Charitable Shopping

Alright, say you got real intimate with other brides' bazoombas at Kleinfeld's and escaped the clutches of an emaciated, three-story-tall bridezilla at Priscilla of Boston.  Where do you go for a respite from high-pressure and high-priced bridal boutiques?  If you are Miss Haute Cocoa, you'd head to the Bridal Garden in Manhattan or the Vows Bridal Outlet in Newton, MA.  You'll hear more about Vows (where Mrs. Toucan found her second dress!) in my next post, but first let's finish off our New York Sampler with the Bridal Garden.

The Bridal Garden describes itself as "New York's only non-profit bridal boutique." Yeah, you read that right: non-profit.  If you're like me, you're probably feeling a little violated by numerous vendors reaching into your pockets with their sticky little fingers.  Well, no coffer-lining here.  All of the Bridal Garden's proceeds go to benefit education for New York City children!  In fact, according to its website, the boutique "opened its doors in 1998 as part of the fundraising for Sheltering Arms Children's Services."  Currently, its proceeds benefit students at the Brooklyn Charter School in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Now, what will be truly mindblowing for the capitalist scrooges out there is that being charitable toward NYC schoolchildren somehow also allows you to save money on a designer wedding gown.  Although the boutique is quite cozy (real-estate-speak for cramped like a phonebooth), it has a good selection of sample and gently-worn gowns, ranging from unlabeled designers to Vera Wang, sorted by style and size.  They also have veils, tiaras, and some jewelry.  Bring a friend to help you peruse the stock -- the racks are crammed with all types of silhouettes, sizes, and price levels, so invite someone who is not only patient but discerning. Since the boutique relies on donations from designers, other bridal stores, and brides, the selection is vast but unpredictable, and you have a chance of getting gowns in non-sample sizes. One bride (who came all the way from Japan!) walked out with an amazing deal on a simple Vera dress that perfectly fit her size-2 frame.

Like Kleinfeld's, but unlike Vows, dresses are sold as is; repair and cleaning not included. Some of the gowns (particularly ones with delicate embellishment) were in worse shape than others. I really liked a Monique Lhuillier gown, but as you can maybe see in the picture (taken illicitly, btw -- no cameras allowed), the beautiful beading was a little disheveled, some of the lace was torn, and the sash hung on by a thread. I was able to negotiate the dress down another $500 from the Bridal Garden's original price (around $2000), but ultimately I wasn't prepared to spend over $1500 on a gown that, while lovely, was so sad and broken. Like a little Miss Havisham.
Let me mention that many of the gowns I tried on were in exquisite condition and were also more affordable than the Monique above.  This very lovely label-less gown, for example, was in perfect shape, was under $1000 (if I recall correctly), and I could have worn it that very day.
And here, courtesy of our very talented photographer, Leigh Miller, is a breathtaking picture of a bride looking absolutely stunning in her Bridal Garden purchase.
Aside from benefiting a good cause, I also enjoyed the vibe at the boutique.  Fortunately (or unfortunately, I suppose, if you are feeling a bit lonely lately), the sales consultant didn't hover or try to cop a feel. Appointments are required, so it wasn't too crowded.  The dressing rooms, while small, were clean and well lit.  I didn't find a dress there that day, but I definitely enjoyed the experience and would recommend it to other brides looking for a good bargain and an even better cause. And if you were inspired by Mrs. Tulip's enlightening post about charitable ways of unloading your wedding goods, you can also donate your gown to the Bridal Garden after your wedding. You'll even get a tax deduction, so you can stick it to both the IRS and the big bridal emporiums. Swwweeeet!

Have you been to the Bridal Garden?  Did you buy your gown there, through Brides Against Cancer, or another similar charitable organization?  Are you curious whether I'm always headless?

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