The Other Side of the Veil

A couple of days ago, a mother of the bride came into The Corner Store, in search of a gown for her daughter living out-of-town. She liked the one in the window, and was just unsure about the size. Apparently, I look like I’m a similar size to her daughter, so she suggested that I could try it on for her.

Now  I was on the other side of the clothing divide – when I got dressed that morning I hadn’t been planning on stripping off in front of a stranger!  Even though I  often reassure brides that their granny-pants/nursing bra/ stretch marks/whatever really don’t matter, this time the shoe was on the other foot, andif I’m honest, it felt a bit uncomfortable.

I’ve blogged elsewhere about what you can do to make your gown hunt easier. But even armed with good advice and presentable underwear, it can still be intimidating going in to try on wedding gowns. It’s different from trying on normal clothes in a store, for a number of reasons:

For one thing, the fitter will usually stay in the room while you try on the gowns, [and you’ll probably need her to!] Wedding gowns are rarely a one-woman garment – all those fiddly buttons and lacing, not to mention the layers of petticoats and gauzy overlays.

There’s also often a lot more emotional investment in the result – no matter how casually you approach the process of finding a wedding-gown, there’s bound to be at least one moment where you catch sight of yourself in the mirror and realise that you’re really, truly, a bride-to-be.

I get to hear a lot of horrible stories about dress fittings. Average sized brides who’ve been told they are ‘too big’ to wear any of [designer]’s gowns, saleswomen who charge a fee for every single gown tried on, or who will only allow you to try on two, of their choosing. Salon staff more interested in making a sale than in making you feel beautiful. Fitters blatantly lying about whether the zip can be done all the way up, and not ordering in a larger size… the list is heart-breakingly endless.

I sincerely hope that I’m not one of those women. I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never sent anyone home in tears. In fact,  I’m more likely to have sent a bride to another store because they had what she’s looking for and I didn’t.

I’ve helped brides find a picture of their perfect gown in a magazine, and found where she could get it locally. I’ve delivered gowns to the dressmaker of their choice to make sure that the required alterations were possible before selling the bride a gown that didn’t quite fit right. And I know that I’m not the only one.

I have an excellent working relationship with local bridal salons, who offer fantastic service and after sales care. So, while you might get a wider range of options in a bigger city [and, for the record, I seriously dispute that theory], I believe that you’ll get a much more personal experience with a local store than you will with a with a big chain or an internet seller.

I can confidently send you to Beautiful Brides of Hope, where Catherine will happily help you try on every gown in the building, until you find the one gown that makes you look and feel like the bride you’ve always dreamed of being.
Or to PussPuss where Jill and Hayley will help you design a unique, individual wedding garment in rich and sumptuous fabrics that suit your figure and your style. Or to Lainee Hermsen’s studio, where Lainee will take the photo you’ve been drooling over and turn it into your perfectly fitted wedding gown…

And that’s just a few of the many brilliantly talented, passionate women in the bridal gown business here.

Maybe Nelson is an anomaly, because the snooty bridal salon chick, or the uppity designer are rare creatures in my experience. Sure, there are a couple of places in town where you’ll find snooty staff – but that’s a fact right across the industry. There are always going to be one or two vendors who miss the mark – photographers who offer nothing but their set routine of locations and poses, venues that charge for every single extra item, down to each knife and fork, or caterers who make you pick from a limited set list… but the myth of the scary bridal session is something that really needs to be put to bed, at least in this town.

You’ll discover that when you work with someone who’s in it for the love of the game, not just filling in at a job over the summer, you’ll get someone who will help you find YOUR dress, not just one of the dresses on their rack, even if that means referring you to another store. You’ll get the benefit of their experience and knowledge about formal and bridal wear, about fitting to your shape, as well as to your venue and ceremony style.  Expect them to ask tons of questions to help you find what you want, one of the first of which should be “What’s your budget?” .

It comes down to this: If bridal store (or any other business) is treating you badly then vote with your dollar. Go somewhere else. Either the store will learn and adjust their practices or they’ll go out of business. Tell everyone you meet about the bad service you received there. But make sure that’s all it is. Don’t be tempted to write off all bridal stores, just because one of them is terrible. Don’t assume that because the service, quality and range in the big city, that you’re not going to find it here. Shop local. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

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