Want an edgier look than what you’re finding in the salons? Want to go western or sport some other look like a to-the-floor suit you can’t get going the traditional route? Or maybe you do want that traditional look but need to look for it at a better price. Going beyond the salon is a great option then.
DEPARTMENT STORES AND SPECIALTY BOUTIQUES
Even though boutiques don’t necessarily carry bridal, the extraordinary dresses they do have can sometimes be special ordered in white or ivory. In the 1960s, boutiques like Paraphernalia in New York gained popularity by offering one-of-a-kind clothing with an edge and since then have become the best fashion labs for designers as well as clients. Think about this: Almost any white dress has potential to be a wedding dress as long as it works with your accessories, fits within the scene and theme of your wedding and you absolutely love it. Also, if you’re not into wearing white on your wedding day, boutiques and department stores might be your best option. Some stores work closely with up and coming specialty designers. With a little imagination and the help of professionals, you might be able to put some stunning looks together.
Also a great option if you don’t want to wait 4-6 months for your gown.
SECOND TIME AROUND BRIDAL SHOPS
Does the word ‘consignment’ scare you? Conjure images of Goodwill cast-offs in a store run by darling little old ladies? Walk in any bridal consignment shop these days and you’ll feel more like you’re in a high-end designer salon. With catchy names like Twice Bridal and One More Time, these shops offer some elegant, gently worn gowns in better shape than your average designer sample. In fact, the proprietors of these places can get real persnickety about what they take in—some only accepting top designer names like Vera Wang and Reem Acra. In addition, once gowns are accepted they’re cleaned and pressed to look new before they ever go on display. And think about it. They’ve only been worn once, isn’t that practically new?
Most inventory is ‘once-worn’ while the rest could be manufacturer over runs, designer samples bought at market or salon clearances. Additionally, every so often you’ll find that certain gown some bride ordered and for whatever reason, never wore.
If you’re price conscious this is the place to shop. Gowns that retailed last season for $3000-4000 are typically half off but sometimes can go for as little as $500-600.
More good news. You’re going to get very personalized assistance—the same as in a full service bridal salon. Though there will be re-altering involved, you won’t have to wait 4-6 months for your gown. Bear in mind once-worn gowns have already been pre-fit and altered to someone else’s body. Just make sure they’re once-worn; an over altered dress that’s been on more than one body could lose its original shape after a while. Ask how many and what kind of alterations the gown you want has had. Typically, if it’s gone through more than two brides, forget it. In addition to alterations your shop may offer customizing services (for a fee). Shops realize with previously-worn gowns, there’s a kind of possessive energy the new purchaser wants to create to make the gown her own. Therefore some shops focus on customizing.
FYI: Naturally bridal consignment shops don’t stock set sizes like salons do. Small and larger brides might have to work closely with staff and keep a lookout locating a gown in their size.
BRIDAL DISCOUNT OUTLETS
These are places like David's Bridal (the biggest) that offer everything for the bride, MOBs, flower girls, maids, even prom-goers. They are able to bring the prices down to rock bottom because of mass buying power. The looks you'll find though are pretty generic. There's nothing wrong with the dresses but then again, there usually isn't anything special about them either. Go to http://www.davidsbridal.com/ and you'll see what I mean.
VINTAGE CLOTHING STORES
Most Vintage clothing stores stock actual gowns from by-gone eras as well as ‘retro-inspired’ selections that are brand new. The bride in love with a particular era of clothing usually checks vintage clothing stores first. Not all brides opt for an actual gown that survived her favorite era though. Some choose a newer style reflecting the period instead. Why? Because that authentic 1925 chemise may be so delicate, without proper restoration it could literally fall apart. Think of gowns belonging to the ages like you would certain antiques: some so precious to be considered museum quality. Depending on restoration, the rule of thumb is, the older the gown the less they should be worn. If you are set on wearing that 1910 dress find a specialist in restoration who can advise. Also know your1910 dress can be an expensive but wise investment. For instance, if you invest in an original 50s-60s style, you’ll pay a lot less than the 1880s-1913 originals that, if intact, could be the equivalent to some down payments on a house.
THRIFT SHOPS AND FLEA MARKETS
Here’s where you’ll finally find those darling little old ladies. And they are charming. Especially if you’re a bride. Chances are, if you’ve gone this route to unearth real finds before, you already know your way around and what you’re doing, hopefully with the same eye that serious antique dealers and clothing collectors scout these markets often and with great skill. However, rummaging through flea markets and thrift stores takes a certain kind of bride—the kind who believes in recycling even on her wedding day; the kind that doesn’t give a damn whether she’s wearing hand-me-downs. If this is you, you’re a rarity. And yes, you’re likely to spend hours and days sorting through racks of Four Weddings and A Funeral cast-offs before you uncover that rare 1963 Pricilla of Boston original.
Go custom. This way you can get exactly what you want custom made to your measurements and your dress will be like no other in the world. Most custom designers can be found online but the best way to find one is to know a bride who had a custom designed gown you like. To read more about the custom designed gown go to: http://www.weddinggazette.com/content/002513.shtml
LINKS TO SOME OF MY FAVORITE ALTERNATIVES TO SALON SHOPPING
ENCORE BRIDAL-New and nearly new couture in the LA area. One of the best bridal blogs on the net is connected to this site.http://encorebridal.com/
SHADOWS-Vintage clothing and jewelry. A Northern California landmark. Clued up owners have been collecting vintage for years. They have some beautiful turn of the century pieces on display in the store.http://www.shadowsbridal.com/
GEORGIOU-One of the best places for shopping for suits and dresses. http://www.georgioustore.com/dresses3.htm
AMY-JO TATUM BRIDAL COUTURE-My website. I do custom and love it. www.amyjotatum.com