The Dress Search is {Back} On!

Photo: Elizabeth Messina

This week I have an appointment at Amy Kuschel Bride, a boutique where each dress is designed and hand made right here in San Francisco's Union Square. The dresses are tailored to each bride. With this place being close enough for an after-work appointment, I just HAD to get in and check it out for myself. The prices are reasonable (in the bridal world), ranging from $1,500 - $5,000. If you know this designer's story, it was important to her that brides be able to get a beautiful, high-quality dress without spending a fortune.

This week, I invite you to join in as I do a little 'homework' for my appointment. They asked me to look over their website for designs I like. Twist my arm! ;)

Source: all images

Thanks for reading and I'll let you know how it goes!

Over a Year Till I Do & Halfway Dressed

Okay, so, I’m going to admit it:  I have never been one of those girls who has dreamed about her wedding day since she was a little girl. When I got engaged last November, the questions started piling up fast. “Where will you get married?”, “What do you want your dress to look like?”, “What is your vision for your wedding?”.  Almost 9 months later (yes, I realize 9 months is an entire engagement period for some couples), I still can’t completely answer any of these questions, but I certainly have a better idea of what I want and how to best make it happen. I never thought that I would care as much as I do about my wedding dress.  I started my search by aimlessly and casually browsing through Bridal magazines mentally tearing apart everything I saw.  Searching for wedding dresses on Pinterest only confused me further, because the styles and silhouettes I was gravitating towards were all so different.

Source: Dove Sparrow Photography, Watters Brides, Samuelle Couture, Jenny Packham, Lindee Daniel, Melissa Blackburn

After looking at three bridal shops (Panche Bridal in Santa Barbara, Lovely Bride in Los Angeles (my favorite shop!), and Camarillo Bridal in Camarillo), I discovered that I have expensive taste. At each shop, the dresses that I liked most were on the higher-end of my dress budget, and I was not completely in love with any of them.

The search continued while I was visiting some friends in San Francisco a month ago and decided to try my luck at Glamour Closet, a discount bridal shop that sells sample wedding dresses at up to 75% off retail. I was in luck! I walked away with a Monique Lhuillier lace corset (very similar to the photo below) at a price too good to pass up and a new vision for my "wedding dress."

I had never thought about looking at two-piece dresses. I had wrongly mentally labeled them as 90's prom dresses gone wrong. But, once I started trying on two-piece dresses, I began to see how this concept would give me more flexibility, more creative control, and maybe even keep me within my dress budget.


And so, my search for a perfect bottom continues. I am leaning towards designing my own (maybe even two: a long skirt for the ceremony and short skirt for the reception) with the help of a local tailor. The following are my inspirations so far.

Source: Sarah Seven, Bonzie on Etsy, Carol Hannah

Have you thought about or gone the two-piece dress route?  Do you have pointers for designing your own dress? Am I crazy??

Designer at a Discount :: Dresses

Last week I wrote about one of the most fun parts of wedding planning for me thus far – dress shopping! I was in Austin last week and went to two stores…it definitely got me on the dress kick and I have already been again since getting back to San Francisco. Some girlfriends and I went to the Bridal Galleria in the Financial District. We had a great time (and I tried on some killer dresses!), but the first thing I noticed was how much more expensive the dresses were here. It definitely could have had something to do with the stores I went to, but it got me thinking – is it even worth trying on dresses over my budget? Will I fall in love with one only to be disappointed that I can’t have it? Naturally, my next thought was about alternative ways of buying wedding dresses. I know there are many. And being someone who doesn’t like to pay full price on my clothes, why should I pay full price for a wedding dress?! It is, after all, the most expensive single item of clothing I will have ever purchased. Eek! So, while I plan to try on more dresses at regular bridal boutiques, and may even buy from one of them, I’d like to at least attempt to find the dress I end up picking for a deal! Below I’ve compiled a list of alternative ways to buy wedding dresses. This is by no means a complete list, so if you have others you have heard good things about, please do tell in the comments!


1. Trunk Shows: A trunk show is when a designer (or their representative) brings their collection to a bridal boutique and provides personal consultations. These trunk shows also typically come with a discount on the designers' dresses. This is a great option if you have already had a chance to go shopping and have found a designer and particular cuts and styles you are drawn to. You wouldn't want a trunk show to be the first time you try on dresses because you might feel pressured by the temporary discount.

