Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thrifty Dress Thoughts

BOOM

That was the sound of my monthly budget exploding from some rather significant expenses that all decided to hit within a few short weeks of each other. While we do have savings, apart from our wedding account, these were the sort of expenses that sent me into money panic and cost-cutting mode. I hate spending large quantities of money. I haaaaate seeing my bank account shrink. And it made me re-think some of the more expensive aspects of this wedding that I maybe don't want to shrink my bank account for. Like the dress.

So, this month is the month-of-exploring-cheapo-dress-options. Specifically, I saw a wedding dress I'd been half-eyeing from The Limited go on sale this past 4th of July weekend, and I figured "what the heck." For $200 ($100 off), it seems worth it to buy and try, since return shipping is only $6 if it doesn't work out. I'm going to make an appointment at the J Crew at the Grove (in LA, there's one J Crew where you can try on wedding dresses.) I'm going to order a few dresses from Nordstrom. And then, I'm going to compare them all to my two front-runner, sub-$1000 simple dresses from nearby salons and I'll see how I feel. Because if I can find a dress I love for about $300 instead of $800 (which is what my favorite salon dress is running, without tax or alterations) then I'll feel pretty darn awesome about my wedding attire, in more ways than one. At this point, my thrifty nature is in full gear singling LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU to all nagging thoughts of designer dress envy.

Remember, my event is early Spring, casual and outdoors. If this were a fancy-pants blog, my site might be described as "rustic-chic" and the theme as Modern So Cal Fiesta but, since this isn't a fancy-pants blog, let's just go with hilltop non-profit setting with papel picado and succulent decor. I need a dress that works within those design/atmosphere confines, that is comfortable enough to dance in all night, that doesn't have a train (since it's an outdoor site), that works with awesome accessories, and that has a flatters my slim-shoudered, pear shaped body. And yes, I definitely want a long dress. In general, I love short dresses. But for my wedding, I'm really feeling the elegance and longer lines of a long dress with my 5'9" height. Here are the current contenders.


This is currently my front-runner dress. I think it is simple-but-stylish, flattering, and classic all at once. Also, I could rock some personal accessories with an appropriate casual-but-awesome feel. However, it is $810. However, I also kinda love it. So all dresses are getting judged against this one and how fun it felt to twirl when I visited Bella Bridesmaid in Los Angeles (I highly recommend them!).


The model doesn't do this dress any favors, but it was entirely twirl-worthy and gorgeous in person. However, is was also $935, which is why it got slightly nudged down to second place after Saja. Also, I my shoulders and my waist are my best features, and I think the Saja dress does a slightly better job of emphasizing both.


This is the dress I ordered from the Limited. Normally $300, I caught it on a 4th of July sale for $200 and figured it was worth it to see if the ruffles make me happy in person or just in theory. Also, I bet I can eat and drink to my heart's content in this dress without worrying about unflattering later-night food-and-alcohol pooch. Not that I'll care, at that point in the evening, but the fewer photos I have to delete, the better.


It has the mermaid shape I like, a sweetheart neckline, ruffles, and a modern-casual flair. Also, it's $300. Survey says: definite possibility.


Flattering neckline (I like the harder-cut sweetheart-strapless options), drapey chiffon bits, and a $200 price tag. Yes, please.


This is obviously my out-of-left-field contender. But I like the mod ballgown thing here. And, if you visit the Nordstrom website, you'll see some really fun modern detailing on the bodice. It feels fun, playful, festive, and somehow still right. Don't ask me to explain. Also, it's $800, so I'd have to reaaaaaaally love it to keep it in contention.


And lastly, I tried this Sue Wong dress in-person at a local Bloomingdales and fell in love. Really, the flowy kick-out bit at the bottom and the sparkles did me in (yes, I was surprised by the sparkle-love too, but since I didn't feel like a chandelier had exploded all over the dress, I felt it was understated enough.) I fell in love enough to run home and gush with Jason about how I, the saleslady, and all the women in the dressing room were blown away.  Alas, Jason was not. He got that wrinkly nose look that belied his "well, if you like it, you should get it" words. So, it is not meant to be mine, but I thought you should all know that it's currently on sale for $328 at Bloomingdales.

My thrifty soul has some hard decisions to make. Any additional recommendations to help me out?

49 comments:

  1. Ohhhh, the Sue Wong one made me actually catch my breath. Sigh. The rest are maybe not enough "stand out" for me? But very pretty!

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  2. i don't think you'll regret splurging on the dress.

    i made the mistake of skimping, and regretting, when it came to the dress.

    the splurges of the wedding, however, i never regret.

    have you searched for a "gently used" version of the saja?

