Feeling dissatisfied with wedding attire options, Lei Breton launched her business Curvy Custom Bride in 2014 to target individuals who have been traditionally overlooked by the bridal industry. As a queer-owned business, Breton is passionate about serving the LGBTQ+ community along anyone who feels like they don’t fit in with the industry’s traditionally defined mold.
“There has always been uniformity in the bridal business, and I saw how clearly the wedding industry is driven purely by body type and with a lack of any form of self-expression,” Breton says, “I want to serve everyone else – those who have always been ignored. I hope to disrupt the industry and help people to be heard and feel more empowered in their own skin.”
A native of Cali, Columbia, Breton’s first career was in theatre and dance performance. She relocated to the U.S., settled in Indiana and purchased a sewing machine when she became a stay-at-home mom. Being self-taught, Breton began altering her own clothes when she felt mom clothes looked too frumpy, and soon learned fashion draping. When a friend invited Breton to San Diego Comic Con, she found an online pattern and made her very first corset. She began hemming and altering for friends and discovered an interest in historical sewing.
“I didn’t see modern sewing as very interesting,” she says. “I became fascinated by Victorian sewing, such as petticoats and corsets.”
After seven years of being at home with her children, Breton decided to use the sewing skills she had acquired and went to work for a clothing designer. Through a friend who made custom suits, Breton became fascinated by clothing construction and the tailoring process.
“In tailoring, you really learn about garments by taking the entire piece apart and putting the whole thing back together,” she says. Her experience with sewing, design and assembly led her to begin working on wedding dresses, which eventually turned into launching her own custom bridal business.
Potential clients begin working with Breton by first contacting her via the business website. At this point, she begins the process of understanding their needs and interests, along with the deadline for the wedding. She then spends time talking with the client so they can get to know each other in order to hone in on the best design for the final product.
“I want my clients to realize how empowering clothes can be when they get exactly what they want, and a custom design will make someone feel really special” she says. “I watch and if I see someone doing a lot of fidgeting and fussing during a fitting, then I know what I need to change.”
Another aspect of Curvy Custom Bride is taking old dresses and family heirlooms and remaking them to fit specific individual needs. “It’s fun taking an heirloom piece and transforming it into something that is very much the client,” she says, “I will take a component of the original dress and give it a nod to the person to make it their own.” In other situations, she will make a copy of the original dress, but in the correct size. “The client is so much more satisfied when I redo the dress and take the bodice apart to refit it,” she says. “It will be an exact replica, but in the right size which will make the person wearing it so much happier.”
A favorite of Breton’s is working on designs for the couple rather than one individual. For queer weddings, she may design both a dress and a suit. “There are a lot of gender expectations out there. For example, if you wear a suit you must be more masculine,” she says, “If you throw binary out the window, you can then be who you are. People who don’t specifically identify with a dress or a suit get really excited about this.”
In addition to being passionate about making the wedding industry more inclusive and accommodating towards different body types, Breton also uses her platform to be strong supporter of LGBTQ+ and queer rights. She feels clothing cannot exist without being political and lends her voice towards addressing issues within the garment-making industry. A pretty fabric means less to her then ensuring that the company who made it is fair and ethical towards its workers.
Going forward, Breton plans to rebrand the business in order to reflect where the company is headed. This includes recognizing that not all people connect with the word ‘bride’. She now has three part-time employees who assist her in the process and the business has bookings throughout 2022. While much of Breton’s client-base is local, she also works with individuals from all over, including places like Florida and LA. “Something of what I am saying is really resonating with people,” she says, “And for once, they feel like they are finally being heard.”