A couple of weeks ago, our founder, Beth Chapman, was interviewed by Luxury Bridal Fashion Week about all the must-know details brides-to-be need to be aware of as they prepare to embark on their wedding dress shopping journey. Check out all of her priceless insights below!
What are your top 5 tips for shopping for a gown before a bride makes her appointment?
My top 5 tips for wedding dress shopping are:
- Have your wedding date and venue secured before you shop. It is really difficult to shop for your wedding dress unless you can envision where you’re getting married and the time of year you’re getting married in. The gown sets the tone for your wedding so having those factors in place is key!
- Set a budget for your gown. This is an important step because it helps you to focus on the designers that you want to try on and the stores that you want to visit.
- Research the bridal stores that are best for you based on your budget and the gown aesthetic that you are looking for. It is natural to want to ask your friends and family where they had a great experience or where they shopped for their dress. But then make sure that you go to the websites and social media accounts of the stores you are interested in to ensure that they are the right fit for you.
- When selecting the stores to shop in, think about the experience that you want to have and the types of stores that you shop in for your everyday clothes. If you are a department store shopper and like to have a very large and diverse selection, a large bridal store that carries a variety of designers, styles and price points might be the best choice for you. If you are a boutique shopper and prefer individualized attention and an intimate experience, research bridal stores that have a more specific, specialized selection and create the experience that you are craving.
- Bring your decision makers. When deciding who to bring to your appointment, identify 1-2 people who truly understand your personal style and the overall aesthetic that you are planning for your wedding. It is natural to want to involve your whole bridal party, but remember, the more opinions, the more difficult the decision can be. The only opinion that really matters is yours.
What COVID-19 safety precautions does your store take for the customer?
We are taking COVID very seriously at the White Dress by the shore. And Connecticut as a state is as well. First and foremost, we prequalify our clients and ask a series of health related questions prior to their visit. We always take time to get to know our brides prior to their visit, but with COVID we’re really taking an extra step. We’ve set something up where they can actually look through what we call a lookbook and they peruse a sampling of the gowns that we have in the store—it really acts as their own little Pinterest board! They can put hearts and comments next to the dress that they like and that information goes directly to the stylist so the stylist can actually select dresses for them to try on before they come in. This helps to limit the amount of traffic that’s around the dresses and makes the bride’s appointment more efficient.
If the bride or their guests are travelling to us from outside of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey or Rhode Island, we unfortunately have to request a negative COVID test before they come in, within 48 hours of their visit.
We are also required to steam every single dress between try-ons. We have extended our appointment length to accommodate this.The appointments themselves are 90 minutes but we are blocking out 2 hours of time so that we have 30 minutes between our guests to sanitize the room and steam the dresses.
Of course, we are also requiring masks and we are limiting the bride’s guest count to 2 right now.
I already feel safe coming to you to shop. I mean, I like your approach.
That’s the feedback that we’re getting—that people feel very safe. We want our brides to feel safe and our staff to feel safe so that we can keep everybody healthy, and so our brides can have that wedding that they have waited so long for!
How does she determine her own style ahead of the appointment if she really doesn’t have a clue of what she wants?
Identifying your wedding day style can be very challenging! We often hear from our brides in the pre-qualification process say, “I actually have absolutely no clue about how I want to look on my wedding day.”
The first step is to just do a little research. Go on Instagram and Pinterest and see what you are instinctively attracted to—what jumps out at you that makes you say, “Oh my gosh, that’s beautiful.”
The best thing to do is just start Pinning things and putting together a board. By doing this, you’ll actually start to see trends and that all of a sudden, you’ve pinned mostly V-necks and fit to flares. Or, you’ve pinned mostly ball gowns!
You might not be able to verbally describe what you’re looking for, but visually, when you’re starting to do a little research, you’ll see some things jump out at you.
And then of course, it is the stylist’s job prior to and during your appointment to translate that Pinterest board and what you have selected on our Lookbook into a curated collection of dresses to try on!
