I went to NYC this past weekend to hang out with girlfriends and yes…go wedding dress shopping.
While I’m not getting married in NYC, the one dress I had been desperate to try on was only in the flagship Vera Wang store on 77th and Madison. Plus, I wanted to check out the lesser-known wedding boutiques in NoLita. So, I booked a flight and had my best friend (and future maid of honor) get the airbed ready.
Unfortunately for me and my two girlfriends, a nor’easte blew into the city on Friday night, leaving us with monsoon-like conditions to go dress shopping in. When it comes to shopping, it takes more than a mere 80 mph wind gust to stop me! “As long as my legs work,” is my motto.
Here are the stores we visited:
We started out on Mott and Prince. From the moment I walked in, I loved it. It’s a small yet stylish boutique that is run by an older Greek designer named Christina. Her designs are cutting-edge yet simple…and she’s what I call a “draper.” She’ll brilliantly drap pieces of fabric over you to illustrate various dress designs she can make, in the same way an artist will do a sketch before he paints. Yes, that description is super cheesy, but it really is that impressive!
After describing what I wanted, I tried on her sample dress and let her “drape” away. The results were edgy, modern, romantic, and pretty much perfect. When we were done, Christina encouraged me to look at other stores so I would feel confident before making my decision. This was only my first stop, but as I left I felt assured if I went with her, I would end up with a beautiful and unique dress.
Price: $3,500 with alterations included.
262 Mott St., nr. Prince St.; 212-925-9044;
The next stop was Veka, a boutique several doors down from Blue. The dresses here were not the ballgowns I was looking for, but made me think outside the box and wonder if I should consider a new style altogether. I tried on three dresses, and the one that stood out was from Palazzo (and the style actually had my name!)
While I am skinny, a lot of these dresses were size 4 or 6 (and are at most bridal stores). I’m more of an 8, which meant that the samples I tried on, particularly the one above, made me look like I was stuffed in like a sausage. It was hard to see what the finished dress would look like in my size, but I could get the general idea. I left the store not 100% sure about the dress and its’ style, but I seem to keep coming back to it and liking it more and more.
Price: $3,800 (that includes a 10% discount and a free accessory, such as a hair clip). Alterations are not included.
991 Madison Ave., nr. 77th St.; 212-628-3400;
Since we were running late, we attempted to hail a cab uptown for 15 minutes in the pouring rain. Now that we were officially late, we decided to just take the subway, and couldn’t figure out why we wasted 15 minutes avoiding it.
We walked up 77th to Madison, where we finally reached the mothership of all wedding stores: Vera Wang. We waited in the reception area, soaked from head to toe, for the saleswoman to come down. I have to say, it is definitely intimidating in there, especially when you come in looking like a wet rat.
We were escorted upstairs and my friends were given Milano cookies and water (one of the highlights of their day). I purposely came up to NYC to try on the Dawn wedding dress from the Spring 2010 collection, as I’ve been obsessed with it ever since I saw it online. We brought about 6 dresses into the fitting room to try on, but I was sure the Dawn would be the only one I would want. And of course, I was wrong.
The Dawn looked TERRIBLE on me. As soon as I put it on, I knew it didn’t work. But it was hysterical to walk out to my friends with a fake smile on my face waiting to see their reaction. The collective “Ohhhhhhhh! Hmmmm. Uhhhh” was all they had to say. The dream dress was no more.
4 dresses later, and I walked out in a Fall 2009 dress that had everyone in the store stop and gasp, including families of other brides. (Yes, I’m going to be cocky for a moment.) It just fit perfectly, and was pretty much everything I was looking for.
Price: $3,990, and would not require any major alternations
103 Fifth Ave, nr. 18th St., second fl.; 646-638-3263
By the time we got here, we had just about had enough. There’s only so many times a girl can get measured! I knew of this store from a friend who got her wedding dress there, which was beautiful. After waiting a bit of time for our saleswoman to become available, I was instructed to look around the racks and pull out any dress I liked. So I looked, and looked, and looked…and looked. While the store had some great options for sleek, slinky dresses, they just didn’t have anything in the style I wanted. Plus, I missed the more intimate setting I had encountered at the smaller boutiques. So after trying on 4 dresses for the hell of it, we left empty-handed.
54 W. 21st St., nr. Fifth Ave., Ste. 907; 212-252-0061
Our final stop was the Bridal Garden, a non-profit boutique that has gowns donated to them from various designer, making the final price up to 75% off retail. I really, really, really wanted to find something, especially after realizing that $3800 is probably too much to spend on a dress I’d wear for one night (even though that Vera Wang dress would pretty much buy my happiness. Yes, I’m going to be shallow for a moment.)
The same thing happened here as it did at Wedding Atelier…I looked and looked, but couldn’t even find anything I wanted to try on. Wedding dress FAIL.
So, I’m back in Nashville, and am still deciding what direction I want to go in. But while I might not have had any success yet, I did learn some valuable tips for wedding dress shopping…even in a monsoon.
WGM Wedding Dress Shopping Tips
- Wear a bra: Yes. I normally wear one, but on that Saturday I woke up slightly hungover and late. When you’re wearing two shirts and a sweater, who needs one, anyway? Women going to try on wedding dresses, apparently. Two saleswomen asked me to put mine on so they could take my measurements, and it was slightly embarrassing to tell them I didn’t have one. At Vera the saleswoman had a corset she let me use, but the other stores had to do it bare-breasted.
- Don’t bring more than two friends: Some of the boutiques we went to barely had space for me, let alone my two friends. If you have more than 2, chances are you’ll have a lot of people standing while waiting for you. That gets old after several stores.
- Know your basic styles: Knowing what the saleswoman is explaining to you (Empire, Mermaid, Ballgown) is crucial if you want save time and get the right dresses brought out to you. With that said, be open to different styles if you’re not sure what they look like on you. You might be surprised. Click here for a basic wedding dress tutorial.
- Eat…but don’t eat too much: The last thing you want to do is try on wedding dresses when you’re starving. You’ll be irritable and might pass up a dress that you would otherwise like. You also don’t want to stuff your face. Trying on wedding dresses with a bloated stomach is less than fun.
- Ask the price BEFORE you try it on: If you know your budget is $2,000 and you can’t spend a dollar more, don’t torture yourself by trying on that beautiful, one-of-a-kind wedding dress that costs $7,000. It’s like having Brad Pitt give you your first kiss…you’ll compare everyone else to him FOREVER (or at least for the rest of your wedding planning).
Do you have any wedding dress tips? How did you know when you found ‘the one’?