S. gets Married: Alternate Ways to Finding Your Wedding Dress

August 13th, 2009 § 27 comments

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Pretty shortly after I got engaged last year, I started looking for a wedding dress. Amid stressful planning and less than enthusiastic decision making, this was my one enjoyable activity – looking for the right dress. It provided me the perfect excuse to peruse some of my favorite dress stores online several times a day, sometimes even during my office hours. (Don’t tell anyone!)

I gave myself a $300 budget and went to work. Here are some of my finds, some dresses I would love to see someone else walk away with, and the stores that became my go-to options when looking to forgo the outrageous prices of bridal boutiques and the likes.

I quickly realized that anything with the label “wedding” or “bridal” in it would be accompanied by a gigantic price tag. So I started looking for long white or off-white dresses that could serve as a wedding gown without being labeled as such, thus mitigating some of the outrageous price hikes associated with wedding-anything.  Some of my favorite places to search were J.Crew, BCBG Maxazria, White House Black Market, Ann Taylor, and Nordstrom. I mostly looked for simple long gowns with an interesting neckline:

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At J.Crew, I fell in love with this elegant number above but never actually came to try it on. In the end, I decided that an ivory or champagne colored dress would work better with my darker skin tone than a crisp white. The $450 price tag was also a bit outside my budget but still a reasonable find.

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Nordstrom turned out to be by far my wedding-dress-heaven! They have an actual wedding dress section with an abundance of designer stunners for very reasonable prices. Many a nights were spent watching TV and perusing their pages and pages of white dresses. This Calvin Klein dress spoke to me with its soft buttery color and flowey layers of gauzy fabric. Unfortunately, it didn’t look as good on me as on the model but I would still highly recommend this dress to someone taller who could pull it off. And the $178 price tag is nothing to complain about!

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This $388 Aidan Mattox dress was not available while I was shopping around, but as I pulled up the site in preparation for this post, I instantly fell in love with this unique neckline and eye-catching detail. This is definitely a dress I would have tried on (…it’s too late now, right…?)

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Yet another dress from Nordstrom that was not avilable to me but I have to showcase for its pretty capped sleeves and jewel adornment. This $344 Aidan Mattox dress is definitely worth a second glance.

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This BCBGMaxazria dress, also available through Nordstroms, nearly made me want to get a short wedding dress. I had always imagined myself in something long and flowey, so this didn’t quite fit my mental images for the day, but I agonized over this one quite a while. I adore the flower embellishments adorning the hemline and accenting the top. The cinched-in bodice paired with the A-line skirt is guaranteed to create a flattering silhouette and it is just so pretty and elegant. I was even willing to stretch my budget and shell out $398 for this one.

I also perused Ann Taylor’s Wedding site which used to offer a small choice of bridal gowns. Meanwhile it appears that they only offer bridesmaids dresses, but they’re worth visiting for their elegant and stylish alternatives to many others. I especially love their bold use of colors similar to the J.Crew bridesmaid options.

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For my own wedding party comprised of the wonderful and very stylish A., I knew that I had no decision to make. I gave A. free reign to find whatever dress she’d like to wear for the day and I had no reason to doubt that the outcome would be anything but beautiful. I was delighted with her choice of this navy J.Crew dress with its elegant rushed neckline and tie-waist. I loved it even more with her bold choice of fuchsia pumps and a purple clutch, which brought in our wedding colors.

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For myself, I settled on this long Grecian-inspired champagne-colored BCBGMaxazria dress that adhered to my demands of an off-white hue and an interesting neckline. I found the deep ‘V’ of the neck to be unique and with just the right amount of jewels to be eye-catching without being over the top. I found this one the BCBG site for just under $300 (not sold as a ‘wedding’ dress, just part of their regular collection).  Since the neckline offered so much visual interest on its own, I forwent a necklace and opted for a dangly pair of earrings instead.

Overall, I couldn’t have been happier with the result. The dress I chose was the ‘right one’ because it was so me and I felt very comfortable and at ease in it. My only question now is, what to do with it for the future?

The lovely Sherry of Young House Love dyed her wedding dress a stunning charcoal and still wears it for special occasions. I always thought that I would like to get more mileage out of my wedding dress than just the one night, so I’m looking for ideas! Should I shorten it to knee-length but keep it the same color? Should I dye it? Should I do both?

