Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How Many Dresses Will I Try On?

Please submit your questions through the comment forms at the bottom of each post. I will do my best to answer each one, and will give you an honest answer, unless the question will give away my identity or compromise my job.

I am so thrilled to be able to answer a question from "Hannah". Her question, paraphrased:

"I made an appointment at a local bridal store to try on dresses. When it was over, I realized that I had only tried on nine dresses before the girl told me our time was up. This does not seem right to me, what do you think?"

I am assuming that what you mean by "this does not seem right to me" is reference to an expectation you had that you would try on more dresses. This is a common reaction I hear from the brides in my dressing room when they find themselves feeling like they have found "the one" but count backwards and realize that they have only tried on seven dresses. Their fear is that how can they be sure that this is the best choice if they have only been to one store and only tried on seven dresses?

My response to them is that shopping for a bridal gown has changed over the past generation. It used to be that a bride would not have seen a single dress before embarking on her first shopping excursion, and that the stores she visited would carry a single manufacturer, and relatively few styles. This would necessitate multiple trips to a variety of stores in order to learn the direction of her taste and the breadth of options available before making a choice.

The modern day bride is very different. She typically arrives in my store having viewed hundreds of gowns, mostly online, but also in magazines and on popular shows like "Say Yes to the Dress" and "My Fair Wedding". She has already developed a sense of things she likes and dislikes. In addition, in many stores, such as mine, she is allowed to browse the collection so as to see even more diversity of style before she begins trying on.

Once she begins the try on process she is assisted by a knowledgeable consultant (that would be me!) whose role is very different than the bridal store attendant of yesteryear. It used to be that the kind, gentle woman who helped you was really a seamstress by trade and although she was knowledgeable about construction and fit, she was not necessarily an expert on the latest fashions and trends. Today's consultants have a basic working knowledge of sewing, but we leave that work to the seamstresses and we keep ourselves current by looking at the same magazines, internet sites and tv shows that our brides see, plus some trade publications that help us to see the future of the bridal wear business. This consultant will be able to listen carefully to the things you say about dresses you like and dislike, read your body language and also be able to suggest that perfect dress that is a combination of all the things you are dreaming of. In my store, which has a large collection, the number is around two thirds of brides find their dress on their first visit, and how many dresses have they tried on? Usually between three and ten.

Every store has a different policy, but most salons seem to be trending toward an appointment length of about 1 1/2 hours. Appointments are necessary to reserve precious fitting rooms and staff assistance, much like getting a haircut, you need to reserve your stylist and a chair. Some brides aren't aware that there is an end time to their appointment, and think that they can stay as long as they would like trying on whatever they like. Some stores, especially smaller, less busy stores, might have that policy, but most have an appointment length for the simple purpose of being able to schedule the dressing room for the next bride. A perfect example of a store that has 1 1/2 hour appointments is Kleinfeld.

In this time, you will first meet your consultant, and she will ask you about your wedding, when is it, where is it, what time of day, it's formality, etc. She will then inquire about your thoughts about what you will wear, do you have pictures of dresses you like, have you tried on any dresses yet, and so on. She will also ask you what you have budgeted to spend. After this conversation, you will often be allowed to browse the racks of available styles, and you and the consultant will decide which dresses will be the first to be tried on. By the time we move into the dressing room, we are already as much as 1/2 hour into the appointment.

In the dressing room, you will find that putting on a wedding gown, even with assistance, getting it all laced up, zipped up and buttoned, train out and ready for you and your group to see will typically take up to five minutes. There's also the factor of how long you stand at the mirror in the dress considering its pros and cons. And once you have found a favorite, most people wish to put it back on again.

By the time we are fifteen minutes from the end of the appointment, we are usually done with trying on new dresses. We are either entering the measuring and ordering phase, if a bride has found her dream gown, or we are revisiting a favorite or two if she is still unsure. Five minutes before the appointment is over, she is changing back into her street clothes so that I may clean up and be ready to take my next bride on time.

Hopefully, this will make it more clear to you why you tried on only nine dresses at your appointment. If you felt like it wasn't enough, by all means, make another appointment to return and try on more. Or perhaps you'd prefer to try another store where your consultant will guide you through while keeping you informed of the process so that you don't feel abruptly cut off without warning. To keep a bride focused, I will typically say things like, "we have time to try on two more before stopping to reevaluate what you like and don't like" or "it seems clear you don't like this one as much as the last, so let's keep moving and try on another" so that she is able stay on task. If a bride can stay on task, learns more about what she does and doesn't want from each gown she tries on, and is kept aware of her progress in the process, an hour and a half is really plenty of time to choose your gown. Whether or not nine dresses is enough for you - that I can't answer. Some brides come in and try on only one and stop right there and buy it. On the flip side, I had a bride return to my store for a total of six visits before choosing her dress. You'll notice that on "Say Yes to the Dress" they seem to average about three or four dresses per bride. As long as you are selecting gowns with purpose, and not aimlessly trying on everything you see, and as long as you have not entered into the dreaded state we call , "dress blind*" you should continue until you are comfortable with your choice.

Dress blind: a stress condition caused by trying on so many gowns that you can no longer remember the details of any of them, even the ones you've liked.


The Girl Next Door Grows Up said...

That was very thorough. I wish I knew someone who was getting married to forward it on to.

I saw one gown online and tried it on and bought it. I just knew.

Also, do you watch David Tutera? It drives me bonkers when it seems like every reception he does has purple lighting.

Kim said...

I really don't know why, because I was married five years ago and certainly don't intend to be married again, but I always find your posts so interesting and well written. Perhaps I'm reliving this time in my life through your blog. Either way, it's a lot of fun to read!

I was one of those girls that chose her dress on the first trip after two or three dresses. And I still remember my consultant... she was great. You guys definitely know what you're doing!