Wedding industry specialists say bridal dress shopping isn’t what reality television portrays it to be, and is giving brides unrealistic expectations
By Maham Abedi, Staff Writer
White dresses drape a long wall like curtains hanging from a silver rod, heavy with expectation. What pressure. A few pieces of cloth, some tulle and satin stitched together, some crystals at the seams. Hanging there innocently, waiting to fulfill their fate. When will they find the one bride who will fulfill their destiny of being the perfect dress?
And then it happens. On an ordinary Saturday afternoon at Pearl Bridal House, a Victoria’s Secret model, at least by the looks of it, strides into the store. Behind her, a small entourage follows—all tall, thin and blonde. “Oh my God. This one, this is it. It’s gorgeous,” a member of her entourage finds it hard to peel her gaze away from what appears to be the dress Cinderella wore at her wedding. The full skirt is adorned with flowers made of crystals and tulle, the bodice heavy with sliver beading. You can almost hear the other dresses sigh with lost hope.
This is what bridal dress shopping has always been about: Finding the perfect dress with family and friends—at least until recently. Since the advent of wedding reality television shows like TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress in 2007, brides are seeing a whole new way to find the perfect dress. Over five years, the average price a bride will pay for her dress has increased by almost $1,000. Brides now pay $1,800 on average for a dress. In 2007, the average bride said she would spend a maximum of $1,300, according to Weddingbells magazine’s annual reader survey. Wedding industry specialists say bridal dress shopping isn’t what reality television portrays it to be, and is giving brides unrealistic expectations. Brides are spending slightly more, but expecting to find dresses of significantly higher quality. They’re also turning the drama and emotion up a notch in order to have a television-like experience.
The store is decorated with dozens of white dresses, each costing $2,500-$9,000.
Four stores down Lakeshore Road is Tzikoulis’s second store, Ginger’s Closet, geared towards brides on a budget. The store carries sample and consignment dresses of acclaimed designers such as Vera Wang. Ginger’s Closet has a less luxurious feel than Pearl Bridal House. Dresses hang from every wall and trail onto the floor just the same, but some of the hems are stained brown, and the beads hang loose. Brides try on dresses in a change-room area that resembles mall stores more than Kleinfeld. The store serves two to 15 brides on an average weekend day, notably fewer than Pearl Bridal House.
Trying to help brides-to-be while having no staff can be tricky. Lynzie Kent, part-time manager at Ginger’s Closet, works alone on a Saturday afternoon. She rushes around the store bringing dresses to brides in the change rooms, manning the reception desk and greeting walk-in customers. Unlike reality shows, brides put on their own dresses and employees tend to leave the bride alone with friends and family. Every few minutes Kent checks the change room area, listens patiently to each bride’s concerns and tries to find another dress. Helping brides find the perfect dress used to be easier, says Kent. “With all of the bridal reality TV,” she says, “the importance of finding the one has become so romanticized.”