I would love any suggestions or advice from you and I will keep you posted on its fate! Thank you in advance! S.

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§ 27 Responses to S. gets Married: Alternate Ways to Finding Your Wedding Dress"

  1. Kathleen says:

    Great ideas for keeping bridal dress shopping affordable! I have yet to get married (or get engaged), but I think I’ll be using some of these tips whenever my turn comes.

    Your dress is such a pretty color. I would keep it the same color and shorten it to knee length, but dyeing it seems like a great alternative too.

  2. Anna says:

    S. I have to tell you, as soon as you posted about your wedding I sent your picture to my mom and told her I wanted a wedding dress like yours someday!

    I am not married or even engaged, but I’ve always imagined having a dress that I could wear again too. I always assumed I would just shorten it, but I do like the idea of dying it as well. Because of the detail on your dress though, I would be afraid of how dye might affect the neckline.

  3. Sara says:

    You’re right about the cost of wedding dresses, and it’s fantastic that so many companies (and brands) have alternatives with price tags that are easier to swallow. It’s so much fun to look at wedding dresses, though! You found some amazing ones, but the one you picked is still my favorite.

    I’ve had my wedding dress in my closet since the day after my wedding (well, various closets, since we’ve moved so much) with the intention to get it altered. Still haven’t, though I keep meaning to!

    I think yours could easily be dyed – the bodice and skirt are the same fabrics, right? If not, they may take the color a bit differently. But you could dye it and then see how you feel about it. Or you could get it shortened – knee length would be so pretty, and I just love a white dress in the summer.

    Would you think of dying it fuschia to tie it to your wedding colors? It’s such a pretty color.

  4. charlotte says:

    Check the fiber content before dying it, you can’t be certain all the layers will take dye evenly (which could lead to a wonderful look or a profound disappointment).

    I wore the dress my mother wore to marry my father, so my personal vote would be to throw it in a cotton pillowcase like she did and neglect it for 30 years in the bottom of a closet.

    Otherwise, you might consider leaving it just as it is and making a point of wearing it for dinner just one night each year – you know which one.

  5. I love that dress and would absolutely vote for shortening it as I would worry about dye affecting the detailing at the neckline. My wedding dress was a J Crew bridesmaid dress because all I really wanted my dress to be was GREEN. I love it and am still looking for reasons to wear it, but it’s a very party-dress type cut so I am wondering if I would wear it more if I got it cut down to a sheath. We’ll see. Let us know what you decide to do with yours!

  6. mamichan says:

    S — I bought my wedding dress at Cache, a chain mall place, for under $100. My budget was smaller than yours but I lucked out since I shopped during prom dress season. There are tons of options then!

    I’ve worn mine a few times since: ,a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/mamichan/2046655847/” target=_blank”>to a ball, to a gala, and just once around town with a hoodie.

    I’ve toyed with dying mine but haven’t yet.

  7. mamichan says:

    whoops. totally didn’t get the html on the first one right. but u can see the link anyways!

  8. Sal says:

    You chose SO well, S. That gown is beyond gorgeous, and suits you to a T. I purchased my wedding dress at a local boutique and couldn’t have been happier with it. Set me back a whopping $150.

  9. Annie says:

    My suggestion is to keep it as-is for a year and savor it and the memories, then decide how (or if) you’d like to alter it. It’s so beautiful the way it is! I really like the reader’s idea of taking it out once a year and wearing it on your special day but can also see the value of changing the color to make it more versatile.

  10. Sarah R says:

    I bought my dress at Sears for $148 back in 1994. It was 25% off because it was missing a button and had a loose thread. I bought a matching button for $2. For reals!

    My daughter can’t stand my wedding dress (mine was short) so I actually made the dress into bolster pillows on my bed. I love the fancy lace pillows in our very masculine bedroom, and it reminds me of our wedding every night.

  11. admin says:

    What great comments, everyone! I love hearing what you’ve done with your dresses, it’s so creative and gives me great food for thought!

    Sara – oooh fuschia! I hadn’t thought of anything that drastic! Sounds kinda scary but fun!

    Mamichan – I totally checked our Cache multiple times but they never had any plain white or off-white dresses, so I wasn’t as in luck as you. But it’s another great one to add to the list of stores!

