Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wedding Dress Shopping Reviews: Lovely Bride

The third and final wedding dress shop I went to was Lovely Bride in Tribeca. I should have gone there to get the wedding dress shopping experience to begin with and skipped Bridal Garden. They specialize in independent designers, including some favorite designers whose dresses I had been wanting to try... Elizabeth Dye, who has a shop in Portland. Carol Hannah and Leanne Marshall of Project Runway fame. Rebecca Shoneveld, who makes her gowns in her NYC studio in Gowanus. They also have Nicole Miller, which are on the slinky side, and Sarah Seven's adorable strapless dresses.

If you want to go to Lovely Bride, book your appointment ASAP. It took me two months to get there. They are very busy, so evening and weekend times are harder to come by...and my first appointment was canceled by one of the many snowstorms this winter. Plus, the dresses are made to order, so if you decide to buy a dress there, you need to do it at least three to four months before your wedding. I presume that because they take your measurements to make your dress, fewer alterations would be needed, if any, although I didn't really ask about that.

A pretty Leanne Marshall lace dress

The dresses are not cheap. Most of the ones I tried on were 1,200-2,000. But I wasn't there to buy anything anyway, just to have fun. Surprisingly, while I liked some of the dresses, I didn't love any of them, like that Saja one, enough to consider buying one. I learned that I can rock a lace-covered mermaid-shaped number, like this one from Elizabeth Dye, which I wouldn't have expected, but the style felt too traditional for me.

Elizabeth Dye

I know an acquaintance who wore a custom Rebecca Shoneveld dress at her wedding that gorgeously suited to her, which got me interested in her dresses. Rebecca lines her gowns with the softest, most luxurious fabrics that feel amazing to wear, as I learned at Lovely Bride. This one below was similar to the Grecian style of Saja, but didn't drape as flatteringly as Saja's dresses. If I had really wanted to wear a Rebecca Shovenveld dress, I would have gone to her studio in Gowanus to check out a wider selection than what they had at Lovely Bride. Especially since Rebecca will mix and match tops and bottoms and make her designs in different colored silks.

Rebecca Shoneveld

The only thing I found odd about Lovely Bride is that the attendant came in the changing room with me. I ended up wearing my regular bra under all the dresses, even strapless, because I didn't feel comfortable going topless with her right next to me.

Elizabeth Dye, For Emily

I perhaps liked this Elizabeth Dye dress, called For Emily, the best, although the skirt felt heavier than it looks. And none of it matters, because as I shall reveal, I had plenty of family vintage dresses to choose from anyway!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Wedding Dress Shopping Reviews - Saja

The next shop I went to was Saja, a boutique in the Lower East Side that sells dresses by New York-based designer Yoo Lee. Her dresses are ethereal, floaty, and as I said to the saleswoman, all so pretty. They are the exact antidote to my Bridal Garden experience. Out of all the wedding dresses I've tried on, there was just one dress, at Saja, that elicited that "This is the one" moment you hear about. Both me and my friend Jamie felt it. However, the dress was $1,900.

Again, not my dress, just my favorite Saja dress. It was disappointing to not be 
able to take pictures, since it looked quite different on me than the model.

I considered it, even though I hadn't intended on buying anything. I asked my sisters if they would wear it (meh, they said). I could resell it. However, the next night I got stains on another dress I was wearing and realized that it would be stressful to keep the dress in good enough shape (at a farm wedding!) to resell. In the end, I am too practical to consider spending $2,000 on a dress that will be worn once, when there are so many other things that money can be spent on. More importantly, I already had vintage dresses to choose from that I liked a lot (and would cost me only alterations).

Saja's simplest and most popular designs like the one above are actually a very affordable option, as wedding dresses go. They cost around $950-$1,000, and if you are willing to wear a short dress, those are around $650. They can also be found used on sites like and for $700-900. The saleswoman claimed that because of the design and the simple hemming, alterations are usually less than $100, which seems cheap when you consider that wedding gown alterations can often run to $300. Moreover, Saja dresses are made of silk chiffon, which can be dyed to another color, and many of the styles would look well hemmed to the knee, so the dresses can actually be reconfigured as party dresses to wear again and again. Saja also sells their dresses in a range of colors for bridesmaids, which I would consider treating myself to except for the below issue.

