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!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why You Do It All

I am still smiling a day later, so here's my post from yesterday... Feel Good Friday

Why do you put all the energy, thought and, yes, money into planning your big day?

Is it because you have family and friends coming to witness your vows and you want to treat them to a big party? Maybe.

Is it because you have dreamed, ever since you were a little girl, of the day you married, the dress you'd wear, the song you'd dance to? Perhaps.

But the reward of all your hard work is where I am today. You see, today my Husband and I are celebrating our ten year wedding anniversary. Although our lives have become full of children and homework and jobs and housework, we'll sit down tonight after the kids are in bed and pull out our wedding album. We'll look at the pictures of the ceremony, I'll groan (as I always do) about how much eye makeup I was wearing, he'll tell me to stop, I was beautiful. We'll point to the photos of the children that were invited and comment on how young they look. We'll smile as we look at the pictures of the family members that are no longer with us, my Dad, his Nana. We'll talk a little about how styles have changed, who has lost hair, who has lost weight, and relationships that have changed since that day.

Then we'll put the leather-bound album back into its protective case and back on the shelf. We'll smile at each other and say, I love you.

Then we'll probably watch House.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Why a Man Might Shop for a Dress...

If you have been reading my blog, then you know that there are areas of the store, namely, the dressing areas, in which we don't allow men. Sorry, guys! Most men don't mind being excluded from this most feminine of rituals (they roll their eyes and yawn at the 17th dress and everyone gathered round saying, "do you think THIS might be the one?"...!) and are happy to remain out of the bridal area.

But what of the handful of men that arrive and are surprised, even annoyed not to be allowed in this area of the store?

They fall into several categories. The first and most common is the "Dad Shopping with his Daughter". He sometimes cares about the dress, and sometimes not. But he always loves her and thinks she's beautiful and wants to share in whatever makes her happy. And, of course, sometimes he is footing the bill. He comes to make sure Mom doesn't go nuts giving her little girl the dress of her dreams!

Occasionally, a Dad is shopping with his daughter because Mom has passed away. This always makes me get a lump in my throat. I don't know what I would have done without my Mom during the planning of my wedding and picking out my dress. In these cases, Dad is usually fumbling to be a "Surrogate Mother" to his daughter, trying to offer advice he thinks she would have said had she been there.

I have discussed in previous posts about another category of men disappointed not to be allowed in the bridal changing areas. These are men who would like to be the ones wearing these dresses. But this is another discussion for another time!

The other big category of men arriving who wish to enter the bridal area of the store are fiances. Now, I am kind of an opinionated woman, so if something I say frustrates you, please leave a comment and I'll let you have your voice (as long as it isn't vulgar or profane!). But this kind of irritates me. Now when I say that, I am not referring to the number of cultures in which the groom is responsible for selecting and paying for the wedding gown. I have taken too many etiquette lessons, cultural differences classes, and sensitivity training seminars for that.


I am referring to the irritating overbearing fiance. The one who wants to control his girlfriend, from what she wears, to who she talks to. I am a strong-willed woman, so it is hard for me to understand how some of these girls can tolerate the prospect of spending the rest of their lives being in a partnership with someone who won't let her make her own choices and express herself.

I remember one man who arrived to take his bride shopping for a dress. It happened to be a slow day, so we were able to set him up in a separate room where he wasn't in the bridal area, and his fiance, let's call her Jaden, had to be dressed in the dressing rooms, and then take a long walk with each gown to the room where he waited, only to look her up and down, order her to spin, and ultimately give each dress the thumbs up or down. It was such a emotionless kind of experience for me that I wondered if he would ask her to open her mouth so he could check for wear on her teeth. (Get it? Like at a horse auction? Okay, bad one.)

Anyway. He picked a dress. Pulled out a credit card. I measured the Bride. That was it. I didn't see any love or excitement from either of them, and even wondered if this was some sort of arranged marriage or mail-order-bride kind of deal. Kind of weird.

So if you are a bride looking to shop for your dress, and you have a man you'd like to bring with you, do yourself a favor: call the store ahead of time to check whether men are allowed, and in which areas. There is nothing more awkward for the man in your life, as to feel as though he is unwanted by the store. And that may not be the case, it may just be at your store, as in mine, the concern needs to be for not just you and your guests, but the feelings of the other brides shopping at the same time. Remember that the other brides are trying on dresses that are sample sized and often don't fit properly, and they may be hanging out of the gowns. So although there are private dressing rooms, they may not be fully covered when they emerge to show their group their dream gown!

Monday, September 27, 2010

An Empassioned Plea: Part II

I have attended two weddings in the last month or so, and BOTH of the brides wore strapless gowns, and BOTH of the brides were visibly suffering from droopy dress-itis.

I don't know if this was the result of poor alterations, or wedding-week weight loss.

But the end result was me sitting on my hands in an effort to not butt in where I wasn't wanted, and watch these beautiful brides attempt to casually watch their cleavage when they should have been watching the eyes of their intended.

If you read my previous post about strapless gowns and about the importance of good alterations, you'll recognize this rant for what it is. Frustration at anything that distracts from what is important here: the marriage.

Sounds funny, coming from a dress person. You hear of photographers that seem to forget that there is a wedding here, and this isn't just a photo shoot, and of DJs that think your wedding is their own personal one-man show. So you would expect a dress person to be the one who would insist that the train on the bride's dress be straightened and that photos of the dress are of the utmost importance. In reality, I am a sentimental fool who believes in romance, forever, undying love, all of those cliches (The Princess Bride = best book and movie EVER!) and I believe that the most important thing is the vow, not the dress one wears when exchanging them.

Just one woman's thoughts. I have more empassioned pleas here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Where There's a Will...

A very short post:

Life has been so busy I haven't had time to write a full-on blog post decrying the trials and tribulations of selling wedding gowns. But I did want to tell you about something wonderful that just happened.

A wonderful, sweet bride who came referred to me by a dear friend of mine, was struggling to find a dress. It became clear why when we met: she's what you might call a large girl. Even though I have wedding gown samples in sizes up to 30W, I could not get a dress on her well enough to get a truly good idea of the style.

But there were no tears, no drama (like some of my size 6 brides have had when they think their behind looks big), she just kept her eye on the prize - marrying the man she loved, and who loved her, just the way she was.

The solution we found was custom. We took a dress that we had been able to get on most of the way, and ordered it with custom changes. What was a tank, would now be a 3/4 sleeve with beautiful detailing, we took some custom measurements, so that instead of a specific size, we would be ordering the dress to be made to her shape. We took careful notes and measurements, crossed our fingers and prayed to the God of dressmakers (there has to at least be a patron saint of dressmakers, n'est pas?) that all would work out.

And it has! She LOVES her dress, although has admitted that the whole process made her nervous, and the beautiful Italian silky-satin drapes like fluid on her body, the neckline frames her face and the overall result is elegance.

