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Bridal Gown Shopping 101 (Part 2)

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Sample Sales and Trunk Shows


Suppose your wedding is next month and you need that gown now? Or suppose you love the sample but it’s just been discontinued? Or else you love the sample but can’t afford to special order it? You do realize next season a whole new stock will be arriving? This means your salon needs to get the old out of the way. And all those gowns with full skirts just hanging there take up space, or haven’t you noticed? While sizes are limited and samples mostly run sizes 6, 8, and 10, the good news is that sample markdowns usually go half off, sometimes less. Some salons have sample sales they advertise a couple times a year while others offer marked down stock continually. Absolutely love that gown you just tried on? Offer to buy it. Yes, that same gown. Ordinarily samples are not for sale but this may be the time they’re moving in all those spring confections, especially if it is in less than perfect shape, which, more than a few samples tend to be.


Now, a word about wear and tear. Before you start bargaining, check out how much or how little that soon-to-be-yours gown has been tried on by others. This means really looking at it inside as well as out. Is it ripped, stained, the hem soiled, and need cleaning? The overall condition of most samples has a lot to do with how the salon takes care of their stock. Still, figure on dry cleaning whether the gown looks like it needs it or not. After a good clean and press it will seem revived both inside and out and take on a new life of its own. So the question is who pays the cleaning bill? In some cases, the more service oriented the establishment, the more accommodating they’ll be. As for alterations, you might save them for when and if you have your gown customized. If you are customizing, any nipping in of the waist or shortening of the hemline might have to wait anyway.


Trunk Shows
Suppose you’re in love with one particular designer’s collection. Unfortunately, due to space and overhead issues, your salon can only stock one or two of her samples; not her entire collection. Still, you want to actually get a real live look at those twenty other gowns you saw online. In that case, keep a lookout for her trunk show. A trunk show is when a designer like Reem Acra makes a personal appearance at a nearby salon or department store, say Friday and Saturday only. What’s great about this is she or her representative will be there along with the entire (yes, entire) collection. So all those gowns the salon doesn’t carry in sample form you can finally get a look at. In addition, you can actually meet and pick your favorite designer’s brain; ask about any changes in fabric, lace, color, etc. The result—your best opportunity to get your dress customized.


Keep in mind, just like Cinderella’s Ball, trunk shows have a time line. You pretty much have to know what you want and make your choice before the weekend is over. Therefore trunk shows are not ideal for the browsing phase of your search. Hopefully you’ve shopped prior and at length so you know for sure that this is it, this is the gown.


If you think you’ll be placing an order at the trunk show, be ready. Bring along the shoes and kind of underwear you’ll be wearing your wedding day in order to have measurements taken correctly. And do make an appointment. Just imagine if Vera Wang showed up this Saturday at Saks. Enough said.


FYI: Though this is an in-store event, gowns at trunk shows are rarely reduced and typically go full retail.


FYI: Miss that trunk show last week? Or maybe no salon in your area carries the designer you want. If you absolutely love a particular designer consider traveling to her flagship store. There you can see her complete collection. Also, if you want something custom designed, think about becoming one of her private clients. True, you’d have to invest much more time and money, traveling to New York or LA. But if you happen to in be the metro area of your favorite star, do check into this. Although you won’t hear it publicized much, most top designers have a flagship store as well as custom clientele they cater to.


What to Expected When Your Gown Is Delivered
Not long ago, the retail bridal salon not only offered alterations once a gown was delivered, most had customizing services available. Customizing services consisted of everything from making hand-rolled rosettes adorning a bodice, to adding layers of gossamer fabric over a train. Special effects and personal touches were the pride of many salons as well as designers and seamstresses practicing their craft there. Once the standard, its hard to find a salon these days willing to customize past the alteration stage. Figure your salon will alter your gown and most likely do a professional job of it. But generally, after that you’re on your own.


So what’s the difference between an alteration and customizing? An alteration is a necessity. You have your first fitting and find the waist too big once you get the gown on. Nip, tuck, and stitch. Customizing on the other hand is not a necessity. Customizing is ornamental. Customizing is a highly skilled artistic craft.


There are a few salons, typically the boutiquey smaller ones, that will do some sort of customizing if you buy a gown there. My final words on this: Customizing is better left to specialists and sometimes a salon can recommend you to one. If you plan on customizing once your gown is delivered, get advice on whether the alterations should be factored in with the price of customizing.


(Part 1) | Part 2

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