Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Where Have I Been?

Amy, thank you for kindly noticing that I haven't much been around. I am still here - but attached to my computer in a different way than when I was blogging my heart out. I can't say too much without giving away my identity (and as I have mentioned before, every bit of gossip I have written about has actually happened-so I can't let anyone know who I am or where the store is), but suffice it to say that the writing I have done here has lead to another writing position. I have been publishing articles on subjects surrounding weddings for a while now - and I am writing enough articles every month that it has squeezed tight my available time for my blog. So, if anyone is STILL checking in to my blog, I'd love you to leave me a comment. This is what I want to know: should I continue this blog on the path it was on previously? Or should I open it up to discussions of all things wedding related? I suppose I could even come out of the proverbial "dressing room" and make myself known...what to do next?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I am reminded at this time of year of a Bride of mine that got married last year a few days after Christmas.

She was from out of State and purchased her dress from me. She was a lovely girl, I liked her very much, but she and I had one very. major. difference.


Now, in my line of work, I am used to dealing with agonizers... if I haven't told you yet of the Bride who made six trips to the store (as well as trips to other stores) then I will have to soon. But suffice it to say, it comes with the job.

But this Bride took it to a whole new level. She spent three appointments with me to choose the dress she could have picked in her first appointment, and each of these appointments ran longer than intended, with other Brides waiting in the wings to get into the dressing rooms. She would just STARE at herself and say, "I LOVE it, but I don't know..." so I would counsel her on her doubts, but no. No doubts. "I love it... but what if..." By the end of the third appointment, I made the suggestion that perhaps she could consider purchasing more than one dress if she was so afraid of committing to just one... then she could have a different look for the ceremony, dinner and dancing. Three looks, three dresses, no commitment-phobia. Mom jumped in and saved the day by pushing the Bride to make a choice for the one she clearly loved and STOP second guessing herself. Guess she was afraid her daughter might like my suggestion and stick her with a HUGE bill from my store...

And every decision went this way. Bridesmaid dresses. Veils and accessories. And the tuxes. Oh, the tuxes. When they say there is a perfect match for everyone, it is SO true, because this man, this wonderful man that I grew to like equally well as his fiancee, was JUST as indecisive as his intended! Most grooms arrive, point to the tux on display that they like, decide whether to do a bow tie or windsor band tie, figure out which colors match the bride and her maids, get measured and are done. Not this guy! He tried on his favorite style to see how he looked... then tried on his second favorite... then tried the first on again but with a different vest color... OMG!

Okay, I don't get it. What makes people so unsure about their own decisions that they are so afraid to make the wrong one? Do people really self-flagellate after making a choice that they are not sure is the absolute right choice? It is something I simply cannot relate to - I value my own time far too much to waste it on waffling. And I have better areas in which to focus my mental energy than punishing myself for a decision that was good - but was it the BEST choice?

As the Owner of the store has taught me, and she has been doing this successfully for years (but I won't say how many because she looks younger than she is!), when a bride expresses a need to try on everything before making a choice, I point out to her that in our store alone we have 400 gowns - and at the average appointment you try on a max of 10. You would need 40 appointments to try everything - and that's just one store. At some point you have to find a system for eliminating based on what you like and dislike.

After all: did you need to date every available bachelor in the world to find the right one to marry?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Trial by Taffeta

What do I sell? Is it beautiful dresses? No - you can get those at any mall in America. I sell DREAMS. It is a fantasy of the perfect day, where you get everything you want, and everything that surrounds you is splendid, and everyone behaves exactly the way you want them to. In my store, everywhere you look you will see through rose colored glasses, and there will be a soft haze over everything and violin music in your head. Because weddings and wedding gowns are about fantasies.

So imagine my surprise when I strayed from my world of rainbows and dove releases to find myself empaneled on a jury for a trial this week. I cannot speak of it, suffice it to say that it is a criminal trial, and the defendant is accused of behaving in such a fashion as would not be appropriate for my fantasyworld.

So I serve as is my duty as a citizen. America is wonderful and has given us so many wonderful things, including an open market in which different people with differing visions of a white dress can produce their product and make it available to you and me. And that is why we have choices. And that is why, even though it is disruptive to both my work and family life, I march into the courthouse ready to play my part. Perhaps I should wear my best Swarovsky crystal tiara to court to keep the fantasy alive?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Rant or How Wedding Gowns are like Cars

It is the week of Thanksgiving folks, and those of us in the bridal retail business are not immune to the thrill of "black Friday." Black Friday is one of the busiest days of the year in wedding gown stores, mostly because Brides consider it an opportunity to shop for their dress while surrounded by all the family and friends that have come home for the holidays. So not only is the store full with appointments, but each appointment will likely be accompanied by a bevy of bridesmaids, grandmas, moms and more. What this leads to is an atmosphere of overstimulation and mass confusion.