Congratulations, LW! I couldn't be happier for you! Every bride deserves to be beautiful, and you are. Every bride deserves to be treated with dignity, and I hope I have treated you so that you have felt pampered and in competent hands. As with all my brides, I continue to feel blessed to have the role I play in this most exciting of life's journeys.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Back to Basics

What could feel better on this Friday than finding that perfect dress? You know, the one that when you put it on you feel like a Bride? Like yourself, only all grown up and highlighting all the parts of you that you like best? THAT dress.

Here are simple instructions how to find it:

1. Set a wedding date and location. It is imperative that you do these things before you start your search.

2. Work out a budget for your whole wedding, and for your dress specifically.

3. Start looking through magazines and internet sites for dress ideas. If there is a specific dress you are drawn to, find out the designer, who in your area carries it, and call to find out the price. If it is within your budget, make an appointment to go in.

4. Look for a reputable store in your area that carries dresses in your price point and with your timing in mind. Don't be afraid to tell the store your needs, "I'm looking to try on wedding gowns in the $800 range. I will be getting married in 6 months. Do you have dresses in that price range that I can get by then?" There is no point visiting a store that is too pricey, or one that offers special-order only when you need something quickly. Your time is valuable, and a store will be grateful to know that you aren't wasting their time as well.

5. Once you have found the store you want to visit and have made your appointment, gather your dress ideas and decide who will accompany you. As you have seen in previous posts, the people you choose to bring can make the difference between a support system, or disorganized chaos. Strongly consider bringing only 2 or 3 people. If you are not paying for the dress, bring the person who is (Mom, Nana, etc.), and make sure your group has a representative from your age group as well as someone a little older who has known you for a while.

6. DO NOT make an appointment to shop if you know you cannot buy a dress yet. This is not to say you MUST buy a dress at your first store, just that at many stores the styles change rapidly and dresses can be discontinued or sold off the rack with no notice. It can be heartbreaking to walk away from a dress you love because you need to wait for your next paycheck. It is doubly heartbreaking if the dress is gone once you are ready to buy.

7. Arrive at the store a few minutes early, leaving coats and valuables in the car if possible. Use the restroom, take deep breaths. This is much easier if you are unencumbered and not distracted.

8. Talk to your consultant about your wedding, the location, date and time of day. Tell her about the feel of your day, formal, simple, sophisticated, romantic, elegant, etc. Then talk about your ideas of things you like or don't like about dresses you've seen. Tell her your budget. A good consultant should be listening here, and asking questions, but not talking much. Once you have finished with your thoughts, she should guide you through the process. Every store has different procedures, and she should help you to understand how your appointment will work, "Susie, if you step in here you'll see we have hundreds of dresses for you to look through. Browse through and pick several favorites. Based on your ideas, I have some suggestions for you as well. Once we have picked a few together, we'll move to the dressing room and start trying on, sound good?"

9. Follow your consultant's lead. Your consultant has done this before, and knows how to run an appointment. She will keep you on track and moving forward. Don't waste valuable time on dresses you don't like. Try to identify what it is you don't care for and move on.

10. Allow yourself to take suggestions from your consultant. She has no motive other than wanting to find you a dress you love, and she knows her inventory and has experience with a variety of body types.

11. Typically, Brides will find that they have one or two dresses they like above the others. Try the dress(es) back on, if you aren't in it already, to see if you still have the same reaction. Ask your consultant to accessorize it for you with a veil and such. Step out of the dressing room, look at yourself in movement, look at it bustled. Look from the front and back.

12. Not all Brides cry! I know I was way to pragmatic for that! But that doesn't mean you don't love it. Ask yourself: Does the dress flatter you? Is it appropriate for the wedding you are planning? Is it in your budget? Can you see yourself walking down the aisle in it? Will you enjoy looking at pictures of yourself wearing it for years to come? Does the dress make you feel beautiful? If the answer to these questions is yes, then,

You have found your dress!

13. Do it! Jump in with two feet! Don't question whether there is another dress out there because, yes, there are lots of dresses out there, and you can NEVER try them all on and what you don't see won't hurt you! You have already researched the store where you are standing right now, so don't second guess yourself and risk losing your perfect gown.

-If, of course, you cannot answer a resounding yes to the questions posed in #12, then it is best not to make a hasty decision. I assume that most consultants are like myself - I like to be able to sleep at night, and I look forward to a long relationship with each Bride that buys from me, so I would never push a Bride to buy a dress she is wishy washy about.

Bookmark this, print it out and happy shopping!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

To Strapless, or Not To Strapless; That is the Question

If you have looked at a bridal magazine, or Say Yes to the Dress anytime recently, you have probably seen that the bridal styles are dominated by strapless dresses. But many brides come in and say they don't want one - what then?

Now, I happen to be a big fan of dresses with straps, cap sleeves, one shoulders, etc. But the reality of it is, if you decide before you shop not to wear a strapless, you are eliminating a huge percentage of the available styles. It may be harder to find a gown that has all the other aspects you like, if you are only looking at styles with a certain neckline. So the first thing I do when a bride tells me she doesn't want a strapless is find out why. There are many reasons people give - some are good, some not so good. And by not so good, I don't mean to say that brides should be forced to wear something they don't like, just that their reason for not even trying on a dress with a certain feature is based on a fallacious premise.

Bad Reasons Not to Try On a Strapless

"I have a big chest, and I don't want to have my dress keep slipping down." - If you have seen someone wear a dress that is slipping down it has nothing to do with the size of her bust, but with the quality of her alterations. Either she lost a few pounds at the last minute, whoever tied her corset back didn't do it tightly enough, or she skimped on alterations.

"I have a small chest, so there's nothing to hold it up." - Your chest does not hold up a strapless. Your waist and hips do. When the dress is fitted well to the smallest curve of your body, it can't possibly slide down because, by definition, the dress is to small in the waist to slide down over your hips. The boning inside the bodice helps it to hold its shape, and so the dress is held up by the curve of your hips.

"I don't think a strapless will look good on me." - People have many reasons for thinking this, and it may be because you have tried on a strapless in the past and not liked how it looks. But all strapless dresses are not shaped the same. For example, some petite girls don't look in a strapless because they don't have a "pleasing proportion" of skin showing from the top of the dress to the hollow of their neck (the standard is about 4"). On these girls, a strapless can appear to look like it is too high and right under their chin. I would suggest a sweetheart-style strapless to open her up through the throat and show a little more skin and decolletage. A girl might think that a strapless shows too much cleavage. This bride should try a gown that does not dip in the front in any way, and maybe even has a detail like scalloped lace or a crumbcatcher for extra coverage of the bust. Tell your consultant your concerns to see what she thinks.

Good Reasons Not to Wear a Strapless

#1 Most Important: Afraid to be bare. Often I will have a bride in my dressing room in a dress that fits perfectly and she'll be yanking up at the gown to lift it up higher. I'll ask her if it feels like the dress is slipping, and I'll even demonstrate that if I pull down sharply on the gown it still won't come down over her hips and expose her. She'll nod and agree and a few minutes later be yanking at her dress again and stealing downward glances at her cleavage. Why? Because she feels so bare she will never trust that she isn't hanging out. This is the kind of bride I would prefer just choose a different dress rather than be fidgeting throughout her wedding day.

