say yes to the dress plus size white wedding gown

"BIg Bliss" star Randy Fenoli helping a bride-to-be find the perfect dress. Photo courtesy of TLC

Randy Fenoli, fashion director at New York's iconic bridal emporium Kleinfeld, has always been a passionate advocate for the demanding brides featured on TLC's eternally popular "Say Yes to the Dress."

Now, Fenoli gives us more to love in a continuation of his role as stylist/fashion therapist to sassy plus-size brides-to-be on the network's new series "Say Yes to the Dress: Big Bliss," which premieres Oct. 1.

For Fenoli, a former bridal fashion designer who meets 15,000 clients a year at Kleinfeld, the plus-size bride deserves big love and extra layers of attention.

StyleList: The original "Say Yes" always featured larger brides. Why spotlight them?
Randy Fenoli: We never really delved into what they're going through.

They've been to other salons where the treatment has been terrible and we wanted to shed some light onto those experiences. It's about bringing some of this terrible treatment out of the closet.

SL: What kind of treatment are we talking about?
RF: Making these brides feel horrific. Telling them we don't have anything for you. Handing them a sample-size -- which in bridal is a 10 but fits like a 6 or 8 -- and telling them, "Hold it up in the mirror so you can get an idea of what it looks like." What do you think it is like when you can't even put a dress on and have that "moment" every bride dreams of when you see yourself in your dress?

SL: Why are samples limited to one size anyway?
RF: Well, at Kleinfeld they are not, but one of the problems for the salons -- and this is something I say in their defense -- is that you can't get [larger sizes] sometimes. The designers aren't making larger sizes. Some of the big houses won't go above a size 10. Or if they do, they charge more.

SL: It doesn't make sense.
RF: We always ask for dresses in two sizes when we order: the standard sample and a larger dress. One thing you'll hear back from the designers is, "Well you can have the size 10 sample right away, but the bigger dress pattern won't be ready for two or three months." Why? And then there are problems with the dresses. The necklines are not right. The cup sizes are usually not big enough. The dresses are too short. The alterations cost a fortune. It needs to be exposed.

SL: Why have these brides found such a place in your heart?
RF: I understand how vulnerable these ladies are and how intense this experience can be. Bridal shopping is not terribly different from trying on a swimsuit. You put this dress on, stand on a pedestal, and people scrutinize and comment on you. It's terrifying, really. We've got to do what we can to make it more magical!

SL: But you must have big, beautiful clients who are perfectly comfortable in their skin.
RF: You bet! They come in and want a skintight dress that shows off every inch of their curves. Remember, these ladies have been proposed to by a man who loves every inch of them! We lose sight of that sometimes.

SL: Is there anything a plus-size woman should avoid when choosing a dress?
RF: It's all about getting silhouette and proportion. Go with lighter fabrics: silk, silk organza, tulles. Heavier fabrics can be less forgiving. Also, if you are going to do a pattern, go with a larger one so it doesn't get lost on the body.

SL: Is a strapless dress a don't for a larger bride?
RF: Remember this: Fabric can make big arms look heavier. A sheer, lace sleeve or sheer, beaded organza can be a nice option, but I say if a girl loves a dress and it's strapless, she should wear it proud. A really pretty veil can make the arms almost disappear if it drapes nicely around the shoulder.

SL: Bridal trends you love right now for brides of any size?

RF: Ruching! When done in the right fabric, diagonal ruching is a great way to forgive a little tummy, even if you are a size 2. I'm also loving corsets.They mold your body and can give you a great shape and be very pretty in back.

SL: Are there any bridal lines that do plus-size dresses well?
RF: I'm afraid there's not a lot of high couture, but there are people doing really pretty dresses. Jim Hjelm, Lazaro, and Tara Keely are doing beautiful things. Marisa is a nice line that cuts larger dresses. Henry and Michelle Roth do almost any size. I would look at Augusta Jones, and of course, Kleinfeld does its own line with Alita Graham, and we cut up to size 30, I believe!

SL: I've never met a bride who didn't diet before her wedding. How does that impact the dress-selection process?
RF: I think we should all be eating healthy and taking care of our bodies every day. If you do something drastic for the wedding, it's not going to last! If you want to start to workout and eat better and make a change, that's fine. As for this drastic stuff, it's too much stress before the big day. What bride needs that with everything else on her plate?

"Say Yes to the Dress: Big Bliss" premieres Oct. 1 on TLC at 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, read about the show's Southern sister series, "Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta."