Scrolling through Instagram recently, I stumbled across Curvy Custom Bride and was excited to recognize its founder, Leila Breton, the columnist who gave us incredibly helpful instructions for big bust alterations for coats, armholes, waists and more. I link to all ten of her posts at the bottom of today’s interview. Leila had to scale back her extracurricular activities in 2014, but she didn’t scale back her sewing trajectory. Instead, it moved from hobby to full time profession, and you’re going to love reading about it today.
Darlene: We are super excited to hear from you again after your last column in 2014. Tell us what you’ve been up to!
Leila: It’s so great to be back on Hourglassy. You know I’ve been obsessed with fit for some time now, starting with my own closet, and now helping women get a perfect fit! I recently rebranded from Three Dresses Project to Curvy Custom Bride. While I still do TDP social media-ing, my energy is focused on reaching out to curvy women who are tired of shopping for a wedding dress that exists only in their imaginations! You know, that dress that is the exact look and the perfect fit? For a lot of us with fuller chests, that just doesn’t exist.
Darlene: You describe hiding behind your bouquet on your wedding day. What else led you to wanting to serve the busty niche?
Leila: I’d have to say being busty myself, and feeling the pain of trying to buy clothes that made me look and feel worse than I already did. Shopping made me feel like I didn’t belong. Wearing clothes that don’t fit affects your daily life. The most frustrating thing is that I don’t fit in “standard” sizes or plus-sizes. It’s the in-between gripe. I know I’m not the only one feeling this way, and now I have the skill to provide a valuable service that I think goes beyond just fitting or just creating an awesome gown. Sometimes I feel like an Alterations Therapist. There are a lot of emotions that come up with what I do and I believe in holding space for my clients.
Darlene: Can you share some of your clients’ pre-Leila horror stories with us?
Leila: Most recently, I had a busty client come in with a bridesmaid’s dress that she was supposed to wear to Carnegie Hall and when she put it on, her whole demeanor changed from a really engaged, animated, strong woman to one that felt defeated. She told me about the wedding she had to buy the dress for and how the dressed looked amazing on everyone else, and she just looked…like this. I did some changes to the neckline and added this really cool, dramatic tulle to the skirt, and she didn’t want to take the dress off! She loves it.
Several past clients have complained to me about their bodies, saying, oh yeah, that area never looks good because of *insert body part they feel self-conscious about*. This is exactly why I only do custom work. I start with the woman’s body and build the dress around her unique curves. It brings me a lot of joy to see a woman love her body.
Darlene: Your website details the entire process really thoroughly. What’s the most fun part of this process for you? For your clients?
Leila: The most fun for me is to bring to life a gown from a concept, a feeling, a couple of sketches. It’s magical. But, even more than that, I really do love the part where a bride starts to dance in my studio mirror, and I can tell that she loves herself.
I think my clients appreciate being heard. Once you feel heard, you can really play with color, design, length, etc.
Darlene: What’s the most challenging part for you? for your clients?
Leila: The most challenging part for me would be other people. I have a no body shaming policy in my studio, but sometimes things slip out, and it’s a matter of gently educating others while making sure my bride knows I have her back.
For my clients, the hardest part is waiting. We’re so used to buying ready made clothes. The process takes three fittings, spaced out by a couple of weeks, so it takes patience on their part. The end result is always worth the wait.
Darlene: When I read through the process, I thought, “There’s no way she can work with someone remotely.” But am I wrong (I hope)? What do you advise busty brides who can’t make it to Indianapolis to do?
Leila: I’m currently working with a bride in Boston. We’re doing Skype meetings and we’ll do a video fitting. It’s not ideal but with all the measurements I’m having her take, I should be able to get really close.
I do have bridal packages that include an Air BnB, and clients can fly me in to their location for a long weekend. I’d set up in a hotel with my sewing machine. They’d come to me over the weekend to perfect the fit on the dress mock-up, after which we’d both go back home, and one more fitting would be scheduled with the fashion fabric.
It’s doable with some creative thinking!
My one recommendation to busty brides is to find an alterations specialist that has worked with other busty brides early in the wedding planning process. I know it’s all about the dress, but I’ve seen, personally and otherwise, some awful alterations- all because the bride had a fuller chest.
Darlene: If there’s one thing we’ve learned while blogging for Hourglassy, it’s that there is no ONE “busty” body type. As you work with busty brides, what are some issues they ALL tend to have in common? What are some issues specific to different busty body types that you work with (i.e., long torso, wide hips, petite, etc.)?
Leila: I could go on for days on this one! Yes, everyone has a unique body and not every alteration will work with every body. That’s why you have to really enjoy the creative process of alterations.
In general, for busty brides, the fullness of the bust on a dress is usually higher than the body’s, meaning you have to have the shoulders pulled up, but then the domino effect of alterations begins, and you have to sometimes cut into the armhole so you can actually get your arms in and out.
When you’re buying a dress, you want to choose your dress based on your fullest measurement. Everything else can be tailored. That said, and I can’t mention this enough, the right person for the job will know how to scale the dress in the right places.
Let me contradict myself here. There’s a lot you can do in tailoring a dress but there’s also a limit to what you can do. I believe it’s always worth the investment.
Every bride should be able to walk down the aisle feeling beautiful, confident, and start their married life on a strong, positive footing.
Darlene: I love this dictate at the bottom of “The Experience” page: “Body shaming, food shaming, and gender shaming, among others, are not permitted in my studio.” What prompted you to include this? Can you share stories of how you’ve dealt with this when it has come up in your studio? Does the shaming tend to be self-directed by the bride and other members of the wedding party, or do you see it directed at others?
Leila: Sadly, experience prompted that one.
The saddest time was when a mother-of-the-bride body shamed her daughter. Other times, the bride will shame herself. It’s these throw-away comments that continue to hurt us, and as a self-proclaimed Alterations Therapist, I can’t help but want to remind my clients that it’s my job to create a fit that helps them see how beautiful and radiant they are! If I can’t get the fit right, that’s my problem to fix, not theirs.
Darlene: If you were making your own wedding dress today, how would you approach it differently from the experience that left you with a poorly fitting bodice? And just for fun, what design would you choose for yourself today, and for what kind of wedding (beach, formal, etc.)?
Leila: I don’t think about this often, but I’d probably have two looks for my wedding. The first one would be a floor length sheath out of 4-ply silk crepe in a soft eggshell with a detachable, and very dramatic train. The second look would be a short lace dress, and I would have created the lace myself.
Thanks for having me on Hourglassy!
When you read Leila’s past posts, you’ll wish we could KEEP her here. Please note that the email address that we reference in these posts is no longer active.
Buy It Or Leave It Coat Edition
Buy It Or Leave It
Quick Waist Fix
Spaghetti Strap Fix
Underarm Fix to Hide Your Bra
Armholes That Can Be Saved
Orange Lingerie Book Review
Using Boning with a Big Bust for Shape and Life