Where in the US will I find the best (reasonable) wedding dresses?
May 10, 2024 6:24 AM   Subscribe

My daughter has announced she's engaged, getting married next year. Instead of a shower, she's asked that I go with her to try on wedding dresses. We live in different states and I have lots of left over frequent flyer miles. But where can we find lots of in-person dresses to try on that isn't the $10K type stuff in NYC? She's looking for old-fashioned lacy, not fashion designer and mostly wants the mother/daughter bonding experience.

- We have a family member that's a very skilled seamstress, so alterations and the veil are very much taken care of
- My frequent flyer miles are Southwest, so the US (or adjacent) are where we're headed
- We have until summer of next year, so planning or timing is absolutely fine
- I'm in Texas, she's in Wisconsin, but we're very much up for a trip
- We may tack on a theme park trip (Disneyland, Disneyworld, Universal Florida, etc.) with an additional hop depending on budget
- Her wedding is very boho old fashioned -- on a farm with a barn, wildflower-heavy - and their honeymoon will likely be in a woodsy cabin on a lake - so not cocktail style
- She's looking for lots of lace and old-fashiony (the vintage stuff on her Pinterest board is very 1930s/1940s style)
- Used or vintage dresses are absolutely fine
- This seems more about her wanting to have the classic maternal "going wedding dress shopping with your mom who gasps and says 'you look so beautiful' and cries" vs. just finding the perfect dress
posted by Gucky to Shopping (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Vintage/boho is very popular, so I would still expect to pay $$$. I would probably go to Los Angeles if I were you. Lots of options, you can go to Disneyland, then maybe take a long weekend in Palm Springs after or something like that if it interests you.
posted by greta simone at 6:39 AM on May 10 [3 favorites]

A fun idea might be to build a trip around a large vintage show like Manhattan Vintage or one of A Current Affair's LA shows. You get the benefit of a huge number of dealers in one place, and then can add in other fun mom/daughter experiences with the rest of your weekend.
posted by minervous at 7:43 AM on May 10 [9 favorites]

If you mean something like Kleinfeld, the average spend on a dress is $2K not the 10K you see on Say Yes to the Dress. You could book an appointment at a manhattan dress store to coincide with a vintage event and that might work out?
posted by DarlingBri at 8:04 AM on May 10 [2 favorites]

Talk first with your seamstress relative about what to look for re alterations in a vintage, or even new, gown, ie raising hem easy; making armholes smaller, not possible. Also note that wedding gowns are much more structured than every day clothing. There no give. The samples she tries on might not be in her size and the shop needs to order it based on her largest measurement according to the chart from the manufacturer and it could take weeks for it to come in because they are sewn to order (not made to measure). But since her wedding sounds boho-casual, look up cotton Mexican Wedding Dresses—very popular with beach weddings in the 60s.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:05 AM on May 10 [6 favorites]

Anthropologie basically entered the wedding dress industry with dresses like what you're describing.

They also have stores all over the place. You can search here and limit by stores that have a wedding shop. All of their dresses cost much less than 10k.
posted by donut_princess at 8:08 AM on May 10 [7 favorites]

There’s wedding dress stores everywhere and the style she’s looking for is very popular now. I’d be inclined to buy a dress local to the bride. If there are any problems or issues it will be a lot easier to hash out with a local shop.

Whether you should get your dress altered by the place you purchase varies widely and ime there’s not a general rule about it being cheaper or better.

If you don’t plan to buy, the just decide the other activities you want as a part of this experience and go someplace there. If you do plan to buy, buy somewhere local to the bride.

Agree that going in knowing what is an easy vs not easy vs impossible altercation is key. Bridal consultants tend to say that EVERYTHING is fixable in alterations and that’s not always the case. Be especially wary of unsupportive, unstructured dresses if her physique requires support.
posted by jeoc at 9:31 AM on May 10 [1 favorite]

I thought we were going to have a real wedding, so I flew home to do the mom bonding dress shopping at a local dress shop where my cousin bought hers. It was a really nice memory with my mom, and while she thought there were several that could be the one, none felt like me. I say this because it might just be lovely to have a special weekend together with some dress shopping but no pressure to pick the one with mom.

