First, I want to explain a little bit to all of you about the inventory carried in various bridal shops:
1.) Many brides have a very specific dress in mind that they want to try on. They will often see it at the designer's website and then click on a button or link that says something along the lines of "Find this dress in a store" or "Shops that carry this dress." Unfortunately, those links can be misleading. Any retailer that carries the line that dress is part of will be included in that link, regardless of whether or not that store carries that specific dress. For example, at Madeleine's, we have about 30 different designers represented in our store. Unfortunately, it's just not feasible from either an economic or logistical perspective to carry every dress by every designer. Brides may see that we carry Paloma Blanca or Monique Lhuillier or Jenny Packham and assume that we have all the dresses in our store and that simply isn't the case.
2.) Additionally, many designers have different divisions, or a large corporation will own several smaller design companies under the same umbrella. Don't assume that since a store carries Monique Lhuillier Bridal, that they must also carry her Bliss Bridal line as well. And just because a store carries a designer's bridal line doesn't mean they also carry their bridesmaids and vice versa. So, if you're looking for something specific, call the store and ask. Even if they don't carry a sample of it, that doesn't always mean that you can't buy it.
3.) If the answer to the question, "Do you have ________ dress in your store?" is "no," don't be discouraged. Lots of designers allow authorized retailers of their gowns to do something called a "sample viewing." Simply put, this means the designer will loan out a sample of the dress for the bride to try on at that local store. There is almost always going to be a fee associated with the viewing, but most shops will apply the majority of the fee towards the purchase of a gown (whether it's the borrowed dress, or an entirely different one). As a bride, you simply agree to the fee, and then let the bridal shop coordinate with the designer to get the sample in the store for you to try on. If you choose to have the store coordinate a sample viewing, the size, color and condition of the dress will unfortunately be completely out of your control. You may also be asked to be flexible with when you come in to try it on as there may be other brides requesting the sample as well, or trunk shows scheduled around the country (or the world) in which the dress is needed.
Next, here are some tips for the sizing of bridal attire:
1.) Unfortunately, many bridal gowns run extremely small. It is not uncommon to wear a size or two larger in bridal than you do in ready-to-wear. Additionally, when ordering, the gowns are cut to standard measurements as opposed to your measurements. This requires you to select the largest size you measure into and have the gown tailored down to fit you.
2.) When choosing the size to order, it's always advisable that you buy the gown that fits you now, even if you plan to lose weight. It's much easier (and less costly) to take a dress in than it is to have to add more fabric to an existing dress. In addition, it's hard to predict what part of your body will shrink with weight loss. Since you can't predict what size you'll slim down to, it's best to order your current size and just have it altered to your smaller frame when it comes in.
3.) Most bridal gowns are made to a standard length, and unless you happen to be the perfect height for that standard length, you will almost certainly need to have your gown hemmed. Some designers will offer "extra length" on their dresses, most often in standard increments. For example, they will lengthen in 2-inch increments, or they may offer a "petite" version that is 4 inches shorter than standard length. There are handful of dresses that can be ordered with the exact length you request. Usually those dresses have very intricate lace or beadwork patterns that make hemming very difficult, if not impossible.
Finally, here is some other inside information that I hope you find useful:
1.) Bridal gowns often have trains, some longer than others. The "bustle" refers to the method of tying the train up so that it doesn't get in the way. Bridal gowns don't often come with the bustle already installed because there are often several different ways that the gown can be bustled. Here is a photo of an Amsale bridal gown with the train down:
While this looks gorgeous for the ceremony, it can get cumbersome at the reception. This particular dress can be bustled in three different ways, depending on the preference of the bride. First is the "over bustle" also known as the "English" bustle:
As you can see, the train is pulled up over itself, hence the name. Another option is the "French" bustle, also known as an "under bustle":
In the under bustle style, the train is folded up under itself, creating gentle folds, or pick-ups. Finally, there is the "ballroom bustle" style in which the train is pulled up under the skirt in such a way that it appears as though the skirt is all one length:
Not all dresses can be bustled all three ways. A skilled bridal seamstress will know the best way to bustle your particular gown.
2.) Set your budget before you shop and always try to shop early. Not only do you want to avoid rush fees when ordering, but if you see a dress you love in a magazine, but wait several months to buy it, that gown may be discontinued before you even have a chance to try it on.
3.) It is the designers, not the bridal shops that determine the cost of the gown. Many bridal shops are only allowed to offer limited discounts, or sometimes none at all. If you are drawn to particular designer, don't hesitate to call your local bridal shop to ask what price range that designer falls into. It would be tragic to fall in love with a dress that is well outside your set budget. In most bridal salons, the consultant won't even show you something that is outside the budget you've given them. It's ok to ask if there is a special promotion or incentive that the store is offering, but if the answer is "no," be respectful of that. Some stores can risk losing their contracts with the designers if they don't stick to the set pricing of the gowns.
4.) Lots of websites and magazines and especially family members and friends will tell you to sleep on it, that you shouldn't be impulsive about this particular purchase. While I do believe you should feel confident, I don't always agree with that advice. And I really don't agree with the advice that states, "Don't purchase the first dress you try on." A good bridal shop will have experienced consultants. Those consultants listen carefully to your requests and at about 60% of the time, the first dress that is tried on is "the one." If you dismiss it simply because it was the first dress, you're making a big mistake. That is not to say that you shouldn't try on other dresses to help confirm it is "the one," but you should be just as open minded to the first dress as you are to the 10th dress. Fun fact: did you know that most brides only try on between 6 and 8 dresses before finding "the one?" Despite what "Say Yes to the Dress" has taught us, the majority of brides find their dream dress in the first 3 dresses they try on.
So there you have it- lots of inside information to help you in your bridal gown search, or at the very least, to entertain and enlighten you on a Saturday afternoon. Enjoy the rest of your weekend! And as always, thanks for reading!