Friday, February 20, 2009

On Chicago-Area Dress Hunting...

I started my hunt for the perfect dress a year before my wedding. Why? For two reasons. One -because I lack a single ounce of patience. Two - because I originally thought I was going to buy a vintage dress, and when searching for a one of a kind frock, you need to allow yourself plenty of time while also being ready to pounce when the right one comes along.

My mom and my sister weren't so down with the vintage dress idea. While most of the dresses I was finding would barely make a dent in the budget, they wanted the whole dress shopping experience, tears and all. I can't blame them, but at the time I was completely determined to buy the dress that I loved, that fit my aesthetic (load of tulle!) and was unique.

I became very familiar with the best of the best of vintage Web sites out there, and I plan on posting about that later to share my knowledge with those beginning their quest for vintage wedding attire. But I digress.

In my daily searches for a dress last fall, I came across Tangerine Boutique. While there wasn't much on the site that screamed wedding, I came across this while tulle number for only $165! After weeks of searching, I immediately purchased it!

It's still available ladies, so check it out if you're thinking about going vintage, or maybe just want to be a short dress bride for the reception. But check out the waist is not nearly teeny enough to squeeze into the dress, I quickly found out. And what I thought was more of a snowy white (a rarity in vintage dresses) was much more of an off-white. Much to my dismay (and my family's delight) I had to send it back. Hopefully it will find a good home soon.

Chicago, IL

My first dress excursion last September was at Weddings 826 in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. I went with two of my bridesmaids and had no intention of purchasing (without my mom and sister there, it just couldn't happen). But I wanted to get the first dress shopping experience out of the way and get a feel for what I liked/didn't like. I definitely had jitters going into it.

This was a fabulous experience! Weddings 826 features primarily sample dresses and is situation in a brownstone. Their prices range from $800+ although I didn't find a lot at the lower end. During your appointment, you are the only bride there and the showroom turns into your dressing room. My consultant was incredibly sweet, not pushy, and took the time to explain the different whites to me (diamond white vs. brilliant white vs. ivory).

I fell in love that day with this precious Melissa Sweet. It's so my style with a 1950s feel to it (SO MUCH TULLE!!) and a swiss dot design. It's a lot of dress but never felt too heavy. Swoon. So, ya, maybe it was about double my budget (however, at $1,900 it's a far cry from its original $4,000+ price tag).

I had to walk away, all the while scheming how I could possibly afford it. Could I contribute an extra $900 plus tax above what my parents would contribute? Fortunately my consultant drew me a little picture of "my dress" before I let and told me I could call and check on it at any time. I also strongly encouraged her to hide it at the back of the rack for me.

Chicago, IL

I had visited White Chicago with a girlfriend the previous year when she was searching for her dress. It's a cool experience and a must for any Chicago bride, even if you don't end up purchasing there. Located in the River North neighborhood of Chicago, the ENTIRE store is painted white, topped off with consultants in all white. You must take your shoes off before entering, and the consultants wear gloves while handling the gowns. They also primarily carry sample gowns, ranging from $1,000+ (although, again, not as many on the lower end).

I tried on this trumpet-style Rivina gown. I couldn't afford it and someone else had it on hold, but I hadn't tried on a fitted dress yet. I love the vintage feel of the minimal beading, and what you can''t see is the fabulous train in the back, adding a little drama. But again, too rich for my blood.

...and's my dress! My Melissa Sweet from my earlier trip! Doesn't it just look magical? Sigh. At both stores the dress was in a size 10 so the consultants really had to hold it tight for it to look ok. At White Chicago my consultant was a little bit more skilled in the dress yanking department.

Sadly this dress was priced higher at White Chicago than at Weddings 826. I didn't hesitate to mention this fact. My consultant made a few calls and offered the dress to me at $200 less than Weddings 826 if I bought it by the end of the next day. Err, tempting but not without my momma.

A second time, I had to walk away from the dress. But it was really helpful to try it on a again, and as much as I did (and do!) love it, it's A LOT of dress. I'd almost have to take some layers out. And there's no train, which I kind of sort of maybe wanted. I later found the dress on Once Wed for $800, never worn, so I kept that as an option.

Barrington, IL

I had someone suggest Wedding Belles so for the weekend my mom planned to visit from Central Illinois and my sister (MOH!) flew in from San Diego, we went here (along with 2 of my bridesmaids). Wedding Belles is situated in a Victorian house and features sample dresses starting at around $500+. Score!

I tried on at least 10 dresses during my 90-minute appointment. I just looked at this picture a few minutes ago and when "huh?" I assume if there's photographic evidence, I did try this dress on, although I couldn't tell you why.

This one was kind of fun, in an 80s prom way. I think I frazzled my consultant when I said "no beading no lace." She had to scramble for dresses a bit.

And my dress!! Isn't it lovely. I pretty much told the consultant that I hated it and did not want to try it on. She forced me. And of course I loved it. Friends and family teared up. A homerun.

So my experience at Wedding Belles, where I finally made the big purchase, was great because they had so many dresses in my price range (I don't think I tried on anything over $1,200, the one I bought as $600). They did have dresses that were more expensive, but they are kept very separate on the racks so you can easily stay within your budget. I also learned that I didn't care what designer might have made my dress as long as I loved it (my dress I found out later was Allure Couture. Huh? No clue what that is and don't care).

However, and I will say this quite bluntly, I did not like my consultant. Maybe she was having an off day? Whatever the case, she was not very friendly, did not explain the diamond white vs. brilliant white vs. ivory to me. She also stunk at helping me into the dresses (you know how most consultants put the dress on the floor, spread it out and help you step in? She did not do this. For each of the 10 or 12 dresses I tried on, she handed it over to me and told me to put it on. Umm, ok. Thanks, I guess? Keep in mind I'm also standing in the middle of a room, in my underwear, with my mom, sister and two girlfriends. Bending over akwardly and wriggling into dresses. It was like a nightmare).

But at the end of the day, I was victorious with a dress that was UNDER budget, my mom was happy and due to the beautious nature of sample dresses, I was able to take it home with me! Whew.


ChiBrideToBe February 20, 2009 at 9:18 AM  

All of those dresses looked awesome on you! I LOVE a great bargain, and think you did so well with your dress.

A Windy City Wedding February 22, 2009 at 9:27 PM  

I was supposed to have mine this weekend but the stupid snow kept me from it. I am so excited though, I imagine it will be awesome (and for the price I kind of assume so!)

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