Cheryl shops...for a wedding dress (but not for me!)
Let me preface this post by saying I AM NOT ENGAGED. There. Now that that's taken care of, I had the pleasure of accompanying my friend MM on Saturday on her first wedding dress shopping trip. I've never been shopping for a bridal dress before (I'm not counting the time I went with my friend JC to get her alterations done), so I approached this trip with an open mind...and a bit of excitement. Like many girls, I love a good wedding; knowing MM and how she dresses regularly, I was interested to see what kind of gowns she'd go for.

Our first stop was Bridal Reflections, which is in a nondescript office building on lower 5th Avenue. Our saleslady let MM walk around and pick out the dresses she liked; we then had a private suite with three-way mirrors, a little platform for MM to stand on, and chairs for all of us in MM's entourage. MM fit in most of the samples quite nicely, but the saleslady would pin everything so we'd get an idea of the fit. I don't know whether it was that MM picked dresses that suited her or that they were all very well made (probably a combination of both), but MM looked really good in everything she tried on--she tends to like simple detail like draping or ruching in the bodice with a clean A-line skirt, and there were two really strong contenders at Bridal Reflections.

We then headed to The Bridal Garden, which sells showroom samples and once-worn gowns at up to 75% off retail, with proceeds benefiting Sheltering Arms children's charity. This is a very noble pursuit, and logical--why spend $5,000 on a dress you're going to wear for only a few hours? Why not get a preworn one when no one will no the difference, and it'll benefit charity? I feel like we all know someone who knows someone who got a Vera Wang dress for $400 there. And I'm sure that has happened, however...the showroom is tiny, with three fitting rooms on one side. The one woman who appeared to work there was neither helpful nor cheery. Also, she informed us we'd have to wait for a fitting room, so MM just stripped down to her undies and started trying on dresses in the middle of the store. After all, it became apparent we wouldn't be there for long. The dresses are self-serve, organized by size, and stored in plastic dress covers, although considering the state of most of them, the covers seemed like an afterthought. While we grabbed gowns by Amsale, Wearkstatt, and Ulla-Maija for MM, they were all dirty and/or damaged, with holes, broken zippers, and stains. Yes, you can probably get rack dirt removed at the dry-cleaner's, but pen marks and perspiration stains? Hell no. So factor in the cost of repairs, alterations and cleaning (which may or may not actually work) and...well, you decide whether it's worth the tradeoff. So while were all let down by the experience, I saw another customer who was roughly a size 4 trying on a gorgeous trumpet-hem dress with lace-inset cap sleeves. It was gorgeous, it fit her like a glove, and it was pristine. Go figure.

Our final stop was the infamous Kleinfeld, which functions like a well-oiled machine. Seriously, it's like a factory, with an assembly line and all. Our saleswoman here asked MM what she liked, and she did a good job of bringing her stuff based on description alone (there is no rack-browsing at Kleinfeld). MM found two more gorgeous dresses, then narrowed it down to one, which was definitely in the top two of the day. To help persuade her, we ventured out into the main salon, which had much better lighting and mirrors, and we were visited by the vail saleslady (I almost fell out of my chair when I saw the price tag on the very simple veil MM tried on) and the cheesy jeweled-hairpiece guy, who was conducting a trunk show (the beautiful but not totally spectacular hairpiece he was pushing on MM cost almost as much as the dress she loved). Also conducting a trunk show: Project Runway's Austin Scarlett, who now designs for Amsale, and who wears more makeup than most women I know, has a disproportionally huge head, and, if he were a woman, would probably be a size 2. He smiled at me, though it was probably a smile of pity (it wasn't until Kleinfeld that I discovered my top was totally see-through). While MM was being fawned over by various salespeople, I looked around at the other girls being fawned over by other various salespeople and...yikes. I know there's no such thing as an ugly bride, but I think there sure are ugly bridal gowns. That's all I'm going to say about that. Still, while it's fun to get all caught up in the bridal-salon experience--and there's nowhere better to do it than at Kleinfeld--you've got to keep in mind that the bridal industry is a mutli-billion-dollar business. It's enough to make you want to just buy a white linen dress, hop on a plane, and get married on the beach in Antigua. Tempting, no?

MM's next plan of attack is to hit the E. 9th Street boutiques, which will probably be a totally different experience. And since I live 5 blocks from them--and because Saturday was so much fun--I'll hopefully accompany her. Because, while it's fun to help your girlfriend pick out the perfect dress, you're also gathering information that might come in handy one day. You know, just in case.

P.S. I apparently can't post photos at the moment, so sorry this entry (and the next one) is so boring!

1 comment

Brie said...

For a totally different dress-buying experience, I am going to the Basement Bridal sale in Boston on the 18th. I will give you a full report of the madness and meyhem. Cross your fingers.