It is just this confusion that leads me to find an explanation for the views expressed by one particular bride of mine, let's call her Dharma. Dharma came shopping on a holiday weekend, we were her first stop of the morning, with 3 more appointments scheduled later in the day at different stores. She was accompanied by a posse of "helpers" and the appointment went very well. A lovely girl, very petite, so I made a style recommendation for her after seeing her taste, hearing about her wedding, and seeing her in a few dresses. She loved it, and at the end of the appointment, it was her favorite. She left for the rest of her fun day with the crew.

On Monday I got a call from her - she decided that the dress I had recommended for her was THE ONE! The complicating factor was that she lived out of state and had been home for the holidays, and wasn't planning on being back for months, so she gave me a credit card over the phone and I ordered it for her.

Months later, her dress arrived, just beautiful! I called her, she paid the balance and asked me to ship it to her. I did, and patted myself on the back for another happy bride!

Wait! Not so fast...!

I receive a concerned call a few days later... there's been a mistake! This is not the dress I ordered! I tried to reassure her that, indeed, this was the same dress she had ordered - what makes her think it is not? She says that it doesn't look like the same beading on it. She is very insistent, and since we cannot see the dress while speaking with her, our only option is to have her ship it back to us at our expense to examine her area of concern.

So I receive the dress back in the store and hang it up next to the sample. They look almost identical to me, other than the sample being a size 10 and hers a size 4, and that the sample is grungy and hers is new and pristine. So I call her and share what I see. She insists that the dress is a different dress than the one she ordered.

Now I'm in a difficult spot. I desperately want ALL of my brides to be thrilled with their gown and to be ecstatic with their relationship with me and the store. But I KNOW that this is the same dress she ordered, and her area of concern stems from the fact that her dress is smaller than the sample, so the appliqued details are, likewise, proportionately smaller in areas. For example, there are five appliqued flowers across the bust, and in order to fit five appliqued flowers across the bust of a size 4 dress, the flowers are slightly smaller. Makes, sense, right? Not to her.

The real nightmare begins when she sends her Dad to the store (remember, she's out of state!) to "set me straight". He arrives in a whirlwind, and demands to see his daughter's dress and the original sample to compare. I oblige and hang them both in good light so he can compare. He whips out a measuring tape and begins to examine both garments closely, measuring the size of appliques and the distances between them. (I'd like to remind you that I, and my colleagues, work with the very popular dress every day, sell it frequently, and not only have we never had a problem, but also failed to see the differences between the two hanging gowns.) I even receive a call from the office asking me what the man with the measuring tape is doing in the middle of the sales floor. "Dharma," I reply, which is enough for my boss to understand the situation. At the end of his examination, he gives me a list of discrepancies between the two dresses, which, for an ornately beaded and appliqued dress that is hand worked, is surprisingly few, and explains his theory. "It's like with cars," he says, "you sold my daughter the 2009 model, but are giving her the 2010 model. She doesn't want this model, she wants the one she tried on in the store in the first place."

Interesting theory. But completely wrong. I explain to him that dresses do not change over time, they are designed and produced, some will be discontinued, and others will be added to the line. But never does a designer decide midstream to start making a particular dress differently. It just doesn't work that way; the dresses are designed domestically, but produced in China, and once the factory has set up the cutting for a particular style, it runs the same way until discontinued.

I believe he was either impressed with how much knowledge I had of the process, or he realized that his out-of-state daughter was overreacting, because when I walked away to confer on a possible solution with my boss, I heard him say into his cell phone that there were "no differences, really, between the two dresses". Vindication!

In the end, we agreed to send the dress back to the manufacturer and replace it quickly with another one they had in the same color and size. We received the new dress back, shipped it to the bride (again, it looked exactly the same as the first to me!) and she was satisfied.

Wish me luck this year, and let's hope the curse of Turkey Day does not strike!...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Beautiful Bride? DEPENDS...

Okay, Ladies. I thought I had heard it all. That was, until yesterday. Yesterday, when someone mentioned Bridal Diapers.

I didn't believe it. I came home and Googled it, and sure enough, the internet is filled with discussions of this lastest trend. Got a wedding gown that is especially big, or too complicated to use the bathroom gracefully? Forget bringing your Maid of Honor to the restroom with you to perform her best-friend duty of holding your skirt up while you pee, forget trying to reach around the multitudinous folds of luxurious fabric you loved in the bridal salon, holding the wad of toilet paper for proper cleaning. No, some clever, outside-the-box thinking Bride decided that this indignity was not worthy of her big day... and decided that diapers were the solution.

Really? Doesn't this sound faintly reminiscent of the astronaut who crossed from Texas to Florida to confront her romantic rival and wished not to make any pit stops on the way, and wore her NASA-designed Depends on the road? That woman was kooky, and this trend is not that far off the kook-train...