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  3. Oh man, I LOVE that Bloomingdales one. Too bad Jason wasn't a fan. :( That's why I didn't involve D in my dress-shoping--he did NOT like my dress on the model, but I knew he'd love anything I showed up in on the wedding day, and I didn't want to stress myself out by letting him get involved in that. ;)

    Have you looked at Alix & Kelly bridesmaid dresses? I remember they had a long, flowy one that looks similar in style to some of these dresses that you've posted, and I think the long dresses cap out at $400. I don't remember if they come in whites/ivories, though, but I think it'd be worth looking at... they are SO gorgeous!

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  4. I can not wait to see what you pick... I could never, have never been able to, and will never be able to pull off that style! Love love love!

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  5. @Verhext. I KNOW. But I want Jason to catch his breath too, and I cannot convince him to run off shopping to Bloomingdales for an in-person view, shockingly.

    @Elizabeth. The Saja is 5'9" standard. Therefore, I would need extra length added for my heels. This is what makes used dress shopping near-impossible for me. Sigh. And I thought you looked amazing in all your photos and that the dress(es), while simple, looked gorgeous on you. But still. Meh to budgets and decisions.

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  6. That Saja is. just. awesome. Perfect blend of casual and formal.

    Have you played the fun "let's walk through the house and see what we can sell for this wedding" game yet? I recently did when I found out my dress was more than I had planned. Sometimes there's a good $300 that pops up!

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  7. @A Marigold - I've looked at the Alix and Kelly dresses but, from the website, Ivory is only available for wedding dresses at much higher prices (some of the wedding dress styles are essentially the wedding dress styles, but in Ivory.) Jenny Yoo does the same thing with BM vs Bridal Ivory. Grr.

    @Kerry - we keep meaning to. This is a good reminder to have a Craigslist/ebay sale for real.

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  8. Wait, you mean you're not buying it because he didn't like the picture, not in-person? I don't know... sometimes people have little imagination for what a dress will look like on someone other than the model. I don't think that would stop me.. he would probably still catch his breath. (Something else to consider...)

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  9. Funny. The Saja is my least favorite (and doesn't have the sweatheart neckline). I like the Nordstrom's dress. It looks pretty and like that front chiffon piece would camoflauge the food-and-alcohol pooch nicely.

    I too like the Sue Wong dresses but got the nose-wrinkle, which kind of surprised me because they're a little flapper-esque (the era of my jewelry and most of our furniture). Not sure what that's about, but it apparently lacks cross-gender appeal.

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  10. AND that sucks about the bridesmaid dresses not coming in ivory... that would make me feel SUPER ripped off if I'd bought one of their wedding dresses. :-/

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  11. I like the 2 less expensive ones from Nordstroms. I would not have thought that first one is a budget dress. The second one isn't flashy, true, but I think with a veil, pretty necklace and earrings that it could work. It has a very nice, classic line.

    And shame your fiance didn't love that dress, it's REALLY cute and different!

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  12. Have you tried looking at Unique Vintage? They carry some modern looking stuff and their store is on Magnolia in Burbank. See what you think: http://www.unique-vintage.com/wedding-dresses-long-wedding-dresses-c-102_168.html

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  13. If you want to show off your waist and shoulders, I'm knocking the Jenny Yoo (no waist definition), The Limited (all the ruffles would add size), and the Nordstrom dress (black sash adds sizes to the waist too) out of the running.

    I generally think sweetheart necklines are the most flattering neckline for most women.

    But I have to say, based solely on pics of models in the dress, the Saja is my fave. It looks like it's not a straight neckline — it looks like there's a slight dip in the middle. And the good twirling in the dress factor is also a major plus.

    Overall, I need to see you in the dresses before giving my final vote.

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  14. @Lira - I check them all the time! Another great local (and online) resource. I just haven't found anything I really lovelove there. But dang, for women who crush on vintage styles (either short 50s/60s or elegant 20's-eque long) or just want a basic ballgown for a reasonable price, Unique Vintage is an awesome choice.

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  15. The Limited dress is amazing! For $200??!?! Wow. I really like the ruffly ones from Nordstrom, too. I think waist definition general creates a more flattering silhouette than straight & flowy. But what matters more than the photos is how they look & feel on YOU. It's surprising how different dresses can look in person. I hope one of these wows you when you try it on... my money's on the first Nordstrom dress, with the sweetheart neckline, mermaid shape and ruffles.

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  16. I do think it's worth the shipping to try on some stuff and make returns, if need be.

    I like all your contenders... and although I love the Saja, I'm not sure I'd be willing to pay for it either.

