Jo Cooke and Alison Law lived through difficult bridal-dress fittings, and hope to make the process a happy one for plus-size women who’re shopping for The Dress.
Based in Essex, U K, their appointment-only Curves & Couture Bridal Boutique is an award-winning bridal studio that caters exclusively to curvy brides, with sizes 16 to 40. Their show Curvy Brides Boutique, is currently airing on TLC.
Their USP: They provide a complete service. “We follow a bride’s journey from start to finish; from the moment she comes in to choose her dress to her fitting. Then we go along on her wedding day and dress her. We follow the change in confidence and get to experience what a woman goes through on one of the most important days of her life,” says Law. Here are excerpts from an e-mail interview:
What was the trigger for starting your enterprise?
Law: For us, it is about providing a solution to a pre-existing problem. As a nation, we are growing, but do we cater to ladies above a certain size? Therefore, we offer a unique service and women travel far and wide to see us for our selection of dresses and expertise.
What was the reaction of boutique owners and fashion designers when you entered the market?
Cooke: Horror. Why would we want to open a boutique dedicated to plus-size women?
One particular designer said we were doing a disservice and we absolutely could not sustain a business and will be closed within a year. Here we are, five years later, award-winning and with our own TV show.
Are larger women humiliated in high-street bridal stores?
Law: Extremely humiliating, and that is not done intentionally but you need to know how to treat a fat person. That is why I think it works for myself and Jo. We understand that and until you have walked in a fat person’s shoes you will never understand the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis.
How do you make your clients comfortable?
Law: Right from the moment of first contact, we start reassuring the bride.
We keep this going throughout the appointment, slowly building her confidence. It is important that a bride trusts her own opinion; we always encourage this and show her what shapes and styles look good on her. It is important that the bride has all the knowledge and confidence in making an informed decision about her dress.
Cooke: It is not what you wear or how you do your hair and make-up. It is something that comes from inside. Once I have made my client confident, my job is done.
What were the challenges that you faced?
Cooke: Normalising obesity was the biggest one. People are fat for different reasons: due to illness, medication, and hormones. Laws are in place for all kinds – gay rights, religion, gender, race, but for some reason, it is still okay to abuse the fat person. This is not okay; everyone has feelings. Everyone has the right to fall in love whether you are a size 4 or 34. It is what humans are programmed to do, but where do we go for a specialist garment like a wedding dress?
Was learning the ropes of fashion instinctive or did both of you learn the tricks of the trade while working on your business?
Law: For me it is instinctive. I have always had a good eye for what I like and what suits me and my body. I always make sure my hair and make-up look nice. Do not get me wrong; I have certainly learned a lot along the way but I would say most is self-taught.
When are you launching in India?
Law: World domination is on the cards! I get a lot of inspiration through social media and I am literally obsessed with Asian bridal wear: the beading, colour, silks, henna, make-up.
I was given a sari when I was a child and I think that was the start of it all for me.
Any anecdotes from the ongoing series?
Cooke: Oh lots. A few that stick in our minds, that really test our professionalism are brides turning up, forgetting to put knickers on. Shock, horror for us… A bride who had a pair of her groom’s pants on because she said they are her lucky pants.
Drunk brides who are over-excited and get sick – not great when you have a white carpet, although we did see the funny side in the end.
A bride bought some chocolates for Jo and me, during the course of her appointment and she ate the entire lot because they were her favourite chocolates.