Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What I've Learned from Working in the Bridal Industry

When I started my new job at Madeleine's Daughter, I brought several years experience as a seamstress and as a designer who has worked with gowns to the job. The learning curve was there, but not too difficult to get over. I had to learn about veils and bridal accessories and bustles and other details that all need to be considered when creating a bridal "look." Of course, I am no stranger to creating a head-to-toe "look" either for someone to wear in life, or for a moment on stage, so this part of the job came easily to me. I definitely consider myself an expert in finishing a bride's look, whether that means pinning her gown to be tailored, showing her various bustle styles that would suit her dress or helping her to select the finishing touches to wear with her gown such as a veil or jewelry.

Since I've started this job, several of my friends have come in to shop for their own wedding gowns. In preparation for their shopping trip, I gave them the following advice: "Be emotionally prepared to find your gown. If you leave that appointment without purchasing a gown, it will not be because you didn't find it. It will be because you found it so quickly, you freaked out." It happens all the time- bride after bride comes into our shop and falls in love with the first dress she puts on. This is no coincidence. It is because our bridal consultants are excellent at what they do. They listen carefully to what the bride is asking for- color, style, details, budget- everything. Since they listen so carefully and attentively, and they have such an enormous knowledge of the gowns we carry, it should come as no surprise that in their first attempt, they pull the gown of her dreams.

Our consultants do this every single day and they do it well. And yet, so many women who are shopping for a bridal gown don't want to listen to the expert in the room with them. This is what I find so incredible. After all, how often have you shopped for a wedding gown? And I mean really shopped for it. We've all spent hours of our lives looking at magazine photos and dreaming of the gown, but to actually try on wedding gowns with the intent of purchasing one? For most women, that is not something we've ever done, or maybe at most we've done it once or twice. Compare that to the number of times you've gone shopping for jeans or shoes or a new coat. You are the expert in what shoes you like because you've shopped for them hundreds of times, you wear them every day and you know your shoe preferences by now. Can you honestly say that shopping for a wedding gown or a veil is comparable to that? Of course not!

Secondly, how many of you out there have ever had a garment tailored to you in the way a wedding gown would be tailored? Even the performers I've worked with in the years I spent in theatre have had garments tailored to them, but not nearly as thoroughly or precisely as the tailoring of a wedding gown. And even if you have had a garment that tailored, does that make you an expert in sewing and alterations? Of course not!

I suppose what I'm trying to say without sounding harsh is that there are people in this industry who are experts at what they do- the bridal consultants are experts at finding the gown and all the accessories to go with it, the seamstresses are experts at tailoring the gown and knowing the capabilities and limitations of fabric, and there are of course experts in selecting bridesmaid dresses and tuxedos for the groomsmen. These are people who have years of experience doing what they do and they have a track record of success. What I have learned from working in the bridal industry is this: listen to these experts. They will not impose their taste and preferences on you, but they will tell you what the best choice is for whatever you are looking for. Whether it is selecting a veil to wear for the ceremony or choosing between a tuxedo or a morning suit, they will know the right answer. Whether you are planning a traditional wedding from start to finish or whether you are abandoning all pre-conceived notions of what is appropriate for a wedding, or whether you are finding some type of middle-ground between modern, unique and traditional, they will know the best choice to make. Listen.

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