By Juli Alvarez
The internet really has changed everything. Especially shopping. Remember when an afternoon of shopping was kind of like soul searching? Like the hunt of discovering a fabulous treasure destined to be yours? For some, it's like an Olympic sport (sigh, I'm in this category), but for some unfortunate others shopping can be a mindless confusing waste of time and energy culminating in pointless, odd purchases and a big fat headache. Well this has all been turned on it's pretty little head because now, whether we like it or not, whether we crave the excitement of shopping in our favorite stores, or whether we need that nod of approval from a trusted sales confidante, we all have succumbed to the draw of shopping online.
Etailers make it so seductive, so easy...there really is no need to ever step foot in a crowded, noisy, pressure-filled store again. But then, what if you're a bride?? Until recently, most wedding dresses were available only through manufacturers websites or the gently used variety going for a song on sites like ebay. But that's changed too. And for the better, because there's a new group of online retailers that have made amazing strides for brides.
Luxury etailer NET-A-PORTER, which launched in 2000, really paved the way for many online retailers. They are the gold standard when it comes to an exciting, easy-to-use site, luxurious packaging with fast delivery and great return services. Net-A-Porter's creators and buyers have fully embraced brides and their needs with an incredible and often exclusive cache of wedding gowns and accessories that is truly unique. Buying Director Holli Rogers says, "Our revamped Wedding Boutique is a one-stop-shop for busy brides-to-be and their bridal parties. It caters to traditional tastes but also offers an amazing selection of non-traditional gowns that work for weddings and beyond. It's the perfect solution for the more spontaneous among us who don't have time for custom- made and who simply want to find a fabulous look from top to toe before jetting off."
They feature hard to find gowns from bridal and ready-to-wear designers like Lanvin, Valentino, Giambattista Valli, Alberta Ferretti, and Temperley London. The designer roster also includes select white & ivory, aisle-ready looks from Alexander McQueen, Gucci, Donna Karan and Stella McCartney to name a few. There are also fabulous exclusively-designed collections from Boho-Brit Matthew Williamson and New York's new kid on the block, Jason Wu (also worn by none other than the First-Fashion-Plate Michelle Obama) who jumped right into the wedding ring with a chic grouping of 5 looks comprised of dresses and separates, priced from $750 - $5,500.
The Lanvin Blanche collection, another exclusive, is reason enough for any girl to want to get married...from the hand-stitched and couture-like details to the easy, nonchalant feel of the gowns, they are all winners. We love the embroidered t-shirt tucked into the long tiered tulle skirt, worn with a satin ballet flat and the "Aumoniere Marriage" (a satin drawstring pouchette). Tres chic, and tres Lanvin.
The Net-A-Porter experience wouldn't be complete without getting a little inspiration from their weekly magazine, with special Wedding Issue editions. The magazine is a slick, enticing editorial viewpoint with stunning photography and witty copy. They engage with videos, designer interviews and fun soundbites. Net-A-Porter's Bridal Boutique also offers one-on-one advice with their special fashion advisors to help you out with anything from the fit of a gown, to choosing the proper undergarments for your dress to prepping your honeymoon wardrobe.
Hot new bridal luxury etailer, THE AISLE, newly launched in 2011 specializes in wedding fashion and accessories at insider prices. Each new sale (twice weekly) features a fresh gorgeous grouping of gowns and exclusive accessories. The membership only site boasts the best wedding designers like Monique Lhuillier, Oscar de la Renta, Amsale, Lela Rose, Angel Sanchez and many more. Co-creators Shara Levy & David Yassky's love affair with weddings and fashion led them to form The Aisle, and to give brides a chance at fabulous wedding fashion that might have been previously out of reach.
This weddings-only site is friendly, easy to navigate and offers incredible gowns at fantastically discounted prices; one-of-a kind runway looks and specially designed capsule collections. In early April, a special made-to-order collection of gowns from American designer Isaac Mizrahi becomes available. Accessories range from shoes to bags to costume and even diamond jewelry. The site offers shoppers comprehensive sizing charts and body diagrams to help select the correct size and a nationwide listing of preferred tailors in the Aisle Partner's section to help get the correct fit and tailoring for each dress (a must!). The Aisle's A Magazine is a fun, fashion and beauty driven editorial platform meant to inspire and give helpful tips from designers and industry experts. The trend pages definitely give a girl something to think about when perusing the "shops" and how to put a unique look together. We fell head over heels for the sparkly Ranjana Khan exclusive jewelry and headpiece collection, particularly the slightly quirky but truly glamorous Crown Headband. The Aisle also offers a unique return policy and an answer to that pesky question, "what if it doesn't fit?" with their dress-insurance. For a fee of $200, you can insure a full return on the gown (within 5 days time) if it's not exactly right. Registration for a membership is easy, just go to The Aisle at http://TheAisleNewYork.com.
Another etailer that's in on the bridal-act is every fashionista's favorite and another membership-only site, Gilt Groupe. In Spring 2010 they launched their wedding product with top wedding dress designers like Vera Wang, Amsale, and Reem Acra to name a few. Gilt also offers incredible accessories on a daily basis, with wedding-appropriate pieces from Judith Leiber handbags and Stuart Weitzman shoes, and tons of the best costume and fine jewelry you can find anywhere. Bridesmaids are also on offer as well as a unique feature for Gilt and for any bride who would love a great "healthy" deal like a fresh juice cleanse program from BluePrint Cleanse and also special packages from GoSmile for the brightest whitest teeth. Gilt offers a wide range of price points, and goes up to discounts of 65% off. In the past they've partnered with Darcy Miller, Martha Stewart Weddings' Editorial Director to provide brides-to-be with much needed advice and will continue to include industry experts to give insightful guidance along the way. We love the incredible deals they offer with their sister site, Jetsetter. They feature incredible honeymoon and vacation packages to the best destinations and hotels around the globe, like Hawaii, Bali or even an old-world train ride on the Orient Express.
Well girls, what are you waiting for? Get clicking!