Silly question re: dress shopping in Boston
June 4, 2012 11:22 AM   Subscribe

I live in Boston/Cambridge, late twenties of average height and weight. I usually go dress shopping in the sales rack at Banana or Ann Taylor or, for more casual wear, places like Marshall's or Macy's. But I'm looking to go on a special-occasion shopping trip for a special-occasion dress (the event being a spring wedding in London and the excuse being to reward myself for when/if I lose 10+ straggler lbs.)

Looking to spend up to $300 for a fantastic little dress. (I want to look as good as I'll feel if I get down to my goal weight, you know?)

Since I don't normally shop at stores in this price range, I don't really know where to start. Only ideas so far are Wrentham (outlet mall with some nicer stores), White House Black Market, Anthropologie, Cache. Would really prefer not to walk away with something from a store with mass appeal (e.g. where I could reasonably expect to see someone on the street or at the wedding in the same outfit). Any ideas for me? Thanks!
posted by lovingkindness to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
You should check REISS on Newbury Street. They have some nice, really unique dresses, probably at the top end of your range, but I think you'll get what you're looking for. The staff are also really friendly and helpful.

White House/Black Market is also pretty good, they have solidly made, nice dresses for just about every body shape and size, but I find that if you're looking to spend some money, going to a slightly more boutique kind of shop will give you choices that are unique and nice enough that you'll feel better spending the money.

For what it's worth, Anthropologie has some really interesting styles, but I find that they're not very well made, and tend to fall apart quickly; also they kind of cater to one particular body shape and style above all others. If you are tall and thin you will probably find lots you like, if you are not so much, you will probably not.
posted by pazazygeek at 11:26 AM on June 4, 2012


I love Lord & Taylor for party dress shopping. Yes, it's a chain store but they have a big selection (even in that $200-$300 price range), so the risk of buying the same thing as everyone else is not so bad. Also: you're taking the dress to London! Presumably many of the other guests will be buying their dresses in England.
posted by mskyle at 11:29 AM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


For inspiration, check out the trends at Intermix, then look for those or similar dresses elsewhere (Ebay). Intermix is sometimes overpriced.
posted by Dragonness at 11:32 AM on June 4, 2012


I recently faced a similar situation. I have some nice dresses, but I had a wedding to attend and for various reasons I decided that the time was ripe to treat myself to something nice.

I loved being able to just walk into Anthropologie and give myself free reign to get the dress I loved the best, that made me look the best, regardless of price tag or whether it was on sale or any of the other outside factors that make shopping an annoying chore. I tried on like fifteen dresses, liked a lot of them, but fell in love with one. It felt so good to just say, "I like this one the best!" and buy it without even looking at the price tag.

Keep in mind, too, that the wedding being in London means that you probably won't have the "omg she's wearing my dress!" problem, regardless of where you shop. The brands are totally different in the UK, and I think even the shops that exist in both places are likely to carry different items, anyway, just by virtue of being different markets, having different seasonal patterns, etc.

(Not to plug Anthro or anything, but I'm neither tall nor thin and had no problem finding plenty of dresses to try on. Not all of them flattered me, but I had at least as much to choose from as I would in any other similar shop. The dress ended up buying ran really large and is a shape that flatters curvy body types.)
posted by Sara C. at 11:37 AM on June 4, 2012


Nanette Lepore on Newbury St. Just the most fun dresses.

Wrentham is great, too--the Saks outlet there always has phenomenal deals.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:38 AM on June 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I recently had my first Wrentham Outlets experience, and it really is a pretty great spot to get deals on high-end stuff. Otherwise, my go-to place for all wedding-related dresses has always been Lord & Taylor, and I've dragged various other people there for the same mission with good results, too.
posted by ldthomps at 12:18 PM on June 4, 2012


I love Nomad in Cambridge. I describe it as rich-hippie when talking to my friends. They've got some gorgeous, really unique clothes and carry small lines I haven't seen other places.
posted by namemeansgazelle at 12:24 PM on June 4, 2012


Is the wedding day or evening?; informal or casual? Your answers might help you narrow done an appropriate look.

I find J. Crew to be a notch up from Banana. It has only recently made inroads into the UK market and it is doubtful if any of the other guests will be wearing or all that familiar with the brand.

I know that there are some huge Anthro fans, but I'd agree with pazazygeek that while have some great styles, I've generally found their clothing to poorly constructed of cheap materials (in relation to the price). I'd only buy something from anthro if it was on sale .

On the one hand Reiss is an excellent choice as in dresses at the upper end of your price range and good enough for the stylish Duchess of Cambridge, but on the negative side it is a UK brand and given it's recent upswing in popularity, I wouldn't doubt that a fair number of the guests who reside in the UK will be getting their dress there.

