I went to the Running of the Brides Sale at Filene’s Basement and was really surprised. The sale was completely different than I had anticipated, and I have some tips for making the sale work for you.
1. Don’t be the first in line.
The sale stocks over 1,000 gowns and fewer than a hundred will sell in the morning rush. That means there are still plenty of gowns left in the afternoon. If you go between 2-5 PM, the dresses will all be hung back up on the racks, the dressing room will be tidy, the aisles won’t be crowded, and the sales women have already seen most of the gowns tried on. This means they can point you toward a gown that looks blah on the hanger but amazing when it’s on.
2. Don’t get caught up in the excitement.
Several brides purchased gowns in the rush and excitement of the morning, only to go home and decide they made a bad selection. All sales are final, so be certain when you buy. These girls were back in the afternoon, looking for a second gown.
3. Know what a quality gown looks like.
The only way to know what a quality gown looks and feels like is to spend some time trying on quality gowns beforehand, in a quiet and unhurried bridal salon. Examine every aspect of these quality gowns and get familiar with the details that make a gown fit well. Also spend some time learning about different designers. Know which are good quality and which make styles you like.
4. Be able to tell the quality of a gown at a glance.
The sale stocks gowns from a range of designers, all the way up to Dior and Pucci. To maximize your budget, you’ll want to quickly sort out the quality gowns from the rest. Look for the brand or designer. Look at the hanger loops (some are printed with the designer’s name), the dress tags (if they are still attached), and inside for a label.
Check the materials of the gown. Look inside for materials and care tags. You want natural materials such as pure silk, and quality embellishments such as glass or crystal beads. Avoid synthetic materials and plastic embellishments. Examine the fabric itself. The fabric should be tightly woven and have a matte finish. Cheaper fabrics often seem “shiny”. Look for telltale details of quality construction. Quality gowns often have two zippers in the back (one inside for structure and one outside for aesthetics), an attached petticoat, a weighted hem, and a packet of extra beads/sequins.
5. Know your size.
Bridal gowns run about 2 sized smaller than casual clothes. So if you usually wear a size 6, you’ll need to look for a wedding gown in a size 10.
6. Analyze the condition of the gown.
Find a clear, quiet area and spread out your gown. Check every inch for tears, stains, missing embellishments, and signs of missing pieces (such as snaps at the bustline but no straps). Determine if the repairs will be difficult or expensive.
6. Budget for the dress, plus cleaning, repairs, bustling, and alterations.
After you bring home the dress you will first want to check it once again for damage. Make a list of all the repairs needed and find a tailor who can repair it. Then you’ll want to take it to a specialty cleaner who can remove the body oil from the gown being handled and tried on. Don’t wait too long or these hidden stains can yellow your gown. You will also need to have the gown bustled (this is how the train is pinned up for dancing), and altered to fit. A gown that fits properly will appear much more refined than a gown that has not been altered.
7. Bring help, or ask for it.
You’ll need help to get into your gown, get it zipped up, and take photos. If you can’t bring a friend, buddy up with another bride and help each other. You can’t tell how a dress really looks until you have it completely on.
8. Come prepared to buy.
The dresses are priced between $250 and $700.
9. Know which color you want.
Gowns range in color from pure white to ivory, cream and ballet pink. Know beforehand which color flatters you, and narrow your search to only those gowns.
10. Know the season and formality of your wedding.
You wouldn’t wear a dress with fur trim in August, and you wouldn’t wear a cathedral train to the beach. Knowing the season and formality can narrow your search to appropriate gowns.