Let's face it, wedding gown shopping can sometimes be daunting. Especially if you're looking for that one dress you recently saw on the runway during Bridal Fashion Week. But we're here to say that finding your dream dress doesn't have to be an impossible task.
"One of the great things about bridal is that the pieces presented at Bridal Fashion Week are produced for commercial value," says Micaela Erlanger, celebrity fashion and bridal stylist. "Meaning, what you see presented will be available for consumer purchase."
Runway looks are more accessible than you might think, and there are many ways for you to get your hands on the perfect gown. For all the insider secrets, we asked bridal industry designers, buyers, and experts to share everything you need to know about shopping from the runway to the rack.
New York Bridal Fashion Week is an industry event where designers and brands reveal their latest collections, twice a year in October and April, to brides, retail buyers, and the media. It's a time where trends are created, and wedding lovers everywhere are able to get a front-row look into the bridal fashion industry. As of today, new wedding dresses are being released virtually, via video lookbooks, editorial campaigns, and pre-recorded films.
If you've seen your dream dress walk down the runway, you may be asking: How can I buy it? Thankfully, there’s a surprising amount of ways you can shop a runway look before and after it's even released.
Brands like BHLDN, for example, offer pre-ordering for their gowns, while other brands host trunk shows. “The quickest way for brides to try on the newest collection is by visiting a trunk show,” says designer Monique Lhuillier. “We hold trunk shows at our flagship boutiques immediately after the collection is shown, and then the collection travels around the world to our authorized retailers. By shopping a trunk show, the bride gets exclusive access to the new collection before it hits stores later that year.”
Christy Baird, creative director of Loho Bride, also promotes the benefits of shopping a trunk show: “Many brides don't always understand what trunk shows are, but they truly are the best way to shop a look that was just sent down the runway!” She adds, “For one-to-two weeks, stores host the new full collections, and even better, a discount is offered."
Micaela Erlanger advises that brides should be open to working directly with the brand of their choice. "Contacting a showroom coordinator can often be a great support during the shopping process. Wedding dress shopping is a personal experience, and you'll find [that the brands] are there to help, both in-person and virtually."
Aside from trunk shows, e-commerce platforms are the next best options for buying the latest bridal runway dresses. "There are great e-commerce platforms that work with a wide range of bridal designers. Moda Operandi and Net-a-Porter have some of the most elevated and curated selections. I also suggest that if a designer doesn't have e-commerce capabilities, to check their stockist list and [see] where they sell," Erlanger notes.
And as of late, many brands have had to adapt to the pandemic and create new online offerings. Sarah Swann, chief creative officer at Amsale told Brides, “Amsale.com is our beloved virtual showroom. A truly integrated e-commerce platform, that not only offers looks immediately off the runway, but includes our virtual try-on service; through which brides-to-be can upload a photo of themselves and see what a dress looks like on their body.”
It's important to note, though, that the biggest exception here is for couture pieces, which are only sold in-store.
On average, new bridal looks take anywhere from three-to-six months to produce. While this lead time is pretty standard across the industry, there are some brands that have become creative with their releases.
Bridal e-commerce platform, Little L, hosts bridal brands that typically offer virtual launches on Instagram. Once the collection is available, Little L will make the pieces ready to shop on their website or social pages. Co-founder and director, Lily Dixey, states, “We wanted to make the approach to shopping bridal much more accessible, as we feel that these days (in the age of social media) brides want the latest collections much sooner—particularly when they’ve had a taste of the new collections from the runway.”
Other brands, like BHLDN, David's Bridal, and Marchesa, cut the wait time down by beginning production prior to Bridal Fashion Week. “By the time our dresses are being previewed at Bridal Fashion Week,” says a representative from Marchesa, “they are already in the beginning stages of production.” Kaity Gaskill, BHLDN’s bridal buyer, adds, “We have our production process set up prior to Bridal Fashion Week, to ensure that every dress is ready to go into production immediately. And to deliver to all brides as early as possible to meet their wedding date.”
Nancy Viall, chief merchandising officer at David’s Bridal, further highlights, "Our outstanding merchant teams collaborate with the designers, to bring our exclusive bridal brands to market at the same time runway shows are occurring. This process ensures we are always and forever current, modern, and relevant with every gown in our assortment."
Lastly, there are luxury resale sites like The RealReal, where brides can immediately visit for instant buys. “Luxury resale is a really attractive option for finding fashion-forward wedding looks, whether your style is a couture wedding gown, a less traditional runway piece, or a one-of-a-kind vintage dress. With resale, you get instant gratification rather than the traditional six-month wait time for made-to-order pieces," a representative from the brand tells Brides. However, the one downside with resale is that this option only offers past runway collections, rather than the newest seasons.
When shopping for the newest designer pieces, establish a game plan and be sure to stay up-to-date on the latest trunk shows and delivery dates—for both online and in-store purchases. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be to find the dress you saw on the runway. Also, Brides's Bridal Fashion Week coverage is a great place to start for all designer photos and bridal fashion trends.