If it is an informal day wedding, DVF has some nice dresses from their spring collection that are on sale. A lot of high end department stores carry DVF so you should be able to try on a few of their styles in person to see how the brand/style fits you. You could try Neiman's at Copley Place. I bet they have at least a small collection of DVF dresses.


I think that you might have good luck finding something on sale if you go soon before all the spring merchandise is cleared out in favor of summer.

I've been to one wedding in Liverpool and another in Paris in which at least half of the guests were from London. British women really do all seem to wear hats and fascinators to weddings. I wouldn't do it if it's going to make you feel the least bit self-conscious or uncomfortable, but you might want to leave room in your budget, if not for a hat, than for some sort of nice hair accessory, be it headband or fancy barrette. And if you want to go all out on the dress, than you will have to make sure that you buy something that works with shoes that you already own.
posted by kaybdc at 12:24 PM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nordstrom Rack in Burlington.
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:45 PM on June 4, 2012


How fancy is the wedding? Also, will most of the women be wearing hats?
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:13 PM on June 4, 2012


Thanks, all! I admittedly have not even considered hats yet, nor have I received instructions on the level of dress formality. I'm presuming at least a somewhat fancy evening affair, given what I know about the preferences of the couple, though.
posted by lovingkindness at 1:15 PM on June 4, 2012


I nth Lord and Taylor for party dresses. Nordstrom also has nice dresses when they're on sale.

I'd run from White House/Black Market, Cache, only because I think their dresses are gaudy.

Saks can be nice too, but I find some of their items weird.

If you have time, I think $300 is good to have something custom made. Find a nice tailor/seamstress in your neighborhood and work with him or her to have a custom design. Go to a fabric store and thumb through the pattern books. Vogue has great patterns (hard as hell to work with, but not for someone with experience.) Go through the fabrics to get an idea of what's available.

If you're going to England though, most of the folks there won't be shopping in your stores.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:32 PM on June 4, 2012


For an evening wedding, consider RentTheRunway.com or similar, unless you're likely to have a chance to wear a fancy cocktail dress again.

Habit in South Boston is an unsung gem, if you're looking to buy something really cute.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:54 PM on June 4, 2012


There's also Frugal Fannies in Westwood, but it's hit or miss. Arden B in the Pru? I usually buy party dresses online from Bluefly, Hautelook, Macy's, Urban Outfitters, Victoria's Secret, or Overstock. Since you have a little bit more to spend, maybe check out Free People, too? Most places have free shipping and returns.
posted by désoeuvrée at 1:58 PM on June 4, 2012


Would some UK Mefites give advice about likely weather? Would lovingkindness freeze to death in a strappy dress with no jacket at a late afternoon to evening ceremony? Does anyone but the royals wear gloves and hat/fascinator?
posted by Cranberry at 2:24 PM on June 4, 2012


I would either go to The South Shore Plaza in Braintree where there is a Nordstroms and a Lord and Taylor or The Collections at Natick, which has a Nieman Marcus and Nordstroms, Nieman Marcus and Lord and Taylor plus a lot of other places. I think that for a formal wedding department stores like those have better options and the quality is still good. I love Nomad too- but the styles are a little un-tailored.
posted by momochan at 2:57 PM on June 4, 2012


Oh, also, you might want to ask your friends if you should bring two dresses... one friend of mine was uncomfortably surprised when the guests at a London wedding she was attending changed between the service and the reception. I mean, it wasn't the end of the world, she just wore the same dress the whole time. But from what I understand (very little), this is somewhat more common in the UK than in the US.
posted by mskyle at 3:29 PM on June 4, 2012


Maybe a little preppy, but Mint Julep in Coolidge Corner usually has some nice dresses in your price range.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:28 PM on June 4, 2012


If you're interested in something custom-made, you might get something from Cibeline Sariano. She used to have a boutique on Charles St before she closed it this year (she's having a baby this month). But I have several dresses from her in very different styles that are all unique, well-made, and fun to wear, and even though she's closed her boutique she is still doing custom work.

I have a hat shopping recommendation! Salamundi in Jamaica Plain. Such an awesome store, great staff on hand, and it is just too much fun trying on silly hats.

And if you are going to a wedding in the UK you do need a hat, or at least a fascinator. (I'm a Bostonian getting married in the UK next year and hats it is)
posted by olinerd at 2:38 AM on June 5, 2012


You guys are great! Thanks again.
posted by lovingkindness at 8:11 AM on June 5, 2012


For hats/fascinators, the place is Galvinized Hats on Thayer (off of Harrison Ave, where the SoWa open studios are) here

I like Salmagundi, but they are not in close to the same league as Galvinized. The owner/designer works the shop; chat her up. She's great.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:54 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Saks has a great sale on dresses right now. I had great luck there over the weekend below your price range.
posted by KB.Boston_implant.By way of NY at 6:09 PM on June 7, 2012


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