Growing up, my dream was to be a wedding gown designer. After I graduated from high school I went to a great college to study fashion design, even interned at a couture London Bridal Salon where gowns were custom made for brides in the shop every day! It was incredible!
That experience taught me so much about the world of gown design, not only about what quality means but also about the time and materials needed to make a gown.
When you purchase a regular everyday dress off the rack, more often than not, the materials and construction are such in which it can be easily mass produced, manufactured quickly and made in a way in which the manufacturer and the seller make a profit. Retail prices on regular off-the-rack garments are much more affordable than a custom wedding gown.
Now, you might be thinking that gowns are mass-produced, and I can see why: Hundreds of shops across the country carry the same style from a particular brand. However, those are just samples. Think of them as the floor model of furniture or cars. When you buy a couch or a car, you are not buying the one sat in and tried out, you are getting a new one customized (maybe) just for you. You can’t just walk out of the store with it.
Same goes with wedding gowns. With gowns, you also have to remember that because this is a gown worn only once on the biggest and most important day of your life, no detail is missed. The materials chosen are the best. The embellishments and beadwork are done by hand using only the finest beads and crystals, the lace is the most beautiful it can be, and that all comes at a price, both for labor and materials.
While all that is great, if you are a bride on a tight budget, shopping for a dress can be a source of tremendous stress because it’s a huge purchase that takes up a good portion of your budget. However, there are two great ways you can save money on bridal gowns, which you may, or may not have heard of before. However, they are not foolproof and come with some catches. Here are the pros and cons…
Save money on a wedding gown by attending a sample sale
Going back to the example of the couch and the car, when stores are trying to get rid of inventory, they put their samples on sale. So, the test-driven cars, the traded-in cars, the floor model furniture that everyone has sat on, the discontinued models, it all goes on sale to be sold to make room for new stock.
Bridal gown shop owners do the same, and their sales are called sample sales. The samples that brides have been trying on over the past year or more are going on sale to make room for new stock. Below is a video from a recent sample sale at Lambs Hill Bridal Boutique in Beacon, where we speak to shop owner Charlotte Guernsey and a bride-to-be about the sale.
What does that mean for you? That means saving a huge chunk of money, sometimes up to 50% or more, and each store does it slightly differently. Guernsey says “a sample sale is when we are clearing stuff off our rack, so you’re going to be buying something that was a sample that other brides have tried on.” She says, “It’s discounted because it has been tried on.”
There is a big catch with sample sales. Gowns are sold AS IS! They can’t be ordered in your size. Guernsey says, “We’re not going to be ordering it for your size, so it more or less need to fit you off the rack, but you’re going to get a great deal for it.” Additionally, the fabric may have slight tears or holes from brides trying them on, zippers may be broken or buttons may be missing, and the bottoms may be stained a bit from all the walking.
Many stores will list what is wrong with the dress on the tag, so that you are aware of it, and can fix most of the problems. Check with the individual store to see what they charge for fixing those problems. Dresses can be taken in, but because they won’t be ordered in your size, they cannot be taken out…much.
Lastly, bridal runs small, so remember that when shopping. The range of sizes can be very limited.
Save money on a wedding gown by attending a Trunk Show
The term ‘Trunk Show’ was coined a few centuries ago when traveling salesmen would go into town showcasing their goods out of a trunk that they would carry around with them. In bridal, “The trunk show is when the company comes with their entire line…that’s not in stores yet. So it gives brides an opportunity…to try their entire line on, plus everything else we have in the store,” says Guernsey.
If you are a trend-setting bride, trunk shows are perfect for you. Bridal salon owners typically choose a few gowns from a particular product line to have in their stores and usually do this during Bridal Market, a semi-annual event where design houses and the buyers for bridal salons choose the samples they want to carry in their store. With trunk shows, you get to see the entire line of one particular designer, not just the styles the store carries.
Laura Howard, store manager of Chamonix Bride in Rhinebeck, says the “designer will ship us about 10-30 gowns that we don’t normally offer… It’s also a really great time to try on gowns that you otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to…They are usually the upcoming season’s gowns or current season not in inventory.” She says it’s also a great way for the store to see what their customers are going to be wanting next season so they can make sure they have what brides are looking for and can get them in that season.
The major con with trunk shows is the discount, ironically. Because the dresses are for the upcoming season, many manufacturers put a limit on the amount the gowns can be discounted. Most of the time, you are only going to be saving about 10%, not like sample sales where you could be saving up to 50% or more.
However, 10% is better than nothing. If your dress is originally $1,500 and you’re saving 10%, that’s $150 which can then go towards a veil or alterations.
Another con with trunk shows is that if there is a particular designer you are looking for, you need to be vigilant about doing your research to see what stores offer that designer’s trunk show, if they do at all. That may mean you need to travel outside of the Hudson Valley for your gown, which can pose its own set of unique logistical problems.
Have you purchased your gown yet? Will you be attending a Trunk Show or Sample Sale? We’d love to hear your story.Read More