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XP - Where to start for a bride with no idea what she wants in a dress? CN at bottom.

So I feel like every bride I have ever talked to knew exactly what she was looking for in her dress before she bought it.  I don't.  I haven't been dreaming of my perfect dress since I was a little girl.  Now that its time to start looking (I have been engaged since Sept.), I am totally overwhelmed and have no idea where to start.

I have been looking online and at bridal magazines for months, flagging dresses that I like, but there is no consistency.  The dresses I like vary in style, cut, neckline, fabric etc.  The only thing I know for sure is that I don't want a big ball gown, which probably means that I will end up in a ball gown ;).  I am fairly petite and I think I will get lost in a big ball gown.

I think at this point I just need to start trying on dresses to see what cuts/styles I like and look good on me so I can narrow my focus.  My MOH is flying in two weeks from CA, so I will be dress shopping for the first time then.  I live in NYC (Manhattan) and am looking for suggestions for places to go.

Should I book appointments at full service salons or just drop in places and try some dresses off the rack?  What stores will have a good selection of lots of different styles so I can narrow down what I want?  I am ok with purchasing a dress the first day out if I find one I love (whatever that is), but I think its unlikely.

So what stores do you recommend?  My parents have graciously offered to purchase my dress and have given me a budget of $2500 for just the dress, not including alterations, accessories etc.  So while I can't afford some of the ridiculous designer gowns, I should be able to find something in my budget almost anywhere (I hope).  Thanks for your help. (I have also posted on the Attire board.)

CN: I don't really know what style/silhouette/fabric/neckline etc. I want for my wedding dress.  I am going to begin shopping/trying on dresses in about 2 weeks in NYC.  Where should I go first?  Should I try full-service salons or more low-key pull off the rack yourself kind of places to start?  My dress budget is $2500 for just the dress, not including alterations, accessories, etc.

Re: XP - Where to start for a bride with no idea what she wants in a dress? CN at bottom.

  • I would go to RK Bridal, Macy's, Bloomingdales and Lord and Taylor to start.  These places will have gowns in and under your price range as well as a variety of styles.  Once you find a style you like I would probably go somewhere like The White Gown.  They're in Bklyn but they aren't high traffic and you'll get great service there.  Kleinfelds gets mixed reviews but most girls seem to go for the experience and a lucky few actually find their dresses.  As for RK Bridal, I would suggest going during the week since it's absolutely crazy during the weekends.
  • Just knot rk bridal you are going to be digging through the racks. If you don't know what you want you actually are better off at a full service salon who can guide you. Just have info on your location, budget and bring some pictures. You seem to need a helping hand. All the department stores are not going to give you the attention you need. You will be on your own. Bridal reflections may be a good choice. They will talk to you and go through the racks with you.
  • mystilettomystiletto
    First Comment
    edited April 2012
    I've been to many bridal salons in nyc and I'm also a picky bride that doesn't seem to know what I want.  The dresses I like are all very different in style.  The best way is to just keep trying on dresses to see what looks best on you.  I thought I wanted lace but found that lace looks flat on me. 

    Some specific bridal salons:
    Kleinfeld: book appointment early online as they fill up quickly (even if it's full online, call as sometimes they have openings not shown).  look on their website at designers photos and copy down style numbers of gowns you like.  this is easier if you know if the designer falls into your budget but if you give them ideas of what you like it'll be easier for them to pull similar looks.  i went there with my girlfriend (also a bride) and they pulled hideous dresses for her.  So when it came time for my appointment, I walked in with a list of style numbers and had a very productive appointment. they have a great variety of designers which was very helpful. 

    RK Bridal: it's a bit of a madhouse in there.  you have to look through racks yourself and you have to wait to try on dresses (note their cutoff time to sign up).  I would also look at photos on their website and copy down some style numbers.  Ask for a buyer named Madison.  She is not a bridal consultant but she was fantastic and knew most of the gowns and made great suggestions.  We had to wait at least an hour to try on dresses so this is not my cup of tea but it's great when you don't have appointments.

    Bridal Reflections: make an appointment.  I went there to try on a particular dress (which they had to pull for me from their other store so planning early was essential) and ended up liking my original choice plus another gown. 

    I've also been to Mark Ingram, Saks, Bergdorf and Amsale but those would be out of your budget.  I would also suggest Wedding Atelier (next to Kleinfeld so you can schedule appointments back to back).  Bridal Garden nearby is also nice if you're willing to sort through samples and perhaps make drastic alterations.  Most importantly, make appointments! I've been through three full days of bridal gown shopping with 3 appointments each day.  It's much more efficient if you have appointments and always allow 1/2 hour leeway between appointments, not including travel time.  Have fun! :)
  • Lovely Bride in the West Village is a stellar shop, but may be out of the budget. Sale though? Ya never know. The girls there are divine as well. Sweet and accomodating, no NY attitude.

    If you need a beautiful spray tan before the big day, look my reviews up online!:)

  • for a sleek, elegant selection that is affordable, i would also check out Nicole Miller in SoHo.
  • LAC203LAC203
    Oh my goodness Mimmer, I can relate. I too was engaged in September, and jumped into figuring out things that were most important to me about the wedding: venue, food, photography, and music. I had no clue about the dress. It's not like I didn't care, but like you, I hadn't been dreaming about it since childhood and it definitely wasn't my priority in the overall scheme of things.

    I scheduled an appointment at a boutique salon where I live (far from our wedding venue) and invited three girl friends who would also be invited to the wedding. Two were already married, and all three were laid back and supportive. At the boutique salon, I just roamed the racks and tagged anything that looked interesting. I tried on about 12 dresses; about a third I put on and thought, "Nah," another third I thought, "Okay," and the final third I really liked. Any of those 4 dresses I would have been happy to own and wear at the wedding.

    I then went to David's Bridal in Manhattan (where my family and most of my bridesmaids are), and had a similar experience--tried on about 10 gowns, some of which I didn't like right away, and about 3 which I thought were really nice and had trouble choosing between. It's great that you have room to breathe in your budget, so you can try on a variety of styles and fits. I love the dress I chose, and while I had people in the store gasp and come over to say this or that, I definitely never cried or fainted when finding "the one." I think the sales assistant thought I hated everything because I wasn't in happy hysterics, but I was very happy.

    Something important for me: I told the first boutique that I wanted to try A-line dresses because that's what I wear most in my everyday life. But a bridesmaid in NY demanded I try on mermaid and trumpet gowns (I gots hips & butt), and those are the ones I wound up liking the best, even though I never would have considered them on my own. I was also resolute about no strapless dresses, but the sales assistant asked if I'd try one she thought would work on me if we added cap sleeves, and she was right; that's the one I bought.

    Try on a bunch of different styles. If you think something looks awful as soon as you put it on, you don't have to show it to anyone. Stay open and you might surprise yourself. Grab a bridal mag and go through it with the MOH beforehand and tag dresses that you think might work for you. A good sales assistant will help you find similar styles to try on.

    Congratulations, and good luck!
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