Click here for a guide of upcoming trunk shows in some of the major metro areas. Also, if you are in a store and love a certain designer, you can ask your consultant if there is a trunk show coming up for that line.

Source: left, right

2. Discount Stores: I heard about Glamour Closet through my future sis-in-law, fellow E&I blogger and deal-lover, Taya. See her dress post here. She had great success at GC in LA and I feel super lucky that there is also a location here in San Francisco. I will definitely be making a stop by GC before my dress shopping is through.


3. Pre-owned (aka 'used,' gasp!) wedding dresses: How GORGE is the gown above?! It is Monique Lhuillier, listed for $3,000 - more than $2k off the retail price. The site I found this one on has so many designers - see more at I think this would be for the bride who has found the exact dress she wants, knows her size and has time to wait and see if it becomes available on the site. You also have to be the type of person who doesn't mind if someone has worn the dress before you. As long as the dress came clean I really wouldn't care that it had already been worn. And, hey, you know the girl who wore it before you must have impeccable taste! ;-)

I recently heard of a company called Nearly Newlywed. Not only can you buy 'nearly new' dresses, but you can also sell your dress to them after your big day (post dry-cleaning, of course). 

Sources: left, right

Here are some other resources where you can find used dresses: Once Wed, 100 Layer Cake, SmartBride

Then there is always the option of getting a dress that is not technically a wedding dress, like a white prom dress or something not branded as 'wedding.' I think I am going to stick with the 'wedding dresses', but I could definitely see this working for the right person with a knack for fashion.

Have you considered any alternatives to buying a new dress at a boutique? Did you have a good experience? 

Dress Shopping Round 3!

I am about six months from my wedding and I am celebrating by finally buying my wedding dress this weekend. Well, I haven't actually bought it yet. To be honest, I haven't even found the one yet. But I am off to wedding gown mecca, aka Kleinfeld’s, while I am in New York City this weekend and I am crossing my fingers and toes that THE dress is there. Here is a quick reminder of what I will be looking for. WISH ME LUCK!

 Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8


The Little White Dress (LWD)

In looking through my closet last night I realized that I don’t own a single little white dress (LWD). And that’s likely because a white dress is tough to buy. So tied to the tradition of getting married, white is not a color us ladies tend to gravitate toward when purchasing an ensemble for a special event. Unless you are the one getting married, you can’t really where white to a wedding without a lot of “What was she thinking” stares, which of course lessens the re-wear value of a dress. On top of that, it’s hard to look good in white this time of year when the short winter days prevent any kind of sun from touching your skin (even here in California!). Despite this, I decided that as a bride-to-be, and since I have several events leading up to my wedding, I really want to take advantage of this time to where lots of white! There’s really no other time that I can easily get away with wearing a color out of season (although I don’t exactly believe in that rule). And maybe purchasing a LWD well get me primed to actually pull the trigger on buying THE dress.

I will be having a traditional shower back East – likely an afternoon with a lot of ladies – and I think these white frocks will be perfect.

Credits: 1, 2, 3

I will also be having a Jack & Jill shower here in SF that likely will be held at night, so I think I can get away with something a little more cocktaily…

Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4

And then of course I will need a fun white dress for the bachelorette!

Credits: 1, 2, 3

And then maybe one more for the rehearsal dinner.

Credits: 1, 2, 3

Finally, to extend the bridal feeling just a bit, I’ll pack one more in my suitcase for the honeymoon.

Credits: 1, 2, 3

What about you? Did you go out and splurge on a white ensemble when you got engaged?

Dress Update #1

I am calling this update #1 since, long story short, I did not purchase a dress while home for the holidays. So there will have to be an update #2 (and maybe a #3 and #4…). Although shopping was fun, after visiting three different wedding dress stores, I found the process COMPLETELY overwhelming. I really thought I was going to be a lot more decisive and just know more immediately whether I loved or hated a dress. Of course there were a few dresses that I put on and knew immediately that it was not THE dress. But those were the exceptions. For the most part I felt every dress I tried on was very pretty, and I could be happy in it on my wedding day. Thrilled? Maybe not. But happy – sure.

I think after watching WAY too many episodes of “Say Yes to the Dress” I really thought I would have that moment where I would look in the mirror and feel butterflies in my stomach. I would look over at my sister and my mom and they would be pulling out the tissues. The consultant would look at me and say, “Is this your dress?” I would then respond emphatically “YES!” without a single doubt in my mind that this was the dress I was meant to walk down the aisle in.