Shoulders that need to be covered - whether you have a dark tattoo that you don't trust to concealer makeup, or linebacker shoulders that are broad, muscular or sloping, these are often best disguised or visually broken up by a strap or a one shoulder design.

Religious or Modesty Concerns - Although more churches are getting away from this, many faiths or individual Officiants are still enforcing rules that require the Bride to cover her shoulders, arms, back, etc. Even if a Pastor doesn't require it, some Brides and their families feel that a certain amount of skin coverage is appropriate for such an occasion.

A very thick middle - if your waist measurement is your largest measurement, it will be difficult to alter the dress in a way that will allow it to be secure without sliding down.

My lesson in this is that it is, after all, your wedding and your dress. It would just be a shame to eliminate a possibility because of a reason you hadn't shared with your consultant. So make sure to talk to her and share your concerns. She may find a solution, like a dress perfect in every other way, that can be altered or customized with straps, or that the right accessory like a veil or bolero, will complete your dream look.

Happy shopping!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Feel Good Friday: Wedding Karma Part II

Unlike a mother with her children, I do NOT like all my brides the same. I like almost all of them, but some I REALLY like.

About a year and a half ago I met a bride, K.D., who already had a dress she had ordered from another store. It was a pretty dress, in fact I had the same style in my store. But pretty wasn't what this girl was going for - she wanted stunning!

Now this I can provide! I immediately pointed her in the direction of an ornately embroidered gown, styled after an opulent Amalia Carrara for Eve of Milady dress that has been featured on Say Yes to the Dress and in many bridal magazines. Our version of the gown by a lesser known designer was about 1/6th of the price, but without compromising quality. Swarovsky crystals studded the bodice, and the fabric was a fine satin that flowed like water. The train was dramatic, and the box pleats at the back of the skirt gave volume to add grandeur to her walk down the aisle. She loved it!

Now, I don't have warm fuzzy feelings for this bride because she liked a dress I suggested for her. I like her because whenever she came into the shop over the next few months (and I'm guessing she was in about 15 times!) she was always the sweetest, kindest person - the exact opposite of bridezilla. Her personal accomplishments are many, both in career and hobby, so she was interesting to talk to, but never bragged about anything. And her mother? I could've added her to my family as well.

Well, she got married this past weekend. I saw the pictures - she WAS stunning! And as much as I loved the dress on her, the part that made her so beautiful (aside from the fact that she is a very pretty girl anyway) was the absolute JOY beaming from her face. That is why I love weddings!

But there is a moral to this story. Have you ever heard the expression "the squeaky wheel gets the grease?" In this case, I am pleased to announce the opposite axiom holds true - "you win more flies with honey"... in the end, everyone, including the Owner of the store loved her so much, and she ended up referring so many brides to us that bought their wedding gowns from us, that the Owner of the store gave her a full refund on her wedding gown. How's that for Wedding Karma?

Congrats, K.D.! We'll miss you!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

All Brides Are Not Created Equal

So now that you have heard some of what it takes to work here, let me tell you another quality that is very helpful: diplomacy.

I'm not talking about diplomacy as it may pertain to the running of interference between a bride and her quarreling mother. Oh no.

I am talking about a rare and very dangerous form of the word, where failure to be the perfect Switzerland can mean the difference between peace and lawsuit.

Let me explain. Our business, the selling of beautiful and ornate gowns, attracts a lot of people. Some of them are brides who are envisioning themselves in these beautiful dresses. Some of them are fashionistas, for whom being around such opulence is its own pleasure. And some of them, a very small minority, are shopping in our store to fulfill a need other than love of man or dress.

I was working at the counter one day when an individual came in and announced the desire to make an appointment to try on wedding gowns. I brought the homely "bride" downstairs to look through the racks with me at the styles available and to look at the appointment book at what appointment time might be available for trying on dresses. As this long-haired, heavily made-up and lipsticked, skirt-wearing bride browsed through the gowns I noticed something about her. Her hands. They were sturdy hands. Strong, actually, like she might do some sort of manual labor. Upon closer inspection, they looked a little hairy on the knuckles, but stubbly, like they had been shaved. Such a shame, I thought, that this bride felt so self-conscious that her hands looked like they belonged to a man that she felt the need to shave them... wait a minute, is that an Adam's apple I see?

Fabulous. Here I am in the female-only part of the store where the brides walk around in a state of half-undress, with a man clearly dressed as a woman. What do I do now?

As a social liberal, there is part of me who feels like this poor confused individual deserves the same dignity and service that I would give to any other bride who comes into my dressing room. My empathy told me to make an appointment for him.

But the legal questions abound; am I compromising the rights of the women in the dressing areas by allowing this man to be in their midst? And can I ask one of my consultants, or even myself, to dress this individual should he decide to try something on, would that violate the consultants' rights? Remember, it is the store's policy that, in order to protect the merchandise, a consultant must help each and every customer into the dresses. No self service allowed. Will that violate HIS rights, to insist that he be dressed by a consultant of the opposite sex?

And either way, do I acknowledge that I have guessed the true nature of this bride's gender? It was not shared with me, and I do not know whether acknowledging the truth would be hurtful or not. What if he thinks he's beautiful and the epitome of femininity, and that he's got the whole world fooled. The last thing I want to do is offend anyone.

What would you do in this circumstance? I'd love to hear your thoughts, and then I'll share the true ending to this story.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

So You Want to Work at a Bridal Store...

It seems like almost every day that people (mostly women) come to my store asking if we are hiring and wanting to work with us. Part of this is the economy, but more than that, I believe that women have always held the idea that my job is glamorous. Thus the popularity of the show "Say Yes to the Dress". And if you have been a regular reader of my blog, you are familiar with my frequent repetition of the words, "I love my job". But not everybody loves this job, you know.

Over the course of my career as a wedding gown consultant, I have seen numerous women be hired and then be gone within days or weeks. This, mind you, is after the new hire has been VERY carefully considered from amongst a pool of qualified individuals, for there are always many applicants for every job that opens up. Applicants are usually phone interviewed first, then interviewed by myself in person, I will give my short list of candidates to the Owner, who interviews them again and makes her selection. This is not your typical retail job, where you submit an application, the Manager checks your job history and references and you get the job. The demands and knowledge base required are enormous, and since we work as a team, a personality that fits with the other consultants is a must.

I remember training a new girl (Forgive me if the term is derogatory, but it's what we say. I was a new girl once too, and I was married with two children and a long career in the wedding industry already under my belt.) who seemed to be doing so well shadowing me and working with the customers, but ended up quitting at the end of her training because, as she told the Owner, she was so overwhelmed by all there was to know, that she could never possibly learn it all. Then there was the girl who left for her lunch break after 3 hours on her first day and never returned. We never heard from her again, but the rumor is that she was taken aback by the criticism of another employee who chastised her for shouting across the sales floor at a customer, announcing this prom girl's size to the room at large, "Sue, why don't you look at these dresses over here, if you need a size 16, this is where they are." And then there was the trainee who was simply so short of stature (maybe 4'10") that we discovered she simply couldn't perform important tasks like putting a wedding gown over a bride's head, or reaching the racks to get a dress down. A bridal meltdown was narrowly avoided when she couldn't read the tag up high on a bride's dress, and brought her the wrong gown from the back room. The bride had a freakout since she had ordered a ballgown and this petite consultant had brought her a mermaid. I intervened and discovered the mistake, however, and smoothed things over. The majority of the new hires that don't last long are those that are unable to sell dresses to brides, for whatever reason.

