NEW YORK — For plus-sized teens, finding the right prom dress can be a nightmare.

Phyllis Brasch Librach hopes to turn that experience into a dream. She’s the founder of Sydney’s Closet, a trendy Internet retailer where teens can choose from an array of formal dresses in sizes 14 to 44.

"Teens in this increasingly confident $32 billion market segment insist that they are ‘curvy.’ Don’t you dare call them fat," Librach said. "They demand hard-to-find, gorgeous prom dresses that are age-appropriate, trendy and a perfect fit."

Librach said half of her customers buy a size 24 and up, and since the site’s launch in early 2002, she has served customers in the U.S., Canada, Japan, China, Italy, Ireland, Egypt, Great Britain and Sweden. Some of the best-selling pieces include fairy tale-inspired ballgowns with layered tulle skirts, Empire-style gowns with matching shawls and strapless corset tops with matching skirts.

She founded the company when her teenage daughter, Mickey, failed to find a plus-size formal dress at the mall for her homecoming dance. Motivated by her daughter’s stressful search, she launched A former guest editor at Mademoiselle magazine and reporter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Librach left her writing career behind to start the new venture.

"Half the women in America — 47 million, according to the latest Census figures — wear size 14 or larger," Librach said. "They’re the clear majority. When they dress up for special occasions, they want to look and feel as beautiful as someone who wears a size 8."

Librach said she is on target to bring in $500,000 by the end of this year and she projects $1.25 million by 2005. In the works for the company are plans to offer a custom collection of plus-size formal dresses that can be cut to an individual customer’s body measurements; create a catalog for mail orders, and open a retail location.

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