In honor of our 8 year anniversary later this week, we felt it fitting to share an Ask the Experts post with our very own, Beth Chapman, the owner of The White Dress by the shore. The spotlight originally appeared on Gourmet Galleys blog last year. Read on to find out what drives Beth’s passion for bridal gowns and the shop’s commitment to gorgeous design, quality construction, and of course, the highest level of customer service.
[GG]: How did you get into the wedding dress business? Did you always know you wanted to be involved in the fashion industry?
[Beth]: My history with fashion goes WAY back to my high school days. I have always worked in retail. I was hired by Ann Taylor’s corporate office in Manhattan out of college. I worked my way up in the company and by the time that I left, I was the Vice President of Merchandising for their Dresses, Suits, Career Separates and Special Occasion Division.
I have always loved fashion and have always had a special place in my heart for bridal. I do feel that I was destined to be a bridal boutique owner!
[GG]: How do you, at The White Dress by the Shore, create an experience (rather than just a day of shopping) for the bride?
[Beth]: At The White Dress by the shore, it is ALL about the experience. I situated my boutique in an antique house because I wanted my brides to feel at home here. The exposed beams, hardwood floors and stone fireplaces, all add to the enchanting ambiance. We are by appointment so that each bride and her guests have our undivided attention. Our brides have dedicated stylists who work with them to create the perfect look to match their vision. Our guests are served beverages and are seated in quaint, private seating areas – all to ensure an intimate experience.
image by Alissa Dineen
[GG]: What differentiates your store from other bridal boutiques?
[Beth]: We take pride in the appearance of our store and the level of service that we provide our clients. We go above and beyond in every interaction with the bride- whether it is in person or on the phone- to ensure that they are receiving the highest level of service. We offer unique services, like a dressing service on the day of the wedding and White Carpet Appointments- where a bride and her guests are the only ones in the store and are treated to a photographer, catered treats and a bridal bouquet in the colors of their wedding- that help to differentiate us from our competitors.
Every single one of my employees- from my sales associates to my seamstresses- love what they do and love working with brides! I think that passion is reflected in how we treat our clients.
image by Carla Ten Eyck
[GG]: What are some characteristics that help you determine a bride’s style?
[Beth]: A stylist visits with the bride at the beginning of her appointment and inquires about the level of the formality of the wedding, the time of day and location of the reception so that we can be sure that the gown matches where and when she is getting married. We ask the bride about her vision for her day- what styles she has admired and the physical traits that she want to highlight. We also appreciate that our brides trust us to select styles that they might not have initially been attracted to on the hanger. Our trained stylist often immediately can identify the perfect dress for their client just by their initial conversation and getting to understand the personal style of the bride.
[GG]: Can you tell us your top five style tips for brides and their wedding parties?
- Select attire that reflects your own personal style. Your wedding day is not the time to make an over-the-top fashion statement!
- Be sure to select the correct undergarments. The foundations that you select directly affect the fit of your dress. Side note: be sure to visit beneath the gown, a foundation boutique located within our store!
- Be sure to accessorize your gown/bridesmaid dress. Great accessories are the icing on the cake!
- If you are looking to add color to your attire, it does not have to come from the dress itself. It is fun to play with colorful accessories and highlight the accent color of your wedding in your attendants shoe or jewelry!
- Be sure to select a gown that compliments your body shape. The days of having all of your maids wear the same silhouette (or color for that matter) are gone! If your party incorporates all shapes and sizes, allow your maids to select the dress that best compliments their silhouette.
image by Carla Ten Eyck
[GG]: How do you actually choose a timeless wedding dress? Is there such a thing?
[Beth]: A timeless style is one that is classic and does not neccesarily reflect the current trends. Generally an aline or ball skirt with classic details or lace are considered timeless. I also think a simple chapel length veil is oh, so timeless and elegant!
[GG]: Trends that you’re happy to see go?
[Beth]: I am happy to see pick-up skirts and colored sashes pass us by!
[GG]: Trends that you’d love to see return?
[Beth]: Sleeves! I love a gown with a sleeve! Sleeves are timeless and elegant.
I also adore gloves with gowns. It is such a lady-like look that I would love to make resurgence.
I would also love to see guests at weddings wearing hats and fascinators. Wearing a hat to a wedding is so feminine and proper…I would love to see that trend re-emerge!
[GG]: You have gotten into styling photo shoots. How did that come about and what does it entail?
A few years ago I was asked by my good friend, photographer Carla Ten Eyck to style the models for a photography seminar that she was putting together. It was such a blast that I really got bitten with the styling bug. I now work with publications and marketing companies around the world to style bridal photo shoots. It is an absolute passion of mine and it is a fabulous creative outlet for me! The brides that shop with us tend to be a little more conservative. When styling shoots, I am able to be a little more edgy. My ultimate goal is that through my styling work, I will inspire brides to think out of the box, and to have one of the looks resonate with them for their own wedding.
[GG]: A more personal question: What was your wedding dress experience like when you got married? Did this experience help shape the way that you manage your store?
[Beth]: While working at Ann Taylor I became engaged and of course wanted to shop right away for my gown! My mother was living in Madison and I wanted to shop with her along the Connecticut shoreline, but there were no boutiques that mirrored my taste level. We shopped quite a bit in New York where I was living and I found my experience lack-luster. I found the gowns to be dirty, the associates to be rude and I of course being a merchandiser, I wanted to customize all of the gowns that I tried on, and that was frowned upon by the stores that I visited. Ultimately, through my connections in the industry, I was able to have a gown designed and fit for me by renowned designer, Carmela Sutera. My experience with her was intimate, personal and memorable…everything that I dreamed my gown shopping experience to be.
That experience inspired me to create my own bridal boutique that provided brides with everything that I dreamed of when I shopped for a gown…8 years later, here we are!