When we are looking for a new consultant to join our team, we are looking for the following traits/experience:

Must Have
Self Starter
Good Personality
Basic Math Skills
Common Sense
Maturity (not necessarily age - we have some young and talented consultants)
Physical Strength (stand on feet for 8+ hours, lift heavy dresses over your head, carry boxes)

A Plus, but not Required
Sales Experience
Fashion Experience
Wedding Experience
Sewing Skills
Knowledge of Wedding Gowns/Bridesmaid Dresses/Tuxes/Accessories
Customer Service Experience

Let's face it. I get to work with beautiful dresses and with people, and do not have to sit at a desk all day. My job is awesome. But it IS a sales job, and before you consider working with me, you'd better think long and hard about how you feel working in sales. And as I always tell my trainees, sales does not mean pushing brides to buy dresses they don't want. Heck, I have told brides that they should go back to another store and buy the dress they keep talking about in my dressing room, because they clearly love it. I'm talking about sales, which in my mind is the natural progression of connecting with a bride, helping her to find just the right dress with my inventory knowledge and experience, allowing her to ask questions to the point where she is comfortable and trusts me (and rightly so!) to provide her with a well-fitting dress. This is what develops into a sale, and this is why I'm so good at what I do.

So, what do you think? Do you want to work with me?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"And the Award for Most Selfish Supporting Actress Goes To..."

I have obviously written the bulk of my material about helping brides shop for wedding gowns. But a major part of my job is to help my brides with the next part of the process: selecting bridesmaid dresses. By the time they are ready to do this, I have already worked with them for a while and have come to like them. I know a lot about their wedding, and know what they like and dislike. And in march the bridesmaids.

Bridesmaid dress shopping used to be very different. It used to be that the bride selected a style for all the girls to wear on her own, and the Maids would order it. Then, things started changing. Brides would shop for dresses and bring their Maid of Honor for her opinion and advice, they would arrive at a decision, and the rest of the maids would fall in line.

Not these days.

Now bridesmaid shopping is a form of torture for many brides. Let's say the average bride has 5 bridesmaids. She will show up for her appointment with 4 of them (because the 5th either lives too far away or had a last minute complication) and I will start by introducing them to the process. We have racks with about 600 different bridesmaid styles from which to choose, and all of the dresses come in a variety of colors, some as many as 60 colors. So the options are many. Obviously, space and pragmatism prevent us from having every available style stocked in every size and in every color, so as you shop, begin by considering style, and we'll consider color options once you have a style or styles selected, and then size will follow. With high hopes, we set forth into the racks. The girls chat and browse, pull some styles they think will work, and we move to the dressing rooms.

Now think about your closest 5 friends. Are they all the same size, age, height, taste? Some brides are lucky, and they have a natural group of friends that look about the same and have similar tastes. But that is not the norm, so that is where my job comes in: to help find a dress that is satisfactory to everyone, and that the BRIDE likes. Although many stories are very similar, I think of one particular group.

It becomes clear as we begin trying on that the group of bridesmaids is quite disparate in their agendas as to what makes a good bridesmaid dress. The cast of characters includes: 1. a young college-age girl with no money that has expressed concern that we only consider dresses that fall into a certain price point, 2. the bride's cousin, who is married to some sort of Pastor, and feels the need to hide her collarbone out of modesty and respect, 3. a plus-sized girl who is quiet and embarrassed, and who carries her weight mostly in her thick middle, 4. an Aunt of the bride who is concerned that she will look ridiculous in a style too young, 5. we are missing a bridesmaid who couldn't make it because of her impending pregnancy and 6. we have the Maid of Honor, a gorgeous, stylish girl who I had met previously during the wedding gown shopping and who I liked and got on with very well.

It is not long before the Bride begins traveling from dressing room to dressing room, attempting to run interference as she tells her girls that they look good in the dresses they are trying on. But after a while of trying dresses on and having the girls all look at each other and saying, "I like that dress because it is a flattering fit," and another girl saying, "I don't like that one because it is too revealing, I like this one because it is more modest," and another girl saying, "but that one is way too much money," the Bride's eyes just about rolled into her head. Remember, all these conversations are made more awkward by the fact that this is the first time that many of these girls had ever even met each other!

Enter me. It occurs to me that I may just have the perfect dress solution for this motley group. It had everything, structure, modesty, age appropriateness, and the price tag. Heck, it even came in several shades of purple the bride liked! I thought we had a home run! One by one, all the bridesmaids tried it on, declared it a winner and me a miracle worker. The relief was palpable in the air. Until the Maid of Honor, the one girl I thought we didn't have to worry about, came out of her dressing room with a bad look on her face.

I mentioned to you that this girl was gorgeous and stylish. She had a petite figure and blond tousled hair she would throw around. Her style was showy, and although she looked great in this dress, apparently it did not rise to her level of fabulous enough and she declared, "I just don't like it."

Are you kidding?!? She looked great, and let's not forget why we are here. It isn't your show, Miss Thing, you don't need to be the most glamorous woman in the room, you just need to be comfortable, reasonably attired, and blend in with the other Maids. Got it? I can't express to you enough my frustration at her selfishness as these other girls struggled with their limitations and the bride jumped through hoops to make everyone comfortable. Couldn't she see the bigger picture?

Apparently not.

In the end, a solution was found. I counseled the bride with her options, and she opted to have the Maid of Honor wear a different style dress made by the same company in the same color. It had been the Bride's wish to have all her girls wear the same style, but in the end she decided that the styles were close enough and it wasn't worth the headache.

Friday, August 20, 2010

All About Dressing "The Girls"

For my Feel Good Friday post, I am thinking about a bride who was endowed with a generous bustline, who despaired of ever finding a dress that would make her look modest enough to be married in a church, and maybe a little less wide up top. I was happy to give her pointers that eventually led to her perfect dress, and that really made my week! I thought I would share these tips with you since so many brides come to my dressing room with the same concern...

Myth #1: Regardless of what you have heard, halters are not the number one go to style for a busty figure. The structure lifts and squeezes "the girls" together, creating more of a cleavage line that will be visible to your guests. Also, the weight of the strap on the back of the neck can be irritating or painful for a girl with a large bust who is having all that weight supported on her neck. If you like this style on you, make sure your dress is generously boned to take as much of the weight off your neck as possible.

Tip #1: Try a dress with a wide tank strap. The strap accomplishes several things, it provides support for the gown and your bust, and a wider strap will distribute the weight so it doesn't pinch. The strap will also cover the top portion of your bust, the part that hangs over the top in a strapless gown, and provides more skin coverage. An added benefit is that visually you look longer, since your dress is not cut off at the chest like a strapless, but goes all the way up to the shoulder. A V-neck tank is a very flattering cut. Do NOT wear a spaghetti strap - the proportion is all off and the tiny strip of fabric looks lost in a sea of flesh, it'll make you look bigger.

