Bridal gowns are the wedding industry's ultimate icon

Bridal gowns, bridesmaids' dresses, and bridal accessories are top items on the traditional wedding planner checklist and a pricey part of the typical wedding budget. The wedding industry created this condition and works diligently to preserve it. Big wedding dress stores mark up merchandise 100% and train personnel to persuade clients to spend more. All wedding dress shops compete for the same customers through expensive co-op advertising, responding to pressure from major bridal magazines and the monopoly brands that make up most wedding dress shops' inventory. And like the traditional white wedding, white wedding dress design is a holdover from Victorian times. Even today bridal gowns come only in ivory and white, communicating an unspoken message of purity and innocence that is oddly out of tune with the times. But today's brides are looking for discounts and paying less for their dresses than in the past. According to industry sources, an average of $1,000 was spent by 78% of brides in 2009, with 16% paying $1,000-$2,000, and only 6% buying a dress costing $2,000 or more, a remarkable decline from decades of rising extravagance.

Photo courtesy Kiet Do

Learn the Truth about Wedding Dress Stores and Wedding Dress Design

Today an increasing number of American bridal gowns are mass-produced in China, as wedding dress shops operate on a narrowing profit margin due to the high cost of magazine advertising, the declining number of couples getting married, and the growing percentage of customers demanding a deal. But many brides still dream of their perfect wedding dress design, and wedding dress shops are still the first stop most make on the way to their wedding day, often accompanied by friends and family, sometimes by their wedding planner, and with increasing frequency by their groom as well. Appointments are required. Fittings follow. Months elapse as the order is faxed from the bridal shop to a distant city, usually New York, Chicago, Paris, or Madrid, then on to China, where the 'couture' dress is assembled on a production line for the shop's nervous customer. Once delivered to the shop, her dream dress requires multiple fittings and personal accessorizing that take additional time and money. The entire process is stressful, inefficient, and expensive. As a result, mass-manufactured bridal gowns purchased from wedding dress stores and wedding dress shops may cost more than bridal gowns custom made by local seamstresses at smaller wedding dress boutiques. Given the time, cost, and stress involved, it's important for brides, grooms, and wedding planners to learn the truth about the billion-dollar business of making and marketing modern bridal gowns before they start shopping. It's also vital to become familiar with dress design, fabric options, and affordable accessory alternatives, as well as significant differences in scale, price, and service between major wedding dress stores, independent wedding dress shops, and custom wedding dress boutiques.

Photo courtesy Kiet Do

Course Video Tutorial: 'A Wedding Dress Designer Teaches Bridal Gowns and Wedding Dresses' (32:35)

Maite Ortoll, an expert on wedding dress design and marketing, manages Novella Bridal, one of several wedding dress shops located on historic Maiden Lane in downtown San Francisco. There she sells modestly priced brand-name gowns, as well as original dresses that she custom-designs for clients who prefer to have their bridal gowns made locally. Her affable manner, eye for detail, and empathy for prospective brides have helped make Novella Bridal competitive with the larger, more established wedding dress stores and wedding dress shops nearby. Her intelligence, objectivity, and refreshing humor make her a user-friendly source of ideas, information, and insight for brides, grooms, and wedding planners who need to know the essentials of bridal gowns and wedding dress design early in the planning process. In this course video tutorial, Maite teaches Members all about selecting and ordering wedding gowns, accessories, and bridesmaids' dresses. Aided by her assistant, she answers questions and conducts live demonstrations while analyzing various styles and cuts and explaining how different dress designs flatter different figures.

Maite Ortoll, Wedding Dress Designer

Learn 12 essential elements of selecting, ordering, and accessorizing bridal gowns and wedding dresses:

  • How bridal gowns became wedding icons
  • The importance of not visiting too few or too many shops
  • What and whom to bring to the initial consultation
  • How the wedding planner and the groom can expedite the selection process
  • How to use experimentation and elimination to make a final decision
  • Why custom-made dresses are a smart choice for brides with style
  • The factors that inflate designer-line costs and turnaround time
  • How to fit the bride's dress to her personality, look, and shape
  • Practical ideas for reusable bridesmaids' dresses
  • How to economize, customize, and accessorize creatively
  • When buying a sample dress makes perfect sense
  • Wedding dress fabrics, styles, designs, and shapes

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