Shopping for your wedding dress is supposed to be a joyous moment that you'll never forget. But for many brides, trying to squeeze into sample gowns that are several sizes too small can feel more embarrassing than exciting.
It's something Julie Sabatino has had plenty of experience with as a longtime bridal stylist, so she decided create something that would turn around this all-too-familiar scene for her clients. Earlier this month, she unveiled the Sample Size Solution, a product that's designed to modify wedding dress samples so that brides of any shape or size can try them on.
Sabatino has been in the bridal business for 18 years, but her journey dates all the way back to 2001 when she was a bride-to-be herself. While shopping for the perfect gown, the New York resident ran into a bunch of dead ends and the experience inspired her to become a wedding fashion stylist professionally.
"I want to start a curvy woman revolution. The women themselves don't need to change; the industry does."
"I had an awful time. I didn't know what I wanted and people didn't have good websites back then so the info out there was very minimal. I struggled and looked for someone like me to help me. After trying on hundreds of dresses, I moved on," she told TMRW.
Sabatino was a size 10 at the time and quickly realized that many of the dresses she tried on weren't made for women with curves.
"Going into a bridal salon and trying on a sample that's two to three sizes too small and trying to understand how it'll fit on you and understand if you'll like it was a huge problem. I stopped bringing anyone with me to my appointments because I was so embarrassed," she said.
Wedding dresses are very expensive to produce, so most bridal boutiques just have one sample of each style in the store, and most boutiques only have large, unsightly clips to help brides modify a dress while trying it on. It can be embarrassing and exposing for the bride-to-be.
That's where Sabatino's Sample Size Solution comes in. The product is designed for dresses that are too small and has three components: elegantly covered ivory fabric clips that blend in with the material of wedding dresses, adjustable elastic bands that work to make sure the dress fits like a glove and (perhaps most importantly) a panel of ivory fabric that covers exposed skin without creating extra bulk. It can also help cinch in dresses that are too large.
Sabatino designed the product with curvy brides and brides with large busts in mind and drew from her experience as a stylist to create a product that would help brides nail their dress appointment.
"I want to save them from the embarrassing situation I went through where my back and underwear were always showing during appointments," she said.
The stylist admits that the solution isn't perfect but says it's certainly an improvement on the utilitarian clips that most bridal boutiques currently supply. In fact, several of the boutiques she regularly works with are already using the Sample Size Solution.
Sabatino has sat through thousands of wedding dress appointments over the years and has used her knowledge of fabrics and fit to help her clients, but she realizes that the average bride can't afford a stylist and she hopes that the Sample Size Solution helps them take matters into their own hands.
"This was an effort to neutralize the playing field," she said. "You want to be able to go out of the dressing room with confidence and feel good."
So, what's the next step for the stylist? She's recording an course to help curvy brides shop and is talking with factories about how to mass produce her Sample Size Solution.
"I want to do them in black and navy for eveningwear since I do a lot of shopping with mothers of the bride," she said.
Looking ahead to the future, Sabatino hopes her work is part of a larger movement that enacts positive change in the bridal industry.
"I know that at the moment I can't change the industry and how many samples they have, but I can help brides have a better experience," she said. "I want to start a curvy woman revolution. The women themselves don't need to change; the industry does."