Even if you have a limited budget, you don’t have to shop at the dreaded David’s Bridal. Here are resources for dresses that don’t cost the equivalent of a car made by KIA (aka the dress that stole my heart)
::Shakes fist in the general direction of the Monique Lhuillier dress shop::
1) Custom costumes: Make sure to bring pictures and inspiration for your dress design. Unsure about everything else? But know you hate taffeta. Check out brides.com and theknot.com and look at their dress galleries. You can search for specific items, such as silhouette, length, fabric etc. Few things to remember for custom dresses: a) The price of a custom dress depends on the difficulty of design, type of fabric and how much fabric. A ball gown style dress big enough to sit 6 people comfortably will cost different than a mermaid dress with no train. b) Time is essential. Make sure to give your designer ample time. Rushed projects always incur a “rush” fee. Favorites in Portland: English Department, Embellish, Anne Mauro
2) Shop Locally (off rack options): Off the rack means the dress you see is the dress you get. They are discounted for a number of reasons a) Design is discontinued, b) It was a sample and dirty from thousands of women trying it on. A good cleaning is all it needs c) The shop needs to move old merchandise for the new spring line. Favorites in Portland: Ania’s Collection, Lena Medoyeff Bridal, English Department and Divine Design.
3) Non-Profits: Brides Against Breast Cancer is a non-profit that accepts gently used wedding dresses and new dresses from designers and bridal saloons. Then tours around the US and sell their dresses a deep discount. All the proceeds benefit breast cancer research, breast cancer education and support women with metastatic breast cancer. Another example is Bridal Garden. They carry HUGE designers at a fraction of the cost. However, they won’t you return the dress, even if you bought it 3 minutes before (true story). So be sure this is not an impulse buy. If you donate your dress to either organization, it is a tax deduction!
4) Discount digs: There are many stores that advertise “Below designer price” and “super savings”. It can be unsettling when EVERY designer has a part of their website warning buyers of unauthorized dealers. I can only attest to two of those websites through personal experience. House of Brides and Pearl’s Place. PP tends to be a few dollars cheaper than HOB, but HOB lists the designer and the price on the page. In contrast, PP wants you to send an email requesting that private information. My suggestions: a) Try to find on the specific dress in question in an actual bridal salon. Doesn’t mean you will buy from them, but at least you can get an idea on the sizing. Or ask a professional tailor/seamstress to take your measurements b) Be sure to order with ample time. It takes time to process your order, ship to the store, process, then ship to your house.
5) Plain Jane: Buy a plain dress in the silhouette you love and have your seamstress (or you) add the embellishments. Basic dresses are cheaper! Search your local fabric store or Ebay for feathers, lace, ribbon, beads, pearls etc.
6) You’ll find it downtown: They are catching the wedding fever and starting to feature bridal lines. Luckily, they didn’t jump on the pricing bandwagon and charge up the wazoo. If the store does not have a specific bridal line, search for white/ivory dresses and you will be surprised by the results. Some people may not stick with the “No White before Memorial Day”, but designers have. If you check in the late winter/early spring, you will find a gaggle of gowns, which is perfect timing for wedding season (April-September). Check out White House Black Market, Nordstroms, Saks Fifth Avenue and other nice retailers for dresses. If your wedding is not during this high priced wedding period, then good for you! J Crew usually have their bridal dresses on sale in the fall/winter (after the wedding rush is over). So now, that gorgeous silk ball gown is 60% off and very much affordable. Don’t forget about special occasion gowns, such as Jessica McClintock, Simply Dresses and Edress Me.
7) Always a bridesmaid: Bridesmaid dresses usually come in some variant of white (ivory, white, eggshell, champagne etc). Don’t worry about sizing, most bridesmaid lines are larger in size, so you will have to get it altered to fit your body. I suggest the JLM Couture (a line by wedding dress designer Alvina Valenta and Jim Hjelm). It may be expensive for a bridesmaid, but the rich silks and details will surprise you and your budget (around 280 dollars).
8 ) Use and Reuse: Ebay, Craigslist, Preownedweddingdresses.com are three sites that come to mind. However, please be wary of sellers on Ebay. Several brides ordered their custom designer wedding dresses and it ends up costing more since the dress is basically a shell (no lining, no boning, tulle, etc). These little things will add up when you take it to the seamstress. Additionally, on Craigslist, I’ve only seen dresses with uber puffy sleeves and chiffon overlays like there is no tomorrow. Furthermore, be cautious and take a friend/bridesmaid AND tell your fiancé where you are going if you plan on looking at a dress. As for POWD, the sellers are only selling one dress, their dress. The website is quite reputable, so don’t worry. J