NEW YORK • On a recent Saturday, it was mayhem at RK Bridal in Manhattan. Brides lined up to try on dresses. Consultants ran around the shop, weighed down with alteration gear. Hovering mothers fussed over their daughters.
The main attractions were the dresses on display that day. There were six new ones (from a total of 15) designed by Justin Alexander that were created especially for curvy women, sizes 18 to 32.
He was on hand to show off his new styles and his Be You campaign.
"A plus-size girl doesn't want to be limited to one or two traditional looks but wants fashion, like an interesting ruffle," he said.
"We've developed a diverse range where they can try on a fit-and-flair with a sweetheart neckline, or something that's beaded. We don't want someone to come into the store and not be able to try on the dress of their dreams."
This inability to try on dresses had long been a fear for Ms Josefina Rodriguez. In need of support, she had arrived at RK Bridal armed with her mother, sister, best friend and matron of honour.
The 25-year-old social worker said: "It's comforting to know no one here is going to say: 'We'll see what we can do. I don't know if we have your size.'"
Alexander is just one of several designers introducing fashion lines intended for the full-size bride.
In March, Don O'Neill, designer for Theia, unveiled Theia Curve Collection, a plus-size line, sold exclusively at Lovely Bride, an independent boutique with 14 locations in the United States.
Theia is one of many plus-size collections Lovely Bride is offering as part of its recent initiative to embrace all body types.
Ms Lanie List, founder of Lovely Bride, had approached Theia to see if the brand would offer its best-sellers as a capsule collection in sizes 18 to 24. The answer was yes.
"Over the years, this need has been building," O'Neill said.
"Designers shied away from larger sizes. I empathise with these women who are told you're not small enough or pretty enough."
His dresses got attention thanks to stretchy material, comfortable-yet-snug fit, and exquisite beading. Aside from a raised back for extra support, beading and artwork modifications, few changes were needed to create the collection.
Alexander, recognised for his vintage inspiration and progressive details, also did minimal alterations.
"The pattern grading for our gowns at a two or a 22 are generally the same," he said.
"For a larger size, we may add fullness to certain patterns, or give a little more in the hip and armhole.
"Many of our dresses have shapewear mesh in the lining, which benefits a plus-size bride because it holds in their curves."
Designer trunk shows, such as the one recently held at RK Bridal, have become almost like focus groups. "Designers are realising there's an underlooked part of the market," Alexander said.
"By creating this show, we're allowing stores to bring in dresses they wouldn't normally try. And we're learning a lot about what the plus-size bride wants and how dresses fit her."
Alexander said he has been working with retailers to create programmes that recognise the needs of women who wear larger sizes, and make the try-on process more convenient.
"Plus-size women have had to squeeze into something that wasn't in their size and envision what the dress would look like. I didn't feel good about that, and the girls didn't feel good about that."
At RK Bridal, at the end of the day, Ms Rodriguez had a bigger problem than when she arrived. Rather than fearing she would not find anything, she fell in love with two dresses.
For the first time, her choice came down to style, not size.
She finally decided on Alexander's Beaded Metallic Lace Mermaid Gown with Tiered Ruffled Skirt, size 20, at about US$2,300 (S$3,000).
"It's amazing and surreal to know something is going to fit and is in my size," said Ms Rodriguez who walked proudly down the store's aisle, faux flowers in her hand and a veil on her head.
A line of family and friends clapped, cried and took photos.
"Before there weren't options," she added. "I don't have to leave disappointed."