    I think it's important to love the dress or at least love how it makes you feel. I went over my $200 budget some and it was worth it (especially since I did my own hair and make-up, I wanted the dress to feel special). But I'm also very glad I didn't drop a ton of money... because as much as I loved my dress (and I adored it), it was really just a 1-day item. I wanted to move freely, and I did, but my dress got grass stains, snags, etc. I may still hem it and wear it again, but I'm not sure I could sell it or give it away.

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  17. So far, the ones I think work with your "style" and your requests (accents shoulders, fun to dance in, etc) are the Limited one, and the second Nordstrom one (with the first Nordstrom one running a close third). I actually really love the Limited one, quite a bit.

    Best of luck; it's hard enough finding a dress that you adore, and even harder when all you can think of is dollar signs. Keep your chin up! :)

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  18. So before I saw which one was the Limited one I fell in love with it. I reckon it rocks the whole non rustic chic vibe totally.

    Cannot wait to see what you choose!

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  19. I love the second Nordstrom dress, then the Bloomingdale's, then the Saja. Good luck with the hunt!
    Glesgalady.

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  20. So far the Nordstrom dresses are my favorites. But I did see this other Sue Wong dress at Saks that I thought you might like (http://www.saksfifthavenue.com/main/ProductDetail.jsp?PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524446255652&FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=282574492047871&bmUID=1278623677236&ev19=1:68).

    Also, the Bill Levkoff style 683 seemed like something you might like and it comes in white and ivory (as well as other colors). I can't link to it directly, but it's on his website.

    Or this Watters bridesmaid dress could work, and would come in at under $200 in off white. http://www.houseofbrides.com/watters-bridesmaid-dress-style-5710-p-4-27-14390.aspx

    I'm awful at shopping for other people, so I'll stop now, but good luck with your dress search!

    (Oh, and you might want to call somewhere like Pearl's Place to see what your favorite bridal store dresses cost through them. They're local to me so that's where I went, but the price they quoted me, including alterations, was 30% less than the next least expensive place. And had I been living elsewhere and therefore getting alterations done elsewhere, the price would have been even less.)

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  21. Also, you might want to check out Ann Taylor. They have a small wedding collection, but it's more affordably priced. Plus they're frequently having sales (like 40% off anything online) so that'd be a nice discount on your dress.

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  22. I love them all! Except for the 2 from Nordstrom's...but I can totally see where you are going with your style and design. Can't wait to see which one(s) you fall in love with :)

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  23. P.S. I'm jealous of your height!

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  24. The Saja is BEAUTIFUL. As in, I might give up my "I'm getting married in jeans" policy for that dress. Simple and elegant and would be smashing!

    I also love love love the Nordstrom one for $200, you could probably get a similar feel to the Saja if you added a sash?

    That said, be comfortable in whatever you buy, and I hope you love it!

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  25. Ooohhh. I don't know, Becca. I'm a fan of all of them. But twirl factor is a must and so is happiness. I saw some dresses that were in the 8-9 doll hair range and opted out of it b/c of price. Mine is under 3 hundo and I love it just the same. I say if you can find something for a great price and you feel good in it- go for it! But if the Saja dress is headlining this act, and it brings out all of your best features, you may have answered your question.

    Good luck and keep us posted! Can't wait to see what you choose!

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  26. Mmm. I really like the second (not quite so ruffley) Nordstrom dress. I wish they had that in stock when I was looking...

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  27. Ooh love the selections! The Saja is indeed pretty. Hmm I have Vineyard/Priscilla of Boston Kate style I think that is similar. It is silk chiffon, but has a v-neck/thin straps/ruching on top. I'd been keeping aside for my to be sister in law. I wonder if it'd fit you? Their sample sales can rock - GREAT $500 - $1000 choices (my faves happened to be about $500 though).

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  28. That poor Jenny Yoo model looks so...angry. What's up with that? Why do so many bridal models scowl? Is it not meant to be a happy event?

    Anyway, my dress, from the empire waist down, has a similar cut to the Saja Bridal. It is a really flattering cut on any form. I have broad shoulders and no defined waist, so the sash on my dress (same position and width as the Saja) gives me one, and the mermaid gives curves but also balances.

    That said, my favorite from your posts is the one from the Limited. Maybe it's that the model actually looks happy, but I just think it's the prettiest one, and the best for the figure you described. If I were looking for a white dress I'd get something similar but not strapless.

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  29. Go with Sue Wong. I considered the Alice and Wonderland line when I was looking for a dress, as a - no joke - local bridal salon sells them! She's an ethical designer, self made, supports local salons, etc. It will be a great compromise, AND a stunning dress!

