Bargainphilia and other bridal disorders

My mom, my sister, and I all suffer from the same compulsion: the obsessive need to find a bargain. It took years of support groups and many an intervention, but my bargainphilia is much more in control now. At the very least, I no longer buy junk I don't need simply because it's on sale. But when it comes to things that I need -- or, well, want -- I will stop at nothing to find the lowest price.

Shopping for wedding-related items, and particularly wedding dresses, is not good for a bargainphiliac. And did I forget to mention that although I am a bargain addict, I also happen to be a label whore and a fashion junkie? "A cheap Monique Lhuillier?" I'm sure if I go into a swanky bridal boutique asking for that, the response would be laughter, followed by a "thxkbai" and a swift kick out the door. But here's the thing: I DID find an affordable Monique Lhuillier -- albeit after a lengthy search. To save other bargainphiliacs the trouble, I thought I'd retrace for you the steps of my journey.

I started out by testing out my mom's suggestion to get my wedding gown from China. Having seen a good number of bridal shops in Asia (who knew bubblegum pink came in so many different, equally nauseating, shades?), I was not so convinced this was a good plan. I mean, THIS does not whisper "chic blushing bride" to me; it screams "stick a cake topper on my head, I'm ready to be served!" (This confectionary concoction, btw, is from Julius Bridal, one of a few sites that sell bridal wear direct from Chinese manufacturers.)

My protests muted a bit after I read the bible for all bargain-lovin' brides, Bridal Bargains by Denise and Alan Fields. The Fields point out that many of the brand-name gowns sold in American bridal boutiques are made in China.  In fact -- and I will write more about this in a future post -- an armful of dresses I tried on at the Priscilla of Boston sample sale were as FOB (fresh of the boat, for those of you not hip to my sister's college-age lingo) as, well, me.  Complete with Chinese handwriting on the hangtags!  Anyway, if your eyes aren't blinded by the gaudy awfulness of some of the stuff sold by these manufacturers on their sites, you can actually some gowns that (at least in photos) appear to be quite lovely. Like this Jim Helm-like alencon lace gown below, which Julius Bridal makes for $399.99? Or this lovely dress, which Cinderella Bridal Shop sells on ebay for $199?

Windsor Peak Press, which publishes the Fields' guide, has a message board that has many reviews of Julius, Cinderella, as well as other similar manufacturers and their dresses. These reviews were somewhat of a mixed bag.  Some brides just loved their gowns; others were livid about poor fit, glued-on beading, or itchy linings.  Ultimately, I couldn't bring myself to commit to one of these gowns without touching the material or seeing the dress in person. Even though Julius and Cinderella post photos of their actual dresses (instead of pictures outright stolen from American designers), I'd done enough clothing shopping in China to know the truth of the old maxim caveat emptor (flash back to the hot mess that was the "Shanghai cashmere" coat I bought that was neither from Shanghai nor made of cashmere).

So I started running the sample sale circuit instead. More on that in my next post.

Any of you bold and courageous bargain hunters out there dared to order one of these direct-from-Chinese-manufacturer gowns? Tell us about your experience, good or bad.

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