Tulled-up and sequined-out is the latest in wedding dresses; a fact which is plastered across any one of the myriad of bridal-wear magazines. Wedding dresses are not just a fashion statement, they’re an industry. An industry which comes with its own magazines, stylists, and – most importantly – warehouses of dresses. Of course, a dress which resembles neither the wardrobe of a vamp or ballerina-on-steroids is dispersed to one of a myriad boutiques, thrift shops, and gamachs where brides search for that elusive pretty – and occasionally affordable – dress.
There are many bridal stores across the country – big, little, good, and bad – but there is one which surpasses all others in prestige. The best and most famous of them all is Kleinfeld. A friend of mine, soon-to-be-married, once waltzed in to see what all the buzz was about. She was stopped in her tracks by the question, “Do you have an appointment?” People who buy dresses there plan their weddings nearly a year in advance, since the wait-list is long and appointment times are scarce and sacred. Kleinfeld is built for those who plan to live in a Barbie Dreamhouse and have a wedding to match. Most other bridal stores are more flexible in their scheduling, pricing, and dream-to-reality service.
As with any thrift shop purchase, find a wedding dress in one is elusive, tricky, and fun. The variety is great – summer dresses next to fall dresses, vintage gowns next to pre-aged denim getups; the selection is difficult to sort through. In the interest of profit, and efficiency, most thrift shops will pile up dresses through the year and open up their wedding dress treasury once a year. This method guarantees them a brisk business when the dresses go on sale, and gives the brides a chance to find an sightly and affordable dress amid the cast-offs and castaways. The real danger with the annual aspect of such sales is that people have prepared for it by storing up their hopes and practicing their right-hooks. With a limited selection of dresses brides do practice runs beforehand, learning how to snatch a dress off the hanger, and from other shoppers, with equal agility. Thrift shops are the way to go if you want something that either Great Aunt Selma would find appropriate or your neighbor with the pink flamingo statues would find tasteful.
Gamachs are for those who are brave of heart and clad in tights of bullet-proof black. They are filled with dresses in every stage of cleanliness, decay, and glamour. All are frum-wedding ready, but some of the proprietors will wonder aloud if you really need that sort of service, given your current outfit. Pricing depends on their city of origin, ranging from free to horribly expensive. Likewise, the dresses range from new and beautiful to used and garbage-ready. Finding a dress you like usually takes time and effort – and there’s no guarantee that your size 6 figure will be suited to your dream dress, available only in a size 14.
Recently there has been an uptick in the, rather sisterly, decision to borrow a dress. A friend of a similar size, and similar taste, can be the perfect place to find a free dress without stress or hassle. The bride-to-be knows how the dress looks in photos and on the dance floor, and has a first-hand account of how it handles in between. The loan of a dress frees the lender from purchasing a wedding present, takes a load off the bride’s mind, and makes everyone happy.
If all else fails, take a page from your grandmother’s handbook and buy a tasteful pink suit you can wear on any occasion. You’re so retro, they’ll be calling you fashion-forward.