EVER wonder about the process behind how your dream wedding gown makes it from the designer's sketchbook and into your hands?
Every bride dreams of her special day in the beautiful gown of her dreams, but for plus-size brides, finding the right fit can pose a challenge, so it all comes down to the designer's details.
Michelle Bridal was created in 2013 by Phyllis Brasch Librach after her daughter Michelle Rosenfield struggled to find a wedding gown that properly fit her plus-size body shape.
Beginning as a small capsule collection, the bridal company has grown over time and fulfills the bridal dress needs of solely plus-size women, and the range can be found in fine bridal shops nationwide.
Now a bridal and gown designer herself, Michelle revealed the lengthy time it takes for the construction of a single gown, why bridal marts are relevant to her and her mother's business, and the importance of the designer-store buyer relationship.
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Michelle Bridal is under the parent company Sydney's Closet, which specializes in trendy designer dresses in plus sizes 14 to 40.
Prospective brides can shop the line for an extensive range of hard-to-find curvy sizes, from a size 14 all the way up to a size 32.
It was the first special occasion company founded by Labrasch after she and her daughter Michelle, known to many as "Mickey", had trouble finding a prom dress she liked in her size.
Instead of settling, Sydney's Closet was born, and soon after, Michelle Bridal.
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The overall timeline to construct a gown and have it arrive at their Missouri warehouse takes several months.
The first step in the design process starts with sketching the gowns, which is filled with trial and error that works in tandem with the ongoing construction of the gown.
The typical sample size for most bridal gowns is a size 4 or 6, and the St. Louis-based bridal company already goes against this norm by making theirs a sample size 16.
In terms of construction, there really isn't much of a difference other than the fact that making a plus-size gown uses more fabric.
Michelle Bridal and the senior fashion company's gowns are produced in China.
China is the world's biggest producer of wedding dresses with almost 80% of the world's western gowns produced there.
Many designers charge extra to make gowns over a size 20 for their store buyers, but Michelle Bridal will make them up to a size 32 at no extra charge since they are exclusively plus-size.
An average sample is a straight size 4, so it is usually more expensive to produce gowns in Chinese factories because of the additional materials.
Perfecting the style of the sample before it's presented at a bridal market is a taxing process that can sometimes take weeks of back-and-forth banter with the designer and their Chinese factory.
They will sometimes have to travel there to oversee the construction process of the gowns and fine-tune a few details.
Before putting any dress into mass production, Rosenfield and Brasch both inspect each and every sample gown that arrives from China extensively, checking for seaming issues, whether or not the breast cups show through the dress and more.
"We have a dress form [mannequin] in our office. So, anytime samples get shipped over from China, we immediately place it on the dress form just to check measurements…" the designer states.
Once the sample is up to the team's liking, it is then presented at a bridal market for prospective buyers to purchase for their stores.
Bridal markets are essential to the construction process because designers sell to the brick-and-mortar stores that help brides find their dream wedding gowns.
They take place worldwide in popular cities, such as during New York Bridal Fashion Week, at the National Bridal Market in Chicago, at Barcelona Bridal Week, and more.
The brand typically sells gowns to buyers for an affordable wholesale price that ranges between $150- $500 per item.
Though once the dress is received in their wedding store, the buyer can choose to mark up the dress by tripling it or more to make a profit.
The gowns are made true to size so whatever you would wear in street clothes is what you would wear in a Sydney's Closet or Michelle Bridal dress.
Wedding dress models at the bridal market are also exceptionally necessary when selling a gown to a buyer because they act as sales reps.
The job isn't easy due to pain, blisters, and other aches, but it is incredibly worth it for many.
Plus-size model Cassie Greene has been modeling for Michelle Bridal since 2018 and consistently works with them due to their stance on size inclusivity and body positivity.
She says that there are unique differences other than size that differentiate the bridal collection.
Instead of taking a dress in a smaller size and sizing it up, the mother-company Sydney's Closet takes precarious detail in the waist measurements of a plus-size woman.
Traditionally, most mermaid gowns are cut in at the waist to create an hourglass shape, but Sydney's Closet and all the collections under it do something different.
"They give a couple of extra inches in the waist because you just don't know how a plus-size girl is going to be proportioned," Greene shares. "It gives girls with more of an apple shape the opportunity to wear a dress that fits them."
The 27-year-old model also adds that for most bridal runway shows, models are pre-selected and cast, but Sydney's Closet uses its own in-house plus-size models to grace the stage in Michelle Bridal and represent them.
Michelle Bridal provides an opportunity for young women to see themselves represented at bridal shows around the world.
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