and Couture ahead of her wedding to now-husband, Chris.

Pretty and with long blonde hair, she says her experience of searching for dresses in 'normal-sized' bridal boutiques left her so traumatised, the search had to go on hold for eight months.

'It's such a big thing putting on your dress,' she says. 'If the venue burnt down, I wouldn't care but if my dress wasn't right, I wouldn't get married. I wouldn't.

'I didn't really want to go wedding dress shopping,' she continues. 'I went to one place and had a panic attack in the dress.

'I was like: "Get me out of here, get me out of here, get me out of here". I had such a bad reaction to the way they made me feel in the shop, I didn't try on any dresses for about eight months.'

Everybody deserves the chance to feel special on their day, whether they're black, white, yellow, green, pink with polka dots,' adds Law, furiously. 'We don't care.'

The only thing we specify is that you've got to be fat,' adds Cooke. 'It's no good coming here if you're size 12 because we've got nothing for you.'

But what really tugs at her heart-strings is the reaction of the brides themselves. 'It's not unusual for someone to walk through those doors and cry,' she reveals.

'Once we say we've got this dress in a size 20 to a 36, they can be quite overwhelmed that there is somewhere where you can try on those dresses.

'We were those girls, we were there,' she continues. 'We've been there, we've done it. Alison had to wear a bridesmaid's dress.'

Now the pair are to star in a documentary, My Big Beautiful Wedding Dress, which follows three brides, among them Merritt and Cooke herself, in the run up to their weddings.

But while Merritt and Cooke are confident in their stunning wedding gowns, for the final bride, Lindsey Kent, 28, from Cambridgeshire, just the thought of putting on a wedding dress is hard to stomach.

'When I first turned up [at the shop], I was really anxious and concerned,' she admits. 'I was quiet and sort of... not uncomfortable but panicking about it.

'I suppose for me it's the dress because I don't wear dresses. But by the end of it, I was loving it and I wanted to try on every dress. And then I found my dress.'

For Kent, the issue was compounded by the loss of her sister Lisa who died in a car accident a decade ago.

'In 2003, my sister was killed in a car accident which devastated the family and for a while we didn't know what to do with ourselves,' she says, sadly.

'Then I found Mark and started my new life with him, even though it was still very hard. But then I had my daughter and I saw my parents smile and it brought new light.

'With the wedding, it's extra emotional because I personally would have gone abroad to get married because I hate the whole being centre of attention thing. It's just not me.

'But after losing my sister, I think my dad has the right to walk me down the aisle. We were joined at the hip and I allowed my sister to do all the talking for me.

'Now she's not here, I have the responsibility to do that for him and I'm going to make sure that happens.'

Such is Kent's lack of confidence, even fittings proved a challenge although she says the confidence classes run by Cooke and Law helped a lot.

'The master class that they provide is really good and the fact that they offer it to brides and help with their confidence. It really helped me.

She adds: 'I've always been a bigger sort of girl but I put a lot of weight on after my sister [died]. Mark loves me for who I am and so do my parents.

'My mum has tried to get me to lose weight but that's not for my looks, it's because she's concerned for my health. My wedding will be a happy day but there's a lot of heartache with it.'

One bride who has no such qualms is Cooke, who is renewing her vows with Kevin, her husband of 15 years, in a dress from Curves and Couture.

'I want to look a million dollars,' she says. 'I'm never going to be a skinny girl but I want to look good and like I'm rocking that dress. And I want Kev to go, That will be my wife. Again.'

But even Cooke, who has lost four stone over the last 12 months thanks to a tough new gym routine, admits to feeling nervous when it comes to looking at herself in her bridal finery.

'I don't look in the mirror if I can help it. I don't look because I don't like what I see. I don't want to be skinny. All I've ever wanted to do is be accepted.

'My mentality is a fat girl's mentality because I've been a fat girl for over 45 years and I will always feel like a fat girl in a skinny girl's body.'

She adds: 'My first wedding dress was a size 26 and it was all there was. Kev has told me every day for the last 15 years that I look beautiful.

'The only day he didn't tell me was on our wedding day and that's stuck with me. So if he doesn't do it this time, there will be no vows.

'This will be the fourth time I walk down the aisle and the first time I feel like a bride,' she smiles. 'And I know Kev will love it.

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