Saturday, 12 May 2012

Brides Shopping for the Dress

Bridal Dress Choices 

Closet Content Analysis: 
Shopping for the Dress

 NICE      NO THANKS      NOTE-WORTHY         NEED          NEW 

Brides are shopping. Whether a year in advance of the wedding or 3 months or if it's next weekend, brides are shopping. After having done the something blue post, I asked a few brides for their shopping for dresses stories. Ten buying tips emerged from the stories and I have inserted them as the stories unfold for you on this post. There are more practical-minded brides out there than the reality TV shows indicate. This post is going to be a long one.

The market for wedding dresses is more often than not led by emotion and aspiration rather than rational decisions and financial constraints. 
 - Claire Birks

The Canadian brides featured here are not in Claire Birks' category of emotional and irrational brides. LK chose to spend her "wedding" money on a house; Christina's story represents the practical budget-minded bride who maintained her sanity and remained within her budget, and Marjorie Jean S was at first fun-seeking but then turned very serious when she saw "the one". As far as spending goes, Christina spent half what she originally set out to do; and even though, I was an only daughter who always got what she wanted, I knew what my parents could afford and knew enough to save up and buy my own dress.

Christina, a recent bride, wrote, "I had looked at some magazines and done some online style searching before hand and ended up trying on some of those exact styles in the first store we went to. However, I had a discouraging start; the style did not suit me and the one that did … well, the price tag dictated my decision. I do remember that I found a sleek, lace dress that fit me almost to a tee off the rack. The price tag was $1,200.00 (Cdn) and I remember being torn. It was definitely on my wish list, but I knew I wanted to see more because after all - I didn’t want lace, right?" 

Bridal Gown Buying Tip 1: Do some research before but be flexible when shopping. Needless to say, every bride has perused magazines or the internet before shopping. What you see in the glossy magazine layouts may not suit you.

Bridal Gown Buying Tip 2: Stay true to yourself and to the clothing style you feel most comfortable in.

I, on the other hand, wanted Alençon lace with a small amount of beading; although I did not have any preconceived shopping notions because I never thought I would find, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the dresses I saw in the American bridal magazines. I was wrong about Winnipeg. I took my mother with me and when she saw "the dress" in the shop window, she asked, "What about that one?" It was the first dress I tried on and the one I bought; although I did visit other stores and tried on a few more, just to make sure. At this point in my life, I don't remember any of the others. 

Bridal Gown Buying Tip 3: Trust your mother.

See MJS's shoes on my Something Blue post.  Photo by Leslie Porter.
When Marjorie Jean S went shopping, she was "with (her) mom just to look and get a feel for dresses at Jenny's Bridal in Saskatoon (Saskatchewan, Canada) with no intention on buying until I had seen a lot of dresses at various stores.  After browsing and then trying on some hideous dresses in the "as is" sample section just for fun (Yes, I was one of those girls that had to try on seafoam green and pink dresses for a laugh) we were on our way out when I spotted a gorgeous dress hanging on a dressing room door.  It had just come in and models were getting fitted for an upcoming bridal fashion show.  I tried it on and purchased it immediately.  It was the first (serious) dress I tried on and I have no regrets purchasing it.  It was an a-line with lace overlay and a sweetheart neckline with a shorter train." 

Bridal Gown Buying Tip 4: As a past sales associate in a high end ladies wear shop (that's what it was called back in the day) I could see the fun-seekers coming. The "let's try on some dresses for fun" shopper is like the "boy who called wolf too many times". Careful where you go and how many times you do the "fun" venture, you'll be spotted in an instant and perhaps not served as well as you might be otherwise. Good for Marjorie Jean S that she saw "the one" and knew it. 

Bridal Gown Buying Tip 5: As the brides on this post knew, when you see it, you will know it. Don't second guess yourself.

Christina considers herself "a very practical, simple person" and as she walked into the bridal boutique she kept reminding herself about her $800.00 (Cdn) budget. As she remarks about shopping within her budget, "Not an easy thing to accomplish in a city setting like Ottawa (Ontario, Canada). So, on a Saturday afternoon I had two appointments booked . . . and I only took one girlfriend with me because I knew she’d be honest in her opinions." 

