- 3 years ago
Hey bees, for some reason I’ve found a lot of help on this board when it came to both my ring and my dress and decided it’s my turn to contribute- this is a LONG post but wanted to sum up my Budget dress experience with pics!. For reference, my desired budget was $1-$500, I live in Vancouver, Canada. I’m 5’4″, very petite frame, Bust: 32/33a or b, 28″ waist, 35″ hips.
And pics of the dress I thought I want (a-line tulle $1400 salon in New West) vs What I ended up with (column chiffon $500 from David’s Bridal):
Some general tips that didn’t quite work for me:
You are going to come across ALL the tips online which range from:
<li style=”font-weight: 400;”>Find an evening gown, prom dress, quinceanera dress etc. that comes in White
<li style=”font-weight: 400;”>OR also, find a bridesmaid dress that comes in White. (I tried a lot of these but found the quality and structure to not be on par with what I was looking for -read more below).
<li style=”font-weight: 400;”>Go bold with patterns and prints or non-western “cultural” heritage dress. (I was open to something not so western-traditional but in the end I found what I wanted in White).
<li style=”font-weight: 400;”>Sample sales, end of season sales etc. (But you have to be patient and be okay with terribly merchandized clothing in rushed atmosphere. This frenzy was not for me!).
<li style=”font-weight: 400;”>Buy Used or rent (only good if you’re seeking a specific designer that you know is $$$. If your budget cap is low there’s no point in renting as most rentals will be same cost as buying a <500 dress)
The dress you think you want vs the dress that truly fits your body.
I thought I really wanted a strapless, sweetheart lace or beaded top with tulle a-line skirt. I love tulle, it has a romantic, pretty and sweet look. But at the end of the day the dress that actually fit me probably was a chiffon column dress.
The tulle a-line would have been great- but at 5’4’’, I had to just admit that a tulle-a-line swallowed my body and it just wasn’t right for my petite frame. I went to almost every bridal shop to try on a strapless sweetheart, lace bustier and tulle skirt and they all looked okay, but tulle and a-line were, in the end just too big for me.
Fabric matters. Structure/boning might matter to you.
I ended up buying some cheap dresses from Boutique 1861 to try. I was too scared to buy anything off of a Chinese site because of the strict no-return policy.
I found that the dresses are fine- but you have to keep in mind 2 things:
<li style=”font-weight: 400;”>The weight of the material won’t be the same. If you are looking for something light and poofy this might not matter to you. But I wanted nice a-line draping and the Tulle that came with the dress was cheap, light and had a weird static going on so that the skirt would not sit/fall properly. I ended up HATING the cheap dresses from Boutique 1861 and realized it REALLY matters to get a feel for the fabric because how it falls on your body is really important.
<li style=”font-weight: 400;”>I am petite but I’m more of a “skinny-fat”. I am more or less a rectangular or slight pear shape to my body, therefore I need the assistance of of structure to a dress. Boning and corsets can REALLY transform the way you look in a dress. Cheaper dresses will lack boning, structure and shape. They will often be made out of stretchy or cheap elastic so they won’t have the added benefit of sucking your figure in a bit, and they also won’t be alterable because even if you size down stretchy material- it will still stretch and give you zero structure.
<li style=”font-weight: 400;”>Therefore, unless you have a PERFECT hourglass body and/or you are the type of person who loves your figure in body con dresses without the assistance of any shape wear you probably can’t go the hyper-cheap route b/c the fabric and structure of the dress won’t help shape your body.
Order the size that fits you. Only try on your size plus or minus one size if you want a flowy or a-line skirt.