    So far I’m leaning towards just shortening it to knee length but I’m a bit worried about the dying, so perhaps just a hack-job?

    Charlotte – I love your idea of wearing it once a year and I think I’ll try to do that whether I leave it long or not. Let’s see for how many anniversaries I can keep fitting into it ;)

    S.

  12. Struggler says:

    (This was my experience in the UK, I don’t know if other countries are the same).
    I wanted only a very simple dress when I got married. I was shocked to find that some manufacturers charged more for a bridesmaid’s dress in ivory, than in one of their other colors. They had figured out women were buying them as actual wedding dresses, and they figured they could hike the price up.
    Cheeky monkeys!

  13. Anna says:

    Charlotte-I just wanted to comment again to tell you what a beautiful idea that is!

  14. zee says:

    I actually purchased a wedding dress from Nordstrom.com for a whopping…$35!! It was on super clearance, of course, and in limited sizes, but mine happened to be one of them. I didn’t end up wearing it (change of venue required something a little different), but what a steal!

    I love the reader’s idea to turn a gown into bolsters, because I know I won’t wear mine again. I may have to try it!

  15. zee says:

    A little p.s….Don’t forget to look at the evening gown sections of department stores like JCPenney’s and Lord & Taylor. Particularly after prom season or another big celebration, you can get some great deals and there is always something white or ivory. I would especially recommend this for a younger or more modern bride.

  16. Nadine says:

    Shorten it, wear it, then when you want a change dye it. It’s gorgeous and if it were me I’d shorten then wear it A LOT! ;)

  17. Aw shucks, we’re blushing. Thanks for the sweet shout out! Your dress is GORGEOUS and I’m sure you’ll get lots of wear from it- especially if you shorten it. Keep us posted!

    xo,
    s

  18. Dottie says:

    Gorgeous! I would not have the heart to change the dress at all. It’s so lovely. My wedding dress is sitting in my mom’s closet waiting for… I’m not sure what. My imaginary daughter to wear it in 30 years, I guess :)

  19. Bianca says:

    AH, I also fully intended to purchase my dress from Nordies (and actually ended up buying my after party dress at Nordies) but there is an awesome organization – Brides Against Breast Cancer.

    They get donated gowns (some new, some used) and sell them, with all profits going to breast cancer research. The one I ended up with was new with tags and cheap. It was awesome to go to the event (in a hotel ballroom) staffed by volunteers who are just there to help you. Anyways, I’d reccommend this to anyone who has this in their area.

    http://bridesagainstbreastcancer.org/

    Beautiful photos BTW – looks like a great day!

  20. penny says:

    i agree!better to save the money of all the wedding preparations for the marriage afterwards!and for a very nice trip!!

  21. Juanita says:

    First, I have to say how I love this site! You three have very interesting perspectives on clothes/style.

    I love that BCBG Max Azria dress; it was at the top of my list for my ceremony at City Hall a couple of years ago, but was just way too pricy. I couldn’t get past it though, it stole my heart, I like to think.
    So one day I decided to devote some hours to walking up 5th Ave from 14th Street and walked into practically any store that had dresses. And behold! I found a knee-length strapless white dress with floral detailing, quite similar to the BCBG dress, at a store I’d never heard of: White House Black Market. It cost around $150-$170 too. I’ve bought dye and will dye it soon, I hope.

    For my wedding reception in a year or so (had to wait due to financial constraints), I’ll look to your tips to get a good price on a gown. Thanks! :)
    S-you looked amazing on your wedding day. Congrats.

  22. Julia says:

    Your dress looked gorgeous on you. I loved reading this post because it reminded me of my wedding dress hunt a year ago. I was on a similar budget as you and I wanted something with a more modest neckline (I hate showing skin!) and some sort of sleeves – which you would not believe is so hard to find, especially for less than $700. Everything was strapless!!

    Anyway, I ended up perusing many of the sites you did and tried on several dresses from Nordstroms – which didn’t look that good on me. I finally found a white long dress at a Jessica Mcclintock outlet for $75 and that was my dress. Its been a year now and I am sure that I am going to shorten it and dye it and wear it as a date night dress.

    I would suggest leaving it untouched for a year and then decide to alter it. Probably shorten it first and then decide if you want to dye it.

  23. ronverlaide says:

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    Wedding Ideas

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