Dangerous Curves Ahead: St. Louis Designer Partners With ‘Project Runway’ Star to Premiere Plus-Sized Dress Collection
When it comes to prom dresses and evening wear, the fashion world hasn’t always been kind to the curvy, instead focusing on the slim, the willowy and the statuesque.
If a designer felt particularly generous, they may have upsized a few of their more flowy pieces to appease the 70 percent of women who wear a size 14 or larger. But while the size twos got to show off some skin in spaghetti straps and sequins, the rest of us have been forced to hide our hourglasses in sack-shaped silhouettes and sad shades of black or navy. Not so anymore.
Two of the region’s most influential formal wear designers—St. Louis’ Phyllis Brasch Librach of Sydney’s Closet and Nashville’s Johnathan Kayne—have been the exceptions, creating glamorous special occasion looks for women of every age and size. And now, with their new “Dangerous Curves Ahead” collaboration, Librach and Kayne are granting fashion-obsessed women who are comfortable with their curves their wish for a new head-turning, body-skimming collection just in time for the 2020 prom and party season.
Respecting a woman’s curves and designing the perfect fit
Sixteen years ago, Librach and her teenage daughter were on the hunt for the perfect plus-sized prom dress, only to be subjected to lackluster colors, dowdy styles and dumpy fits at every store. To ensure no other mother would ever have to wipe away her teen’s tears in the fitting room again, Librach—a former journalist—decided to “trade deadlines for hemlines” and launch her own line of formal wear.
Since 2003, Librach and her team at Sydney’s Closet in Maryland Heights have sized up glamour for women around the world. Initially they designed for prom-goers, but they’ve since expanded into cocktail and event attire, as well as the wedding market.
Unlike many fashion houses, Sydney’s Closet doesn’t simply add more material to a sample dress to make it larger. Instead, Librach explains, designers laser focus on a woman’s trouble spots—the armholes, tummy, hips and ribcage—and then adjust and adapt pattern specifications to better hug a woman’s beautiful curves. By complementing the flattering fit with luscious fabrics, unexpected accents and on-trend styles, Sydney’s Closet offers teens and women from sizes 14 to 40 more options than they ever dreamed possible.
“Our success is built on one dress at a time,” Librach says. “Here at Sydney’s Closet, top of our mind, every day, every minute, is the idea that we create a dress for one special night but memories for a lifetime.”
A collaboration focused on glamour and confidence
The struggles Librach and her daughter faced when trying to find well-fitting clothes were familiar to Kayne. The former “Project Runway” contestant and current designer to the stars knew the pain of being a larger-sized teen, tipping the scales at 325 in high school. Although he eventually lost the weight, Kayne’s passion for designing fashion for every size comes straight from the heart and can be seen in his edgy yet seductive lines.
When Kayne and Librach serendipitously crossed paths at a trade show, their mutual respect for each other’s work led to an inspired collaboration rarely seen in the design world. In 2019, the Johnathan Kayne for Sydney’s Closet label launched, and the partners’ first collection, “Dangerous Curves Ahead,” will be available at national boutiques and on the Sydney’s Closet website in January 2020.
“Kayne and I both see our roles as designers as understanding the differences in the bodies of our curvy customers and then curating a collection tailored to fit their figure and reflect their fashion taste,” Librach says.
The 16-piece collection offers dazzling styles for every formal occasion. For teens, the Stratus Gown features striking metallic satin and a sequined sweetheart bodice to catch the light and the eyes of fellow prom-goers. For formal ball or charity gala guests, the Bel Air ballgown with its gold embroidery and crystal neckline or the Phantom Gown with its silver embellishment and sheer organza skirt overlay are truly red carpet-worthy. And because not every woman is comfortable in a dress, Librach and Kayne even created a glammed-up jumpsuit complete with a ruffled, off-the-shoulder neckline and tone-on-tone beading.
While the designers relish their similarities, especially when it comes to their passion for feminine fabrics like stretch velvet and French crepe, their different design styles truly elevate the collection.
“I tend to be more reserved, with a classic vision,” Librach says. “I reflect first on scale and proportion to nail the fit for a full figure. Johnathan executes an extraordinary design with over-the-top style and showmanship. He’s known for creating dramatic designs for national pageant winners and for stars like Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton to wear on stage. He brought a little bit of runway; I brought a little bit of reality.”
While “Dangerous Curves Ahead” is just hitting the retail market now, the incredible reception of their line by fashion buyers at the World of Prom show this past summer has led Librach and Kayne to start working on their 2021 collection for next year, giving fashion-forward women even more designs to lust after.
“Evening fashion is all about an elegant look, but moreover, it’s an attitude of confidence and beauty,” says Librach. “Every woman dreams of her red-carpet moment and what she’ll wear. The bottom line for us is: Glamour comes in one size—and that’s all.”
Photos courtesy of Sydney’s Closet.