It’s pretty difficult to find small dresses to try on. Most bridal salons will have sizes that hover around 10-14 because you can just clamp down dresses if clients are smaller. (This is depending on the salon, of course- I know a lot of snobbish salons that discriminate and only carry 2/4s). I’m about a size 6 or 8 in bridal (my measurements are 33a/b, 28, 35- yay to pear shapes!). My hips are technically a size 10, but my bust is certainly a size 4/6. They say you should size the largest part of your body but THAT IS NOT TRUE- because IT DEPENDS ON THE STYLE OF DRESS. There are so many salons that didn’t get this right. Salons were constantly putting me in a size 10 when I should really be a size 4/6 because I wanted an a-line skirt. The more flowy the skirt and higher the waistline (empire or natural-waist) the LESS your hip measurement matters. I’d say majority women have the largest circumference around the hips (*uneducated assumption). So unless you have a drop waist-style, fitted skirt, or mermaid skirt your hip size won’t matter as much.
Also, if you want an a-line skirt, make sure you try on YOUR size. I kept trying on sizes 12+ and loved the dresses only to find that when I tried it on at another shop in my size I hated the dress. Why? In a size 14 they can clamp down the bust part of dress but they don’t clamp down the skirt so the skirt looked nice and full. When I tried it on in my size the dimensions of the bust were wrong and the skirt draped weird because it was pulling on my hips- making for a poorly fitted garment. In summation, depending on the style you want- DON’T fall in love with a dress you haven’t tried on in your size.
Which leads me to the next point: Trying on dresses NOT in your real size can rule them OUT but can’t necessarily rule them IN until you try your size. I went to about a dozen bridal salons to try on dresses. Nearly every one of them there was an unhappy bride on the phone or in person saying how it didn’t fit the way they were “promised” when they tried it on in store. Yes, you can pay a buttload to get more alterations- but please- try on your size because the dress might not fall the way you want it to or the proportions might be different in different sizes.
In the same vein, DON’T STAND ON THE PODIUM IN THE BRIDAL SALON. EVERYONE looks better when they are 5 inches taller in the dress. Don’t be fooled. bring your own shoes and take lots of pics of yourself in the dress. The podium is deceptive and sometimes dresses in person don’t photograph beautifully. Find a dress that looks great and will photograph well too!
This dress photographed beautifully but in-person looked kind of meh ($700 @ David’s Bridal)
Go to an expensive bridal salon and try the heck out of dresses. Find the style, fabric that you want and do a guided search at a budget bridal shop, such as David’s Bridal.
When you watch “Say Yes to the Dress” they always say never show a client a dress outside of their budget or else they will want it and be super unhappy with the dresses within their budget. While I can see the truth in this, I feel like value-seekers and folks who KNOW they want to spend less on their dress (because really, you wear it for a couple hours only…), need to know what they really value in a dress before. Bridal salons can have excellent service, but they also give you an idea of what your non-negotiables are in a dress. For me, I got to try on a TON of different styles and know which silhouette really suited me. I also had the added benefit of discovering that $7000 dresses and $700 dresses were about as beautiful.
Any bride can find their dress within their budget. Expensive dresses usually have more detailing, appliques- I’m really lucky that I hated excessive beading, lace and didn’t want anything too showy.
These dresses were from Kleinfeld in Toronto- $7k+ dresses! They were ok…
Remember costs of alterations/accessories add up!
Don’t buy a cheap dress and tell yourself, “It’s so cheap and it would be PERFECT with just a little belt here and a snip off of here…” etc. These accessories are expensive and alterations on wedding dress fabrics tend to also be expensive. I found a decent dress for $300, but I would have needed to add a belt and maybe alter the neckline and snip off the straps… that $300 would have risen quickly to outside of my budget.
This is a $350 dress from David’s Bridal but only worked if I wore a belt (which can easily add $100) to the cost.
Finally, Budgets are good, but spend the extra $100-300 in the dress that makes you feel beautiful.
It’s your wedding day. And as silly as I feel a 7k dress is for 2 hours- if it makes you feel INCREDIBLE then do it. For me, the difference was $200 for a dress that was “perfectly acceptable and cute” vs $500 for a dress that made me feel like an elegant bride. VALUE-seeking is not the same about being cheap. Spend the extra little amount to feel the way you want to feel in your dress.
Good luck and happy shopping!