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A Designer's Guide to Acquiring your Dream Gown

Easily one of the most stressful (yet fun!) parts of the wedding, gown shopping can be seen as a serious rite of passage for any woman. This is a designer’s advice for gown shopping, to make the experience as wonderful as possible, as well as possibly save you some money!

General Gown Shopping Tips

  • Don't bring a lot of friends with you when you are making a final decision. Bring one trusted friend, or your mom, but that's about it. If you have a whole bunch of people in on the final decision, all you will end up with is a headache. Get all the girls together to go accessory shopping after the fact.
  • Bring shoes that you that are about the same height as you expect to wear to with the gown.
  • If you are planning on wearing structural undergarments like a push up bra, corset type bodysuit, or anything like that, that will alter your shape at all, wear it when you are trying on gowns. It WILL affect how it looks in the end.
  • On the other hand, if you are going for a dress that you won't be able to wear a bra with, don't try gowns on with a push up bra on!
  • Try to avoid busy shopping times, like Saturdays, Pre-Christmas shopping, etc
  • Don't leave it to the last minute. You MAY fall in love with a gown that needs to be ordered in, or requires major alterations. Starting early keeps all your options open.
  • Even if you have your heart set on that princess dress with lots of lace and pouffy frills, try on a bunch of different styles. You may be surprised at what looks, and what FEELS the best on you.
  • If you are using magazines to help shop for styles, don't rip pages out of them. A lot of times, gowns can be searched for using the page number of the magazine it is in. This also applies to things like some glove companies that will match colours of dresses... with a page number!
  • Don't spread yourself too thin, and don't expect to find your perfect gown in one trip. 12 hours of gown shopping would be a killer! Try to space it out over a few trips, and set a limit to how many gowns you will try on in a trip. Once you get to, say, the 100th dress on a given day, you'll be sick of it all. At that point, you'll probably either buy whatever (no matter what it looks like), or pass up a dress that would be perfect!
  • Be wise when it comes to listening to salespeople. Many are paid on commission. If you hear a few too many "oooh! It's PERFECT for you!", "Ravishing!", etc, in a row, something may be up. Trust yourself, and any of your shopping companions first!
  • Not that all gown shops try this, but some do. If you have to order a gown, or all your bridesmaid gowns in, compare your measurements to the chart, and order the size it has on the chart. If you try a size 7, and it fits well, don't be talked into getting a size 9. Some shops actually order larger than needed, to make more money on alterations.
  • Realize that the sizing guides upon which sample gowns are created are VERY different from the average Newfoundland figure. On average, Newfoundland women are shorter in the waist than the fit models used, and this can translate into a poor fit in a gown. Depending on the style of the gown, altering a too-long waist can translate into major surgery!

Finding your dream gown for less

So you're not rich, or just don't want to spend much-needed house down-payment money on a dress that you'll wear once. Not to fear, you do have ways to save money!

  • Look on the internet. There are all kinds of gown clearance websites, where you can find new gowns at incredibly low prices.
  • Also on the internet, look at Ebay. Aside from second-hand dresses, they sometimes have going-out-of-business sales from various companies. You could luck out!
  • Check bridal salons for sample sales. Some bridesmaid dresses aren't half bad, and if you buy it off the rack, it'll be a bit cheaper!
  • Look into factory outlet locations. BIG savings can be found here! If you have friends in cities like Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, or San Francisco, they could possibly pick your gown up for you for as little as $100!!!
  • Thrift stores.
  • Theatre companies sometimes rent costumes... in the mood for a Shakespearean queen gown?
  • Have a friend or family member make you a gown. Buy a pattern and fabric, and maybe pay them a little for their time.
  • Call any local fashion design classes. There may be a student looking for practical (and usually free!) experience.. Buy the fabric, and offer photos for her portfolio, and you both benefit!
  • Avoid rush charges. If you are ordering your gown in, order with plenty of time to spare.
  • Some seamstresses don't charge much. Getting a gown made for you professionally can still save you money, as there will not be a designer name to pay for, shipping, or alterations charges.

Questions to Ask

  • "How much will it cost to get alterations done?". Get a written (AND SIGNED!) estimate for this, if the store has an alterations service. You don't have to get your dress altered at the same place you bought it, but if their prices are reasonable, you may as well. If they refuse to give you a written (and signed!) estimate, consider finding someone else to alter it.
  • "How long will it take to alter?". Make sure you give enough time!
  • "What are your payment plans?". Never leave a deposit of more than 50%, or pay all upfront for anything. If anything goes wrong, they have your money, and you don't have anything to bargain with. Typically, 50% upfront, and 50% upon pick up is reasonable.
  • "What is your refund policy?". Pretty self explanatory. If you get the gown and it sucks, you will want your money back! Get EVERYTHING in writing!
  • "Is my deposit refundable?". If you put, say $50 down to hold a dress while you think about it, and then find something better, you want to know that you still have that $50! Again, get it in writing.
  • "How long will it take to order my gown?" Make sure you have lots of time and no rush charges!

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