An honorary uncle met me at Anthropologie in NYC to try some dresses. Their selection is limited (not many sizes per dress) and involved a lot of clipping the dress to visualize the fit. The salesperson was lovely, but it definitely did not have anything close to the experience you and your daughter seem to be looking for, but the style of dresses definitely fit.

My husband and I grew tired of waiting for COVID to get better and threw a backyard wedding in three weeks time. I booked an appt at Amsale in NYC and finally found THE DRESS all on my own, and a local seamstress made it fit beautifully.

Have a great experience!!
posted by icaicaer at 10:52 AM on May 10 [4 favorites]

Just remembered, if she’s not set on having a train (which can be a real PITA to manage after the ceremony), at a bridal shop a maid of honor/bridesmaid dress can be ordered in white or ivory and they are a great and economical alternative to a much more $ wedding gown. Then have a cathedral length tulle veil for effect.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 12:11 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]

If she has vintage style gowns she likes from contemporary designers, I would do searches of their names to find stockists and then see if those stockists have brick and mortar stores in a city you'd like to visit. Here's Lovely Bride's link to designers by location, for example.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:53 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]

There is also Miranda's Vintage Bridal. It's in Cleveland- which may not be prime vacation fodder on the Disneyland scale, but that shop has some lovely vintage and modern gowns.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:00 PM on May 10

It depends on what size your daughter is, but Kleinfeld's samples could be a great option. It's very different from the normal Kleinfeld experience, which I found pressuring and which generally is at least somewhat expensive. A few years ago, in the Kleinfled samples, I got a dress for under $1000 that used to be something like $8500. It had been used as a floor model, I believe, but was in almost perfect condition. As I recall, I booked an appointment with the sample sale store at Kleinfeld (I think it was a separate building down the street, and they were only open some days of the week?). All available dresses were in a medium-sized room, lining the perimeter, and I could go along and simply pull any that I was interested in. I went to the dressing room at the back and tried each on in turn until I found one I really liked. It was very low-key and no pressure at all. If you buy a dress there, you take it home right then (as in, you're buying the exact dress you tried on), and then you find a seamstress to tailor it to fit (just as you would if you got a wedding dress the normal way). I believe all the dresses there were just under $1000, regardless of their original price. The only caveat is that samples typically fit a limited range of sizes (generally small to medium US sizes). I had been to a number of wedding dress stores previously and this was by far the best experience - highly recommend. My dress had much more detail than previous dresses I had tried on (specific expensive types of lace, etc.), felt much better made, and was almost as cheap as you can get a wedding dress. I loved it and have no regrets about the process. Plus, you could do all the fun New York things during your trip.
posted by ClaireBear at 1:14 PM on May 10 [3 favorites]

I got my wedding dress at Blue Sky Bridal, a consignment shop in Seattle, and it was great — they sort and web-list them by sizes, you try on the actual dress you’re going to buy, I thought the shop managed both solitary clients (me, the next person) and sentimental family parties (the person before) perfectly well.

No idea how common they are.
posted by clew at 11:42 AM on May 11

cincinnati bridal district is the perfect place for this. Tons of shops, Cincinnati has great things to do with extra time (great food, parks, amazing spas). Easy to get to because the airport is big, reasonably priced, and still the “experience” because it’s a whole district
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:06 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]

I am affiliated with this store. Gilded Bridal in Raleigh might have some things. Definitely under 10k, but definitely over 1.5k. Agreeing with some advice above, though. In many stores you won't buy the dress and take it home that day. The dresses sold at this store, and in many others, are made by hand in the United States (a few in Canada, Hungary, and elsewhere), and are only made when they have been ordered. So you'll come in, try on samples, hopefully find one you like, and order it. And 4-6 months later it will come in, you come back to try on YOUR dress, and then go for alterations.

It's an independent store selling independent designers' dresses. From Raleigh the beach and the mountains are less than a half-day's drive for other vacation needs.

And if we aren't allowed to mention businesses we are affiliated with I apologize and please delete this.
posted by Snowishberlin at 11:11 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]

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