Bridal Gown Buying Tip 6: Take only one good shopping partner, whether it be a friend, your mother, a bridesmaid, your matron of honour; the relationship does not matter but the honesty does. If you can help it, do not go shopping with all your bridesmaids to shop for your dress and theirs on the same day.

LK, a not-so-recent bride in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada told me about her 1975 wedding. "My future husband and I were on a major budget as we were poor students and chose to buy a house with the wedding money our parents gave us to put on the reception. To save money, I wore my mother's dress from 1945.  We got married in 1975 .  . . so I guess I went "vintage".  The dress was quite lovely and fit me perfectly. I just had to hem it a couple of inches and get a slip made for it."

Bridal Gown Buying Tip 7: You do not have to buy new at all. There are many alternatives to buying an expensive wedding dress. Mothers, aunts, friends would all be thrilled to lend their dresses. In larger centres, you can rent wedding gowns. If someone I knew asked me to lend them my wedding dress, I would be honoured and thrilled.

Back to Christina . . . "I must have tried on a dozen dresses. . . The lady who was helping me during my appointment could see that I was getting a little discouraged. It was a long day, but she noted the details that I did like about certain dresses I had tried on and was conscious of my budget. So she told me she had an idea and needed me to be open minded.  A few minutes later, she came out from the other side of the boutique holding a purple, iridescent prom dress and said, trust me. I didn’t ask any questions and followed her into the change room. Once I was zipped up and looked in the mirror I was sold. I ran out of the dressing room and immediately told my friend: This is the one! The lace dress from the first store was history." 

Permission granted to use photo on Closet Fashion Content Analysis.

Bridal Gown Buying Tip 8: Trust the bridal sales associate. Brides are probably the most difficult dress-buying customer on the planet and good sales associates know how to please the bride. This is particularly NOTE-WORTHY and worth repeating, "she noted the details that I did like about certain dresses I had tried on and was conscious of my budget."

Bridal Gown Buying Tip 9: Take a look in other departments besides bridal if you are roadblocked in the bridal department.

Christina's purple prom dress: what a difference a colour makes! Permission granted to use photo on Closet Fashion Content Analysis.
Christina's dress in the apple tree her grandfather planted.
Permission granted to use photo on Closet Fashion Content Analysis.

I was lucky enough to get Christina's mom's story about the dress. She writes, "Christina emailed me photos of her in a beautiful purple prom dress, to which I reacted, "Oh my!" Then I read the message that the dress was being ordered in ivory white, to which I responded that her dress should be "white", to which she responded, "not to worry because wedding dress ivory is a white shade, just not a bright white". We were in Ottawa at the time she had her final fitting at the bridal salon. Everything made total sense then. I realized bridal ivory is indeed white and it looked amazing on her skin tone."

A NICE & NOTE-WORTHY Aside: Christina's maternal grandfather died five months before her wedding to Matt. The photo is significant for her because it was her grandfather who planted the apple tree when Christina was little.

Other brides I spoke with were looking for something other than the "strapless" style, which has been so predominant in all the bridal shops over the past five years. For them, their selections may be fewer but nonetheless beautiful and they were able to find what they wanted.

Permission granted to use photo on Closet Fashion Content Analysis.
You cannot see the detail on Carly Blake's dress (from Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada) in this photo but I was enamoured when I saw it. Even though, strapless gowns have been most popular over the past five years, this discreet neckline still made the bride ravishing. Although not anything like Kate Middleton's gown, I had the same NICE! reaction to this one. 

Bridal Gown Buying Tip 10: If you can't find what you want, don't give up and don't settle for "good enough".

I'll let Christina have the last word, "I know that there are many beautiful dresses out there and I know that we all have different tastes, styles and budgets. It would have been so easy to spend thousands, but I stuck to my character and do not regret my decision. I wore the dress for one day and by the end of the night it was dirty and tattered and now hangs in a closet (still dirty and tattered)". 

This topic deserves another post. You can email me,, with your bridal gown buying story. Then there's also the "trash dress" stories. So much to write about . . .


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