Tip#2: Try a gown with a wrap or pull structure. What this provides for the girl with a curvy figure is a definition beneath the bustline, defining the waist and making sure that fullness through the chest does not mean fullness everywhere. Busty girls are often familiar with the frustration from shopping for clothes that fit in the bust and then hang off the body like a muumuu, but the wrap will give you shape. Note: this doesn't work well if you are busty AND are an apple figure, the added fabric at the waist will be bulky, so try a princess seamed dress instead.

Myth #2: Many people feel a busty girl should not wear strapless. I don't think that's necessarily true. It depends how her shoulders look; most naturally chesty girls have muscular shoulders from carrying around the weight of the breasts, and sometimes they have shoulder dents from bra straps. These girls probably should not wear a strapless. But if you have evaluated your shoulders and you think they are not dented or husky like a football player, than you should try a strapless to see what you think. Remember that when you wear a strapless gown you have a choice how high to wear it; a busty girl should wear it a little higher to cover more flesh, but not so high she doesn't have enough room between dress and throat or that she gives herself armpit flaps.

Tip #3: Try strapless dresses with details at the neckline. A crumbcatcher is a beautiful and modern touch that gives a little extra coverage. A piece of scalloped lace that extends up the neckline by even a 1/2 inch or so can soften and add modesty.

Tip #4: A straight-across strapless will generally minimize a bust, a sweetheart will accentuate a curve and reveal more cleavage.

These are general rules of thumb, meant to assist someone struggling with finding the right dress but not understanding why she doesn't love any. Every girl is different, and all kinds of factors come into play such as height, body shape, etc. EVERY bride deserves to look and FEEL beautiful on the day when they start their new joined life and when they know all eyes are on them, here's hoping you do!

As always, feel free to leave me a comment with your wedding gown questions and I'll try to answer them.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Little Light Housekeeping

Now that I am back from my vacation, I wanted to step back and take care of a little housekeeping, explaining a few things to you.

I am many things: a wedding gown consultant, a mother, a storyteller, a psychologist and counselor at times, but one of the things I am not is a computer person. I used to be; during my years in college I dabbled in computer science as a minor, but the intervening years that I spent building my career in the wedding industry working with people instead of machines rendered my knowledge of Pascal, BASIC and Hypercard obsolete. That is why I hope you will forgive the clumsy use of technology on my site. I am learning on the job, as they say, and I started my blog simply because my friends at work told me that I should share the stories. One obvious hole has been my use of comments. It was a while before I decided to enable them, and as you notice, your comments are never posted until I have approved them because of my need to remain anonymous. I am also hoping in the future to figure out how to reply to a comment, since there have been many witty quips that I have wanted to respond to, but still don't know how. I'm working on it!

Also, my site is not as pretty as some of the other blogs I follow and I want to explain why. When I talk about specific dresses, I make a conscious choice not to post their pictures on my site. Why? Because the owner of the store has signed a contract stating that pictures will not be taken of the dresses unless they are being purchased, and I respect that policy and won't violate it by taking pictures. Also, I will not violate piracy laws by cutting-and-pasting pictures from other websites to my blog. I am not passing judgment on bloggers who do - just that I don't want to go down that path. It would be nice to grow a readership, maybe make some money off this venture of love like advertisers, a book deal or something, and I wouldn't want to get there and then find out that the attention my blog has received has attracted the notice of the internet police and I am being sued for unauthorized use and profit from a copywrited picture.

In closing I'd like to thank my followers for their continued support and readership. I have recently been contacted and hired to write an article for a bridal magazine about shopping for wedding gowns, but to say more would allow you to find it and figure out my identity. And perhaps the greatest joy of the past couple of weeks was a mention in another blogger's site that summed up EXACTLY what I hope you get from reading my blog. Seeing this made me grin from ear to ear, because although I am anonymous, I am a person, and validation is a reward that cannot be matched.

Please continue to comment, and for those of you more seasoned bloggers, suggestions are welcomed. I've got more tips, advice, behind the scenes secrets and juicy gossip to come!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Best "Tales"

I'm getting ready to take a vacation this week, and this break from posting is giving me an opportunity to reexamine my blog, this project I spontaneously started in April. I had few readers for most of my first month, and going back to examine my progress, I realize that some of my favorite stories were probably never read by most of my readers.

So for Feel Good Friday, I am going to make a list, just as The Girl suggests, of five things that make me smile. This time, the list will be five of my favorite "Tales" from my dressing room, collected from my years of helping brides look for a wedding gown. And these are all 100% true, ladies and gentlemen, I can vouch for it!

1. One of the stories that makes people say, "Ewww, gross!" To hear about how brides remember to bring pictures of dresses they like, pictures of dresses they hate, an organizer full of budget information, and 9 of their closest friends to their appointment - yet forget something very important, click here.

2. This has to be a record to be documented in the Guinness Book; a marriage that was over before the last dance? To read more, click here.

3. Another gross one, folks. Who knew how much nastiness goes on at a bridal salon? But this time the guys are to blame. Click here if you dare!

4. And the guys strike again, but this time at the expense of an embarrassed Mom. Click here to read about a poor Mom that had to learn a little too much about her Son in the middle of my store.

5. My second post on this blog. It doesn't have the gross-out factor, or the heavy chuckles, but it is such a perfect example of the holes in logic that begin to appear as soon as a diamond is applied to the left hand that it is one of my all time favorite stories. Unfortunately, we deal with this kind of twisted thinking on a daily basis, and many brides can be spoken to quietly and slowly and will begin to see reason. That was not to be the case with this bride!

So I'm off for vacation. I don't plan to log in, so any comments you leave (and I LIVE for your comments on my crazy job!) will not appear until I return, but don't let that stop you from weighing in. Because of the sensitive nature of the stories I tell, my lawyers have advised me to review and approve all comments before they are made public, just in case someone identifies me, the store or one of the brides mentioned.

Have a great week, and happy Friday!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Everyone loves a good story, so I thought I'd tell you about a bride of mine that may have been the ultimate in Bridezilla.

She wasn't a screaming, angry monster. She was entitled. And as you may recall from previous posts, I don't sit well with entitled. Entitled, to me, is the attitude "it's MY wedding!" to justify all sorts of selfish choices. Let me clarify, I do agree that it is the bride's wedding, she should get a dress that she loves. She should be able to choose just about everything for her big day so that she gets what she wants. But reality is, it is often a big deal for the fiance too, and for Moms and Dads that have been dreaming of their daughter's/son's wedding day for a lifetime. So there are times when you want to take their perspective into consideration.

For example, if your fiance is allergic to shellfish, you wouldn't serve shrimp as a main course because "it's YOUR day" would you? And if your Mom is in a wheelchair you wouldn't get married at a site that has staircases between the reception area, cocktail area, restrooms and picture location, because "it's YOUR wedding" would you? Of course not. You want all the people you love to have fun and be comfortable so they remember your wedding day fondly forevermore.

At least, that's what most people want.