What are the differences between a gown that costs $2500-$3000 vs. $4500-$5000 or up that have a similar look?
That’s a really good question, and it’s a question we get a lot! Because we provide such a great experience at The White Dress by the shore, we often find brides come to us as their first shopping experience. As we are getting them early on in the process, we find that when we ask about budget, they often respond with- “I have no idea what a wedding dress costs.”
We have put together a little quiz for brides that can assist them in determining what their gown budget should be based on their style and fabric preferences.
The elements that go into the cost of a gown mainly are fabric, construction and where it’s manufactured. These are the things to pay attention to when you’re thinking about a budget. So, if you’re someone who really loves fabrics and want a gorgeous, luxurious fabric, or you absolutely want your dress to be silk, or want lace from head-to-toe and prefer a beautiful quality French lace, you should allot more in your gown budget. The rule of thumb is usually if it is a lace or a beaded gown, you can expect to pay more.
Is there a percentage of your total wedding that you should spend on your gown?
It honestly comes down to what you value in your wedding. You could have a $200,000 wedding and decide to wear a $2,000 wedding dress because the wedding dress isn’t as important to you as your flowers, the band that you’re going to fly in, or the wedding dresser who’s going to help you get dressed.
Conversely, you may have an intimate ceremony for 50 people and the wedding is going to cost $25,000 but you decide to spend $8,000 on your dress because that’s what’s important to you. So I think it really comes down to what’s important to you and what you value in planning your wedding.
Suppose the bride is a plus size—what is the shopping experience for her at The White Dress by the shore?
We are all about size inclusivity. We strive for inclusivity in general, but I’m so happy that the wedding industry is really starting to recognize the fact that women come in all shapes and sizes and designer’s collections are becoming more size inclusive.
At The White Dress by the shore, we have many options for our plus size and curvy brides. We have purchased extended sizing within the designers that we already carry, and we’re really excited because we just brought in a new line that’s specifically designed for plus size brides. The company is out of Israel and is called Studio Levana.
The gowns come with a gorgeous inner corset sewn inside so that brides don’t have to wear a bra. The corset can act as a minimizer or it can push up your breasts depending on what look you’re going for. They have amazing style options and customizations so that you can add sleeves to any of their dresses or raise the neckline to make sure you have more coverage. We are so happy to be able to provide those options for our brides.
Does every bride end up with what she originally came to shop for?
I would say it is about 50/50. We certainly have those brides who do tons of research in advance. They come in knowing what they want and they’re fortunate that it looks great on them and it worked out. But we still have a lot of brides who come in and tell us specifically what they think they’re looking for and then after trying it on, go in a completely different direction!
That is why it’s important to have an open mind. If you’ve never tried on a wedding dress before, sometimes things can vary from your original vision.
Often brides have a hard time wrapping their heads around falling in love with something that they had not originally envisioned themselves in and have a difficult time saying “yes” to the gown. But it is important to realize that surprises happen, and to be open to it. The bottom line is, if you look and feel beautiful in the gown, you don’t want to take it off and you can’t wait to wear it, it probably means that it’s your dress!
How do accessories help determine the style? Do you have any accessory ideas for brides-to-be that you could share?
I love accessories because they can really help to define the style of the bride or the look of the wedding! You can have 2 brides that are in the same dress and you can accessorize them completely differently, and suddenly they each transform into a totally different look!
One question that I get a lot, especially from moms, is, “do you sell this dress a lot?” The answer in mind is, “I certainly hope I do!”
But seriously, they ask that because they don’t want to think that they will see themselves “coming and going.” An accessory is a great way to completely change the look of a dress. In speaking to many brides who have had to reschedule their wedding or may be doing something intimate now and something bigger later, accessories are actually a great way to have 2 different looks.
You can create one look for your intimate ceremony and perhaps keep your accessories minimal with a beautiful veil and a simple earring. Then for your reception later on, perhaps do a cape or add a gorgeous beaded belt, and suddenly you have a completely different look with the same gown.
Speaking of which, if a bride has had to change her wedding venue because of COVID-19, should she purchase a new gown?
