Mara Urshel had seen enough heartache to fill her 35,000-square-foot Manhattan bridal salon, Kleinfeld.
“Wedding dress sample sizes are all size 10,” says Urshel, explaining that plus-sized brides previously could not try on gowns but could only look at them being modeled.
“But a bride is a bride is a bride, no matter what. She shouldn’t have to be destroyed because some other woman has to try on dresses so she can decide how she wants to look on her big day.”
That is why, six years ago, Urshel decided that Kleinfeld — now known for being the store showcased in TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress” and “SYTTD: Big Bliss” — would stock plus-size dress samples, which brides could order up to a size 32.
“We give the bride whatever she wants,” says Urshel. “She is the customer.”
Oh, for a world in which that were true for the rest of us, says Gwen DeVoe, the executive producer of the just- completed Full-Figured Fashion Week in New York.
Still in its infancy, FFW was created on the premise that plus-sized women are generally ignored by American designers, every trendy mall store, all the glossy magazines — and they’re tired of it.
“Let’s call it frustrated,” said DeVoe.
DeVoe has not appointed herself the spokesperson for all plus-sized women in America, but she could.
Her goal three years ago in putting together FFW was to get fashion designers and their customers together because she just didn’t think the people who are paid to do that in this country were doing it very well.
She thinks the designers and retailers don’t get it. She thinks they don’t respect the plus-sized customer. Furthermore, she thinks they are leaving gobs of big-girl cash on the table.
“They say we don’t spend money on clothes? That’s bananas,” DeVoe says. “We’re a very loyal customer. But we don’t buy the magazines because we don’t see ourselves in them. We don’t go to their shows because we aren’t invited — and by the way, neither are you.”
FFW’s Saturday night finale brought together 1,000 of those previously uninvited designer-friendly customers who are ready to buy. Showcasing more than 25 designers, the event was what DeVoe had imagined — a toast to the curvy figure, proof that women can eschew the cultural norm of model-thinness and wear the best clothes and be worthy of Italian Vogue. The fact that the show looked like a million and could rake in likewise was not to be lost in the shuffle of any such runway extravaganza either.
DeVoe says designers — she cites Jean Paul Gautier — think runways are about fantasy and “nobody fantasizes about being fat.”
“I just want to look good in clothes. How about you?”
By Amy Wilson