I was checking out The White Petal, a wedding blog I follow, and a wintry post reminded me of this bride I've been alluding to. The post had pictures of snowy details and shades of white dreaminess. In the corner is a photo of a bride and groom outside in the snow, and she is wearing her beautiful strapless ballgown. Makes for a lovely picture, and her new commitment is surely keeping her warm, right?

Enter Lacey. Lacey came to me seeking a dramatic look for her wedding. She found it - a ball gown covered with silver embroidery, a detailed train, a swarovsy crystal tiara and not one, but two veils to be worn simultaneously for volume, with 4 tiers of embroidered tulle going from blusher to cathedral length. She confessed to me that she was getting marred in February, Valentines Day weekend, in fact, and envisioned an icy color palette of ivory, silver and purple. She would be having lots of outside pictures.

Outside pictures in February. Okay. I suppose, if she and her fiance are okay with that, it's their discomfort, not mine!

She returns not too long thereafter with her bridesmaids. They are going to each order their own style dress, as long as they are the same shade of silvery plum. As I am assisting these girls in finding the right style for each of them, one girl asks if we have any styles with sleeves. Not cap sleeves, but the longest sleeve possible. I confess to her that we don't have much like that in the bridesmaid department, most people prefer to wear something that won't be too hot for dancing, and then they'll wear a shawl for the limo ride from ceremony to reception. "No," she says, "Lacey will not allow shawls. She says it will ruin her pictures, but I get cold so easily. I just can't imagine standing outside in February without something on my arms."

I am surprised, "You mean she wants EVERYONE to take their pictures outside in the snow without any cover up?" I thought this was the ultimate in selfishness, to achieve a certain look at the expense of her bridesmaids' comfort. I was about to realize that there was something far more selfish.

"Oh, no," she said, "she's not doing JUST her formal pictures outside. She's having the entire CEREMONY outside in the snow."

My disbelief must have been clearly evident on my face. The bride spotted us from across the room and realized that this bridesmaid was telling me the plan. She zipped over and said, "I wish you guys would stop being such babies about this. The ceremony will be short, no more than 15 minutes, and then we'll do our pictures fast. I don't want you to cover your dresses with coats or shawls. It's MY wedding, and I want my photos to be snowy and beautiful."

This was her plan. 150 of her closest friends and family standing in the snow, dressed in their "black tie" clothing, along with 6 shivering bridesmaids and one satisfied, selfish bride that got her way.

I got a call about a month later from the Maid of Honor. The groom had called off the wedding and moved out. Perhaps he had decided that, since it was HER day, she could enjoy it by herself.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Tessa: Engaged!

For this Feel Good Friday, I'd like to write briefly about a happy occurrence this week at the bridal shop: one of the consultants got engaged!

I remember when I got engaged. I had already been in the wedding business for several years at that point. (Click here if you need a reminder as to my resume!) And as you can imagine, working with weddings can make you look differently at this blessed event. Some people who become engaged after being wedding professionals are so jaded that they have a minimal event or even elope. Some will jump into the planning with a vigor reserved only for those who finally get to make their own choices after some time of watching other people's missteps. Let's face it, watching brides put together teal and orange for their wedding colors or encouraging the bridesmaids to wear cowboy boots with their formal dresses can be frustrating. Every unmarried professional repeats the mantra in their head, "I will NOT do this when I plan MY wedding." I certainly did! I remember creating a list of all the things I had seen other people do that I was SURE I wasn't going to do at my wedding. Items that made the list were:

1. Serve rubber chicken
2. Make guests pay for their own drinks
3. Pay $7,000 for a dress and sacrifice having enough food
4. Waste money on "token" favors like scrolls and matchbooks that would get thrown away
5. Have carnations and filler greens in my bouquet
6. Have bridesmaid dresses in wine or hunter green, since that was what everyone was doing at the time
7. Wear a dress in which my ample bustline was exposed and prominent, such as in the Victorian or Elizabethan age
8. Use banquet chairs that would make the wedding look like we were having a corporate leadership seminar
9. Attempt to squeeze too many people at a table in an effort to keep centerpiece and server costs down, but resulting in my guests being unable to push back from the table without the express consent and cooperation of the people sitting on either side of them.
10. Put disposable cameras on the table, unwittingly encouraging semi-intoxicated guests to take inappropriate pictures that my Mom and Dad would develop while I was on my honeymoon
11. Hire a DJ that would pull out blow-up instruments and ask my guests to play air guitar
12. Hire a DJ that would, in an attempt to engage my guests, play some sort of embarrassing game like blindfolded dance contest or wave the dollar.
13. Hire a DJ that was under the impression that my wedding was his show

This was not the entire list (10 years and two kids later, I'm surprised I remembered this much) and as you've probably guessed, I opted to hire a band.

So now it is time for my colleague and friend, let's call her Tessa, to undertake the planning of her wedding. She is the sweetest of girls, and very grounded. Her taste has always been impeccable, so I know that her wedding will be a feast for the eyes and that she will be a gracious bride. I couldn't be more excited for her as she begins this journey, and I wish her everything she hopes for and peace and joy in the planning process. However, I wonder what items she has on her "absolutely NOT" list...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bad Choices

Brides, brides, brides. Let me tell you about something that happened his week.

About 6 months ago a bride ordered a dress from me. It was a beautiful dress, I loved it on her. It was fitted all the way from the strapless top to the knees where it had a soft flare. It hugged her curves in all the best ways, at least the sample did. She had tried it on at another store before visiting me, but as I've heard before, this other store doesn't have a great reputation, and after giving them a try and getting some bad service, she decided to come look at us.

So here she is in my dressing room and she decides that this is The One. We hug, we take pictures, and now it is time to size her. I take her measurements and compare them to the Maggie Sottero size chart. She is about a size 6 (remember from my previous posts that bridal sizing is not the same as American sizing, so this size 6 is like a American size 2) which fits with my comparison of how the other dresses she tried are fitting her and how much extra fabric I am able to pull in the back. Then she drops the bomb.

"I would like to order a size 2," she says.

I explain to her the differences in bridal sizes vs. American sizes, I explain that dresses are easier to take in than to let out, and I discuss why the size 6 is the right size choice for her.

"I would like to order a size 2," she says. She explains that when she tried it on at a previous store she was able to try it on in a 2 and it fit perfectly, so that's what she'd like to do.

Now this is not adding up. First of all, her measurements and what I am seeing in front of me are not size 2. Plus, I don't know a single bridal store (aside from warehouse stores that deal in off-the-rack gowns) that would pay for a sample in a size 2. The only people that would be able to try it on are girls that wear a bridal size 2-6, and because it is so fitted, I'm not even sure a size 6 could get it on enough to see it. A store wouldn't make that bad investment. I shared this thought with her, gently asking if it was possible that she was mistaken. She told me that the other store had told her that the dress was a size 2.

As is our policy, the bride is in charge, so although I gave her my expert opinion that 6 was the way to go, she decided to order the size 2. You can probably figure out what happened this week. Her dress arrived, she came in to try it on and could barely squeeze it onto her body. Contortions and the assistance of two people were required, and once she had it on the seams were maxed out. The taffeta was stretched so tightly across her backside that her mother said, "will you even be able to sit down?" Her answer? "Why would I need to sit down?"