If you are a bride who’s had to reschedule your wedding and your wedding looks different than you planned in terms of venue or time of year, don’t let that deter you from wearing the dress you originally bought!
We have brides who have bought a big, beautiful ball gown and were planning to get married in a ballroom and now suddenly they’re getting married in the backyard. That’s ok! It’s your wedding dress! It’s your wedding day! You can make it whatever you want! I think it’s perfectly acceptable to wear a ball gown in a backyard right now. Do you, do what feels right to you, and don’t not wear your wedding dress just because COVID has put a damper on your plans! Plus, it’s fun to see things out of context sometimes!
How long does it take for a dress to come in once it is ordered?
We like to recommend, COVID aside, 9-12 months for purchasing your wedding dress and here’s why: usually standard production time in our industry is usually between 4-6 months. Of course with COVID and the shipping delays because of vaccinations etc. that’s been a little bit elongated. So even if you go on the long side of 6 months, you’re also going to want 3-4 months for alterations. Alterations are a slow and methodical process. You may want to do 1 fitting per month, for 3-4 months, leading up to your wedding. And then I usually say to add what I like to call “comfort room” which is “just in case” time. Just in case there’s a global pandemic, or just in case UPS strikes. So that’s how we get to that 9-12 month time frame because if you’re shopping during that time frame you’re not going to have to worry about rush fees. You’re not going to have to worry about stress. The whole thing can just flow at a nice, steady pace.
How important are good alterations? Is it cheaper at a local tailor?
You get what you pay for! It’s true. The other factor to remember is that seamstress and tailor work is a lost art. People just don’t do it anymore. So if you’re a young person out there who thinks you want to be a designer, my advice to you is actually become a seamstress or a tailor because there is such a need for you!
It’s also important to remember that if someone is a tailor and can hem pants or hem a bridesmaid’s dress, it absolutely does not mean they can alter a wedding dress, particularly a couture wedding dress. Seamstress work is a very delicate, intricate process, and it truly is an artform that is labor-intensive. My seamstresses spend on average 25 hours when they’re altering a wedding dress and that’s not including fitting time. It takes a long, long process especially if it is a lace or beaded gown or a gown with a multi-layer hem. In our boutique, we do between 3-4 fittings. We take the process very, very seriously and very, very slowly to get the best results. The process is not something that can or should be rushed. It is also not a place where you can cut corners in your budget and find somebody to do it on the cheap because you're going to end up with a bad result.
You also can’t expect that just because you didn’t spend a lot on your dress that you’re not going to spend a lot on alterations. That’s a misnomer. People think, “Oh, I only spent $1200 on my dress, why is it costing me $500-$600 to alter it?” It’s because if it needs a cup adjustment or an adjustment at the waist, a hem and a bustle you’re altering it from head to toe. So certainly a $1200 dress sometimes is going to be less expensive to alter, but not always. If it’s an entirely lace dress, even if it is not expensive lace, it’s still a very delicate process and takes considerable time and talent to complete!
What is your best advice that you can give to your brides?
I think my best advice is to have an open mind, and I actually have a few pieces of advice surrounding that:
- To have an open mind when shopping, because as we talked about, what you want is not necessarily what you end up with.
- Limit your opinions in your appointments. People think that they want to bring their entire bridal party which often means they want to bring 5-7 people. That is not smart right now due to COVID and sometimes, a lot of opinions can be very detrimental to the process. I recognize that you don’t want to leave anybody out and you feel badly not inviting your second cousin twice removed and your Aunt Sally. But ultimately, it can be very frustrating and confusing to get all of those opinions. My best advice is to bring 1 or 2 people who really understand your personal style and also understand your vision for your wedding and what the total picture of what you want your wedding to look like. They should be people who will trust in your opinion as a bride. Because ultimately that’s the only opinion that really matters in this whole process. If you love it, and you can’t wait to wear it, then it’s your dress, and it doesn’t matter what anybody else says.
Check out the full interview on Instagram below!