How to Select a Wedding Dress Retailer

One of the most exciting and (hopefully) once in a lifetime events that a bride partakes in is in choosing her wedding dress.

You may have scoured the internet and all of the wedding dress Pinterest pages, and maybe you have compiled a group of photos that completely sends the right message to your family, friends, and other wedding attendants.

Maybe you haven’t done any of this, and you have no clue, and would like to submit yourself to the confident embrace of the wedding professionals at a reputable wedding retailer.

But which retailers are reputable? How to you choose?

The relationship you have with your wedding dress boutique is one that will last during the full duration of your engagement, and here is a guide that will provide some guidelines as to how to choose the correct wedding dress retailer.

  1. First consider if the retailer carries the designer you are interested in trying on. If you have identified the kind of wedding designers that you are attracted to, visit their websites, or call their ateliers and find out which retailers represent them in your area. Sometimes the designer atelier will even make the appointment for you. Please beware of any retailer who claims to have the ability to “get” any designer dress that you may be interested in. These retailers partake in a fraudulent activity - otherwise known as “trans-shipping”. Trans-shipping is when a retailer circumvents the exclusivity agreements of the designer and purchases an exclusive dress through another (friend, who is a) retailer that may have an exclusive arrangement with the designer. These retailers are not committed to properly invest in the designer, and orient themselves and their staff with the designer offerings and fit of the dress. They don’t participate in the designer trunk shows, and they utilize their competive retailers’ dressing rooms and staff to sell the dress, while they ask their other retailer friend to order the dress on their behalf.

  2. Visit the retailer. Notice the vibe and culture of the retail setting. Is it a small boutique with whitewashed wooden floors and folksy non-boned dresses, or a large scale marble and oak lined boutique with full seated areas within the dressing room. Notice the consultants. Can you relate to any one of them? Can you trust the consultant? Maybe she is similar to an older sister, and someone you can laugh with and disclose details of the five pounds you intend to lose, or an older Emily Post woman with pearls and a twin-set guiding you with her decades of experience and knowledge.

  3. Closed Stock vs Open Stock. Some retail boutiques have a closed stock merchandise strategy. These stores have a few dresses on mannequins in the front, but most of the dresses are inventoried in a back room. Often these stores with this kind of format are “store within store” wedding dress boutiques within bigger department stores. These retailers ultimately have very large stocks of dresses, and the rationale is to utilize the most amount of sales floor space as possible. (Which is always a challenge considering the space consumption that each wedding dress needs.) A closed stock boutique requires a different type of appointment. A bride will reveal the budget of the wedding dress, and the whole appointment is centered around the budget. The bride is not able to wander through a warehouse of dresses and pick possible dresses to try on and get inspired. The bride discloses her budget, and the consultant chooses the appropriate dresses to try on. Ultimately, the bride must have trust in the wisdom of the consultant, and the consultant must be knowledgable.

  4. Considering the fittings and alterations. It’s always wise to inquire about the skillfulness of the alteration department. The alterationist should be able to take the whole dress apart and seamlessly reassemble it back together again. They are willing and able to carefully unstitch lace and beadwork and reapply it stitch by stitch. Also consider that some retailers do not employ an alteration team. If this is the case, often the retailer will refer you to an alteration professional. Please choose wisely, and always ask for references.

  5. Purchasing a wedding dress online. Some savvy brides might feel content without the pomp and circumstance of a proper wedding dress appointment. These brides may wish to purchase their “once-in-a-lifetime” dress on-line, perhaps at 2:00am, with a glass of wine, as an impulse (and maybe even drunk) buy. As someone who has seen all angles of this industry, I severely advocate NOT to do this. Many of the dresses that are featured on-line in various websites are copies. The photos taken for these websites are photos with the original designer dress, and the photos are much more attractive than the dress that you will receive. The shipped dress will often be made out of inferior fabric, and the fit, well, the fit in most cases there is non-existent. A well- designed dress should be fitted and tested over and over again on dress forms and models, with the intent of achieving a flattering shape. This is the work of a full-time designer. We never stop until we have achieved a proper fit with attention given to correct seam finishing and carefully chosen fabrications. I have personally witnessed over and over again, brides who have foolishly spent a few hundred dollars on one of these dresses, only to spend many times more on alterations, with even the most futile of attempts, still looking sub-standard.


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