I felt awful about the fit of her dress, and our seamstresses are going to try to help her because her wedding is about a month away, but the bottom line is: she took the word of the shady store to which she had been previously over my good advice. My guess? When they told her that the dress she was wearing was a size 2, they were using American equivalencies instead of the manufacturers sizes. By using their own sizing system they would accomplish two goals, 1. make the bride feel better about the size dress she requires and 2. sabotage a bride who decides to order her dress online (see my post about wedding karma). And so although I was measuring her, showing her the size chart and even using other Maggie Sottero gowns as an example of how a fitted dress would be, she couldn't get that little "I'm a size 2" bug out of her head.

I hope she has a beautiful wedding and that everything works out for her. The lesson to be learned here is to trust the person who is giving you evidence to back up their advice. When you are buying a dress, size charts should be made available for you to see. Your consultant needs to explain to you the reasoning behind the size she recommends (believe me, I know that there are ruthless stores out there that will do the opposite, order you a big size to get the alterations income) so don't be afraid to ask questions and not commit until you understand and agree.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Second Chances

There are nay-sayers out there that are ready to criticize people, especially brides. And when a bride breaches a rule of etiquette, they will line up to point fingers (heck, I've been guilty of that). But on this Feel Good Friday, I'd like to tell you a quick story about a sweet bride that made me smile.

I'll call her Minnie, and she is a petite, quiet bride, whose eyes light up when she comes into the store, even if her tone of voice remains low and understated. When I first met her she was coming in to shop for her wedding gown. She was accompanied by friend, no mother. She apologized as she described the ball gown she wanted, strapless with a full pick-up skirt.

"Why are you sorry?" I asked. "You are the bride, you can have anything you want!" (I left out the obvious condition on this statement, she could have anything she could afford, but that is a different bride, a different story and a different day.)

"My Mother thinks it is inappropriate of me to want a big gown. She thinks I should have a small wedding with a simple dress. It's my second wedding, see, and she is embarrassed by the whole thing."

I take her to the dressing room and begin to show her the collection of dresses we have with full pick-up skirts that are strapless and that look good on a petite figure. As we are trying them on, I learn more. She had been married previously, but that marriage had ended when her husband was unfaithful to her. After some time, she found herself in a relationship with a friend she had known for years. They fell in love and decided to get married. It being his first marriage, his family offered to plan and pay for their wedding. The couple agreed.

Around this time in the appointment, she found the one. It was beautiful on her, it showed off her shoulders, framed and complemented her bustline, and the diamond-white taffeta and crystals looked like a natural extension of her body. But although she loved it, she suddenly found herself afraid to go against her Mother's wishes and order such a traditional wedding gown.

"What if we were to make it a little less traditional?" I suggested.

And that is how Minnie ordered and fell in love with her PINK wedding gown!

When it arrived in the store and she tried it on, it was perfection. The peachy-pink of the skirt with the diamond-white lace overlay was the perfect marriage of celebration and tradition-busting.

There will be no apologetic wedding gowns in my dressing room, no sirree!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dog Days of Summer


Time to lay back, relax and chill.

Take your time, there's no hurry, cause it's summer.

People often come into the store and say, "it's wedding season, you must be very busy!"

Nope. People don't buy their dresses during wedding season, they buy their dresses just after engagement season, which means the store is SLAMMED just when the credit card bills start arriving from our Christmas shopping. Works out well, actually, since I do work on commission.

But summer is slow. No one wants to put their sweaty body into heavy dress after heavy dress, especially with an audience. I can hardly blame them.

As much as you have heard me repeat how much I love my job, the summer is the one time when I look out the window and dream of being elsewhere, prone on a chaise, fruity drink in hand, the kind that wears an umbrella. I watch the cars drive by, get excited when one hesitates outside the window like it might stop and release a flood of brides with wallets held aloft and a hungry look in their eyes that can only be fed with tulle and crystals. Yet no one stops. Window shopping does not satisfy my need for human interaction, or my more basic need for a paycheck of a certain size.

I look down at my appointment schedule and see that I have a return appointment for a bride of mine who has bought a beautiful gown from me that will be arriving in the store in a couple of months. She has an appointment for an unspecified purpose, right at the time of day when I might actually get walk-in traffic, and my heart sinks with the realization that this is the dreaded "dress visiter". Yes, she loves her dress, and I am glad for it, but I have convinced her so much of my wonderful service that she has decided to bring someone visiting from out of town (could be Mom, bridesmaid, Aunt, doesn't matter, it's always the same) to come in so that I may put her in our sample again and she can stand and stare at herself in the mirror and ask her friend, "do you love it?!" which, by the way, is a NON question because there is only one correct response when the dress has already been ordered!

But what is the one saving grace during the dog days of summer? They get out of their cars with a sense of purpose, open an organizer and show me. It is filled with pictures of dresses they both like and despise, notes are written in two ink colors, red for wedding gown info, blue for bridesmaid info. They attack the store with a drive similar to Captain Von Trapp in the Sound of Music, giving each member of her group instructions, "Sally, you hold my purse, Jane, you take that row of dresses in the back, and Mom, you come with me. If anyone sees something they think I'll like, whistle twice in succession and I'll come look. " She is on a mission, and she plans on buying dress, if not today, then in the next couple of weeks. They have this down to a science you see, because they have exactly two months in which in which they plan to organize their whole wedding even though it won't be until the following summer. Have you guessed yet?

In the summer, I pray for the arrival of the teachers!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Surprise! I Do!

Another week has passed, and it's Feel Good Friday once again. I thought I'd tell you about a bride who really surprised me with a neat idea, and let me tell you, after 15+ years, that doesn't happen all that often!

As I've mentioned before, I love weddings, and I love to chat with my brides while we're in the dressing room about the details of their big day. So here I am on the day in question chatting with a bride, let's call her Erica, about her wedding. She describes to me the food, the reception site, the centerpieces. Everything she describes sounds beautiful. I ask her about her colors for the wedding, and whether she is having bridesmaids that will be wearing that color, and she tells me that she has one bridesmaid who will not be wearing the color she has chosen for her flowers and invitations, but will be wearing something of her own choosing.

Okay, I think, not unheard of for a bride to let her bridesmaids pick out whatever they want. But usually this is the case in a very informal wedding, not a formal reception such as she has described.

She finds a dress and looks just beautiful in it - it is all over lace, strapless, beaded with pearls and sequins, with just a hint of a train. As we are measuring her and doing her paperwork to order her dress, she asks me about our privacy policy.

Hmm. We DO have a privacy policy, actually. It is our policy never to reveal which dress a bride is wearing to anyone else unless she has given us permission. (I get a lot of referrals from my brides, and if their friend asks me, "Can I see the dress she bought?" I will never show them. I will however, make sure they don't get the same dress!) But when it comes to our privacy policy, no one has ever asked me if we have one. This piques my interest! Is she concerned that someone in her group will try to peak at her special gown before the big day?