Well, that didn’t happen.

But I did come out of this experience with some concrete learnings. Namely, I need to listen to my gut. There was one dress I tried on that my family loved – and I did too. But there was something telling me it wasn’t the one. Finally, after a second visit to the store to talk to the seamstress about the dress, I randomly found out that a high school friend wore it to her wedding, which immediately ruled it out for me. After making the decision not to buy it, the biggest sense of relief washed over me. It wasn’t THE dress and I knew it and I should have listened to my gut from the beginning.

Anyway, I am going to take a couple weeks off to cleanse my palate. Next week I am going with a friend to look at a dress that she has her eye on for her wedding. Maybe that will reignite a desire to look for my dress. But for now, I need a break!

Anyone else experience something similar? Were you expecting a “Say Yes to the Dress” moment, but it didn’t exactly turn out that way? I would love to hear about it!

P.S. Sorry for the not so great pictures – we were trying to be covert!

B-Maids, Bridesmaids, Bestmaids

My bridesmaids, bestmaids, are my very best friends from high school. I love each of them completely for being so adorably unique that I always knew I wanted them to each wear a dress of their choice. I gave them a color scheme and let them pick and things have gone even better than I could have imagined. Each dress looks like the friend that picked it, which is exactly what I wanted (how often do you and your friends get to dress up fancy and take tons of pics? I want them to all look GREAT). Three of my four besties have their dresses already:

one, two, three

Don't the colors look great together?! I'm in love, so sun-washed summer!

However, my fourth bestfran is still looking for her dress. We're thinking something in a caramel, warm brown color, but we're having trouble finding anything online that you can easily return for money back if it doesn't fit right. Let me know if you've seen anything you think would look great, because we're struggling!

My girls are all wearing neutral-ish shoes, but the accessories are what I'm currently excited about! The J. Crew champagne colored dress is going to be paired with a gold belt like this, and probably no necklace. However, I want my other two girls to wear some neat statement jewelry. I've been scouring the web for big ol' (affordable) statement necklaces for my friend in yellow and slightly more subdued ones for my friend in orange, but I just can't make a decision. Here are some of my faves, what do you think? Have you seen something better?

Clockwise from top left: one, two, three, four

We're also on the lookout for a belt or sash for the orange dress, pretty please send me anything you think would look good!

Happy New Year!

Next week I'll be sharing my Save the Dates because...I'm getting married THIS year!

Smart Bride - LVC Mag Guest Post

With the “budget bride” becoming the new big thing, lots of new wedding resources are sprouting up to handle the need of this new kind of bride. But there is one thing taking popularity faster than the rest – recycled wedding dresses. Bring it on! The days of spending money to preserve and box your gown so you can add it to the stuff already in your closet are over! Check out the rest of the article I wrote about Smart Bride over on LVC Mag!

BM Inspiration

I came across this Rachel Gilbert collection recently and fell in love with it! The top pic is my all time favorite and would be my Bridesmaid dress of choice if not for the price tag. I love her use of sequins, color, and the silhouette she accentuates with her dresses. Just too cute.

Now as for the price tag, it is a bit higher than I would care to spend ($700 higher!) but I guess when your designs are seen on the likes of celebrities, you have the right to charge that much. So on I go in my search for the perfect BM dress. I will say however that this is gorgeous inspiration and something I completely plan on thinking with in my future searches! Do you have any celebrity designers you are using for inspiration for your wedding wardrobe!

Engagement Party Outfit

I ordered all of this last night (along with a few other "necessary" but not engagement party related items) from Nordstrom last night.  Free shipping and I can return anything in the store (which is walking distance from my house). I haven't tried on the dress yet, but I am really hoping it looks fantastic! If not, but to square one with the dress shopping!

In terms of shoes, I can't decide. I LOVE the zebra print but there are 2 downsides: 1. I want to incorporate Zebra into my wedding and wedding shoes would be a great way. It's not decided but it is a possibility so I don't want to possibly wear them twice. 2. They are $200! eeks. As far as the black shoes, well, the pro is that I own them (by far my favorite pair of shoes I have ever purchased. I still get compliments on those) but the down side is that everyone knows I own them!

So what's a girl to do?? I am going to keep looking for shoes, but what are the thoughts on the outfit???