Tips from an Expert...Shopping for a Bridal Gown - District Weddings

Tips from an Expert…Shopping for a Bridal Gown

April 8, 2009

D.C. brides…meet Jessica Fox.  Jessica is the owner of Promise…for the savvy bride, a bridal salon located in Bethesda, Maryland.  I am insanely excited that Jessica is stopping in today to offer her expert advice on shopping for a bridal gown.  Her salon is one of the best in the area, and she’s here to tell us the real scoop on buying that special dress.  

From Jessica…

Thank you so much! I am thrilled! I love your blog and really think that it offers a unique perspective specifically for DC brides-to-be! I know that once a lady gets engaged, one of the first questions she asks is…what am I going to wear?! Shopping for what to wear on your wedding day should be a fun experience, but some girls are daunted by the task, so I am here to help!

First things first, the best advice I can offer is to try and lock in your wedding date and venue as soon as possible! Believe it or not, knowing when and where your wedding will be is a huge help in making a decision on what lovely gown you will wear, not so much because the venue dictates the look (really, as long as you love what you are wearing, it is appropriate – it is your day, after all) but because it is easier to envision yourself on your wedding day when you know where you will be taking your vows with your sweetie.  We often have brides-to-be feeling overwhelmed and confused as they are shopping because they are unable to decide what to wear without knowing where they will be wed! This makes for a generally stressful experience.


adele-wechsler-1“Sunray” (left) and “Sunshine” (right), Adele Wechsler Eco-Couture Collection; Collection available at Promise


Next, if you haven’t already, paging through magazines and tearing out images of gowns you like (or even aspects you like) is really helpful. These images give us a better idea of your style, as well as what you are drawn to. At Promise, we have a collection of gowns that each consultant knows inside and out – just looking at images of what a customer is drawn to helps us do a better job to help you find your gown.  Of course, the gowns in those images may not be what you wind up choosing, but certainly it is the first step in the process!  Once that’s done, do a little research on the boutiques you want to visit and try to narrow it down to 2-4 shops.  Check out their websites and get an idea of the designers that are carried and, when you call to schedule an appointment, don’t feel weird asking questions about the salon.  For example, at Promise, we don’t offer a lot in the way of beaded gowns, which means a girl on the hunt for a gown with a lot of sparkle may not find what she is looking for! Another important question to ask is what price point is carried at the boutique.  While it may feel awkward, believe me, it is worth asking, and may save you from pining for a gown that is not in your budget.

claire-pettibone“Alexandra,” “Chantilly,” and “Theodora,” by Claire Pettibone; Collection available at Promise


Saturdays are typically a busy day at a bridal shop.  Smaller shops like Promise book up on weekends sometimes weeks in advance! Because of how hectic shops are on the weekend, with multiple appointments taking place at once, the consultant you are working with will need to stick to her schedule, which usually means each one hour per appointment. Often, for brides-to-be on their first visit to a bridal shop, an hour is not enough!  So, for first-time shoppers, weekdays are a really good time to shop, for many reasons (evenings get a little busier, but certainly not as hectic as the weekend).  On a weekday, chances are you will have the shop to yourself, as well as a longer time slot available to you.  Plus, you won’t have to share the mirrors with other ladies and your friends and family will have more space to hang out and watch the fashion show.

lea-ann-belter“Kate” (left) and “Bridget” (right) by Lea-Ann Belter; Collection available at Promise


This brings me to my next somewhat counterintuitive tip.  I know it is tempting to bring a cast of thousands with you, a la “Say Yes to the Dress,” but this often (but not always) causes confusion and may make you feel unable to find a gown you love. While your girlfriends and family love you and want to help, the crossfire of opinions often winds up making things hard for you!  It is best to bring along one or two companions to help you in your search, if not come alone.


lezuBoth dresses by L’ezu; Collection available at Promise


At your first appointment at a bridal boutique, you will be introduced to your consultant and she will be your guide through the world of bridal gowns…at least during your appointment!  She will get to know your likes and dislikes when it comes to bridal gowns, and she will do her best to help you find your gown in the boutique.  Telling your consultant about gowns you have tried, designers you like, and your budget will help her understand better what you are looking for and will ultimately help her do a better job for you! Treat your search for a bridal gown the same way you would for other bridal vendors (this is no mean feat!).  The more information you give and research you do, the more likely you will find the perfect fit (no pun intended).

elizabeth-fillmoreGown by Elizabeth Fillmore; Collection available at Promise


At most bridal shops (including Promise), the sales consultant will help you into the gowns you have selected together…which means you will spend some time standing around in your underwear in a dressing room!  Be sure to wear comfy, easy-on-and-off clothes that you feel comfortable in (think marathon jean shopping or bathing suit expedition clothes) and don’t worry about your undies not matching your bra….believe me, we don’t even pay attention to that, and we surely don’t notice if you had your last bikini wax a month ago! If you have a good strapless bra, bring it along, and bring shoes, too. If you forget those things, it’s ok.  We have them at Promise, but it is always more comfortable to have your own stuff!

sample-sale“Denise” by Aire (left), “Paige” by Lea-Ann Belter (right); Both gowns on Sample Sale at Promise!


Finally, relax and enjoy the experience, and try to keep an open mind.  With so many gorgeous dresses and cute shops out there, it can be totally overwhelming and easy to feel like you will never find the right gown.  My best (and cheesy) advice is to follow your heart! As with almost everything, your instinct is your best guide; when a gown speaks to you, you will know! You may not cry or have a major revelation (every girl is different), but you will definitely have a moment where you feel that the gown you are in is perfect for you.  The tricky part is being ok with that if it is the first dress at the first shop or the 20th dress at the third shop.


A HUGE thank you to Jessica for sharing all of her insider’s advice with us!  For more tips and secrets, check out Jessica’s oh-so-helpful blog.  Promise…for the savvy bride is currently having an amazing Sample Sale (now through the end of April).  Call Jessica at 301.215.9232 to set up your (weekday?) appointment!


Question for Jessica?  Leave it in the comments section (or email me) and I’ll make sure she gets it!

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