For epochs, women have spent tons of money on their wedding dresses — and they still do.
According to The Knot’s most recent Real Wedding Study, the average wedding dress costs $US1,357 — but given the wide disparity between of overall wedding costs (a Manhattan wedding is an average $US76,328 and a Utah wedding is an average $US15,257), it’s likely that there are plenty of brides out there forking over upwards of $US2000 on their dresses.
But why do brides spend this much money on dresses that will only be worn once?
This is a divisive question, as some brides will loudly protest that this is the most important day of their lives, that they will proceed to look back on the photographs for eternities upon eternities, and would prefer something that fits like a glove and lets them sparkle in ways that nothing else could.
“It’s not just a white dress,” wedding dress designer Anne Barge said to NPR. “It’s the fabric, and it’s the workmanship, and it’s the lining, and it’s the fit.”
“It’s the dress of your life, and if there is ever one picture your [descendants] have of you it’s the one in your wedding dress,” Barge explained.
Additionally, NPR suggested that going all-out indicated total commitment. Go big, or go home.
Still, other brides deplore the wedding industrial complex, and others are on strict budgets.
But somewhere in between appealing to the defiant bride who doesn’t want to fork over thousands of dollars and the highly profitable wedding industry, mass market retailers are selling wedding dresses.
J. Crew hopped on the wedding band in 2004, paving the way for other mass retailers to do the same. Most of the dresses are sold online or in the catalogue. The retailer had a boutique on Madison Avenue Manhattan, but now its bridal sales are limited to a bridal salon in its Flatiron location. J. Crew sells a variety of wedding styles — even jumpsuits.
Ann Taylor has sent brides down the aisle, as well. Ann Taylor dresses are even more modestly priced than J. Crew’s — all are under $US1,000, many are under $US500, and some are under $US250.
Even Target has forayed into the wedding industry with its line Tevolio. A wedding dress at Target costs just $US52.48.
Anthropologie has a bridal offshoot called BHLDN — but the dresses run on the pricier side, compared to other mass retailers. However, shopping at BHLDN — while potentially comparable price-wise to buying a dress at a boutique — offers stressed-out brides the ease of purchasing the dresses online, as does buying a dress online from any of the aforementioned retailers.
That ideology is behind many of these mass retailer’s bridal lines.
“Certainly as women — who are working and living very full lives — are planning a wedding, they’re interested in shopping online,” Christine Beauchamp, former president of Ann Taylor, said to The Wall Street Journal in 2010.
Wedding experts agree. “Especially for girls in a hurry, it’s really great because the majority of J. Crew [wedding dresses] is online and in the catalogues,” Anne Chertoff, WeddingWire’s trend expert, said to Business Insider.
“It’s really great and really easy,” she added.
And mass market dresses tend to evoke the sentiment of a relaxed bride (which not all brides can confess to be).
But the real heart of the matter is not the dress is mass market, but that there are problems that come with purchasing a wedding dress online.
Chertoff says she encourages brides to go to stores to try dresses on, at the very least.
“I usually encourage people to have that experience even if they’re on a budget, you know, if there’s a J. Crew store in their area that sells bridal dresses, if there’s BHLDN [which has bridal boutiques in select markets], or even if it’s David’s Bridal, I think it’s really important that people — if this dress is something that has somewhat of a significance to them — go to a store and try it on,” she said. “It’s not like trying a dress that you would wear to work. Bridal sizing is very different.” Brides thereby forego receiving experts’ advice, she explained, including on how alterations might work.
And it’s less emotional.
“By ordering from a catalogue, you miss out on that moment and that experience — especially if your mum’s still around,” she said. “That moment on the television shows — ‘Say Yes to The Dress’ — even when the cameras aren’t rolling on every single bride, that happens You’re twirling in it! You’ll never want to take it off! You’ll be beaming in it! … It’s something you’ll never forget.”
And places like Kleinfeld’s specialize in dress for every kind of bride — including the modest bride, as Racked reported — which is something that a mass market retailer may struggle to provide.
Still, budget-minded Learnvest advises cash-strapped brides to look to mass market retailers as a way to save on cash. But Chertoff warns that a traditional retailer’s wedding dress might not be so cheap. A J. Crew wedding dress can be $US650 — or it can be $US2,200. Chertoff advises that brides can pick up discounted designer dresses at David’s Bridal without foregoing the experience.
That said, Chertoff concedes, “[buying a dress online is] a really easy way to do it — especially if the dress isn’t the most important thing.”
But wedding dresses going mass market might not even be about the bride — a shock for most on their wedding days. More than anything, entering the wedding industry is a huge boon to businesses. It’s no secret that the wedding industrial complex is real.
In fact, choosing to get into the profitable wedding industry helped J. Crew after the bridal line launched. “It’s been an important growth business for us,” CEO Mickey Drexler told the Wall Street Journal in 2010.
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