Here are some tips on looking at, and finding, a dress:
1. Do not bring TONS of people to help you find a dress, especially to a salon like David’s, Trudy’s, etc. Frankly, when they are busy, it is just too hectic. NO one will be happy. Plus, everyone will have a different opinion and you will just get confused. Find one or two people you trust and have them go with you to all of your salon visits. My mom is like a shark (so smart, honest, and practical) and she helped me narrow down my choices and made everything SO easy. She was the only person who came with me to all my salon visits. I have done the same thing for a friend of mine, since her mother is in the E. Coast. I remember all the dresses she has tried on and can give her an honest assessment of what I think works.
2. Be realistic about your budget. Know what you want to spend, and don’t forget the little extras (e.g., it cost $60 to have a row of covered buttons sewn on the back of my dress), tax, and alteration costs (which is around $200 or more!). And factor in the cleaning cost of your dress too, which ranges around $100-$300 per dress. My budget was around $2K, and I really didn’t spend much more than that, which I was really happy about. Know that upper limit and stick to it. Chances are you will find what you want at your price. Don’t feel pressured to get something you can’t afford, especially since you are only wearing it once!
3. If you are able to, take some pictures of you with the dresses on before you buy. Some salons will not allow you to do this (House of Fashion in Sac does, Trudys and Amy Kuschel do after you decide to go with them, and I think David’s does). That’s where your digital cam comes in. Man, I thought some dresses looked hot on me, but when I put it on my computer screen at home, they looked horrid. Things sometimes look different than what you imagined in your head and at the salon.
4. Try to understand the market before you buy a dress. As my husband continues to point out to me, the market is often segmented so that there is a price point for everyone. Know what those price points are so you are informed and can begin to look more into your price point (this goes with everything, not just dresses, although I found segmentation to be most clear with wedding dresses). Here is my short list of the market as I came to see it, although this is not an exhaustive list by any means.
a. Designer dresses. If you want to wear a dress that you’ve seen in In Style, US Magazine, or what celebrities have worn, you probably want to get a Monique Lhullier or Vera Wang. Expect to pay between $4,000-$7000 (or more). This link has a good description of the three hottest bridal designers:http://weddings.about.com/od/weddingdressdesigners/index_a.htm. I would note, though, that I’ve heard people getting cheap Vera Wang dresses at her trunk show in NYC, so I guess you just have to be savvy if you are about the designer dress and don’t want to pay an outrageous amount. For these dresses, in the bay area, I know you can get them at Unique in Burlingame and Gingers and Bridal Galleria in SF. Nieman Marcus also carries some.
b. Smaller Designers/custom dresses based on a number of styles for that season. I would put Amy Kuschel, Miosa, and Jin Wang into this category (BTW, I would also check out www.vucouture.com if I were in L.A. I loved her dresses but thought it’d be too inconvenient to go with her line b/c her flagship store is in L.A. She has gotten some hype b/c celebrities like Britney Spears have fancied her BM dresses for parties. She also has a great BM line). These dresses will probably run you between $1800-$4500 or so, most falling in the mid-range of $2-3K (tho’ Jin Wang is more expensive and not worth it, in my view). These designers create a line of 20 or so wedding dresses each season and after you decide on a certain style, one will be made to fit your bodys measurements. This is probably a good option if you can swing the price and if your body is unique in some way (petite, big bust, etc.). Alterations, even if done well, sometimes botch up a dress if too many changes need to be made.
c. Popular Salons carrying a large number of dresses in many price ranges. I would put Trudys in Campbell and House of Fashion in Sacramento in this category. I’ve noted above that I didn’t have the dandiest experience at these salons, but that is because they are so popular. Do NOT go on the weekend, if you can help it. It gets to be very busy and I didn’t like it when girls would see me try something on and then want to peel it off my back b/c they thought it looked good. Also, girls tend to bring so many people there that it gets very crowded and stressful. It was stressful enough to try a dress on with just my mom. I really didn’t need 5 other moms, and 10 other BMs looking at me and making various comments as to how they thought I looked in the dresses I tried on. I felt a little self-conscious and couldn’t really take in the dresses I was trying on. The good thing about these salons is that they have dresses in various price ranges - beginning around $500 or so and going up to about $4,000 or $5,000 (I think Trudy’s may carry some designer dresses). These salons are a good place to start if you have NO IDEA where to begin, although the experience may be a little stressful and overwhelming if you go at the wrong time.
d. Discount salons. There’s this place in Sacramento called Bridal Mart that I would put in this category. They have tons and tons of dresses and I think you are supposed to take them off the racks and try them on yourself. I don’t know about as many discount salons in the Bay Area b/c I work in Sac during the week and was able to figure out what was out there. However, I’d probably also put Davids Bridal in this category. The price range in this category is probably $300 and up, although most dresses I saw were in the $500-600 range. I am fascinated by David’s Bridal b/c a lot of their designs mimic more expensive designers and I found their dresses to be very pretty. The dresses tend not to be made of expensive material (like silk), but for what you pay, I think David’s Bridal is a great choice. Also nice is that when you go to the salon you can try the dress in your size (whereas salons like Trudy’s will only have a size 10 and it will have to be pinned on you so you can only get an idea of what you will look like). You should probably look out for sales, though, because after I visited Davids, they called me to let me know that the $300-400 dress I tried on was going for $250 or something like that. So keep that in mind when buying and shopping at Davids.
Here are some tips on looking at, and finding, a dress: