3 Ways Vendors Can Make Shopping for Wedding Dresses Less Ridiculous
Editor's Note: This post is part two of a series, "Love & Marriage, LLP", on the wedding planning process of two lesbian women. - Feminista Jones
G and I are SO THRILLED about planning our wedding. My Pinterest board is fired way up and we are having the best time thinking about all of the beautiful and way-too-expensive ways we want to decorate the room and each other. The attire for the day, however, is proving a bit stressful. Originally, G thought she might want to wear a suit, but then decided doing that didn't quite feel special enough. A suit was too much like going to work, or to court, for her. I knew I wanted to wear a gown from the beginning, and now my beloved is deep into the gown process, too.
Image: Wonderlane via Flickr
You know what? Shopping for wedding dresses is shrouded in mystery because it is absolutely ridiculous. It is honestly the least user-friendly design for shopping on Earth. It makes me feel like I am on another planet where I have to beg people for the privilege of giving them my money in exchange for a decent product.
Don't worry, though. I'm not just going to rage about how I feel like I cannot get a piece of fabric to cover my beautiful, 6'1" 230lb body on my wedding day. I'm going to help you out, wedding dress overlords. Here are some simple things you could do to make more brides-to-be feel better when they're shopping for your dresses.
Image: Shyn Darkly via Flickr
Bridal sizes are designed to make a bride feel bad about her body. "Bridal sizing" means that if you wear a size 8 dress in normal street clothes, you'll wear a 12, two sizes larger, in most bridal sizes. In a wedding culture that is already shoving diets down my throat, it's considered normal that I should accept that I will need to buy a dress that seems like it should be way too big for me? No thanks.
If the Perfect Dress' size run actually does go up to a size over 12, I get to pay extra, apparently. To add insult to injury, that extra charge usually starts at size 14 (known in the world of normal clothing as size 10). So now every bride over a size 10 in street sizes gets to work harder to find a dress and pay more for the privilege. This is completely backwards! Manufacturers need to start making customers feel good about themselves! If I wear a size 16 regular, I should wear a size 14 bridal, max. I should feel like my eating plan is working and my dress makes me look amazing. Basically I need to feel the polar opposite of how I currently feel when trying on dresses in order to feel even a little bit like breaking out my credit card.
Image: Daniel Onyes via Flickr
In general, bridal salons carry "sample sizes", which are often a bridal size 8 or 10. You know now that this means the samples available to try on are at about size 4-8 street sizes. I literally cannot put most of these garments on my body. How can I tell if the ruching is as flattering as they say if I'm trying to fit the dress around just one thigh to see the shape? What would be wrong with providing at least 25% of the dresses in the store in a larger sample size?
Bridal salons can actually sell these samples more easily at their famed sample sales, since there will be more of a variety, and brides that wear above a size 8 might have a shot in hell of figuring out how a given manufacturer's garment fits. Sample sales are primarily marketing tools anyway: think how many more people will be receptive to your marketing if some of it seems aimed at them. For example, I don't bother setting foot in a sample sale. I already know I don't wear a size 4.
Image: Beth Olsen via Flickr
Most bridal salons have consultants who work on commission. As with many other industries with commission- or tip-based employee compensation, this is supposed to give incentives for the consultants to "do their best". What this actually does in the wedding dress world is make many consultants get extremely grabby over every aspect of me buying my wedding dress.
I've been rushed in and out of dresses. I've been forbidden to take pictures, lest I buy the dress somewhere else, or decide later that I don't like it. I've been offered deals that expire in 15 minutes. I've been told that one of the aforementioned tiny dresses fitted me perfectly and I should buy it immediately. You know what happens when consultants give me the hard sell? I leave. I don't need a dress from anyone badly enough to be treated like a walking wallet with no brain.
Bottom line: the consultants are working hard all day long, even if they don't make a sale. Some of those dresses they carry weigh 30 lbs. They should get paid for their time. Manufacturers: make the experience worthwhile for me AND for the consultant. Pay your employees!
Sadly, these recommendations don't seem very popular. But you know what does? The ever-expanding market of internet wedding dress vendors, including second-hand wedding dress sites. If brick-and-mortar stores want to compete, they should make the process more rewarding for a larger proportion of the bride population.
Let me say that the train of absolute love from vendors, which I wrote about in my last post, continues unabated. That emphatically includes every single wedding dress outlet I have spoken to or visited. Everyone has been as excited as you'd expect when we tell them we are shopping for not one, but two dresses! Cynicism aside, though, I met one consultant, a gay man from Texas' Rio Grande Valley, who teared up at the fact that my mother was with me and supportive of my marriage. We hugged for a while. That part was awesome.