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How to Navigate a Trunk Show

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One of the great perks about being a bride-to-be is the attention lavished on her, from the good wishes bestowed by friends to the extra heaping of customer service delivered by the retail industry.

For brides looking for the ultimate one-on-one shopping experience, trunk shows provide the venue to select that fantasy dress from a designer’s collection and often enjoy personal attention from the designers themselves. Bridal boutiques stage trunk shows to give designers or their company representatives the opportunity to showcase their entire line from the new season, often before the wares have hit the store racks. Brides benefit by seeing a major selection of dresses from the line (boutiques typically only carry a handful of styles from a designer) and a chance to receive a few perks.

“The best thing about the trunk shows is you see most everything, and you get that face-to-face contact instead of going through a middleman,” says Kielle Lindsey, owner of Santa Barbara Bridal boutique, which carries Reem Acra, Lazaro and Vera Wang. “There’s also lots of upside to it. You can get a trunk-show discount, usually up to 10 percent, and they may throw in a neckline change for free.”

To maximize their trunk-show experience, brides should make sure to schedule an appointment with the boutique and research ahead of time the types of dresses they’re seeking, even scanning the bridal Web sites that often post the brand’s newest collections. Don’t forget to bring a loved one, like a mother, sister or best friend, who can help nudge you along in the decision-making. There’s a general expectation that brides will purchase their dress when attending the trunk show, especially since it can take about six months to create one’s couture gown.

“We do expect them to buy,” says Armine Ohanessian, owner and designer of R Mine Bridal in Studio City, Calif., whose boutique recently outfitted “American Idol” runner-up Katharine McPhee in a gown designed by Manuel Mota for Pronovias for her February wedding. “The gowns may not be here if the bride decides to wait.”

If such an environment doesn’t suit certain brides, they can attend the less formal bridal shows staged throughout the country. Many are catering to a higher-end brides, and often feature at least one bridal gown designer. Pampered Bride Chicago offers free monthly affairs with about 20 vendors, attracting at least 100 brides looking for resources in photography, flowers, makeup and gowns. In the past, the bridal gown line Jim Hjelm was an exhibitor. While the event usually doesn’t offer dressing rooms, brides can still get a sense of the designer’s line, seeing the dress on models and get a sense if the dress is for her.

“It’s a great time for her to touch and see the dress but there is no pressure to buy,” says Sofia Mantis, senior planner at Event Gallery, which produces the bridal show.

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