If you think Bridal Diapers sound like a good idea, a smart solution to the desire to not leave your dance floor for even a moment to orchestrate a feat of physics whenever nature calls, I ask you this: you may have succeeded in not needing to visit the loo throughout your event, but if the problem is the complicated nature of your dress, doesn't that mean, by definition, that you may need some assistance in removing it at the end of the day? And when your new husband, bright and shiny with the promise of a rosy future married life with you, does romantically lower your zipper (can you hear the Barry White in the background?), don't you think it'll be a mood killer to find a soggy diaper where he may have expected satin and lace? Dunno - I'm just sayin'... trust me, a 10-years married woman - you have YEARS of undignified moments ahead of you - don't let your wedding night be the start of the end of the mystery...!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Special Customers

A practical post with some tips and advice for a subject not often addressed: what do you do if a bride, groom or a member of your party has special needs?

Let me start by saying that, obviously, there are many people with special needs, and they can run the gamut from intellectual challenges to physical handicaps, and each person deserves to be treated with caring and dignity, regardless of their difficulty. Whether you are getting married and have special needs, or whether a member of your party does, it can be helpful to know before you arrive at the bridal shop the kind of challenges you might face.

Wheelchair: If you are shopping for a wedding gown and you use a wheelchair, the only difficulty arises when 1. the actual store has stairs and/or no handicapped accessible restroom, or when it comes time for the sizing. A bride who is planning on wearing a traditional gown while in a wheelchair, may want to consider either having the train on her dress removed, or having her dress customized so that the train is a Watteau style train that falls from between her shoulders instead of from the skirt. Do not stand up to be sized for your hollow to hem (the length of your gown), remain seated, so that the hem of your dress will fall where you want it as you come down the aisle.

Mentally Challenged: We most often see the mentally challenged at the Bridal Store when it is time to size family members of the Bride and Groom for their bridesmaid dresses and tuxes. To get a good fit, and spend less on alterations, it is imperative that the sizer be able to ask and get meaningful responses to questions such as, "what size do you normally wear? Your bust measurement and waist measurement are putting you in two different sizes - I recommend we do such-and-such. What do you think?" If the customer is unable to answer these questions, it is strongly suggested that, just as in sizing of underage individuals, an adult friend or family member be present to assist in the determination of size.

Hearing Impaired/Blind: not usually an issue, actually. I have waited on both and find that communication may be slower, but is not typically impossible. I recommend that someone who has a communication challenge, or someone who will not be able to see the dresses they are trying on very well and will be relying on touch and others' opinions, try to make your appointment be during a slow period so that you will not feel rushed.

Amputees and Other Physical Differences: Usually more of an issue in the tux department than the bridal area. Dresses cover the lower half of the body, and necklines vary, but in the tux department, every tux comes with two legs and two sleeves. I usually ask a customer's preference when sizing for a tux: would they prefer to have the pant leg hemmed up to their limb? Would they prefer a weight be placed in a sleeve to give it shape when he is standing so as not to be obvious in pictures? At our store, like all the best stores, we own all our merchandise and have it on the premises, so we can make adjustments until the wearer feels completely comfortable.

Have you ever heard the philosophy that you should not make assumptions about a person's attitude towards their challenge, but you should take your cues from them? Like, should you offer to open a door for someone on crutches, or would that person feel like your good-will is more like pity? With this in mind, I genuinely welcome every person who enters my store, and wait for them to give me cues as to how they would like to proceed. If I get none, I gently ask. ("Would you like assistance getting into your strapless bra, or would you prefer I wait outside?") It seems to be working for me so far!

**I'd like to thank DA, who treats all his customers with the utmost care and dignity and has taught me almost all of what I know about assisting those with differences. His special customers come back to him again and again!

Monday, October 18, 2010

11 Things People HATE About Shopping for their Wedding Gown

Its Monday morning, and I'm feeling kind of Monday-morningish today! I'm thinking about all the things that people HATE about wedding dress shopping. Here's a list:

1. Pushy sales people
2. Sample sizes
3. Lack of privacy
4. Opinionated Moms
5. Fear of Immoral/Incompetent Stores
6. $$$
7. Commitment-Phobia - the concern that the perfect dress is out there, and how will you know when you've found it?
8. Champagne taste/Beer Budget
9. Too much tradition/pomp and circumstance
10. Time consuming
11. Dislike own body - fear that nothing will look good

These are all reasons Brides have given me of why they have been putting off shopping for their dress. I like to think that when you come to visit me, I am able to make most of those disappear. And the ones that I can't make disappear, I can make more bearable. (For example, a Mom who is too opinionated might find herself being asked by me, "Jane obviously really loves this dress! Don't you think that her face is beaming when she puts on the gown she loves?...") In my case, when I got married, I had already been working in the wedding industry for several years, but not with gowns directly, so my fear was that I would not be able to get a good sense of the dress from the sample size (since my readers know that I am busty and tended to wear a size 14 suit blazer and size 6 pants. My fear turned out to be unfounded or irrelevant.

A consultant at the store was let go last week. Too many brides expressed that they would be happy to come back to our store again - beautiful dresses, fair prices, excellent reputation - if only they could be assisted by someone different. Sounds like someone failed to help our brides overcome their fear and dread of the process!

Tell me about a misgiving or bad experience you had... I love gossip!