Six months after her wedding, Danielle Wright still chokes up when she talks about her search for her dream wedding gown. And that's not because it was a bad experience, but because it was a wonderful experience she didn't expect.

As a plus-sized woman, shopping for clothes was always difficult for Wright.


"It always brought up emotional trauma," says the newlywed. She dreaded traveling from one store to another, female family members in tow, to watch her try on one white dress after another. And no wonder. After visiting the first salon, and not finding a single sample gown that she could fit into, Wright poured out her frustration and tears to a friend. Luckily, that friend knew about Curvaceous Couture.

The Columbia bridal salon caters to women from sizes 14 to 32. In fact, most gowns in the shop on Red Branch Road are sized in the 20s. After a phone consultation with owner Yukia Walker and e-mailing photos of gown styles she liked, Wright and her family walked into the spacious salon and breathed a sigh of relief. Walker had 25 gowns for Wright to try on — in her size. Ultimately, it was a gown from Curvaceous Couture that she wore down the aisle.

"When I saw myself in that dress, I didn't see all the flaws I usually do. I loved my reflection," says Wright from her home in New Jersey. "It accented all my best features perfectly."

Finding her niche

Paradoxically, Walker (who was also a plus-sized bride four years ago) had a disappointing and stressful experience shopping for a wedding gown. Her size 14 body was a 16/18 in wedding gowns. Unfortunately, most salon samples come in a size 10 or smaller. The backs could not be closed, or her sister had to try them on for her.

"It was a very humbling experience," says Walker. "I ended up with a wedding gown I absolutely hated."

Within a year she started Curvaceous Couture online in her parents' Columbia basement. She had so many brides coming to her for larger-sized gowns that she quickly outgrew the space and moved into a small warehouse on Red Branch Road in August 2010.

Sleek and modern, Curvaceous Couture caters to brides, bridesmaids and mothers of the bride. Gowns sparkle from along the pale lavender walls, while plum-colored contemporary sofas nestle up to each other in the center of the bare wood floors. The salon has five large dressing rooms, of which two are suites, with upholstered chairs in cream and zebra prints, silver and glass accents and TVs. A froufrou purse or two sit on glass shelves, and earrings and headpieces glitter in glass cases.

Walker's sample gowns bear the labels of celebrity designers and those of international acclaim, such as London's Ian Stuart, Enzoani from Italy, and Pronovias from Barcelona.

An entire room at the back of the salon is dedicated to the designs of Reem Acra, who came to Maryland herself to design the space in which her gowns would be displayed. With shimmering mother-of-pearl vinyl floor tiles, handmade wallpapers and an eye-popping globe chandelier, the Reem Acra room could be in a New York couture salon. Plus, the designer grants exclusivity to Curvaceous Couture as the only U.S. purveyor of her gowns in size 20 and above.

"If you're a plus-sized bride, you're not stuck going into the small corner where your size is. Everything in our store caters to you," says Walker.

Going the distance

Most brides are willing to travel 100 miles or so to try on a wedding gown. Walker's clients have come from Missouri, New York, New Jersey and as far away as St. Thomas to find a perfect dress. The dresses cost anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000; Walker has even had an $18,000 gown among her samples. They are adorned in Swarovski crystals, seed pearls, silver beads and rhinestones, and crafted from satin and chiffon, taffeta, organza and lots of tulle. She even has bridesmaids' gowns in cotton, which is becoming popular among eco-conscious wedding parties.

A seamstress is on site two days a week for fittings and alterations.


Curvaceous Couture is growing so quickly that Walker has plans to open salons in Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas in the next five years.

Curvaceous Couture, 9130 Red Branch Road, Suite T, Columbia. 410-740-7052, www.curvaceouscoutureonline.com.