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Every day, Chrissy Wright meets heartbroken brides despairing about how they will look on their wedding day.
And no, these are not fussy fashionistas, or perfectionists with unrealistic expectations.
They are plus-sized women who have discovered that, while many High Street fashion stores and online brands are happy to cater for their curves, bridal boutiques are often not. Never mind finding ‘The One’ - the dress of their dreams - these women have been crushed by the realisation that they may never find a dress at all.
But Chrissy is determined that their troubles end the moment they walk through the door of her Sheffield bridal showroom, ‘Curvaceous Bridal.’
“They arrive believing they will never find a dress and end up spoilt for choice,” smiles Chrissy, who says she is determined to make every bride’s wedding dress dream come true.
“I bring out dress after dress that fits them. I only stop when they fall in love!”
58-year-old Chrissy set up shop a year ago, in the Nether Edge Henry Hall Building on Osborne Road, and stocks over 40 carefully hand-picked gowns, all created by designers who understand how to create dresses that fit and flatter plus-sized women.
While her ready-to-wear collections range from a 16 to a 36, size is limitless - a made to measure dress design service can cater for any bride. To date, the largest Curvaceous has had made was a size 38 - a full-length gown featuring a ribbon-back, sweetheart neckline, lace straps and bodice onto a tulle skirt.
And Chrissy has numerous stories to tell of humiliated brides who got turned away from wedding dress stores time and again. One had got so upset by the whole experience, she cancelled her wedding and only found the confidence to rearrange it a year later. Another had a size 12 dress hung over her and was told she would have to buy one in her size without knowing if it would fit her or what it would look like.
Chrissy says: “I don’t want brides terrified of looking at themselves in a mirror because they are afraid of what they will see. I show them that they look amazing. They take a peek in the mirror and burst into tears. This is my dream job - bringing joy to these women’s lives; I’m making their dream a reality.”
But the calling is a long way from where Chrissy began, starting her career as a nurse, before going on to become Director of Commissioning for Rotherham Council social services. It was a wedding dress shopping trip in 2014, with her future daughter-in-law, that would change everything. At a slender size 12, daughter-in-law Lucy had hundreds of dresses to choose from, but plus-sized Chrissy couldn’t help but notice most of the shops only went up to a size 16.
Chrissy adds: “The occasional shop had an 18 or a 20 but there was such little choice. I saw a gap in the market and my business brain kicked in.”
Believing there should be more choice - and that brides should not have to feel pressurised to slim down to a ‘conventional’ size for their wedding day - she researched the market.
“I even went trying on wedding dresses at shops who claimed to cater for bigger sizes and made mental notes about their service,” she said.
“I vowed to do better and give plus-sized brides the choice and the experience they deserved.
“My business experience and qualifications do come in handy - with the accounts and financial forecasts - but It’s a completely different world I’m in now. I have no one to report to and no one reporting to me. My job now is all about the relationships with the brides and their family and friends, supporting them to find their dream dress.
“I love to meet brides; we have such a good time. It feels like going back to nursing sometimes because I’m helping people. I go home tired but exhilarated.”
And Sheffield bride Helen Trower knows just what a difference Curvaceous Bridal can make, after the Sheffield showroom helped to save her own wedding.
“My wedding was just eight weeks away and I was in a panic,” Helen, aged 41, of Handsworth, recalls.
“None of the bridal stores I had contacted had a dress to fit me, or one that could be altered to my shape in time.”
Helen’s partner Paul had surprised her with a proposal on a dream holiday to Australia, but their decision to walk down the aisle within five months was threatening to fall flat.
“I had been hunting for a dress for months and was really downhearted,” reveals the Weston Park Hospital nurse.
“I wanted a proper bridal gown for my special day. But I needed a size 20 dress to accommodate my bust, which could also fit my size 16 waist.
“I was resigned to buying something ordinary from the high street and making do with some alterations.”
Then she found Curvaceous Bridal online.
“The owner, Chrissy, turned out to be my Fairy Godmother,” Helen grins.
“On the phone she was so positive she could help, my hopes started to rise. From my description, she pre-selected dresses she knew would flatter my figure. One one them was exactly right for me, without a single extra stitch.
“Finding my dream dress turned out to be a lovely experience, thanks to Chrissy’s warm personality and her understanding of plus-size figures. And I didn’t just get a dress - I got THE dress. I never thought I would find something so beautiful that actually fitted me.”
Chrissy goes buying just once a year, searching for designers who don’t simply ‘size up’ gowns designed for smaller brides.
“The collections I buy are specifically designed to fit and flatter brides with curves,” she insists.
“The dresses are structured from within. A ribbon-back corset draws the figure in, which is very flattering and comfortable, and strategically placed ruching and panels create a slimmer silhouette.
“I believe that plus size is at a tipping point. There is national and international acceptance of larger women - a clear example of this is Ashley Graham, a plus size model, recently featuring on the front cover of Vogue and Cosmopolitan.
“And there is recognition of the need for larger-sized clothing. Many other brands go beyond the usual size 18 and Marks and Spencer stock sizes up to a 28 now. But I feel very strongly that plus size brides and bridesmaids are not being catered for because many bridal boutiques refuse to acknowledge them. They pick beautiful dresses for brides up to a size 16. It’s as if brides beyond that size simply don’t exist.
“I meet so many brides who have pledged to slim down for their wedding but are finding it’s too difficult and feel they are failing themselves. I know that being on a diet is hard work and keeping the weight off is even harder
“I try to free them from that pressure. I point out that their bridegroom loves them as they are and they look beautiful in their special wedding dress.”
Visit www.curvaceousbridal.co.uk for more details, or call or text Chrissy on 07495 493333 to book an appointment.
Could Chrissy be your Fairy Godmother?
Curvaceous Bridal is giving away an astonishing prize - a £1,000 wedding dress - to a lucky Profile reader. Could it be you?
To enter, all you have to do is send us an email with your name, age, address, and contact number. Tell us when you’re getting married and why winning this prize would mean so much to you. Entries must be received by 12pm on April 14.
Send entries to firstname.lastname@example.org