The Frugal Fashionista
According to Tessa Woolf, editor of Salt Lake/Park City Bride & Groom, the fun, fashionable designs at BHLDN (Anthropologie’s bridal line) and J. Crew are popular with modern, urban brides.
“You can find many gowns priced at around $500, and more expensive styles (say $1,000-$2,000) often go on sale,” Woolf says. “Ann Taylor also offers ready-to-wear wedding gowns at reasonable prices – mostly classic, fuss-free styles for more traditional brides. And I’m a big fan of Nordstrom’s Wedding Suite, which offers a wide variety of gowns, from an above-the-knee Calvin Klein sheath to a Jenny Yoo layered chiffon gown, in a range of prices – some as inexpensive as $200.”
BCBG and White House Black Market also are smart places to look, says Sharon Naylor, author of “The Bride’s Guide to Freebies” (Lyons Press, 2012; SharonNaylor.net), as well as David’s Bridal, which exclusively carries the White by Vera Wang Collection. “Since some of these gowns can be very basic, brides are adding a $20 jeweled belt to give their dress some flair,” Naylor says.
These periodic events are a great way to find designer gowns at discount prices, says Woolf. For example, you might get Vera Wang or Monique Lhuillier for 50- to 80-percent off.
Most shops are honest about sample gowns’ likely flaws (e.g. scuffing at the bottom, which can be cut away for your hem) and may offer free alterations to take care of issues like reattaching loose beading, says Naylor, but make sure you thoroughly inspect everything (zippers and seams) for damage.
Woolf notes that many boutiques need to “clean house” at the end of the year to make room for new inventory, so sample sales often take place in November or December, and Black Friday-type dress sales are popular, too. But regardless of the date, be prepared, Woolf warns. “Many sample sales have strict rules, like brides can only try on three dresses at a time, no holds/returns, and you’ll have to arrive early and wait your turn in line.”
Popular flash-sale sites like Gilt, Ideeli and Rue La La often offer bridal fashions from contemporary designers, says Woolf. “I’d recommend signing up for their emails to receive advance notice about when these sales will take place and which designers/styles will be offered.”
For the brick-and-mortar shops, Naylor advises following their social media sites closely. “Many shops post flash sales on their Facebook or Twitter accounts for 50 percent savings today or tomorrow only.”
Resale bridal salons usually offer gorgeous designer or hip vintage gowns at low cost points – and the advantage is that you get to examine the dress in person and try it on before purchasing.
That said, there are also quite a few online versions, allowing you access to a vast inventory. Woolf recommends checking out popular blog Once Wed, but other options include 100 Layer Cake, PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com, Recycled Bride and Wore It Once.
Don’t plan to keep the dress either? Do a search for salons that rent out gowns, a growing trend.