    Having said that, the Limited dress is quite lovely. :)

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  30. I dig your style. Something about the first Nordstrom dress, I assume the ruffles, makes me smile. The dress from Bloomie's made me go "ooooooh," but I too would struggle buying a dress that I knew my fiance wasn't crazy about.

    And I HEAR YOU on the pains of being just tall enough to need extra length on a dress. It's pulled a few department store dresses out of the running for me.

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  31. gosh your found some awesome dresses! I'm pretty girly girl, my vote is the rufflely number

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  32. You have some great possibilities! I was particularly taken with the Limited dress and the second Nordstrom one, but of course, the key thing will be how you feel and look in them! Can't wait to hear which beautiful dress you choose!!!! :)

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  33. i have to vote for saja all the way here. i mean, it's just so pretty. i also like the limited one though.

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  34. Because CLEARLY you care about my opinion, I will tell you that I like the first one, the Limited one and the Sue Wong one.

    It will all work out, one way or the other, pinky swear.

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  35. I still love the Saja and I REALLY like the Limited one you bought (can't wait to hear how it looks). A warning about the left field contender and the ruffles:
    I wore a similar gown in a bridal show and it was a BITCH to walk in. Keep that in mind. I kept tripping over the fluffy stuff because it hangs lower than the actual HEM of the skirt both in the front and the back. I nearly did a face plant on the catwalk - luckily no one saw my double-stepping under the gown and I righted myself in time.
    Make sure you can REALLY walk in your dress with heels (or whatever your shoes will be wearing).
    Dress advice from T#)SB - for what it's worth!

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  36. That dress from The Limited is my favorite! Can't wait to see your decision!

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  37. Even though you will only wear this dress once and your daughters 25 to 30 years from now will not want to wear the dress even though you put it in an airtight box from the drycleaner, you will feel beautiful in choosing the dress you really love, even if it's a little over budget!

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  38. Personally, I like your front runner best.

    My advice is go with what you love and don't freak out about money. My thrifty nature and budget dilemmas left me with a dress that wasn't the one I really wanted that I am now trying to sell so I can buy the one I really want which is slightly over-budget. It's probably going to end up costing me more in the end. The dress is really, really important to me, so you might not have this problem, but just...be careful with the budgeting when it comes to the dress.

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  39. Hey-- I don't know what size you are, but that Saja dress is available used in a size 4 for $595 on OnceWed right now. http://www.oncewed.com/30798/used-wedding-dresses/size-4/saja-sh6260/

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  40. @Caroline - aaaah! I wish I were short enough to buy it! (and a size 4 bridal.) Alas. Thank you for the link though! I'll definitely keep stalking the used dress sites too.

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  41. Saja. Its clean, looks like it is the most flattering, and it won't compete with your accessories. The rest of them look a little over done. As far as post dinner photos go, you just gotta Spanx the shit out of yourself!

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  42. What a wonderful selection! I love the first one and the last! :) You will look stunning!

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  43. All these dresses are beautiful. I think you will be happy with whatever you get. I loved my dress, even though I could have used a corset to suck in my belly. It cost $380 and now the cleaners want to charge me $250 to clean it because they need to hand wash all the beading. So the wedding pains never end. Just do what will make you happy. And I am so happy for your DJ decision. Sounds like ya'll will be getting crunk.

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  44. I found a wedding dress for $99 at the Trudy's sample sale and in return I received a $100 credit for accessories. Yep, that means I basically got the dress (or the accessories) for FREE! I'll be posting the dress on my blog soon, but I just had to share my bay area budget bride excitement.

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  45. ohhh this is tough, they are all beautiful but i can see why Saja will be hard to beat, it looks like it fits in all the right places and the fabric is simple and luxurious. i can see it with a chunky necklace or bracelets - really beautiful!

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  46. I love love love the saja!! i am giggling because this is also my wedding dress.. !!! i just ordered it before seeing this blog!! i am also 5'9"... im having a hard time trying to decide on accessories?? what are your thoughts?

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  47. @Kelli - I love the Saja too! Even if I went with one of the department store dresses in the end, that Saja is my absolute favorite salon dress I found and I'm so happy for you! And as for accessories, email me about the wedding setting and your personal style and maybe I can help. I've been browsing necklace options a lot these days, and that dress is really versatile. You could easily go classic or more subdued statement-piece-y.

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  48. @ Los Angeles Love~~ have you made your decision?? :o) my wedding will be on the beach in feb in mexico.. pretty chilled. Please send me any suggestions on shoes and accessories!! I am in need of a few ideas! Its coming quickly and Im not much of a 'shopper' defn am a girl that needs some fashion guidance.. smile!!

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