It's not that, she explains. She and her fiance have been dating for over ten years, and are very excited to finally tie the knot in front of all their family and friends at this quaint inn by the water. They are expecting a group of about sixty guests or so. Some of them will be traveling from across the country to be there. The only catch is, they think they are attending a birthday party for the groom, the wedding is a complete surprise for everyone! After dinner, just before the dancing starts, Erica will quickly change into her dress while the groom moves to the dance floor and the DJ begins to play the wedding march. An officiant will appear as Erica enters the room in her dress, holding a bouquet and she and her fiance will be joined in holy matrimony in front of their amazed guests!

She is wanting to make sure I know to keep the secret, don't accidentally mention her name to anyone, don't call the house and leave a message in case someone hears it. No one knows they're getting married, she says, and besides her and her fiance, I am the first person she has told.

"Then let me be the first to congratulate you!" and I hugged her. Her smile revealed her pleasure at finally letting her joyous secret be shared.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Would You Give Your Son Cancer for $500?

I heard from a Mother-In-Law of the bride recently. Her son's fiancee had ordered her dress from us and now she wanted to cancel her order.

Now, let me explain to you why wedding gowns are final sale at virtually every bridal salon across America. First, once a bride places her order, gets measured and puts a deposit on her gown, the bridal store places the order with the manufacturer, who then schedules the cutting of the gown with their factory in China. Remember, every gown is made to order, at least in this price point. The manufacturer looks at how many orders they have for each style of gown they offer, in each color and in each size to determine when they will be making the dress. Once they have scheduled the cutting of the gown and have sent their estimated date and order confirmation back to the store, the bridal shop cannot cancel the order and are committed to paying for this dress when it arrives in the store. The second reason dresses are final sale is that weddings get canceled, plans change, and the worst, brides will look at their beautiful dress they just bought from you on the internet and see a host of questionable websites willing to make it for them for less.

Although our store, like others, has the final sale policy, we will at times decide to return someone's money if we feel like the situation warrants it. Examples of this have been mostly death or illness of the couple or family or unexpected deployment for a bride or groom serving in the military. These times, by necessity are few and far between because we potentially lose hundreds of dollars not of lost profit, but actual money on a dress that was made to order and we may never sell again.

When this Mother-In-Law called, she announced that the wedding had been canceled and we needed to give the bride her money back. Her consultant explained the policy and told her that she could not get her money back. Then a string of calls demanding her money back. And this is how it was handed to me, being a senior consultant and, in essence, the boss of the floor. So I returned her call, listened to her rant about how the wedding was canceled and they didn't need a dress and she wanted her daughter-in-law-to-be to get her deposit back. I listened to everything she said, and then gently explained that I could not cancel the order with the manufacturer, therefore, I could not give her any money back.

There was a silence for a few seconds on the other end of the line. Then she dropped the bomb: "The wedding is canceled because of cancer. The chemo has been so expensive and the medical bills are too much and it's hard to plan a wedding when you are fighting for your life!"

I couldn't agree more. This is a horse of a different color. But, and I hate to be cynical, I noticed that she had never mentioned this fact in her previous phone calls, which I thought odd. I expressed concern for the health of the patient, noticing that she hadn't told me who it was. She told me that it looked like the cancer was in remission and quickly changed the subject back to when could the bride get her money back. I pushed on and asked if the bride had been the one fighting for her life. She said no, and asked again about when we would issue the refund. I kept pressing and asked if it was the groom, her son, who had been so ill? There was a moment's pause, then, "yes, yes it's my son."

I felt awful. But I didn't know what to feel awful about: that her son had cancer and was fighting for his life just as he should be beginning it, or that I felt like a terrible person because, I didn't believe her.

I promised to talk to the owner of the store and call back before the end of business with an answer.

I shared the story with my boss, and my doubts about it's veracity. She decided that we would give her a refund on the dress, but told me to call the bride and speak with her directly, since she is the one we contracted with and who bought the dress. I called her and got her on the phone. She was elated to find out that she would get her money back. I told her I was happy to have been able to help her and asked her how everyone was feeling, that her mother-in-law had told me about the illness.

She said, "Oh, yes, my Dad had had a lump removed from his lower back, but he had some chemo and it looks like they had gotten it all so he's good. He's glad that he'll be able to come to our wedding, now that we've decided to scrap the formal reception and get married in Jamaica!"

So my instincts were correct. No groom with cancer, apparently no one even fighting for their life. I felt like my sympathy was used and I had an awful turning in my stomach. But I had the last word: "I'm glad to hear that everyone's healthy and doing well and that the wedding is still on. I'll be sending you a check in two days for your refund. I would like you to know, however, that your future Mother-In-Law told me that it was not your father but your fiance who was battling cancer, and that your wedding was canceled because of his fight for life and the mounting medical bills. I myself just lost my Father unexpectedly recently, and I think Dads are just as important as the groom, so she didn't need to lie and give her son cancer to play on my sympathy and get you your money back."

She was embarrassed and apologized to me. I sent her the check and never heard from her or her Future-Mother-In-Law again. These are the days when I wonder about people and the differences between them and to what lengths they will go get their way.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What Fabric Is Your Dress?

Silky Satin





Peau De Soie







So many beautiful fabrics that call to mind elaborate dresses from flowy to grand,

and they are all:

100% Polyester.

Fabric of champions.

It's not just your Daddy's leisure suit anymore!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Another Reader Question

What Is A Woman's Tux?

It is basically just what it sounds like, the same exact garment that a man would wear, but proportioned through the hips, shoulders and across the bust differently to fit a woman. I think the question is really, why would a woman need a tux, right? There are several scenarios is which a woman would wear a tux. The first is the one I mentioned in my past post, a woman who identifies more with a tux than a wedding gown for her wedding day.

Much more common is their use by women who will be standing for the groom with his party. So men, if you have a female attendant, you have the option of either 1. dressing her like the rest of the groomsmen in a tux, 2. have her dress like the rest of the bridesmaids, 3. have her wear the same dress as the rest of the bridesmaids, but in black and white to match the tuxes, or 4. have her wear a completely different dress in black and white to match the tuxes. At my store I have had several dresses over the years that have been popular for female attendants because they have tuxedo-like collars or belts or such.

Another use for women's tuxedos has nothing to do with weddings. We get a lot of women looking for women's tuxes for novelty reasons, that is, they are in a theatrical production, they are working at a restaurant that requires them, they are participating in a ceremony of some sort. These are all reasons why a woman might wear a tux! Thanks for the question, Madison!

And, answering another question you asked, whether a full figured girl can look good in a mermaid, the answer is a hesitant yes, but it depends on a number of factors. I generally don't recommend a mermaid for a girl who is disproportionately bottom heavy. Its all about accenting the tush, and if that is already the focus of attention due to its size, I think a different style would suit. But if the bride is proportionately full figured, or is full on top, but not on bottom, the mermaid can celebrate her curves and balance her out. Remember from my previous post that a plus size is probably smaller than you think. A size 20 is really a size 16, and that every bride that is a size 16 is shaped differently. So now, enquiring minds can know!