When my cousin asked me to be a bridesmaid, my first thought was “Yay! Pretty dresses!” My next thought was “Damn, this is going to be a pain in the butt and I’ll actually probably end up in something hideous.” After all, I can’t remember anyone telling me about their awesome experience of being a bridesmaid or how much they wanted to wear their bridesmaid dress again and again. Yeah, this wasn’t going to be fun…
The following outlines the problems I encountered while choosing a dress. In the end, I found Brideside, a great online company that is trying to change the status quo, one bridesmaid dress at a time.
The nightmare that is bridesmaid dress shopping
I’m sad to say that every aspect of the bridesmaid dress shopping experience has been disappointing. It wasn’t just that the web channel was underdeveloped – the entire experience felt like it was behind the times.
- The whole bridal industry is cut-and-sew, which means that dresses are made to order. It’s not like with normal clothes shopping where you can buy a couple sizes online and you can easily return the size that doesn’t work. In bridal (including bridesmaid dresses), once you buy the dress, you’re stuck with it. That is, only when you get it 3 months from when you ordered it. You end up with no choice – you have to try on a sample of the dress somehow or you’ll never know how it fits or what the fabric actually looks like.
- The diversity of styles you can get in bridal salons is not great. They all carry the same handful of designers, who all have similar styles in slightly different shades and fabrics.
- For the designers that show their collection online, they actually don’t provide the prices. You have to note the style and search for it again to hopefully find someone that does sell their dress and get the price that way. It’s a very tedious process.
- All photos of bridesmaid dresses are of super skinny models. The average American woman is size 12 so even if you tried to use online photos as guides, good luck.
- Different stores cary different samples, so just because you see something online, it doesn’t mean you’re actually going to find it in the store. This becomes a huge problem when you’re trying to coordinate bridesmaids in different geographic locations.
- When you do find some dresses you like and a store that has the samples, you have to book an appointment. You literally cannot just go and look at the dress. Imagine if The Gap did that. They’d never sell anything!
- Some stores won’t even let you come in unless your bride is coming with you, or she comes in on her own another time and looks at bridal gowns. So if your bride already got her dress, they don’t want you to shop there.
- The sales people are worse than used car salesmen. They just want you to buy. Doesn’t matter if you look like shit or that you’re not even decided yet. Just buy.
- If you actually find something you like and you want to show your bride or other bridesmaids (who aren’t always with you because people live all over the place), you can’t! Photos aren’s allowed. There was only one place that let me take photos and I had to really beg to get permission.
- The kicker is that the bridesmaid is treated as a second class citizen. Margins on our dresses aren’t as high as the brides so we’re never as important as brides to shop owners. It literally feels like they’re doing us a favor allowing us to be in their store.
There is hope with Brideside
I was in the middle of bridesmaid dress hell outlined above and I had enough. There’s no way I was going to support this way of doing business. The Internet has saved me many times before, so I hoped that it would again. And it did! I found Brideside, an online boutique that carries the usual suspects as well as harder to find bridesmaid dress designers. Their prices are great and they let you try on the dresses at home. How cool is that? You pick the dresses you want to try and they send them to you so you can try them on in peace, without any pressure. They encourage you to take photos and share them so that you can get whose ever opinion you need. In fact, they’ll work with the entire bridal party to help them get to the perfect dress with the perfect fit. They’ll send you swatches of the colors you like and even help you accessorize the dress. Freakin’ brilliant!
In fact, I liked Brideside so much that I reached out to the founders to see if they were in need of marketing help. I wanted to help bring Brideside to the masses so that other bridesmaids could discover that there is a better option than going to the local store. As it turned out, Brideside did need some help and I’ve been working with them for a bit over a month now.
A not sucky bridesmaid dress experience and a new client? Awesomeness!
Wedding industry – please enter the 21st century
In general, I was shocked with how backwards the wedding industry is. Yes, there are a bunch of large wedding websites and there’s a lot of inspiration content out there, but that’s kind of where innovation ends. There’s so much lost opportunity out there because wedding fashion vendors are not embracing the way people shop (online!) and the demands they have as customers (take a picture!).
I’m not saying that there’s no place for brick and mortar stores – quite the contrary. I would never buy something as important as a wedding dress or even bridesmaid dress without seeing what it looked like on me. What these stores should do is embrace the benefits of technology, online shopping and social sharing brings them, and use it to boost their sales and customer experience.
Or not. Brideside will happily take all their business! 🙂