While I love Saja dresses, I don't love that you must wear a strapless bra. In this case, it's because the fabric is so sheer that the saleswoman claimed it would affect the look of the dress to sew any lining or cups into the dress. They have NuBra backless adhesive bras in the store to try with the dresses, which I discovered are much more comfortable than regular strapless bras. However, wearing that for several hours would be a risk for someone with eczema, like me. I also thought some of the styles were just a little too low cut for my comfort level. (UPDATE from the comments: Rachel was able to get away with sewing cups into her Saja dress and looked beautiful in it...good to know!)

Another lesson learned from this trip - the importance of trying on a dress to find out what size you need. If I had bought a pre-used Saja dress online without trying anything on, I would have gone with something close to my normal street size. However, in the store, I found out that I actually fit into their size zero! I thought this would also make it hard to resell, since most people shopping online would similarly assume they could not wear a size zero.

Saja has many, many photos available on their website and facebook, all too easy to get lost in all the images of real brides looking beautiful in Saja's lovely dresses.

Wedding Dress Shopping Reviews - Bridal Garden

No, this is not my wedding dress, just something out of character I tried on for fun
and I look like a giant because I was standing on a stool

After trying vintage wedding dresses from our families, I was pretty set on wearing one of them. But I wanted to go wedding dress shopping just for fun - because when else in your life is it socially acceptable to try on lots of gorgeous, expensive gowns? 

The first place I went was the Bridal Garden in Chelsea, which sells samples for discounted prices and donates a portion of the proceeds to an educational charity. The racks are organized by general style and size and you can look through it all yourself to pull out whatever you want to try on. Because they are donated, that means they only have the one dress - you can't buy it from them in other sizes, only hope that it fits you.

I knew going into it that I absolutely did not want a strapless dress or a dress that is structured like a strapless dress with boning, or to have to wear a strapless bra. As soon as I walked in, I knew it was a mistake, because that is pretty much all they have there. Literally every dress had a strapless bra sewn into it. It was like my nightmare (granted, a nightmare involving pretty dresses). 

I complained to the saleswoman about how tight and uncomfortable it is to wear dresses with boning, and she said, "But that's how they all are," and I said, No, that's not true." Because there are many flowy, sheath dresses out there without boning and too-tight waistlines, which I saw on future dress shopping trips. I wanted to be vocal with her, because maybe if people tell bridal stores what they actually want, then the industry will follow suit.

I was also upset by how the Bridal Garden treats your figure. The store sews a strapless bra into every dress to give everyone a figure they don't necessarily have. When I asked her how they would alter it to fit my small chest, she said all they would do is take it in on the sides (they do alterations in house). I told her that was not enough, and she said they couldn't do more than that. So I said, why would I pay you a thousand dollars for a dress that you won't alter correctly, that doesn't fit me and doesn't reflect my actual figure? Looking back on it, I suppose that if I had found something I really loved, I could have taken it to another tailor who could remove the bra and do a more custom alteration.

The other thing I found weird is the pricing. Their policy is that each dress has a tag with a price on it, and then they will quote you a further discounted price after you try them on. So when I let her know my favorites, she pulled out two rather arbitrary quotes out of thin air that were $100-500 less. I think she was trying to get close to my budget while also undercutting what another salesperson there might quote, in order to encourage you to buy on the spot. So it seems to be in your best interest to give a lower budget. I know a friend who got her dress there for only $500, but most of the ones I saw were between $1-2,000 before the arbitrary discount.

They don't let you take photos, so we snuck in one when the attendant was on the other side of the store. A gown I tried on for kicks that I would never actually consider wearing - with sequins and a poufy heavy skirt that I dragged around me.

The moral of the story is that if you want a standard strapless poufy gown, you might as well check out the Bridal Garden. If you know you don't want that, then don't bother, and proceed onward to the next stores I went to...