Ivy Kaplin Solomon of Lovely Bride Philly
Ivy Kaplin Solomon brought the Lovely Bride franchise to Philadelphia in 2013 with a Market Street boutique that has a curated mix of inclusive-minded, contemporary designers like Alexandra Grecco and Studio Levana.
We talked about the work Lovely Bride Philly does to be as inclusive, body-positive, and accessible as possible to clients. As the industry works toward embracing size inclusivity, Lovely Bride hopes to make for a more size-diverse wedding dress shopping experience for all.
Shannon: What are the diversity challenges you face, within your business or as an individual?
Ivy: Size inclusivity is generally our biggest challenge. We want all brides to feel comfortable, but the way the business model of bridal is set up, we have one or maybe two sizes of each gown. Some designers are awesome and will make any gown in any size, but others are less awesome and don’t. It feels awful to tell a client that they can’t get the gown they want because it doesn’t come in their size.
Shannon: The average size of an American woman is between 16 and 18, according to a recent study by the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology, and Education. Who are some inclusive designers that can stand out to you by catering to all body types?
Ivy: Some of the designers that we carry who cater to all body types are:
• Studio Levana, a brand out of Israel that really focuses on curvy women and makes tons of customizations at very reasonable fees.
• Carol Hannah is a designer we’ve carried since we first opened. Now it is common for designers to not charge extra fees for plus size gowns….however that didn’t used to be the case, most designers used to charge for this. Carol Hannah never charged size fees and will make a gown in any size the bride needs.
• Watters has consistently shown curvier models in their gowns which has always helped more people picture their own bodies in the dresses.
Shannon: What are some ways the wedding industry can be more size-inclusive?
Ivy: It would be great to see more real size models. Brides want to look at Pinterest and wedding magazines and picture their own body in the gowns. When the women modeling the gowns are a size 0, it’s often hard for the average American to imagine that dress on herself. I would love to see the modeling industry evolve so that we can celebrate beautiful people in a variety of sizes donning wedding dresses.
Shannon: Now that there is more language about things like gender-fluidity, heteronormative terms like “bride” don’t always encompass the person getting married. What are some things Lovely Bride does (or could) do to be more inclusive of clients who prefer alternative wedding titles within marketing or even conversationally?
Ivy: To best honest, this question stumps me. In my mind, I’ve always imagined that someone shopping in my store for a gown would want to be considered the “bride.” If a person identifies as a gender other than female, but wants to be in a wedding dress on their wedding day, they are taking on the bride role. However, as gender-fluidity becomes something we are all more comfortable, if these terms evolve, I would love to be able to use them. So, please tell me if there is phrasing I’m not familiar with that I should be.
Shannon: I recently took an LGBTQ+ inclusive online course with Equally Wed Pro. They talked a lot about labels within the wedding industry. Something I learned, but hadn’t really thought about before, was that not everyone wants to be referred to as a bride or a groom. “Some members of the LBGTQ+ community don’t identify with a gender or feel a connection to more than one gender. Both terms can be restrictive. And some of us feel that the term bride is both antiquated and antifeminist,” — Equally Wed on how to make your business more equality-minded or inclusive.
What is your experience with working with LGBTQ+ clients?
Ivy: We have worked with many same-sex, female couples. It really makes no difference to us. On the other hand, we have had men call to book appointments to try on gowns, but then cancel or not show up. I would like them to feel comfortable to try on here. Our website recently started asking for pronouns when you book, so I hope that helps show that we are gender-inclusive and considerate.
Shannon: Celebrities like Jonathan Van Ness and Billy Porter are breaking gender stereotypes by wearing gowns outside of the gender binary’s “norm” on the runway. What are some ways, apart from asking for pronouns, that Lovely Bride Philly could actively show clients of all genders that they’re welcome and safe in your space?
Ivy: Collaborating with LGBTQ+ influencers and models might be a way for us to further show that we are an open and safe space to all genders and sexualities.
Shannon: How have you made your storefront accessible to the community?
Ivy: We are wheelchair accessible. Each bride also has their own fitting room, so they don’t need to prance around and have strangers look at them if they don’t want to.
Shannon: What are some tangible actions you’re taking as a wedding vendor to be more inclusive of underrepresented communities, without tokenizing them?
Ivy: Our store is wheelchair accessible and our website is accessible as well. Our franchisor has recently started an initiative to have a Diversity & Inclusion Advocate for Lovely Bride corporate. Her role is to make sure all brides are represented and heard.
Shannon: What’s your favorite part about working in the Philadelphia wedding industry?
Ivy: I love that the Philadelphia wedding industry is a very collaborative group of extremely talented people. No knocks to the men in the industry, but it’s been really great to be in an industry that has so many strong, female leaders. It’s always inspiring.
Shannon: What’s a pop-culture plug you’d like to share?
Ivy: I love to unwind with mindless tv…I could watch Law & Order SVU all day long.