Plus-sized wedding gown in Port Angeles shop window pleases passers-by
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Couturier Belva Bodey, owner of Black Diamond Bridal in downtown Port Angeles, is displaying three of her designs this month, including a plus-size gown in silk peau de soie. The gown has drawn positive reactions from neighboring business people and passers-by. -- Photo by Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES -- With cruise ship passengers exploring the streets the last two weekends and downtown art blooming around her, Black Diamond Bridal owner-designer Belva Bodey thought she'd make a statement.

And it's a bold one -- a bridal gown of silk peau de soie, cascading into a chapel-length train, sparkling with pearls and Swarovski crystals.

Those flourishes, though, aren't all that make this ensemble unusual.

Dress draws interest

What is more uncommon about the dress shimmering in the window of Black Diamond Bridal is that it's about a size 24.

"I thought about putting a little size 4 in the front," Bodey said this week. "But I changed my mind."

And so for the past week and a half, Black Diamond Bridal at 109 E. First St. has garnered more attention than usual from window-shoppers.

"I've heard people comment, 'Oh, look, a plus-size gown,'" Bodey said. "I actually carry quite a few," inside the shop.

Such dresses are seldom seen in traditional window displays. Passers-by are used to seeing sizes 4, 6 or 8, "because that's all the mannequins can wear," she added.

Bodey felt that larger-size gowns deserve just as much attention as the skinny numbers, however, so she borrowed this one from the woman who wore it.

"A plus-size gown," Bodey said, "can be absolutely beautiful. This bride certainly was" on her wedding day.

She also carries wedding and prom dresses from the big-name designers: Casablanca, Eden Bridals, Forever Yours, Maggie Sotero.

But Bodey is herself an haute couturier, one who has been custom-designing bridal gowns for some 35 years.

She's a native of Port Angeles who built Black Diamond Bridal herself, on her dreams and the dreams of women who came to her door.

Her own designs

Now in her window, Bodey is displaying not one but three of her own designs, on loan from the brides who floated down the aisle, swathed in lustrous silk.

There's the plus-size dress, with its halter neckline, basque waist and "pickups," those embellishments in the A-line skirt.

Beside it is Bodey's "full-on, drop-waist gown, with a corset back, covered with Swarovski crystals, with a cathedral-length train," as she describes it. That one's about a size 2.

And set in from the sidewalk is the third dress, a slender silk organza column with slim straps that cross in back, and a detachable train so the bride could dance.

As Bodey detailed their features, a woman paused at the window, her face lit up by the gowns.

Everybody smiles

"I love to watch people walk by; I love to see their reactions. Even the older gentlemen smile," the dressmaker said.

Then she was off to fit a dress for a young blonde who came into the shop with her mother.

Bodey is a designer who knows how to play up her clients' beautiful features -- not the least of which is happiness.

And when the right dress lands on a bride-to-be, both she and Bodey are likely to be weeping.

Bodey moved Black Diamond Bridal downtown last summer, after many years on Alice Lane, off Black Diamond Road just outside Port Angeles.

She has since attracted attention by displaying other designers' work, as well as prom dresses like those worn by Bella, heroine of the Twilight novels and movies set in Forks and Port Angeles.

Yet the gowns in her window now are pure Bodey artistry.

And that, said neighbor Eric Johnson, "is pretty awesome." When asked what he thought of the plus-size gown, he fairly gushed.

Dress designers "definitely should accommodate for everybody," said Johnson, a clerk at nearby Country Aire Natural Foods.

Everybody's beautiful

"Everybody's beautiful, especially brides. They're starting a new life; I think that is very beautiful."

Maxine Longoria, manager of the Itty Bitty Buzz cafe across the street, added that she's seen people gravitate toward Black Diamond's windows.

The variety of dresses, she said, "invites all different kinds of people."

Kathy Coventon, a waitress at the First Street Haven down the street, agreed that Bodey's dresses are stunners.

"I think she should advertise that she designed those," Coventon added.

Bodey is known for placing her brides, not herself, in the spotlight.

But then came the weekend of May 7, with Holland America's Zuiderdam coming into Port Angeles and the Threads of History fashion festival taking place downtown.

Bodey decided it was time to showcase few of her designs -- three graces, it turned out -- to those who might stroll past.

"For me to take a step out there," she mused, "is to say, 'I'm OK. I'm OK at this.'"

Since another Holland America cruise ship was stopping over Saturday, Bodey kept her dresses on display -- and plans to let them stay at least through this week.

These gowns are, in a sense, her gift to the downtown Port Angeles experience.

"I love being here," Bodey said.

________

Sequim-Dungeness Valley Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 17. 2010 11:21AM
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